We are going to be looking for a home congregation when my internship is over in May. We’ve been at First Parish Cambridge since we moved here, and feel like there is great transition going on there, and we are ready to find maybe something a little smaller or somehow a better fit. We’ve also looked at churches in cities we’ve thought of moving to or visiting. Here are some things I’ve noticed scanning websites of potential churches. Not that I am somehow a good website designer – I just know what I like when I am looking so maybe this will help folks make websites more user-friendly.
- Somehow congregations do not make it clear what size they are. I want to know how many people usually attend on a Sunday morning. 70? 100? 600? If congregations put this on the website, it is usually buried somewhere non-obvious.
- Also, I want to know a little something about the minister – not just his or her email. Where did they study? Work before this? Interests? Religious orientation? A picture is nice too just to put a name with the face.
- And many churches have “What to Expect on Sunday Morning” which is very helpful. Do you go in the side door? Do children stay up with parents, or do they go to classes right away?
- What programing goes on at church – at a glance. A six paragraph explanation is not “at-a-glance.” There is often indication of this program or that, but the websites often seem to be made for people already familiar with the church. What is the range of committee and projects that take place and that a potential person might get involved with? A list would be helpful, with a link to a more detailed description. This www.firstparish.org/cms/content/view/96/69/ at the First Parish Concord website is a good example.
- Links to pictures are nice to see what things look like going on at the church. No need to upload 4000 pictures, but a selection of different key events.
- What is the flavor of the church? Mission statements really don’t seem to be very helpful in this. Is it a very liturgy-based sort of service? What is the singing like? When you call your church diverse, what exactly do you mean by that?
- Explain things that visitors might not know, and make the explanations easy to find. For instance, if there is a “Forum” on Sunday morning, what might this be? Some sort of Sunday School for grownups? A discussion of the sermon? What is “coffee hour”? Will people talk to me there or will I stand there feeling awkward and out of place?
- Less is more. I want to be able to see where the main menu is and use that to navigate the site. Lots of links and flashing things all over the page are confusing.
- It is hard to know how to get involved in a new church. Making this clear and easy to find on the website is really nice.
- The website should be updated and accurate. If you say, “Our ____ group meets every Tuesday at 7 and all are welcome,” and then there is no one there, that is kind of frustrating.
Just some thoughts I have as I procrastinate on doing the work I should actually be working on.