There’s lots of information online about why guests access a church website, but what about members? I can’t find a good source of information about why members at a church visit their church’s website. So I need your help! This survey is by no means scientific, but it will give me a starting point. Mark your answers below and if you don’t mind, send the link to your church-going friends to get their feedback. I’ll report back with my findings in a later post.
Here’s a set of Pentecost/Holy Spirit-themed backgrounds I created for worship at First Trinity Lutheran Church. You can download the files via Dropbox below. There are blank slides in blue, brown, green, orange, purple, red and teal. There are slides in various colors for different parts of the worship service (see Dropbox link for full preview). We use the slides once a year on Pentecost Sunday.
Here’s a set of Easter Backgrounds I created for worship at First Trinity Lutheran Church. You can download the files via Dropbox below. There are blank slides in blue, brown, green, orange, purple, red and teal. There are slides in various colors for different parts of the worship service (see Dropbox link for full preview). We use the slides on Easter Sunday through Pentecost.
“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”
It’s time to launch a new website for First Trinity. It’s been two years since our last major redesign, and as is always the case, we’ve outgrown the existing structure. Here are some of the resources that are influencing the latest version of the website:
- Church Website Improvement Checklist
A great list of common mistakes, missing information, or unnecessary/unhelpful features.
- 10 Easy Ways to Keep Me from Visiting Your Church Because I Visited Your Website
Tony Morgan shares some common pitfalls that might turn off a guest (or at least him).
- 2 Church Website Pages to Help First Time Visitors
Originally published in 2009, the advice for a page dedicated to first-time guests is still spot on.
- 10 Commandments of Church Website Ministry
While they use the cheesy “10 commandments” lead in, there’s still some good information for designing a website strategy.
- New Research Reveals Why People Visit Church Websites
Good information about what people are actually doing on church websites, and how often they visit them.
- Four Ways to Improve Your Church Website
Nice succinct list of things to remember when creating your website
- Less Clutter. Less Noise. by Kem Meyer
Great book about simplifying your communications and saying more by saying less.
Some of my goals for the new site:
- Guests are the first priority. Lots of members use our website, but we’re going to be intentional about targeting guests first and foremost. The front page in it’s current form tells a story as you scroll down. The basic outline:
- Two quick facts about us in visual form. The first is that we provide relevant teaching for your life today and that you don’t need to know everything (or anything!) about the Bible to come here. The second is that we want to pray for you, with a link to submit prayer requests to our prayer wall.
- What we believe. Rather than an itemized list of doctrines, it’s a more personal call to the guest. A “read more” button will lead to more standard theological beliefs like Communion, Baptism, etc.) The four key points:
- God is for you.
- We aren’t perfect.
- God has a plan for you.
- Check us out from the comfort of home. (Listen to sermons online to find out more about what we believe.)
- Be our guest at worship, highlighting the service times and a brief description about each, including how many people typically come to that service. There will also be a link back to a page with more information about our services, including some sample services.
- Our current sermon series topics. Rather than “This week” being highlights, we’ll list all of the topics in a particular series. This saves us from updating that page every week, but it also gives people a broader sense of what we’re talking about. I’m unsure if it would be a turn-off to see we’re on the last topic in a series, causing them to not visit. Subject to change.
- Address, phone number, “get directions” link, and an embedded map.
- Ad for Lifetree Cafe (subject to change)
- Provide regular content updates that teach and build community. Maybe it’s a short devotional about the message topic from the previous week, or a longer post that explores what we believe about a particular topic. We can share some ministry success stories, similar to the Bi-Annual Report articles written by others or something else. I’m not sure exactly what all we’ll include, but I think something regular might be helpful.
- Identify a better way to promote ongoing ministries and events.
- Outline a clear “next step” path to spiritual improvement on the website, connected with what we’re doing at Launch and other classes.
The new site will be ready sometime this summer. There might even be a sneak peek here at some point…. Stay tuned…
Key Theme: Jesus leaves some last instructions, including a special meal for our spiritual health.
