First Impressions

Who hasn't heard the old adage; "you only have one chance to make a first impression" ?

Research reveals that truer words were never spoken.

With the importance of the first impression in mind, we raise three important questions for church leaders.

  1. What is the first impression people have of your church?
  2. Is all this website stuff really that important?
  3. What can be done to avoid website pitfalls?

In this article, we will focus on technology, and specifically church websites. At the same time, we encourage you to review everything your church prints, publishes, or does with emphasis on making your first impression a good one.


Everyone wants to make a good first impression. Most churches, however, are unwilling to prepare, in such a way, as to insure that they do make a good first impression. Our world currently moves faster than it has at any other time in history. If the recent developments in technology are any indication, "we ain't seen nothing yet."

Information is now available at our fingertips via the Internet. One can research the most obscure topics, find the names and addresses of corporate officers, or even place sales orders, check available inventory, and place a service call, all in the middle of the night.

People are equally accessible. Information can be shared day or night via a cell phone, fax, text message or email.


The first impression of your church via your website (or its absence), is equally as powerful as the impression you make in person or by any other medium.


In fact, for many people, an Internet search is now the first step toward identifying potential churches when relocating to a new community. If the first impression of your church is your website, what will people find?

  • Will they find your church at all?
  • Will they find a calendar that has not been updated in months?
  • Will they be welcomed to the church by ministers and staff who are no longer there?
  • Will they find blank pages or click on deadlinks which go nowhere?
  • Will they be advised that their 2005 offering envelopes will soon be available in the church office?

According to a recent Carleton University study, if the first contact with your church is by way of your website, you have only 1/20th of a second to make a good impression.


The answer depends on your answers to a few other questions. What is the purpose of your website? Who are you trying to reach? Is your website actually reaching your target audience? Is the purpose of your website being effectively communicated? Are you making the desired impression?

According to the results of the Carleton University study, so powerful is the impact of the first impression of your website, that the bias created in the first 1/20th of a second continues to influence future decisions about your church.

The translation is this: If the user thinks the website looks good, the favorable impression is translated to other areas of the site, like its content as well as the institution itself. People will continue to use a website that made a good first impression.

If the first impression is unfavorable, visitors will be out of your site before they know anything about your church.

Here's the one-two punch of the study:

  1. Your church website has less than one second to win or lose the viewer.
  2. Once they've decided, that's that - their future judgements about your church will only reinforce their initial opinion.



As a result, faith-based organizations are going after technology to reach the current generation like never before. According to Robby Richardson, Vice Chairman of the Internet Evangelism Coalition, "Christian outreach must go as far as the modern technology can take it."

"In reaching people... We need to use the best tools available and to use them in the best way possible... Ministries are becoming savvy and are looking for ways to do that."

This is not only an issue for those churches attempting to impact the Generation X and younger age groups. The use of technology is a rising trend among faith-based groups across every age group, as well as those that interact specifically with today's technologically adept teens and young adults.

For many young people, the Internet is a first language. It is the way they communicate. If the Internet is "the way they communicate," and if churches hope to influence them, get in front of them with the gospel or provide opportunities to build relationships with them, utilizing this medium which most effectively communicates with them is vital.


If your website is such an important medium for relaying information about your church, it is worth doing well. You can avoid wasting a lot of time and resources by considering the following:

  • Get professional assistance - there is so much help available now that there is no excuse not to. Be good stewards but don't be cheap.
  • Keep your website updated - current information is a necessity.
  • Make it relevant, real and inviting - pictures of church life are a must.
  • Make it easy to view and use - be sure that all pertinent contact information, service times, calendars, etc. is easily seen and accessible.

Is the location of important headings easy to find? Is the font size of the information big enough? Are music files as well as other website "bells and whistles" helpful in creating a favorable impression, or just aggravating?

Finally, church websites, like every other area of church life, require regular attention. If someone is not designated to oversee your website maintenance and upkeep, you are very likely wasting your time, frustrating your viewers and losing prospective members.



by : Church Market Report, Rives Leavell & Co.

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Christian Computing Magazine
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