by the Rev. Phil Hirsch

Sunday morning visitors almost always look at your congregation’s website before making a decision about attending. To help us think about how we’re perceived online, websites of Metro D.C. Synod congregations were reviewed by a young adult who recently moved to our area, a life-long Lutheran looking for a congregation to call “home.”

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Here are some general observations about what was found.

HEY YOU
Put the congregation name in the website title if at all possible.

SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND
Google search your congregation and look at the results. The blurb should have the address and a brief description, and it should pop up first or second. Help for creating the blurb is available.*

BUT I LOVED THE 80s
Even if you include all recommended information*, the look of your site needs to be modern. Many churches websites look unprofessional or are reminiscent of the 80s – which does not attract young visitors. (By the way – phat may sound good because it meant cool, but now the term is outdated… don’t use it on your website.)

A WAY HOME
The church’s name at the top of the site should also link back to the homepage. This is pretty standard practice and makes navigation easier.

FITTING ROOM
Writing ABOUT a church isn’t inherently welcoming. Writing about how a visitor can FIT INTO church life sends a different message. Ask a non-church person to review what you’ve written.

When surfing synod congregation sites, the following presented good, local examples.

Ease of Use/Clarity
•    Christ Lutheran Church, D.C. – http://christlutheran-dc.org
•    Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Fairfax – www.blclife.org

Overall Layout
•    Lutheran Church of the Abiding Presence, Burke – www.abidingpresence.net
•    Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Manassas – www.bethelmanassas.org

Welcoming
•    Advent Lutheran Church, Arlington – www.adventlc.us
•    Peace Lutheran Church, Waldorf – www.myplc.org

* Tips for the site’s front page, things guests are likely to look for, common mistakes, and shaping a Google search response can be found on “Resource” page included with original distribution of the “Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod Website Report for Congregations.”