God isn't bland. The Church shouldn't be, either.
Restaurants and Church Websites

Potential visitors look at your website like a restaurant’s website.

What are you conveying?

I realize this isn’t a clever analogy for 99.9% of you, but I hope it will resonate with some of your pastors who discount your church website.

Since my wife and I moved to Chicagoland, a year ago, we’ve been trying to establish some restaurant “favorites.”  This has been hard for us because there are no Chick-Fi-La’s, good BBQ, and the sweet tea is scarce.

I use several methods to find good restaurants, but I always end up going to Google for some quick research.

Here are three concIusions I make about a restaurant based on their online presence.  You better believe folks do the same with church websites.

1.  If you don’t have a website, I’m not going.

When searching for your restaurant, and I don’t find anything, it’s dead to me. We’re living in a world where if you don’t have an online presence, you’re irrelevant.  Everyone has a neighbor, who has a nephew, who builds “interweb netsites.”  In other words, it’s so easy to have some type of website these days.

It screams to me that you don’t care about my business, or you have enough, and don’t need mine.

The only thing that might salvage your online presence is having lots positive reviews on third party websites.  Did you know these also exist for churches?  You never know who’s out there: http://www.churchcloud.com and http://www.occhurches.org.

2.  If you don’t have a menu, I’m going to be hesitant.

It’s one thing to tell me you have great food, and another to actually show me your menu.

Likewise, you can tell how much your church loves families, and how “relevant” you are, but I want to see what specifically you have for my family – kids programming and security, event listings, marriage strengthening, etc.

3.  Interior pictures help me know what to expect.

I want to see if your restaurant looks like a place to bring the whole family, or just a date night with the wife.  I also want to see how I should dress.

Stock photography, and “fake” diversity tell me nothing.

I don’t think churches should overuse photographay on websites because good photos are hard to come by. We use them sparingly on chapel.org, but we do have a welcome video, and other ministry videos for folks. The purpose is to give an accurate glimpse of what they can expect when they walk through our doors.

Can you think of any other analogies? Please comment below.

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  1. David (Marketing Integrity) (Reply) on October 8th, 2009

    “if you don’t have an online presence, you’re irrelevant. Everyone has a neighbor, who has a nephew, who builds “interweb netsites.” In other words, it’s so easy to have some type of website these days.”

    True you are irrelevant. Yet, having a bad site can communicate all kinds of “bad” things as well. Really, a basic web site is so cost-effective these days that ANY church can afford to have a professionally designed one. Making a good first impression is critical.

    As far as other analogies – maybe accommodation web sites – if I can’t see pictures of the room, the surrounding neighborhood, etc I think the B&B, motel, hotel, or resort has something to hide. That industry has a similar problem with stock photos too. You can just tell when they are giving you pictures that don’t accurately represent the property.

    Thanks for another good post Cleve!

  2. Cleve Persinger (Reply) on October 8th, 2009

    Good analogy, David. Agreed about accommodation web sites having too much stock photography.

  3. Adam Lehman (Reply) on October 8th, 2009

    restaurants have customers.

    churches – hopefully – don’t.

  4. Ged Stonehouse Marketing (Reply) on October 9th, 2009

    We do a lot of work with the golf industry. There are so many comparisons between a member owned golf club and a church.

    I like to see people having fun images in a church site – which ever department – need to be well done but also real people.

  5. Mark Alves (Reply) on October 10th, 2009

    Another restaurant – church similarity: one bad experience can lead someone never to return to that particular establishment again. And under those circumstances, the former patron often won’t give an explanation why.

  6. Cleve Persinger (Reply) on October 11th, 2009

    Good analogies, guys. You’re right Mark — most visitors won’t come back after one bad experience, and that church will never know what made it bad for them.

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