Theology & Church

If the Church has GOOD news to share, why are our websites so BAD?

A friend of mine was staying in a Somerset village last year over the weekend of Palm Sunday. He wanted to go to a service so looked up the website of the local church. It told him the service that Sunday started at 10.30am.

Except that the website was wrong.  The service did not start at 10.30am. In fact, the service started at 10.15am. And it did even start at the church, but on the village green. They had a donkey and everything!

My mate was gutted. Not only did he arrive at the wrong time, he was in the wrong place. And he didn’t just miss half the service, he missed the donkey.

Online presence

In contrast, another church I know this Christmas paid a small amount for targeted adverts on facebook to promote their services. The adverts worked – and a number of local families came along to carol services who previously have not been before.

Some churches have great websites. But many churches have websites that are out of date, inaccurate or look like they were created in the mid-nineties. Some don’t have any form of online presence at all.

Modern marketplace

Earlier this year The Independent reported that the average Brit checks their phone 28 times a day and more than 10,000 times a year. These stats are a reminder that ‘online’ is where people are today.

Billions of us are using millions of websites everyday, looking for answers and information that influence our thoughts and actions. Online social media is the marketplace of the 21st Century.  If the Church is to live out her calling she must venture into to this marketplace and learn how to communicate there.

Like all effective missionary endeavours, this is not just a pragmatic move for survival. Rather, good communication is a key expression of core Christian theology of incarnation and mission.

God comes to meet us

Incarnation is at the heart of the Christian story. However far we wander from Him, God has not rejected us. Nor has he merely waited passively for us to come back to him. No, He came to meet us in his Son. Jesus came to us, into the very midst of our humanity: ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ The Son of God became human so that humans could become children of God.

Jesus said to his followers ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ Christians are ‘sent’ people. Sent to the nations to proclaim this love of Jesus in word and deed. Something of the Incarnation continues. The Church is the body of Christ. We are God’s hands, his feet, his mouthpiece in the world. Incarnation is about ‘moving towards’, ’showing up’, ‘being there’ where the people are.

Seeking answers

In the New Testament, Paul’s practice in his missionary journeys was to first go to the synagogue, and then the marketplace. Why? Because these were the places where people were. These were the centres where people congregated to seek answers and information that would then influence their thinking and living.

If Paul were with us today he would asking us, ‘Where is the marketplace? Where are the people gathered? Where are they asking their questions? That’s where we need to be.’

Of course, the Church needs to be active in its actual neighbourhoods, but we also need to have a credible online presence. The two are inseparable.

Getting help

Of course many churches have challenges to create a decent website. Sometimes the people with the skills don’t have the time, and the people with the time don’t have the skills. But help is available.

One of my oldest friends, Giles Fouhy, has set up a business called church-connect which helps churches establish affordable and sustainable websites. He specialises in migrating old fashioned, difficult-to-update websites into a contemporary, affordable and attractive format.

He also provides simple training which means even the most tech-phobic vicar or volunteer can easily update and develop the site going forward.

Giles has 20 years-experience of church leadership, so he understands the challenges and the realities of managing tight resources and over-stretched volunteers. Watch this 3 film film about what they offer:

Social media can feel overwhelming. But this is a key place where we can connect more deeply with our local communities and meet people where they are. Sorting out your church website is mission. And for both your church and your community it could be virtually liberating.

church-connect offer a free consultation to anyone interested in improving their church website. Please share this with anyone you think may benefit.

3 thoughts on “If the Church has GOOD news to share, why are our websites so BAD?”

  1. Hi John,
    I appreciate your input and thoughtful reflections. Whilst I would agree with your general premise about ‘the church’ needing to be a wholesome and prophetic voice online, I’m struggling more specifically with social media. Torn between the need and value of connecting with on FB and twitter, but when you see their values and damage they cause (contributing to negative self-image, monopolistic practices, spreading of lies, ‘bubble’ effects) aren’t guilty of we ‘feeding the beast’ by using these platforms? I’d value your thoughts as I wrestle.. Thanks!

    1. Hi David,

      Many thanks for reading and commenting – and its a good question. I actually used the phrase ‘feeding the beast’ this week when I questioned another Christian’s use of a political meme on FB. In this case I felt he was feeding the beast because I thought the meme simplified a complex issue and would bring more heat than light.

      But similar to your challenge to me in this question, Christians can discuss and debate online well if they are disciplined and careful about what they say and how they say it. I am glad for example, that someone has come back to me on my point in this post – over 800 people have read this article and you are the only one so far to leave a comment offering an alternate view – and this is a good thing!

      I often wonder whether blogging articles over the last 10 years has been worth it – am I just ‘adding to the noise’ online? But I think that (maybe like Paul in Athens) we are called to speak into the public square and do so distinctively. We can choose to only engage in ways that are consistent with our beliefs and avoid the horrible stuff that so easily breaks out on FB and twitter. Thanks again and all the best in keeping this balance!

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