Read John 13:12-17
- Underline: If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
- Write: Serve others
Read John 13:31-35
- Underline: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
- Write: Love others
Read John 14:1-7
- Underline: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
- Write: Jesus alone saves
Read John 14:15-20
- Underline: Because I live, you also will live.
- Write: Jesus gives life
Read John 14:27-28
- Underline: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
- Write: Jesus gives peace
Read John 15:1-8
- Underline: verse 5
- Write: Actions come from Faith
Read John 15:18-21
- Underline: Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
- Write: We will be treated like Jesus
Read John 15:26-27
- Underline: And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
- Write: Tell others about Jesus
On the night that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Romans, Jesus took time to be with His disciples and share a meal with them. That evening—the day before He would be crucified—Jesus wanted to share some important truth with His dear friends and disciples. Imagine being in a position where you knew you were about to die and had one last chance to share what was important with your family and friends. This is what Jesus did in the hours leading up to His death.
Read Matthew 26:26-28
After relating some important truth and final advice for the disciples, Jesus instituted a new practice that was meant to encourage and uplift His people. We will explore what happened with the Last Supper next time.
Key Theme: God calls us to practice contentment in Him, rather than focusing on the things we do or don’t have.
Read Exodus 20:17
- Underline: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house
- Circle:You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife … male servant … female servant … ox … donkey … anything that is your neighbor’s.
- Write and underline: 9th Commandment or “9C”
- Write and Circle: 10th Commandment or “10C”
Read 1 Timothy 6:8-10
- Underline: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils
- Write: Don’t love money! (9/10C)
Read Luke 12:15
- Underline: Be on your guard against all kinds of covetousness
- Write: Don’t love stuff! (9/10C)
Coveting at its heart is about desiring something more than God. What the object is is less important than this simple fact: it is sinful to make something a higher priority than God. While money, stuff, or relationships are not evil, loving those things more than God is considered sin.
Read Genesis 3:6
- Underline: when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes
- Write: Coveting led to first sin (9/10C)
Read Romans 7:7-8
- Underline: But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.
- Write: Sin leads to coveting (9/10C)
From the earliest moment of creation, Satan used coveting to trick God’s people into sinning. Eve listened to the devil’s prompting and coveted what God had reserved for Himself: the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve gave into that temptation and sinned. Ever since then, our sinful nature has led us to consistently covet what other people have or things that are forbidden. It is not God who put that desire in you, but sin living in you.
Read Philippians 4:10-13
- Underline: I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
- Write: Contentment cure for coveting (9/10C)
Read Hebrews 13:5
- Underline: be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
- Write: Contentment found in Jesus (9/10C)
Read Psalm 37:4
- Underline: Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
- Write: Seek God first (9/10C)
If coveting is part of our very DNA because of the sin living inside us, how do we fight it? Paul tells us in Philippians that the secret lies in contentment. Being content is an act of the will whereby you choose to be satisfied with what God has provided, rather than focusing on what you don’t or aren’t allowed to have. But even more, it’s is not merely being content with stuff. Stuff in itself cannot provide contentment. True contentment only comes from a relationship with God. Knowing that he will never leave you, and delighting in Him will change your attitude towards money, stuff, and relationships.
Key Theme: Our words are powerful for tearing down or building up a relationship. God asks us to choose them carefully.
Read Exodus 20:16
- Underline: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- Write: “8th Commandment” or “8C”
What is forbidden in the 8th Commandment?
Read Proverbs 19:5
- Underline: he who breathes out lies will not escape.
- Write: 8C: Don’t Lie.
Read Proverbs 11:13
- Underline: Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
- Write: 8C: Don’t Gossip.
Read James 4:11
- Underline: Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.
- Write: 8C: Don’t talk bad about others.
