A Graceful Reconsidering of the Ministry Website
by Stephen Trout
The problem with our assumptions, someone once noted, is that we tend to assume they’re true.
(This, despite that old quip about what assuming does to you and me!)
But if, as Einstein posited, most of our assumptions are wrong — why don’t we question them more?
Maybe we’re easily caught in a feedback loop of how we think the world should be — what’s comfortable for us. Why ask a fish about the water, right?
But what we’re blind to — or maybe don’t want to see — can lead us down some unhelpful paths.
Take your ministry website, for example.
As the main doorway for seekers to explore what you do, your site may unwittingly communicate some misleading messages:
1. “Our website is really for us; you should become like us too.”
I know saying “our website” is unavoidable, but is it really for you?
If most visitors to your site are those exploring your church or ministry, will they interpret your site as a member or believer would?
Why does that matter?
It matters because if your site assumes a universal understanding of Christianity — using words that sometimes Christians even find fuzzy — like “atonement,” or even “sin” — you might not be meeting visitors where they actually are.
Why not rather assume that they don’t understand these terms — which, culturally speaking, is much more likely the case — and seek to bring clarity to them?
For example, surveys have shown that the average person today can’t name even half of the Ten Commandments — the law which reveals to us what sin really is, and our need for a Savior.
Please understand — we’re not saying you shouldn’t retain good words or have Statements of Faith or “What we Believe” sections on your site.
Those pages are definitely helpful — but mostly for those who are already believers, or transferring from another church.
2. “People will come to faith because we tell them they should.”
There are lots of reasons why people doubt. Do you know them?
Did you suddenly believe in Jesus one day (if you do) because someone gave you a list of truth propositions, and told you to believe them? Or was it rather love — worked out relationally — that wooed your heart to him? (John 13:35)
Instead of focusing on why people should believe — or assuming they will just do it because you said so — why not help them to believe?
Further, Jesus didn’t approach everyone the same way — just read the gospels. He knew each person’s heart, and what they needed most.
We can seek to do the same, by getting to know people first. We do this by deeds of love — as we said — serving and asking good questions — not in order to trap them but to honestly learn their story and meet their needs.
You may come to find that they’ve been deeply hurt by distorted or abusive religious experiences, as many have. Wouldn’t this be good to know?
Learning about their struggles can bring a more sympathetic approach and an honest admission (where needed) that Christians often lose sight of grace (see Galatians 1:6–9).
3. “We know your concerns.”
Maybe you think everyone is concerned about life after death, or how the world began (evolution or intelligent design?), or even what you think are the most perplexing moral and political issues of our day.
Or maybe you think they should be concerned about those things — so you’re going to make sure they are.
Here’s a news flash: those things may not be anywhere near the forefront of their minds. So are those issues going to be your best points of contact?
You won’t know until you get to know them.
Maybe you’ll find their deeper questions are more like “Can I really be loved?” and “Does God — if he exists — even care, since he seems so remote?” or “What do I do with my shame?”
Those are deeper heart questions that are common to us all — even believers! Wouldn’t it be good for our seekers to know they’re not alone, and that we struggle with them too?
At the very least, they will feel heard — and loved — instead of steamrolled because you assumed you knew what they needed.
So ask yourself: does my website effectively acknowledge an unbeliever’s concerns and questions?
Does it address real struggles, and seek to meet people where they’re at — instead of assuming we know, or making them pass some kind of knowledge test to enter our “club?”
In short, does your website offer them a “hospital for sinners” where the healing balm of Jesus is applied?
These are important questions for ministry in general, but also as we seek to effectively use our sites to connect with real people with real struggles, as ambassadors of grace!
Truepath’s vision is to empower Christian organizations and businesses to take full advantage of their online presence by providing affordable and best-in-class applications and dedicated, live customer support. You can reach us at: (760) 480–8791.