First Christian Church Web Site

November 1, 2005 by

This week we check out the web site of First Christian Church. Share your suggestions and feedback in the comments.




First Christian Church
Terrell, Texas
Created by Steve Odom
First Christian Church is a Disciples of Christ church 30 miles east of Texas. They are a traditional church and average 100 people on Sunday. Odom is also the pastor of the church and created the site with help from


  • What do you like about the design?
  • What do you think of the artwork and color scheme?
  • How does the content work? Is the opening text inviting?
  • How’s the readability?
  • What would you change?
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

23 Responses to “First Christian Church Web Site”

  • Betsy
    November 1, 2005

    My first impression is that I LOVE the tagline: “To Know Jesus Christ…. And Make Him Known to Others”. But the old, wooden (literally) images of Jesus don’t make him the living, relevant Person that we know. The images and text just don’t match.
    Second impression: weird that “God” isn’t in caps. I’m OK with a stylistic choice — it seems nothing is capitalized — but then halfway down the page, we have the Christmas Quiz with caps and a different font, and then Today in History in a different font after that. This website seriously needs to get some uniformity in font and style. My personal opinion: don’t go overboard with it, but try to get “God” and “Jesus” in caps.
    I love the service description, map and mission on the first page. Visitors will know what they’re getting into right off the bat, and how to get there. I may not personally feel drawn to this kind of service, but at least it’s clearly stated and easy to find.
    On the youth page, may I reiterate the need for consistency in font and style? If you want the youth page to have an edgier feel, I suggest a complete redesign for that page, rather than a rainbow of text and highlights on the standard layout.

     | Permalink
  • corey
    November 1, 2005

    +1 on the comments above. I’d also like to add that I really appreciate the stylized arch of the bottom of the nav bar on the main page. It’s little flourishes like that that make the web seem less mathematical and more artistic. It’s a simple addition, but the curvature creates the illusion that web design and page design are not so foreign to one another.

     | Permalink
  • Nathan Smith
    November 1, 2005

    *Sigh* Okay, where do I begin – If the 1990’s ever come back, the company that developed this website will be right there on the cutting edge. Being that it’s 2005, some of their cute tricks don’t really cut it anymore.
    Their entire side navigation is built in JavaScript, for what reason I’m not sure, as it doesn’t have anything dynamically interesting. The sole purpose is for roll-over effects that could should be done with CSS. So, if I have JavaScript turned off in my browser, or am using a mobile device with bad JS support, the entire site just became un-navigable. This leaves only the four top links usable, not to mention that Google won’t index pages that aren’t truely linked to with an A Href.
    On top of that, they make the typical mistakes of their shoddy counterparts. There’s no DOCTYPE defined, and they mix upper and lowercase HTML. Additionally, they rely on Tables for layout and run the site on ASP. I’m not sure what it is about “Christian” design agencies, but as a general rule of thumb, they do second-rate work – exemplified here by
    Okay, on to the redeeming properties of this site. I appreciate the fact that the date displayed is not a cheezy check-system-clock. I set my own date incorrectly, just to check, and it still displayed the correct one. Kudos to them for having it check the server for that info.
    Also, the site is pretty easy on the eyes, so their graphic designer is doing a good job. If I were him / her, I would cut loose of NetMinistry, and find a more capable / talented group of developers to work with.
    I’m sorry if this comes across as harsh, but it’s sites like this that continue to make Christians look stupid, in light of where the rest of the world is heading: web-standards. It’s time to catch up guys. If I were a church pastor, I’d look first for a quality web design agency, and then secondarily if they were Chrisitan or not. Ideally, they would be both-and. Hopefully NetMinistry will realize this and start learning how to design websites beyond what they learned in the 1990’s.

     | Permalink
  • Nathan Smith
    November 1, 2005

    By the way, to make the menu down the left more believable, don’t use Cursor: Hand. That only works in Internet Explorer. The correct syntax is Cursor: Pointer. You guys should test in good browsers, by the way.
    The sad thing is, First Christian Church is probably giddy over their new website, and I bet they even think they got a good deal. :(

     | Permalink
  • Sarnaa
    November 1, 2005

    I like the tagline, but not the design and personally I think the site has too many links in the navigation bar. Instead of putting links for everything, they should split the site into 5 different sections. Like Community (under which you might find Youth), or if they have a special emphasis on youth community…a youth section link….etc.

     | Permalink
  • Jacob Smith
    November 1, 2005

    I agree with the comments above about the curve, but on this page:
    It appears to be a bit off. It looks like the content area is stretching to fit a header image.
    Also while I agree that the youth page is a little rainbow, that is what you get when you allow non-designers access to pages via a CMS. I understand the frustration of having color schemes run over like possums, but unless you have very disciplined content contributors or you are willing to do it all yourself this is what you are going to get.

     | Permalink
  • Nathan Smith
    November 1, 2005

    Jacob: I saw on the Team page of Silas Partners that one of your likes is Textpattern. That rocks. I love that CMS too. In fact, that’s what my own site runs on.

     | Permalink
  • Nathan Smith
    November 1, 2005

    After further re-thinking of my own previous comments, I feel I should apologize for the harshness with which it was said. I’m like the Apostle Peter in that regard, always leaping before I look. Anyway, while it is my sincere desire to see Christian web agencies keep pace with the rest of the industry, I should have phrased things better. For that, I repent and ask forgiveness for any pain I’ve caused.

