Heal Your Church WebSite

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

Pilgrim’s Hope Baptist Church, Memphis, TN

It was just about this time last year ago that I published a post that has surprisingly attracted quite a few Google hits, a post entitled “The Coolest Church Website, Ever!” Yes my dear cult members, they call us zombies or mind-numbed-robots but at least our ship will not be seduced by the sirens of contrivance over content. Not so fortunate are those rowing the boat up Styks’ creek without a paddle at the Pilgrim’s Hope Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many…” – Matthew 7:13

Where do I even begin with this site other than suggest that even the stock templates that come with FrontPage would be an improvement? Yet perhaps it is precisely the wide and easy path FrontPage offers that has resulted in what is arguably the new poster child for the worst church website ever.

What’s Wrong?
Now keep in mind folks, the object here isn’t to deride the PHBC nor even it’s webmaster – I’m sure these are good Christian folks who love and worship Jesus just as much as you or I. Rather the point in this excersize is to collectively learn good church web site design from our mistakes; of which the PHBC offers quite a few. In fact so many that I’m just going to rattle them off in list form as I find them:

  • The title tag should read the full name of the church and the geographic location so search engines will deliver it when someone new to town looks up the phrase “Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee.”
  • The image at the top of the page bearing the church’s name may look all artsy, but it too is search engine hostile. Remind me to write an article on how to use CSS image replacement to get the best of both worlds.
  • The clouds background – yes, I suppose that’s what it looks like from God’s perspective if God were an airplane pilot, but what we really get is a background that makes the text next to near impossible to read.
  • Mutli-color fonts with multiple font faces.
  • Everything all centered, all the time.
  • Kitschy gold “welcome”
  • Text so important, that you scroll it to make sure no one can read it.
  • Underlining an entire sentence instead of just the verb or noun in same.
  • A link to a “new site” without using meta tag or javascript redirects.

The ‘New’ Site – wait folks, there’s a New Site
Since they’ve indicated that there is a new site, let’s go there and see … oh … my … goodness. Okay, everything I just listed above, STILL applies, except they got rid of the Kitschy Gold “Welcome.” Instead, they’ve replaced it with a fire-engine red warning that reads:

” WARNING: This site contains Scripturally explicit materials and may prove to be offensive for any who do not believe the Bible to be the only and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice for God’s people. Enter knowing that you may be surprised or even shocked at what God says about such subjects as:”

Ahem … remember folks, its not just what you say, but how you say it. The PHBC prefers to shout the above text. We also now have scrolling white text against a white/gray clouds background as if to demonstrate that indeed, compelling content can be made yet even more unreadable – oh wait, it only appears white on white if I use FireFox. Let’s fire up MSIE and see, well list, what happens. Ah, white marquee text against a fire-engine red background, followed by a lime green/bright-red marquee.

All this is followed by 12 multi-colored subjects without the benefit of an ordered list tag — or hyperlinks to said ‘offensive articles.’ Speaking of lists, let’s continue our list from above, which still applies along with the items I list below:

  • And unreadable, unspeakable, hard-to-remember domain name
  • MIDI File? I sure hope that rendition isn’t copyrighted. Actually I would have wished they gave me the option to listen in instead of forcing it on me.
  • Lots and lots of JESUS JUNK in the form of spinning animated gifs. What was it Strong Bad said? Oh yeah, “… But you want as many of those as possible. Especially the rotate-y kind. Those are awesome, man. Nobody gets tired of looking at those.1
  • No “Alt” arguments for images
  • No “Title” arguments for hyperlinks
  • Lots of bold text, All Caps Text So It Sounds Like THEY’RE YELLING ALL THE TIME!
  • Beveled boxes
  • PDF Files
  • A counter
  • More of the same from all of the above

So what to do?
Punt and purchase a template – but only after someone or some group sits down and answers the questions:

  1. Why are we on the web?
  2. How can we use the web to effectively convey our message and mission?
  3. How can we use the web to get seekers in the door?
  4. How can we use the web to get important information to our members?
  5. How can we organize our ministries into an easy to navigate outline?

“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.” – I Cor. 9:26


  1. Link checking too..
    “See another one of our sites” links to: file:///C:/WEBSHARE/WWWROOT/myweb2/index.html

    Overall, the website is as welcoming as a limp handshake.

  2. I was conversing with the webservant of another PCA church and we were both remarking how our sites would look if we gave in to the design demands of our respective sessions. No disrespect intended – the comments and suggestions are almost always given with the best intentions. My site would look just like PHBCs if I gave in to half of the demands I received. I have learned two things since I started this site – how to take criticism of all kinds gracefully, and how to artfully turn people down who have ‘concerns’ about our site. Oh yeah – sometimes they are right…I take those ideas too.

  3. “how to take criticism of all kinds gracefully, and how to artfully turn people down who have ‘concerns’ about our site.”

    Excellent! Well Said! Pip, Pip and all that rot!

    I too receive frequent requests for “the website”. There is a fine line when you try to have goals and a mission versus “what the customer wants” so to speak. IMHO this is one of the BEST reasons to have goals and a plan for a church website, to avoid the rabbit trails of quick fixes.