What is the purpose of a church website?

In Tuesday’s article titled Supercharging Sermons with a Blog, before describing the idea of sermon blogs I casually mentioned what I believe are three primary purposes of a church website:

  1. To help people looking for a church home.
  2. To assist people already attending the church to know what ministries and activities are available for them.
  3. To help people grow spiritually by providing additional resources that complement the services and ministries.

Frank Johnson of Strategic Digital Outreach picked up on that aspect of the article and expressed a different point of view in his blog article called The Purpose of a Church Website.  To summarize his points:

  • There are better ways to accomplish the second and third purposes than a publicly available church website.
  • Most unbelievers don’t care about our ministries because they can’t envision a time when they would ever want to be involved in those programs.
  • With limited resources and budget, efforts to maintain a church website will naturally gravitate to those items which serve already-existing members and attendees while items which are targeted toward unbelievers (which a church website is uniquely poised to deliver) will fall by the wayside.

This sparked what I think has been an interesting exchange between the two of us about the purpose of a church website.  I commend Frank on his passion for seeing the Gospel shared with unchurched people.  We need more advocates for online evangelism like him.  I also compliment him on the graceful way he expressed his opinion.  I refer to that as “disagreeing without being disagreeable.”  With all the division within Christianity today, it’s refreshing for two brothers in Christ to be able to share differences of opinion in this fashion.

You can read our full discussion in The Purpose of a Church Website comments.

What do think are the primary purposes of a church website?  Does your church try to keep Christianese and other insider language off its site so it’s more welcoming and understandable to unchurched people?  Can a church website be a resource to its members and still be appealing to unchurched people or will trying to serve both purposes cause it to fail in both?

In His Service,
Paul Steinbrueck
OurChurch.Com.Com

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

18 Responses to “What is the purpose of a church website?”

  1. Is it about the church being more appealing to the unchurched people? No!

    Yes I believe that each one of us individually should befriend an (unchurched) lost person and speak to them in understandable language about the gospel of Jesus Christ, but we must not compromise the gospel. But our churches and pastors must not become like the world.

    I think Pastors should do more into the old expository preaching with scripture explaining scripture from the pulpit. I find the message today is so shallow and is close to compromising the true gospel of Christ.

    It is not about the church changing to be more worldly friendly to reach the lost it should be about preaching the whole council of God even if it is not politically correct. The churches must not compromise the gospel in reaching the lost. We should be separate and holy as Christ is holy.

    Your comments?

    Yoka

  2. The Web Site Evanagelical Church is one of the most Important Tools that God has given us to preach to those that have no other way of hearing the Gospel. My Ministry is reaching over 1.2 Million people in other countries. By having a web site we have been able to be introduced to other ministers around the world that needed a Ministry Like ours to help them teach and preach the Gospel. They have relied on our Sermons, Lessons and Studies to learn themselves to be able to teach others. Last mounth there were over 1000 people saved. The need for a joint effort in preaching the Gospel is Great. I thank God for our sites, for we are now expanding our ministry for Christ in Adrica, India, Pakistain, The Philippens and Japan.

  3. I have attended some great churches ands congregated with the same people….but very seldom a “newcomer” would come in – why? These churches are not reaching out the lost via personal contacts, ads, INTERNET/WEBSITES. Pastors are happy and content with the number of sheeps they currently have and are not willing to spend a few dollars in a website.

  4. Hello Paul,
    I am just a son of God. I have no church that I am representing, but I am trying to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and the love that God has for each of His children. I have went a different way in using your web hosting services. I have put some affiliate shopping pages in with my other more personal pages. I feel if I can start the turning point in someones life when they come to my site that it is a good thing. There is a possibility that someone that does not have a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour just might click on one of my shopping advertisements I have ran or are running on Google, Yahoo, or Entireweb. If it is the Lord’s will the person may read some of the scripture I have on my site and want to know more. I started my site after reading the section from this URL. http://www.ourchurch.com/hosting/ecommerce-hosting.php, offering a free business site. I thought what a great way to try a business out, with little expense, and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. From reading your three reasons for having a church site it looks as though there is no reason to have one unless you are included in one of those reasons. The love of God is great and I am sure that He would rather include people rather than exclude people, though He will exclude them if He chooses. This should be of God’s doings and not ours. We should try to embrace all the lost souls we can with the love of God. I was a little apprehensive before I started my site here because of the URL. Because I want to have all people looking at my site, not just the ones that are saved. God Bless

    Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God: 1Cor 10:31

  5. Doug McConnell Mar 9, 2006 at 9:31 pm

    I guess it really depends on what you’re trying to do at your church. If your church is focused on attracting the ‘unchurched’, then that’s what your website should focus on. If you are a church that offers a more traditional service, such as a Roman Catholic or Episcopal/Anglican church, perhaps you are simply trying to let folks in the area know where they can find a church and service that meets their needs.
    In either case, I think it’s disingenuous to say the least to avoid ‘christianese’ or talk of Christ. We are what we are. If a person has no interest in God or Christ, he or she’s not ready for a church.

