Recently I searched Google for “catholic parish website design.” Then I reviewed the design samples of two companies that were listed on the first page. I was interested to see if the parishes that are updating their website designs are also updating their home pages to be more evangelizing or welcoming. Here is what I found.
The first company I looked at was Connecting Members. Their template designs are clean, simple and attractive. Basically, they provide different configurations of Mass schedule, announcements, links and calendar information and other information such as address, phone number, Facebook and Twitter links. Some contain ads for the businesses which support the website and others include links to online giving. The choice of content comes from the parishes. I saw three websites where the word Welcome appeared and a few others where I’m New was a menu heading, but these were not typical nor were they remarkable in their welcomes. No evangelization stars here. (Note: At the end of 2015 and early 2016, I worked with Connecting Members to create a welcoming website for St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Strongsville, Ohio. I think we were successful.)
The second company was eCatholic®. There is some variety in the sample websites displayed. The background frames are attractive and the main menus are clear and easy to read. The structure of the home pages below the menus vary in quality. Most likely, this reflects on the skills of the parish web master more than the skills of the professional web designer. Two websites, St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A & M University and St. Gerard Catholic Church from Lansing Michigan get stars for evangelization, three others were on the way, but the rest are in-house websites focused primarily on announcements, calendars, links, etc. (Note: After this article was written, I worked with eCatholic to create a free evangelizing parish template. It is called Bethany, in case you are interested in using it.)
These two companies and other website designers are giving the parishes what they want. Unfortunately, most parishes do not see or want their websites to be part of their evangelizing ministry. It is hard for me to believe that Church ministers and those charged with the development of the parish website and social media sites do not see the website as a way to welcome visitors, new-comers, seekers or inactive Catholics who may wish to return. This is a missed opportunity. The first place “outsiders” look to find out about our parishes is the Internet and their needs are seldom addressed.
The good news is that more parishes are paying attention to their online presence and updating their website designs. The less-than-good news is that while more attractive, most re-designed websites have home pages that are announcement boards that ignore the world and the people outside the walls of the Church. However, the few exceptions that I have found give me hope that someday all parish home pages will be communicating the welcome that visitors, new-comers, seekers and inactive Catholics are seeking.
If you have an example of a welcoming parish website where the home page speaks to visitors, new-comers, seekers and inactive Catholics who wish to return as well as to active members, please give the link in the comments below.
What do you think?
Note: This article was updated November 15, 2016.