Visiteth thou our web site, I beseech thee!

I used to live in the Washington, DC area, where buzz words and phrases rule. Every industry, every government agency has them ... "You need to suitcase that" ... "we need a greater share of wallet" ... "If that’s in your wheelhouse", and one of my favorite instances of internal terminology, one specific to the Washington, DC metro area: the “slug line”.

The curious thing is, if you're in that industry or agency, you don't even notice the buzz phrases because you know what they mean and they are just terms you use as a part of doing your job.

No surprise, but churches have them too, and I believe they greatly reduce the chances of the web site contributing to a visit from someone who is not a Christian and/or not familiar with churches or Christianity. While I think every church has good intentions regarding its web site, if it is trying to reach potential visitors, I think too many fall into the trap of writing for insiders. There are some words that have different definitions across the religious spectrum, like baptism. Does your church immerse someone, or pour or sprinkle water on him/her? Do you baptize adults only or infants too? As a result, their message appeals only to others in the same faith.

Many terms are simply from the Bible, usually the King James Version. I have seen church web sites refer to God as “the Great I Am” on the home page and talk about Pentecost on "welcome" pages without defining it.

The following are examples of home page, "welcome" page or "what we believe" content on existing church sites that seems to assume the visitor is quite familiar with Christian terminology:

  • We are a community of believers best characterized by unconditional love and genuine discipleship. What is genuine discipleship? Do I need to watch out for imitation discipleship? They don't say.
  • We believe in the Trinity, a triune Godhead ... "Triune" - not a word you hear in conversation very often. Or "Godhead", for that matter.
  • We are non-denominational . What does that mean, exactly, to a visitor? And by the same token, what does it mean to be a denomination?
  • The church was built and purchased by Christ, established on the first Pentecost after His resurrection. Hmmm ... did Jesus use Visa to make that purchase? What happened on the second Pentecost. What is "Pentecost" anyway?

And where else but a church do you hear a lobby called a foyer or vestibule?

This is one of the better ones I’ve seen:

We are a Bible-believing congregation that longs to share the love of Christ with those around us. Find out how you can join us in this ministry by clicking the links above. We offer many opportunities for anyone who wants to grow in their relationship with Christ and make a difference in the lives of others. We hope to see you soon!

It avoids most of the buzzwords, but just how well does it communicate to someone with little experience? What does it say that might draw someone to at least visit one time?

Men and brethren, what shall we do?

First, try to create content that tries to connect with visitors rather than insiders. Look at non-profit web sites, especially those that are looking for volunteers or donations. See how they explain who they are. The better ones will connect with you where you are ... by finding something in common, appealing to your desire to help others or your compassion. Learn from these.

Second, you know someone who does not go to church anywhere or is not a Christian. Ask him or her to critique your site. Ask what would make it more appealing to someone like him/her? Be sure to leave your ego at the door, just in case you think you know what the answers will be. It could very well lead to your own enlightenment.