The UM Reporter:
Every congregation in the United Methodist Church has a new front door. It’s the Internet. People don't use the Yellow Pages to find a church anymore, nor do they glance at the church ads in Saturday's newspaper. They're not going to drive around town looking for the most attractive church building, either. Potential guests to your church will most likely Google for churches in their community and check out their websites. If your website is ugly, outdated, neglected or amateurish, discerning church shoppers will likely pass you by before ever setting foot in the real door of your church.
I remain convinced that personal invitation is the best way of attracting new people to your church, whether that invitation is to worship, join a small group, or participate in an outreach project. But even the friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors whom you invite will likely also check out your church's website.
John Warnock, the technology advisor for the Grand Rapids District of the West Michigan Conference, where I serve, recently did a study of the websites of all 69 district churches. According to John, church websites serve three functions. They provide information for members, such as what the hours are for the blood drive, what the Scripture and sermon title is for Sunday, and how to sign up for a Lenten small group. Websites also connect members who are not able to attend church. Shut-ins, those recovering from surgery and members living out of state can read or listen to sermons and keep up to date on church happenings.
The third and arguably most important function of a church website is to be a portal for people who are looking for a church home and/or are seeking to become disciples of Jesus Christ. After all, that's our mission as United Methodists, isn't it? John analyzed each of our district websites from the perspective of seven questions that visitors ask: "Where is the church? When do you worship? How can I get there? What do I do when I get there? What do I do with my kids? What is your worship style? What is your message?"