In my book, A Church on the Move: 52 Ways to Get Mission and Mercy in Motion, I share the following thoughts:
First impressions are very important. We all know that. Unfortunately we are not always aware of when and how that first impression is being made. Back in the day, first impressions were usually made face-to-face. With the dawning of the digital age, that is no longer always the case. In fact, in most cases, people’s first impressions are shaped by online presence and social media. What this means when it comes to the life of our parishes is that for many people, the first point of contact with a parish is not its curb appeal, its majestic spires or rose window, the greeters, the receptionist, or the pastor, but rather its online presence. In fact, according to Grey Matter research, more than 17 million non-churchgoers visited a church Web site in a twelve-month period between 2011 and 2012 (Christianity Today, May 31, 2012).
So what are people finding when they visit the online presence of Catholic parishes? On the whole, Catholic parishes’ online presence has improved, but in my own humble opinion, they still have a long way to go! When I search various parish Web sites, for example, I often encounter outdated information, cheesy background music, gaudy background colors and flashing images, a mishmash of fonts and font sizes, impossible navigation, overly pious imagery, churchy vocabulary and acronyms, and an unfortunate dearth of information that makes one wonder if the parish is still operating.
In addition to these shortcomings, many parish websites tend to be rather lifeless and static. A good way to counteract that is to include brief videos that bring to life the various ministries in the parish. A great example of this is from my friend Kate DeVries, Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Parish in LaGrange, IL. Kate has undertaken the task of embedding brief videos on the parish website that highlight and bring to life the various ministries of the parish. Such videos could do much to embellish and enhance the catechetical efforts of a parish.
Take a look! Great job, Kate!