Heal Your Church WebSite

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

Collinsville Baptist Empty Parking Lot Tabernacle

A church website that fails to convey the purpose and personality of the congregation and staff will also fail to bring new members into the door. One sure way to avoid such failures is to resist the temptation to make your home page a shrine to your big lifeless church building. This is because no matter how much money you spent on your building program, most online images of bricks and mortar convey a sense of lifelessness.

Case in point: the website for the Collinsville Baptist Tabernacle in Collinsville Oklahoma, or what I refer to as the “The Church of the Empty Parking Lot.” About the only thing missing from this ghost town pix is a .WAV file of a cricket chirping and perhaps an animated .GIF of a tumbleweed rolling by.

Worth 1000 Words

There is not much to say other than to offer a link to a front page that includes 211kb image of a very symmetric building during the middle of the day with absolutely nobody home.

Archive shot of the Collinsville Baptist Tabernacle website

Add to this the stark white color, the black parking lot, the emphasis on lines and exactly centered boundaries shouts to me “come and behold the enormity of our emptiness” or perhaps “come to the mothership, resistance if futile!” Either way, not exactly the sort of message one should convey if they want to get people in the door.

My suggestion? First, never ever use the height and width arguments of an <IMG> tag to resize an online image because it only resizes the appearance, not the physical girth transmitted from server to computer. Even if you only resize the 2048×1536 image using IrfanView by 85%, you would end-up with a reasonable 11kb 307×320 image that won’t punish your dial-up users for a picture of parking spots.

Better yet, why not offer something along with the building that conveys the fact that the structure is often filled with wonderful smiling faces with hearts full of Christian love and welcome. Take my 10-minute montage example for example:

Collinsville Baptist Tabernacle - a place of worship, family and prayer

As you can see, I kept the church building in the mix, but dressed it up with images from Stock.xchng that convey worship, prayer and family … the qualities in a congregation that often draws seekers to a new church home.

Healing the Rest

There are certainly many other aspects of this website that require healing aside from the “big empty.”

The layout and navigation is all over the place, so much so that I would suggest a fresh start, perhaps taking advantage of the following HTML and CSS generators after sitting down and thinking through a 2 level information hierarchy/tree/outline:

Or perhaps taking the Frank Ramage approach and purchase a nice FrontPage template from PixelMill. Either way, they’d do themselves some good to lose the evil scrolling marquees tags.

The point is very simple, buildings are inanimate objects, it is the wonderful people inside that give it life … focus on them instead.


  1. *sigh*.

    Riddle me this. I’ll bet if you visited any class at that church where kids are taught, and asked them “what is the church”?, they’d know — it’s the people.

    Yet you put camera in the hands of a web-servant, and tell them to “get a picture of the church”, and they come back with a shot of the “stack ‘o bricks” where the church happens to meet.

    Why is that?

    And this is no slam against Collinsville Baptist – a quick browse through the local church websites shows the same thing – in epidemic proportions.

    Is it because the building doesn’t act shy…or get worried about privacy…or what it’s hair looks like?

    Or does this speak to a deeper issue of pride?

  2. I’m not sure this is a pride issue. I mean, we all know the church has nothing to do with the building other than a place to meet, but there are other considerations.

    For instance, I think the reason most people put a picture of the church on their site is that it provides a sense of place. For instance if you’re key audience is the membership of the church, and immediately upon entering the site they see the building, it provides a sense of place, a connection to the real world.

    That is of course no reason to post a massive jpeg of the church on the site without cropping or even resizing in a paint program.

    It’s probably better practice to include some people in the photo though, like Redland Baptists Header or similar.

  3. I think the designer must also use an enormously high resolution. All the text looks huge at 1024×768, and the pages are so huge that they all have scroll-sideways bars. Hey, maybe if your demographic is WebTV users, that’s what you want, but…

    I also notice the use of the Papyrus font for the page header, which I like; however, it is by no means websafe. We also need to get actual page titles in the head tag. The map on the location page is a 63kb jpg B&W line drawing, which would be best saved as a gif, at probably 15k.

    But like you said, Dean, probably the best route is a information/presentation rethinking. At least they have the info people would be looking for, if not the feel.

    Random scary page: http://cbt.churchserve.com/Revival.htm

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