God calls us to guard our tongues in the 8th Commandment, especially as it related to how we interact with (or about!) others. The temptation to lie is an easy one that can often lead to more lies, until you become trapped in a web that is difficult to escape from. Talking about others behind their backs—or gossip—is especially difficult. As Christians, we sometimes couch our gossip in the form of a prayer request: “Did you hear about Sally? She got pregnant with some guy she hardly knows! We should pray for her…” While it may feel like genuine prayer, too often we use this as the excuse to talk about others. Very closely related to this is talking bad about others. It might not be a rumor or juicy piece of news, but putting others down publicly is also forbidden here—whether your assessment of them is right or wrong.
What is commanded in the 8th Commandment?
Read Ephesians 4:25
- Underline: Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor
- Write: 8C: Speak Truth
Read Ephesians 4:15
- Underline: speaking the truth in love
- Write: 8C: Speak in Love
Read Proverbs 31:8-9
- Underline: Open your mouth for the mute
- Write: 8C: Defend Others
Read 1 Peter 4:8
- Underline: love covers over a multitude of sins
- Write: 8C: Assume the Best
There are also God-pleasing ways to interact with others, however! We have opportunity to speak truth to others, but always with a loving spirit. If you have a hard truth to share with someone (maybe their actions are hurting you), you can bring it to them in a loving way. Basically, your goal is to help build up the other person or the relationship. While you can’t control their reaction, you can control how you present your words. We also are called in this commandment to speak for those who cannot defend themselves. Maybe this is speaking out against bullying or on behalf of someone who is unable to speak for themselves for whatever reason. We also assume the best in our dealings with others, rather than take offense first.
Key Theme: God forbids theft of all kinds, but also commands us here to protect the property of others.
Read Exodus 20:15
- Underline: You shall not steal.
- Write: “7th Commandment” or “7C”
What is forbidden in the 7th Commandment?
Read Joshua 7:11, 20-26
- Underline: I have sinned against the Lord … I coveted them and took them.
- Write: 7C: Stealing is sin.
Read 2 Kings 5:20-27
- Underline: my master has spared this Naaman … I will run after him and get something from him.
- Write: 7C: Dishonest gain is sin.
Read James 5:4
- Underline: the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you
- Write: 7C: Pay for media.
God commands His people not to steal from others. This includes the physical theft of items via shoplifting, borrowing things and intentionally not returning them because you want them, or other methods for obtaining physical things illegally. However, we also learn that deceiving others to get some extra money is considered stealing. It might be telling someone they owe you $5 for the item you purchased for them, even though it only cost $2. Another form of dishonest gain is cheating on a test or schoolwork by copying someone else’s answers. You benefit from their work and “gain” in a dishonest way.
In addition to physical goods and dishonest gain, we also see that failing to pay for something is the same as stealing. Most often, we see this in the area of illegally downloading music and video on the internet. We try to rationalize our theft by saying we wouldn’t have purchased it anyway, or that a company charges too much for something, so I just get it for free on the internet. Regardless, James 5:4 tells us that failure to pay someone for their work, as is the case here, is considered theft.
What is commanded in the 7th Commandment?
Read Philippians 2:4
- Underline: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
- Write: 7C: Help others.
Read 1 John 3:17-18
- Underline: let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
- Write: 7C: Care for others.
We are not simply commanded to not steal from others, but we are also charged with protecting the interests and well-being of others. That might include looking out for others’ property at school or in our neighborhood. It might include providing for the needs of someone who is hurting. We keep this Commandment by helping and caring for others as God has cared for us.
Here are some backgrounds we created for Christmas Day this year. Click the pictures to see and download the full collection via Dropbox. There is a blank slide that you can customize with whatever you’d like as well as slides for each of the majors parts in our service. If there’s a slide missing that you’d like to see added, drop me a comment and I’ll see what I can do to get it added in.
These files may be freely distributed under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution License. Please link people to this blog post when sharing the files. You may also be interested in the Lessons and Carols or Christmas Eve sets.
If you use them in your church, I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Thanks to pareeerica for the Christmas Bokeh background texture.