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Is Your Church Hard to Find?
Have you ever wanted to find a church in a particular neighborhood, resorted to the internet to find their worship times for that crucial first visit, but then not found them? I have, and it happened to me just this morning.
I’d driven by Jewel Lake Road’s Calvary Church several times this week and decided Church Visits would visit them. Needing worship times, I looked them up on Google using the search terms "Calvary Church Anchorage". Finding a map with their name but no web address, I finally located them listed 6th from the top. Clicking on this listing, I found no obvious worship times, so skipped going there today.
After attending church at another location, I looked again and found Calvary’s worship times were there, but buried under ‘service times’. Churches don’t realize that most of the time, when a prospective guest wants to visit the church, they are only interested in the location and service times. Why force a potential visitor to figure out where you’ve chosen to hide the service times? Visitors may not have time or patience to wade through meaningless verbiage or promos for the Beth Moore Bible Study, Craft & Gift Bazaar, or the Fall Fun Festival, as I did with Calvary’s website. Just list your worship times clearly on the first page.
Next, I searched "Churches Jewel Lake Anchorage" and found the top listing was Jewel Lake Parish. Going to the listed church web address www.jewellakeparish.org, I still had no clue what this church was. At first I thought it might be Catholic due to the “parish” term. They have Facebook splashed all over their first page. I, along with many others, am leery of Facebook due to their recent headline news security and privacy breaches.
Worship times are prominently displayed on the homepage, but with the dogwood flower motif, I thought this might be a Southern USA church. Clicking on the Worship tab, I discovered that Curt Karns was speaking Sunday June 27, 2010. Now I was really confused as I know Curt is the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Yukon. I still don’t know who this church represents as a Google reference to the United Methodist Church was also discovered at this address.
Suffice to say, much of the information on their website is dated 2009. Much better identification needs to be incorporated on this church’s website to make it meaningful to the public. It also needs to be brought and kept current.
Where Did I Visit Today?
I ultimately visited Jewel Lake area’s Gloria Dei Lutheran Church whose website was easily found with Google as a Jewel Lake area church. Easy to read, it clearly indicated service times, and provided a strong inducement for a visit. I’ll be blogging this visit soon. It was a good visit, although Jewel Lake Parish and Calvary Church might also have been good visits. Unfortunately, they did not expend the effort necessary to make it easy for a first time guest to visit them.
Though my experiences detail problems with a few Jewel Lake area churches today, these same issues are found in any area of Anchorage. Churches are known for being particular with points of their theology. If they applied the same care to their websites, who knows how much better they might be perceived in their communities.
The recommendations below are primarily for church webmasters, but they can also help church visitors understand why many church websites are so dismal, a possible tipoff to what you may experience when visiting the church itself.
Have Real or Prospective Users Test Your Websites
A huge blunder churches make is in assuming they themselves (the churches or their website creators) are the real users of their websites. The real user is the average person who has occasion to access their website. It might be helpful to actually have ‘real or potential users’ of church websites test them before they are published to the internet.
Google Your Church Website
You should always know how your website ranks in a Google search. If you end up low on the listing, there are ways to improve your position, but you’ll never know unless you look.
Analyze Your Website’s Traffic
Do you know how many people visit your church website, where they’re coming from, how far down they dig, and what they are looking for? You should! Is your church paying big bucks for little return? If so you may need another website service to help you become more useful and visible. If I favorably mention your church in a blog post, you should know how many website visitors linked to, i.e. visited your website, from my www.adn.com/churchvisits mention.
Does Your Church Understand the Top Ten Sins Committed by Church Websites?
If not, you may be wasting valuable church money? Send me an email at ChurchVisits@gmail.com for a good top ten website sins list I've recently created.
Ensure Your Website’s Illustrations Apply to Its Ministry
Dogwood flowers, as seen on Jewell Lake Parish's website, are pretty but I’m not sure how they apply to an Alaskan church website. Today, I also saw an illustration on a church website of a man fly fishing. Same thought. This is also true of mountains, lakes, rivers, and inlets. They are pretty scenes but what do they convey of your ministry? Nor is it necessary to show pictures of your church. However, if for example, your church is concerned with the homeless, derelicts, and the downtrodden, it’s appropriate to show pictures of members of your church actively dealing with these issues. They go a long way.
Keep Your Website Current
Even yesterday’s event listings can cause prospective guests to wonder if your church is stuck in time. Last month’s information is clearly unnecessary, while last year’s information is of no value whatsoever. Think of the newspaper. Do you purchase a newspaper for last month’s or last year’s information? Absolutely not! Why is your website any different? People are interested in what just happened, is happening right now or is about to happen.
Use Spell Checking
Grammatical errors aside, spelling errors are rife on church websites. A Google search of "Anchorage Chruch Alaska" today reveals this misspelling, “chruch”, close to 14,000 times with many of them on church websites. With today’s spell checking tools, this is inexcusable.
Don’t Overburden Your Main Page With Too Much Information
Your church website main page should be easily readable, free of eyestraining clutter. Avoid using too much text. Use bullets, headlines and illustrations where possible.