Judging a Church by its Website or How I Picked a Church Based on Photos

How I Decided What Church to Attend Based on a Website Picture

How do potential visitors decide which church to attend?

The most common reason for visiting a church is because someone personally invited you. When you’re visiting a church with someone you know, there’s automatically someone to provide hospitality, give you an idea of what to expect, and introduce you to people.

As churches, we encourage members to invite their unchurched friends, and I think a lot of churches assume this is how visitors find them. According to this site, 60% of visitors come because someone invited them.

However, being invited isn’t the only way people find a church. Sometimes people really do decide to visit a church based solely on its website.

Here’s my story:

Last summer, I graduated college, got married, and moved to Dubuque, Iowa to go to Wartburg Seminary. Aside from our time at Luther College and working at Crossways Camps, my wife and I had both gone to the same church our entire lives, so this was the first time in our lives that we were without a church home.

Church shopping is hard. When you move to a completely new city, and you don’t know anyone, where do you even start? We started where any person of our generation would: the internet, looking at church websites.

Both of us are passionate about well-executed contemporary worship music, so we started by trying a large evangelical church. As expected, their music was excellent, but, coming as we were from a Lutheran background, we wanted a little more of a recognizable liturgical and sacramental structure to the Sunday service.

We visited several different Lutheran churches in the area, but none of them seemed like the right fit for us. Specifically, we were looking for an active community with both sacramental liturgy and contemporary music.

About three months after moving to Dubuque, I came across the website of Grandview United Methodist Church. Since we’re not Methodist, we hadn’t really considered a Methodist church, but we agreed to go visit for one reason: this photo on the website.Grandview United Methodist Website

The photo showed both the pastor celebrating the Lord’s Supper at an altar, and a guitar amp. Contemporary worship with some sacramental liturgy.
The picture showed exactly what we were looking for.

It turns out that the church is a really good fit for us, with friendly people, engaging worship, and a rapidly growing community. I’m sure there are other churches in Dubuque that would be a great fit for us as well, and in the course of being at seminary, we’re continuing to occasionally visit other churches.

The point of sharing my story here is to say that the photos on your website matter. If Grandview’s website had been just text, fancy sermon series graphics, pictures of the outside of the building, or worst of all, church stock photos, we would never have been led to visit. Grandview’s website isn’t the fanciest church website in town. It’s not perfect. But it’s effective because it’s authentic.

The website is the front door of your church. It’s the first impression that potential visitors have. Is that message authentic and welcoming?

4 Replies to “Judging a Church by its Website or How I Picked a Church Based on Photos”

  1. I completely agree! I was working with a church on their website and made the mistake of taking some photos. I had specific shots that I intended for different pages of the site. They fit very well except for one thing… I took them after a service and not during. The pictures were of an empty sanctuary, empty pulpit, and empty pews. It was so cold and impersonal, and what’s worst is that I did not realize it until a year later.

    Great article and thanks for highlighting this important topic!

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