  6. Doug,

    Thanks for your comment…

    “I guess it really depends on what you’re trying to do at your church. If your church is focused on attracting the ‘unchurched’, then that’s what your website should focus on. If you are a church that offers a more traditional service, such as a Roman Catholic or Episcopal/Anglican church, perhaps you are simply trying to let folks in the area know where they can find a church and service that meets their needs.”

    Doesn’t God call every church to fulfill the Great Commission, to reach out to and share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who have not heard?

    “In either case, I think it’s disingenuous to say the least to avoid ‘christianese’ or talk of Christ. We are what we are. If a person has no interest in God or Christ, he or she’s not ready for a church.”

    To avoid Christianesedoes not mean to eliminate all talk of Christ. It means to avoid talking about Jesus in ways that an unbeliever would not understand. Christians have a natural tendancy to use “insider” terms like redemption, sanctification, and gospel. That’s fine if you’re talking to believers. But if you want to share God’s love with unchurched people, if you want them to feel like they would be welcome at your church, you have to speak about Jesus in ways they can understand and relate to.

    - Paul

  7. I believe that anytime and in any way the gospel may be spread, well why not? People make their own evaluations, their own judgments, and arrive at their own conclusions. Church websites provide useful information and 24 hour convenience.

  8. There’s more than one way your website can be used as an evangelism tool. In addition to advertising, why not create your site so that your members and evangelism team can personally use it, and even walk someone through the site.

    We’ve had some great successes with people personally guiding someone towards the webpage while they’re in a public library, internet café or Starbucks. Even just taking a friend through it at home.

    The potential resources and posibilities are endless. Videos, interactive digital tracts, tracking, forums. Have an evangelist make use of it, and he’s suddenly given far more credibility.

  9. What about helping the church in it’s own internal “networking?” Helping church attenders put faces to names, find addresses for IMs and email, post personal church-related blog entries, report on the progress of ministry projects that the normal church service doesn’t have time for? What about MP3 podcasts of interviews with members of the church sharing testimony, insight and wisdom? Why can’t a full-featured church website be the online repository of insight shared by the church with each other and the rest of the world?

    I certainly agree with the evangelistic aspect of church websites, but I think we’re thinking very narrowly about the power of this medium to help connect church members when many in our churches live as far apart as 30-50 miles from each other in a typical suburban community. (I drive 20 miles west to my church, and I’m sure there’s others who live another 20 miles further west from my church.)

    If lives are being transformed in our churches, church should be one of the most interesting places to be on Sunday. If that’s true, then our church websites should reflect that interesting diversity and depth. So far, I’m not seeing it in the church websites I visit.

    Regards,

    Rich
    BlogRodent

  10. I agree with the fact that a church web-site is meant to reach the “unchurched”, but it is also meant to help people grow in their spiritual walk as well. A church web-site needs to stand on what it believes, not just coward in a corner on some street. Remember what Stephen died for? The truth. The truth will do one of two things. it will either make you furious or it will set you free, it all depends on how you take it.
    A church web-site also needs to have growth material. Does not the Bible say to be ready to always to give an account of the hope which lies within you? Does not the Bible say, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee?” KJV
    There used to be a time when people appreciated the truth and God worked through it, but now we have got to the point where we leave our final authority and examples for philosophy. Why is that? Because we are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    But a church web-site is a perfect way to get the truth out to people who are enable to come to the house of God. Few churches have a good bus program to raise the children of the world up in the way they should go. Why have we backslid on God? Why have we cared more about building up our churches than seeing one of these little ones building up a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? I will tell you why. We are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    Please send all comments (and chances are complaint as well) to Preacher Jon at: iitimothy1_12@yahoo.com

  11. Happy Passover to all!

  12. THANK YOU i WANT YOU TO CONTINUE TO PUBLISHER OUR CHURCH MAY GOD BLESS YOU

  13. Church websites have gone popular nowadays. I think this is really cool. Creating a special place like this on the internet is really great in glorifying Him.

    It indeed amazing that people are gathered for God online. In making people know about your church, you must also be wise enough to go through the fads over the internet.

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