UMC.org: How About Some Evangelism?

The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciplines of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Ok. So far, so good.
One would expect, then, the public website of the UMC to serve this end of making disciples. As I look at the UMC.org website, though, I see the following:
A headline called, “What can a horse teach a pastor?”
There is a picture of Bishop Carcano being arrested.
There is a story on firewood ministry. (Hey, I have to give kudos to this guy.)
There is a story on Black History Month.
There is, in the upper right hand corner, our logo, along with the “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” advertising slogan, surely the greatest evangelistic tool since the invention of the altar call. First tab to the left: “Who We Are,” under which one finds “Church Structure,” “Administration,” “History,” and “Agencies.”
Now, in light of our mission, I find myself befuddled. I think to myself, perhaps the purpose of our public website is to serve as a kind of reference tool that helps insiders to the tradition learn more about our inner workings and denominational news. If that is the case, I would like to offer a friendly suggestion.
Perhaps the public website should take a more evangelistic approach. How about, right up front, a link to the testimonies of people who have accepted Christ and known his transforming power? How about a link to a video called something like, “Why Should I Choose Jesus?” Or perhaps a video, or at least a page, called something like, “Why Does Christ Make A Difference?” Perhaps one could have the option to chat or have a video call with a pastor. Maybe it would be helpful to have something on the basics of Christian belief.

I’m certainly no marketing expert, but it does seem to me that if we wish our public internet presence to be consistent with our mission, these types of changes would be in order.

15 thoughts on “UMC.org: How About Some Evangelism?

  1. First of all, let me just say that I've been through the church web design process before. Also, I think all of your criticisms are valid and I agree with them.

    Yet, the failings of the website to evangelize have nothing to do with the fact that “we have yet to be evangelized”; rather, the people who designed the website had to determine the primary purpose of for the site, and based on the design they chose, evangelizing was not as high a priority on their to do list as, say, creating a news portal for UMC related news stories (i.e. public relations).

    To complicate things even more, the UMC website (and even more so at http://www.umcom.org/ which is an absolute nightmare) is what happens when a committee (usually consisting of people who are not professional web designers) makes a website. They lose focus on the forrest because they're focusing so much on the trees (specifically the trees they are in charge of or have a vested interest in).

    I would also guess that they were working with web designers who design more than just church websites. In the same way that you can't run a church exactly like you would a secular for-profit business, you can't build a church website like you would for an international secular non-profit. Heifer International's website (which used to look a lot more like umc.org before it's most recent redesign–and yes, you need to redesign/update your organization's website on at least an annual basis) has the same type of PR stories about their organization and the work they do on their website.

    Rather, you need to get someone/a team who knows the organization, knows the purpose of the organization, and can design a website that lives fully into accomplishing that purpose, while also servicing the needs of the entire organization. It was a hard thing to successfully accomplish for a single church's website, so I can only imagine how impossible it would be to successfully accomplish this for an international organization overburdened by bureaucracy like the UMC.

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