There's a lot I could tell you about church websites.
I could tell you that your website should resource its visitors instead of informing them. When it comes to the information though, I could also tell you that those who use your website will expect to find certain things in certain places. I could tell you that your website should serve as the hub for all of your digital communication, and that it is your greatest storytelling tool.
What is most important for me to share with you when it comes to church websites, however, is this: it is your responsibility to be authentic, honest, and forthcoming.
It is your responsibility to not be a heartbreaker.
Visiting a church website for the first time is sort of like being asked on a date. For example, many churches invite people to worship with them after a brief introduction (name and logo) without any additional context. That's like asking someone on a date when all you've shared is your name. They're probably not going to take you up on it!
Let's say though that you secured that first date. And it goes well. So you keep dating and things continue to go well. The level of affection and interest is mutual. You're even starting to make longer-term plans.
Then, one day, they learn something about you that is unexpected. You will or won't let someone participate in communion. You will or won't let someone preach, or be baptized, or get married. You will or won't encourage varied rhythms of participation or invite that tough conversation about what's in the news. Whatever it is and for whatever reason, it is unsettling. It is upsetting.
Finding a new church—like dating—demands discomfort and vulnerability. Everyone comes to the process with hopes, expectations, fears, and baggage. Our website is one of the key pieces in making a hopefully informed decision about whether or not a church is worth the risk. Our guests come to our website wondering this: Will you break my heart?
Will you make them fall in love with your people, places, and things only for them to then discover that you're not who they thought you were?
Be honest on your website about who you are and why you do what you do. Encourage your visitors to ask you the hard questions. Answer them before they're even asked!
Missing out on that second date is awkward, for sure. But breaking hearts piles on to the baggage that already exists. It hurts everyone involved—the guest, the church, and frankly the Church.
Take a look at your website sometime this week. Does it pass the no-heartbreak test?