Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Click here to enter the cool church website!

Since last week, I’ve enjoyed several comments and even more private emails informing of various church websites in need of healing. A task made increasingly difficult now that my review of “The Coolest Church WebSite, Ever!” comes up numero uno for the Google query ‘cool church website.’ Fortunately, well actually unfortunately, there are enough self-proclaimed “cool church websites” out there to keep us all busy with reviews until Jesus returns.

Case in point, the website for high-school age students at the Central church of Christ in Moore, Oklahoma.

If your church doesn't have a spinning cross on its steeple, then why put one on your site?If you haven’t clicked in the hyperlink for today’s example, imagine a kelly green screen with a somewhat grainy, poorly cropped and centered picture of what looks like the side doors and facade for the church, and the parking lot … enough so to catch a glimpse of the sign. Flanking the image’s sides, spinning animated GIF crosses. Above this artwork, in lime green, the phrase that pays: “click here to enter the cool church website.”

Now a caveat here, today’s example webpage was designed back in 2001 two 16 year old kids. I’m sure now they look at it and roll their eyes, slapping their right hand to their forehead and whispering under their breath “what was I thinking?” It is also for this reason, I’m not going to say anything else about about the design elements … especially in light of the youth websites I first created … mercifully, all evidence of the latter has long since been rendered to the bit-bucket.

Instead, I want to use this page to talk about some misconceptions we have about youth ministry and what we do online. As someone who for the past 10 years has been involved with youth ministry and teaches a high-school aged Sunday school class, I know one or two things for certain.

  1. If you have to tell people it’s cool, then it probably isn’t. This is why I tell incoming classes that the only time I use their vernacular is when I’m making a parody of them. Let’s face it, nothing is more pathetic than a 40-some year old poop misusing the phrase “word-up.” This means when you write content, write it as you would speak it to them or anyone else. They’ll appreciate it much more than you’re lame, ‘Wonder Bread™’ rendition of hip-hop.
  2. This leads me to my second point: don’t confuse the Internet for television, MTV, movies or other forms of youth-targeted media. Unless you’re as awesomely talented and playfully demented as Mike and Matt Chapman, kids aren’t going to visit your youth website for entertainment. If they want movies, they’re going to go to the movies, if they want music videos, they’re going sneak a peek at MTV (unless you’re like me and are cable-free).

This isn’t to say your youth website should look and feel like the rest of your church’s website. But if your objective is to bring them in by being cool, then all you’re going to really do is look like some old fool. Instead:

  • make the site informative;
  • make it a place where they can contribute content and feedback;
  • make it relevant with continual posts about things they’re facing, things they like, or upcoming events.

The bottom line is incredibly simple, if your youth website is informative, moreover it if ministers to the needs of your youth, they’ll think it cool, and they’ll come back for more.

5 Comments

  1. I’ll do my best not to be to biased here! If you’ve read the above article you’d know why I’d be biased! ;) “Just the fact ma’am just the facts!” I can think of numerous times when I’ve talked with my youth on Wednesday that I TRIED to use their lingo! Sometimes it goes over well… but most of the time I see this expression on their face like… “Why is this 37 year old man trying to talk to me!” I have found that if I just talk them like “I” would talk they understand much better! You will also notice on our website we give, just the facts! Nothing likie all up in your grill! YOu know wat I’m say’n! Keep it simple… talk to them normally!

  2. I posted a very similar thought in my blog a week ago, in regards to cool websites. Your article is very well written, and I agree with it wholeheartedly. There’s not much I hate more than some fancy flash site with a splash page with music and all of that other garbage, only to find there’s no real content there. Blech.

  3. Love the spinning cross. Reminds me of Linda Blair’s character in “The Exorcist” for some reason. :)

  4. “I used to be with it. But then they changed what it was. And now what I’m with isn’t it, and what is it, is strange it seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you!” – a.simpson

    Good point and case here Dean. I think I’ll have to apply this to when I start teaching, I’m going into the teaching profession without a chance of being cool and I’m only 23!

    An interesting thing to note also is related to the advertising industry. Many of the people are “cool” (some are just plain lame) but they’re a lot older. Noone needs to claim to be cool, they just exploit that which is aimed to be cool.

    The fact that I’m talking about “cool” is making me feel old… I’m outa here!

  5. We gotz to be all about keepin’ it fo’rizzle to them streets, yo!

    Yeah, none of my students actually speak that way. On the few occasions that they do, it is in a mocking fasion of those who actually communicate in such a venacular.

    As far as websites go, I leave that to people who know what they’re doing. Well, they know much more about it than I do. I simply provide the info.

    Being relevant can’t be forced. One will never accomplish relevance that way. My philosophy is “Be yourself.” For every one of us that is somethign different. I just happen to be, in the words of my wife, “a big kid,” in the words of the minsitry staff, “a crazy cat who needs lots of playtoys.” *smiggles*

    !Steve