As part of the prep, the web design team has been looking at other church's websites. My favorite so far is Bethlehem Methodist in Thornton Pennsylvania, (aka BethMeth) and it's not only because I like the photos or the layout (though I do). More, I like their page "Practical hints about God."
Many churches have "What we Believe" pages that outline the basic beliefs of the congregation and denomination. BethMeth has that too, but I didn't really read it.
These "What we believe" statements almost always turn me away. I have to believe not everyone is like that because churches keep putting them up. But I pass them by, especially when I can tell at a glance that I wouldn't really fit, which was the case on BethMeth.
On BethMeth's website I glossed over "Core Beliefs" and most of "About God" because they sounded churchy and a bit preachy.
Yes, Pastor that I am, I don't like when things sound churchy and preachy. Yes, that makes it hard to preach in church.
Churchy and preachy language often sounds to me like someone reciting what they think they are supposed to say, rather than what they actually believe, especially when it's outside the context of worship. Picture this: at a dinner party someone who isn't in the habit of going to church asks me what I believe about Jesus and I respond only with the Apostle's creed. Do you think the conversation goes much further?
I've head it's a Gen-Xer trait that our authenticity radars are set pretty high.
Our online presence needs to have at least a bit of that dinner party appropriate language or it will smack as inauthentic. When a web-surfer comes with questions about God, we want to have answers. But those answers have to be incredibly authentic. Which usually means they don't answer a whole lot.
As we design our website, I'm learning that at least some people who get onto church websites.
a) Will gloss right over doctrinal statements about God (or worse, will be turned away by them.)
b) Want more than just directions and a schedule.
c) May never ever come to church. And that's ok.
That's why I love "Practical Hints."
Practical Hints on the BethMeth website, is blessedly answer-free. It talks plainly and acknowledges questioning.
So, here's the list. Would love to know what you'd add.
Practical Hints about God, from the Bethlehem Methodist Website.
1) Read the Bible – start with the New Testament books of John, Acts, and Romans.
2) Talk to people who display a genuine relationship with God—those who obviously love Him and live by His principles.
3) Spend time in nature, observing and experiencing God’s creation.
4) Question things everybody seems to take for granted – be a lover of truth.
5) Recognize that following God must make sense: truth may go beyond reason, but not against it.
6) Write down your questions as you read the Bible, and take them to knowledgeable Christians who respect your seeking.
7) Know your presuppositions – the things you already believe – and try not to let them interfere with your quest for truth.
8) Know your personal issues: your past will profoundly influence your present ability to be objective.
9) Remember that you don’t have to know everything to know something.
10) Determine to seek for a specific period of time, and continually evaluate your progress. Then try to reach an appropriate conclusion.
11) Act on what you decide: “Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds: and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7, verses 7,8).