Back in early 2018, I published a short list of the best church websites from across the Christian Reformed Church. Three years later, let me share a secret with you: it was painful to look at all the websites across our denomination. Coming up with a list of ten good church websites was a tall order.
Here we are just three short years later. Yet—after the 2020 that we experienced—those three years might as well have been a decade (am I right?). While the COVID-19 pandemic taught all of us a ton of life (and ministry) lessons, one of them was an especially timely reminder: while the message of the gospel does not change, sometimes our methodology does.
When, in God’s sovereignty and due to pandemic restrictions, we were forced out of our buildings, so many churches quickly adapted and shifted to a digital ministry format. Those changes forced us out of our comfort zones. The upending of our world was a clear reminder that the church is not about a building.
Looking at church websites across the CRCNA in 2021 has been a strikingly different experience than it was in 2018; this time around, it’s been a tall order to narrow down the list. Beyond the emphasis on digital ministry, the improved quality also shows how easy (and affordable) it is now to create a great-looking website.
Here are the standards I used to create this list of best church websites in the CRCNA:
It’s easy to locate the information I need
While your church website might target two distinct audiences, your homepage should almost always be focused on the potential first time guest. When I visit a church’s website, I should easily find the information I need to locate. What questions do you need to answer for a first time guest? What do I, a visitor, need to know before I show up? That’s what should be easily accessible from your homepage.
The design matters
With so many templates and providers available to create a website, it’s important that your design lives up to normal web standards. Here are three quick tips:
Use white space
White, or negative, space is a good thing in web design! Essentially, negative space is extra padding around your content—it provides breathing room. This creates visual separation between elements and helps the viewer to quickly see breaks while helping you tell the website visitor what’s most important to look at.
Create your site in a “Z” formation
Our eyes bounce around a webpage. We often look at the screen in a “Z” shape. Look at your screen right now. Put a giant capital Z across it. That’s how our eyes bounce. Often this means looking across the top (logo on the left, navigation across the top), then diagonally down to the lower-left corner, and across again. Meeting this shape means your content will be read more easily.
Your brand matters
Whether you realize it or not, your church has a brand. And while that might seem like business lingo to some, the bottom line is this: your church’s brand is what people think about your church, as well as what you want people to think about your church. Knowing these two elements helps you know your audience, as well as create a website that influences your brand messaging—influencing what people think about your church while portraying the message you want to convey.
Photography influences everything
Your website needs to have real pictures of real people. If I’ve never experienced worship at your church—how do I know what to expect if all I see is a stock picture of a few young people drinking coffee? Don’t just tell me what to expect; show me.
By the way, if the first image I saw when I came to a website was an image of an empty building—the church’s website didn’t make the cut. In 2021, we all realize the church is so much more than a building. When Jesus said, “I will build my church,” I don’t think the Savior who had no place to lay his head was talking about your building. Pictures of your building may have their place, but it’s not the top of the homepage. (Perhaps show a picture or two of the building when talking about your location information.)
One per classis
In order to keep the list reasonable, I didn’t allow more than one website from a classis (regional group of churches) to make the list. This helped ensure we have a diverse representation across our binational denomination. The results are a wide array of churches represented in the list. Nearly all regions of the U.S. and Canada are represented, as well as urban, rural, suburban, and ethnically diverse congregations.
With all of that in mind, here are the best church websites (in no particular order) from across the CRCNA:
1. The River Community Church
Classis Alberta North
2. Resurrection Church
Classis Atlantic Northeast
East Boston, Massachusetts
3. Maple Ridge Christian Reformed Church
Classis British Columbia North-West
Maple Ridge, British Columbia
4. Hope Community Church
Classis British Columbia South-East
Surrey, British Columbia
5. CrossPoint Church
Classis California South
6. Tapestry Church
Classis Central California
7. Forest City Community Church
8. Roseland Christian Ministries
Classis Chicago South
9. Living Water Christian Reformed Church
Classis Grand Rapids East
Grand Rapids, Michigan
10. LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church
Classis Grand Rapids South
Grand Rapids, Michigan
11. Bethany Christian Reformed Church
Classis Greater Los Angeles
12. Rockpoint Community Church
N. Haledon, New Jersey
13. Faith Church
14. The Ministry at Brock University
St. Catharines, Ontario
15. Sonlight Community Church
Classis North Cascades
16. Clearview Church