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Does your church have a website? If so, does it say “Welcome!” or “Keep Out!” to people who use the Internet to search for a church?

The main function of most church websites is to communicate information to its own members. In our computer-driven society, that’s practically a necessity. But some churches, particularly new church plants, are viewing websites as an important part of their outreach strategy.

So what makes a website user friendly for people who are interested in checking out your church? Here are a few ideas and tips:

First, watch your language. In-group wording aimed only at church members or websites heavy with religious jargon can quickly turn off people who are considering visiting your church. If you wouldn’t say something directly to a seeker, don’t say it on your website.

Second, do your housekeeping. Make sure the website is up to date and technically sound for easy navigation. Websites containing broken links or pages under construction leave a negative impression about a church.

Third, show some personality. A church website can give a cyber visitor a clear sense of the church’s unique tone. For instance, the staff at Community Fellowship Church (www.communityfellowship.org) poses with funky props and funny facial expressions to show the creative energy that defines its worship services.

Fourth, invite people to go deeper. Show visitors how your church can connect with them on many levels. Websites should offer excellent audio and video streams of services, messages, dramas, and music. The Journey, a church plant in Waterloo, Ontario, (www.myjourney.ca) offers testimonials, a “Life’s Questions” link, and a starter package for seekers to find out more about “this Jesus thing.” New Hope Church (www.newhopechurch.ca) not only offers an extensive photo album of its church events but also has an impressive library of Christian songs, movie clips with pastor commentary, and video streams of worship services.

Fifth, invite people back. An excellent way to get visitors to bookmark your church’s website is to provide interactive links. Check out www.kidsranch.org for a good example of fun content for kids. Also consider offering services such as links to local news, weather, and community events that may prompt people to add your church’s website to their “favorites” list.

With a little forethought, your church’s website can reach out to people who might otherwise never step across the threshold.

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