In the first two parts of our Great Church Website series, we discussed how you can intentionally use your site’s headline to connect with broken people (like us). In addition, using great visuals (photos & video) can help show that the church is here for the world, and not for touting ourselves.
In this 3rd part, we simply want to encourage you to examine your welcome. In essence, this is a natural extension of the first 2 parts, because a.) broken people shouldn’t be prideful, nor b.) act as if church is an exclusive, inward-focused club for those who “have arrived.”
On the contrary, we want to be Intentional about displaying the truth that church is a safe and inviting “family” that welcomes all people. Sure, this family is dysfunctional too, because of sin (just read the epistles), but healthier to the degree that it acknowledges that fact!
So how can we do this on our websites?
First, always keep in mind that our culture has a “pre-existing condition” when it comes to church, a widely-held belief that it’s meant to be a “showcase for saints.” Remember the “Church Lady” skit from Saturday Night Live? There’s a reason it was so popular, resonating with so many. That’s because self-righteousness is actually a default setting in our hearts (see Romans 10:3). It thrives on comparisons to others, and will even use religion to avoid the deeper implications of grace. As a result, the expectation our culture often has about visiting a church (sadly) is “expect to be judged.”
Because this is such a formidable barrier to church for many, I believe we must be intentional about centering on grace and helping people feel welcome. Our website is often the first glimpse that many will have of church, as they check us out from the safety of their own homes. Hopefully what they will see is that church is authentic, and about real people giving and receiving the unconditional love of Christ.
One of the best examples I’ve seen of this is on the Remnant Church site (see the picture above). With an inviting, full-screen video background showing a multi- faceted, multi-cultural church in action, as well as local cultural and artistic sites, Remnant sends the message that it not only cares about all people, but recognizes common grace expressed in our culture. There is no hint here of moralism, or a false dualism that pits spirit and matter against each other. Remnant also seems to understand that God cares about cities, just as he cared about Nineveh in Jonah’s time, and Babylon in the exile (See Jonah 4:11, Jer.29:7).
Secondly, examine your site for anything that might send this message. In an effort to state your positions, are you pushing (in any of your content) a message that might be interpreted as “We have a corner on doctrinal purity, and you’re only welcome if you come to believe what we believe”? Remember the adage, “people will not care how much you know, until they see how much you care.” It’s true. Love is the great apologetic (John 13:35).
Related to this, can you rather affirm that everyone is in need of grace, and at a different stage in their story and understanding? Do you acknowledge that there are a host secondary matters (baptism, music styles) that people of faith differ on, and that we can hold them loosely for the sake of the Gospel?
Third, and on a practical level, shape your site so it’s easy for the “unchurched” to get around. Put yourself in their shoes, and try to consider what a first impression tells them. Is your navigation user-friendly? Does your main page help them to know what a first visit would be like? Is your domain name short, and easy to spell (and remember)? Making it easy for someone to see your welcome is a natural part of extending an invitation.
Let’s conclude this series by noting this simple truth: the most sanctified among us will be the most humble, displaying an others-centered focus that promotes love – just as Christ did (and does) for us. Our churches must be a reflection of that – not about how awesome we are. Jesus is healing, growing, loving, and welcoming a broken world, and he means to do it through us. Our sites can help send that message, inviting lost and broken people to write new chapters of grace.