Thursday, May 26, 2016

Churches and the Doors People Use

Some people say that the church website is the new front door to a church. Their argument is good, since most people visit a church’s website before they visit church. But then they go immediately into what the home page of the website should look like. There’s nothing wrong with having an attractive home page, but we must be careful that we don’t forget everything we know about church doors.

I’ve been to many church buildings. There are quite a few of them that I’ve entered, but not by the front door. The church I grew up in had two doors. There was the front door, which was at the top of a set of steps. There was a side door that closer to the parking lot and had not steps to get to it. Most people used that door. The only people who used the front door were visitors who made their way around the side of the building by walking across the rocky and uneven yard, before climbing the steps. But that was the door that had a sign above it, stating the name of the church. The other door was just the door that was added when the church added restrooms to the building.

There is a similar situation with church websites. While we might call the homepage the front door and that’s where we spend most of our time on appearance, that’s not how people visit our websites. The only people who visit that page already have a first impression of your church. Homepages are what we put a link to in all of our printed materials, and the link we provide when we’re asked. It is not how people find our church. Instead, people find our church through Google, or through Facebook, or some other website that serves to redirect people. But think about what they find.

On Google, unless people are looking for your church specifically, what they will find are secondary pages. They’ll Google something like “Easter egg hunts in Fort Worth” and they’ll find an article you posted three years ago about an Easter egg hunt you had at church. On Facebook, they’ll follow a link that a friend liked. That link won’t be to your homepage, but to some article you provided a link to on your Facebook page. Other people will find your church by following a link from a blog post, quoting something in an article on your church website.

Do you get the picture? While the Internet is constantly changing, one thing remains constant. The Internet runs on content and primarily textual content. People don’t enter the “front door” of your website, but they enter through one of many doors that has the content they are looking for. From there, they may follow a link to your homepage, to find out more about your church, but they’re already in the door and they’re wondering around your hallways looking for someone to show them how to get to where they want to be.