Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Bay View Baptist Church of Chula Vista, CA

Last week, I spoke to a reporter from the NY Times. The reporter wanted to some insights the on level of impact the Internet has on bricks-n-mortar religious institutions. My reply was that though more and more people “shop” for churches online before paying a visit in person, there is still a great cloud of witlessness with regards church webmastes who are just not “getting it.

Case in point: the website for the Bay View Baptist Church of Chula Vista. Note, I said the website, not the church. Dig deep past the 1999′isms such as a DHTML fly-in, broken script, beveled pictures, technicolor, multi-font text, all bold, all centered, all shouting and irregularly underlined, you will eventually find a hyperlink to their newsletter and a missions pages. Both pages indicate to me a genuinely Christ-centered institution getting it done for God.

The problem is, I’m not most persons as I’m digging in to provide a balanced review. Instead, the average user is going to see all this spurious stuff and fluff and right click to the back click button. In other words, though Bay View Baptist likely has an illuminating message, it is currently hidden under a basket of hackneyed contrivances and clichés.

“People expect certain things from certain sites. They expect to see a logo in the top left corner of the page, and they expect links to do certain things. Overall, users expect navigation to be in a certain place, and their expectations should be met.” – Vincent Flanders

So what would I do to heal this church website? First, before writing a single line of code, I would train the church staff and those laypersons involved with the website that the Internet is not television, movies or other visual media but rather is a medium unique unto itself. I’d teach them that visitors to their site aren’t going to find their site on a search engine because of a flying logo. Nor are seekers and members going to visit the site that often or long because it doesn’t directly answer their questions or solve their problems.

Once this is done, I would then take those involved with the website through the process of creating user profiles. During that same time, I would also gather up everything the church has in print and organize it into an outline that can be presented online.

Only after all this would I begin to discuss graphics, pictures, layout, look-n-feel, usability, navigation and accessibility; and try to convince them to delete their current website and start over.

How about you? Run into church websites where it’s clear they don’t get it? What are some other aspects of “not getting it” that bug you? Leave a comment and we’ll discuss.


  1. Howdy,

    I’ve been enjoying your website for some time now. I’ve kinda borrowed the look of your website for my own. I did steal the css layout from Jeffery Zeldman though.

    I was hoping you could do a review of my church’s website.

    I’ve been wanting to help them transition to a more useable site, and I think your critique could push them in the right directon.



  2. > spoke to a reporter from the NY Times

    FYI (don’t know if related): http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/31/national/31EVAN.html

    > process of creating user profiles

    Not sure what you have in mind, Dean.

    > everything the church has in print and organize it into an outline that can be presented online

    Very good idea, but very hard. Don’t be constrained by the print legacy. Get creative. Ideally, you want to single-source all information – create it (newsletter, calendar, etc.) once and be able to present it in print or web format.

    Not getting it: use of multiple type faces/sizes/colors.

    Nits: flying logo is not visible in Mozilla. Mousing over living cross yields javascript error in IE6. Bay View Christian Academy link goes to contact page. Should go to http://www.bayviewcv.org/academy/academy.html (IMO).

  3. What are some other aspects of “not getting it” that bug you?

    The real root problem is that the Internet has been hard for churches to absorb into their infrastructure. As simple as which council/board member should have juristiction?

    So, to answer your question, leadership needs to make it a priority and assign authority and responsibilities.

    The fact that a picture from Easter 2002 resides on the same page identifying Upcoming events is just a symptom.

  4. They’re logo kinda looks like a swastika too.

  5. Hi,

    This is my first posting to your site. I have been “playing” with websites for a couple years now and lately have been making a push to make it a profession. I have developed website items specifically for churches and I wanted to mention some of my observations for your input.
    1) I think the key to any website, church or otherwise, is content. The more EASY TO FIND content there is the more people will return to the site and the more they will mention it to their friends.
    2) I think the key to adding and maintaining content is to LET OTHERS ADD IT. Blogs like this one are a great method. One of the services I offer is setting up and hosting Moodle sites for churches. Moodle contains a blog but contains many other tools as well that let a church conduct interactive teaching and study from their website. Moodle is educational software designed specifically for teaching online. Everything that the teachers and students become content. It is open source.
    3) The site needs to meet needs. As people, we have many types of needs and a website can help meet many of them. The more needs you meet at the website the more people will visit. I develop additional sections of a website such as classifieds, photo galleries, auction sites etc. These things all bring people to the site.
    4) The site should help support the church. I produce a virtual mall that can be added to any church website via a link. The merchants on the mall (over 1500 of them) all agree to pay commissions for any sales originating from the church mall. This lets user’s everyday online purchases turn into an income stream, keeps the website in regular daily conversations, provides a place to refer non-member friends to, and does so without any effort by the church staff.
    5) The Internet is providing ministry opportunities NEVER AVAILABLE BEFORE. My main ministry, which the design work helps to support, is described at my website at http://www.missionarynet.org. At it I describe the vision I have for using the Internet for bringing distance education to the developing world children through instilling a “virtual missionary” paradigm into the church. Just as airplanes changed missions work and ushered in the whole idea of short-term missions, so too does the Internet bring in the opportunity for additional methods of spreading the Gospel.

  6. I am a member of Bay View Baptist Church and I stumbled across this website. I had no idea a service like this one existed. I agree some changes need to be made but I thought I might post some other really good things about our website. As all nonprofit websites should be, it is completely handicap accessible. There is a daily Bible reading schedule and those readings can be audio for those who are blind. The website has been a wonderful outreach for our church and while I agree it is not perfect, I think it is a step in the right direction.

  7. I feel sorry for the poor webmaster at Bay View.
    He is obviously a volunteer and is more than aware that the site is outmoded in its design, but like most volunteers lacks the free time to devote to an overhaul. I’d rather see a site that is less well designed but full of more genuiness any day!

  8. The website is much different now and you might want to check it out so you can give more feedback.

  9. The website is much different now and you might want to check it out so you can give more feedback.