One should probably not blog when one’s pet peeves are barking and pulling on their leashes. I just sent over a hundred emails to congregational leaders based on the contact information given to the UUA by the congregation at the time of certification, and guess what? A huge portion of those emails bounced back to me with all sorts of excuses. “You are not subscribed to this email list.” “I no longer use this email address. Please redirect your email to <this one>.” “User is over quota.” “I have retired and am no longer at this email address.”
Really? So I checked (I was watching the Emmys at the same time) and sure enough, most of those malfunctioning emails listed with the UUA are also listed on the corresponding congregational websites. And no, I couldn’t stop there. Yes, you guessed it. I checked out their membership growth numbers. I didn’t have to. I knew already. These congregations are not growing. How could they be? People can’t get ahold of leaders. And as I poked around these websites, I found they are predominantly out of date, with places and times of worship services hidden or missing altogether.
Oh, my dogs are barking! And my heart is breaking. Our communities of faith save and transform lives and we’re hiding. People are looking for us and we’re failing them.
Don’t make me glare at you. Please check the following:
- Front page of your website: full name of your congregation, meeting address (with directions preferably) including city and state, phone (including area code), and the name and contact information of someone people can call with questions.
- Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. Do they have your information correct? What comes up when you search “Unitarian + Universalism + <your town>”? Is that what you want to come up?
- Does your Chamber of Commerce list you in their materials that list religious communities? Area motels and hotels? Your local ecumenical or interfaith group?
- Does Yelp? If your congregation is already listed, what are reviewers saying about you? More and more people are reading Yelp reviews of religious communities to make their choices before they ever grace your doorway.
People are trying to find you. Please make it as easy as possible for them. And your Growth Specialist is trying to work with you. Double check the information you send to the UUA to be sure it’s up to date.
Thank you. <insert singing “When I breathe in… I breathe in peace… When I breathe out… I breathe out love…” here>
It really takes a lot to get Tandi in a rage. Obstacles to full access to Beloved Community is near the top of the list. And able-bodied people parking in Handicap Parking Zones. And littering. Don’t do those, please.
How about a pic of the minister on the front page?
I would be mindful that it should be one pic among many, if only because I don’t think the Minister should have to be Greeter-in-Chief. It’s a good way for guests to have a face they can recognize though – why not put up pictures of the whole leadership team with their email addresses?
The most critical use of the website is the person who is looking for info about a church they are thinking about visiting. It’s the make-or-break first impression. And they want to see the minister — the person who leads worship. Information about the minister, the location and hopefully, what is going to be happening THIS Sunday (including info on children) needs to be on the front page. Information that is reference or updates for members can go further into the website.
In addition to these (incredibly important) things, let’s make a commitment to recognizing that our websites aren’t brochures we leave places. They should include stories of your congregation, pictures of the people, testimonials/sermons/etc. The homepage of your site should reflect the full character of your congregation, not just the directions, times and a blurb about who you are – consider that absolutely none of that information is relevant to your members, who should be your biggest user base by far.
You might also want to actually ask some folks what they want, both members and guests, so we don’t wind up with one of these about church websites:
Now we have to be on Yelp? Some of us are running as fast as we can. So my pet peeve is someone coming in and judging when we have failings and not realizing we don’t have the volunteer hours to get all of that ideal work done.
Good blog, Tandi, as usual. I am amazed at the number of websites that do not include the address and contact information in plain view on their homepage. I also agree that the website is primarily for seekers. I look for a welcome tab or something right on the home page that answers questions like, what should I wear? where does my child go? can my child stay with me in the service? How long is the service? What happens after the service? etc.
1. Front page of your website: full name of your congregation, meeting address (with directions preferably) including city and state, phone (including area code), and the name and contact information of someone people can call with questions. – All but contact name.
2. Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. Do they have your information correct? What comes up when you search “Unitarian + Universalism + ”? Is that what you want to come up?
Google – Yes, Yahoo – website is top result, Bing – phone number corrected
3. Does your Chamber of Commerce list you in their materials that list religious communities? Area motels and hotels? Your local ecumenical or interfaith group?
There are only 10 churches listed on the CoC website (not including us), which encompasses 3 cities. Wow. No churches listed on the city website. I doubt we’re listed at the motels and hotels.
4. Does Yelp? If your congregation is already listed, what are reviewers saying about you? More and more people are reading Yelp reviews of religious communities to make their choices before they ever grace your doorway.
Found, but not under Unitarian Universalism + Euless since that isn’t officially part of our name. I claimed the page and added it anyway. No reviews yet.