Your church website conveys lots of messages about your congregation, including some you may not be aware of. That’s particularly true when it comes to presenting pastor and staff member information.
While visiting hundreds of church websites in connection with a research project, I discovered that there is no such thing as a typical church site. I’ve seen everything from high-end, custom designs to Facebook pages to no web presence at all. Yes, really. About 24 percent of the churches I examined had no web presence.
Likewise, there’s a gamut of approaches to presenting information about the senior leader and staff (or not).
All of them are fine, so long as you know who you are and what you’re communicating through your pastor’s bio. I’m convinced that many pastors have little idea what the “Our Staff” page actually says about them and their congregations.
Here are some of the most common approaches.
1. No Pastor Info on the Church Website
About 15 percent of the pages I reviewed had no mention of the pastor whatsoever. Most of these were smaller churches, but a couple of larger ones too. Either way, it says, “This church is about an experience, not a person.” For small churches, the experience is community. For large churches, the experience is the worship service. The message is that the church is about what we do, not who does it.
Generally, these churches are focused on creating a memorable worship experience.
2. The Curriculum Vitae
This is more common in smaller mainline churches. It usually begins something like this: “Rev. Parker is a 1994 graduate of Lutheran Theological Seminary, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree,” and goes on to read like an academic resume. It says, “The pastor’s education and experience make him or her highly qualified as a spiritual leader.”
This church is about order, authority, and a deliberate approach to faith.
3. The Testimony
Most common among evangelical and Pentecostal churches, this is a first-person account of the pastor’s conversion and call to ministry. It says, “Spiritual experience is the main thing we value around here.”
This church majors on getting saved, being filled with the Spirit, and “walking the talk.”
4. The Dust Jacket
A church website can give roughly the same information about the pastor as a dust jacket gives about the author of a book—one or two pertinent facts. “Pastor Johnson has been in ministry for 13 years and is originally from Pennsylvania.” This says, “Yes, we have a pastor, but you really need to be here to get to know him.”
Counterintuitively, this communicates that the church values relationships, which you can’t really experience on a website.
5. The Online Dating Profile
More common in mid-sized churches, this is a Q & A in which the pastor answers the same questions you see in a Match.com profile. What’s your dream vacation? What’s your greatest fear? Favorite TV show? This communicates that the leaders are approachable and highly accessible.
This church is about meeting the felt needs of attendees.
6. The Video Intro
This is a brief video, often featuring the senior leader, that describes the mission of the congregation. I encountered fewer of these than I expected, possibly because smaller churches struggle to do this well and large churches have discovered how difficult it is to keep current.
It says, “We know what we’re about, and if you come here you can expect to join our mission.”
This church is focused achieving its ministry strategy and outcomes.
7. The Ode to Family
Some pastors make the bio an introduction of their entire family, emphasizing how much they value time spent with their spouse and children. This goes beyond “has been married for 9 years” to “is blessed to be married to a woman he doesn’t deserve,” etc. This church website says, “Family is what matters most here.”
This church likely focuses on age and life-stage related programming.
8. A Face in the Crowd
Some churches list all staff in alphabetical order, regardless of position, with name and position only. So the first person you see is “Sarah Able, Support Specialist for Next Gen,” while “John Williams, Lead Pastor” is far down the list. This says, “Leaders don’t take themselves too seriously around here.”
This church values participation over position. You can probably volunteer on your first Sunday if you like.
9. The Ministry Couple
A fair number of pastor’s bios include the pastor’s spouse. Often that’s because they are co-pastors, but not always. Either way, it says, “We’re in this together; my spouse is also a leader here.”
This church values the role of the pastor’s spouse. You can expect to both pastor and spouse involved in leadership.
10. Contact Info?
Some church websites list the pastor’s personal email (45 percent) and some give a direct phone number. Others give only a generic email such as firstname.lastname@example.org (23 percent). Still others direct all communication to a online form (20 percent).
Incredible, at least to me, is that about 10 percent of the church websites I reviewed contained no electronic contact mechanism whatsoever. Some didn’t even list a phone number.
The inclusion of direct contact info says, “Call anytime. I’m here for you.”
The lack of a direct link for staff members says, “We’re busy.” No contact info says, “We’d rather not hear from you.”
So Which Is Best?
That depends on what you want to say about yourself. What is your role in the church? Visionary leader? Approachable mentor? Spiritual authority? One of the team?
I found examples of all types that were inviting. The key is to accurately present yourself and personality of your church online.
What doesn’t come across well is either copying another church’s approach or projecting your aspiration rather than reality. Disingenuity is just as obvious online as it is in person.
So the real question is not “Which style bio is best?” but “What describes my approach to ministry, and can I communicate that online?”