     | Permalink
  • Mickey
    November 1, 2005

    There is a lot to like about this site, but in the spirit of giving useful feedback, I’ll focus on things that I think are broken that haven’t been mentioned yet. Three things jump out at me:
    1 – The whole “Christmas Quiz”. It’s worth having, but it’s a series of statements, not questions. It took some work for me to realize that it was wanting me to answer True/False. Why are the answers on the FAQ page, though? It’s strange for me to find them that way, but it’s probably VERY strange for someone to click on the FAQ link and expect to find Frequently Asked Questions – not a bunch true/false answers to a quiz they may not have even seen!
    2 – With the whole stupid javascript menu. One other bad point is that I can’t choose HOW to open each page. I was planning on running down the list and opening a few of them up in separate tabs in Firefox to check them out – but I can’t! Blech.
    3 – The “best viewed with various crappy browsers” text at the bottom. Why? I guess in this case it might be true, but that is a SURE sign of a poorly built site. A well-written site will work in ANY browser, whether it can display graphics, java, flash or not. Granted, those things help most sites look better, but none of them should be required or you risk losing a good number of potential vistors.

     | Permalink
  • Steve
    November 1, 2005

    I don’t like the colors, or the navigation menu. It look slike a Yahoo store template. I also don’t care for all the religious symbology – it makes by back tense up and speaks to me, “Straighten up and be cautious – religon ahead.”
    Visually, I feel so overwhelmed. It’s hard to see anything. The page is almost too busy, and needs white space desperately. I wanted to click away when i went to the site, just to allow my eyes to breathe. Visually, it just isn’t easy to explore.
    The intermixing of red-purple, bold purple-red, red, bold-red, bold black and black is not good. Too many flip-flopping tricks to the text color and size. The text needs more structure and intuitiveness.
    I hope that helps.

     | Permalink
  • Steve
    November 1, 2005

    Sorry about the typos.

     | Permalink
  • Nathan Smith
    November 1, 2005

    Mickey, I noticed that you’re from Mt. Bethel. I’ve been in your church before, for a missions conference. My wife’s dad is a pastor in Estonia, and is funded partially by your congregation. Small world.

     | Permalink
  • Justin Broome
    November 1, 2005

    I dig the tagline “To know Jesus Christ… and make Him known to others” but putting it next to an antiquated looking wooden statue of Jesus… maybe not the most effective visual enhancement for the tagline. To me that makes Jesus look like something old and outdated and irrelevant to my life. I’m not interested in that kind of God.
    I’m like a broken record. CSS is the only way to go when designing a site anymore! Lots of people use CSS for font info, but then they integrate it into tables. What a waste! Use CSS to it’s fullest potential – page size, positioning, background info, type styles… I designed a site with a larger CSS file than the html files! The code is dramatically cleaner, and it loads more quickly, and it makes it very easy to have site uniformity. When every page refers back to one document for all of its atributes, it makes it easy to keep things clean.
    If your left side menu is going to link to pages outside of your site, make sure they open up in a new window, not the same window as your site.
    Honestly, I wouldn’t link to pages outside of your site. What happens if they put up some comment that is contrary to your church beliefs? Are you going to watch all of those sites to make sure their beliefs are in line with yours? It’s a can of worms that isn’t worth opening.
    Brown is a very drab color. You NEED to brighten up the site.
    Do any people attend your church? I couldn’t find a single picture of a person on your church website. I only found pictures of a wooden Jesus and Jesus on a cross.
    Is it just me or is the “ministries” tab on the upper 4 buttons on the page blank? Do you not have any ministries?
    Where on your website are your church beliefs?
    Having a page about your church history is nice, but honestly, who cares? I mean, what importance does that hold to Bob who just moved to the community and is looking for a church? Is he going to care that the church has been around since 1875? Probably not.
    There aren’t any Frequently asked questions or answers on the FAQ page, only Christmas answers, and Christmas isn’t very frequent. Once a year if I recall correctly…
    Under the “Religion Articles” you have a heading:
    Bishop Backs Panty Parties to Spread Church Message”
    then a subtitle: “Surely the world is coming to an end?”
    I’m sorry but that subtitle is enough to make me never want to visit your church. It’s close minded, it’s narrow, and it’s condescending. Is there something wrong with women owning and wearing lingerie? Does God not condone intimacy inside of marriage? Can women not congregate together to discuss and buy intimate clothing? Maybe… just maybe…. it’s the opportunity to show an unbeliever that Christians are people too, and can enjoy things the world enjoys.
    Lose the Christian Webhosting company and use someone who understands current web standards. Christian webhosting companies don’t even rank on my list of recommendations. They’re usually oblivious to the world around them, and that’s bad when you’re trying to reach out to the world.
    I think you’re on the right track from a design perspective, but I think the architecture behind the site is holding you back in a MAJOR way.
    My short list:
    1) Use CSS for EVERYTHING in the site.
    2) Remove antiquated pictures of Jesus from the site.
    3) Add TONS of pictures of people (stock, real church members, whatever).
    4) Brighten up the colors.
    5) Look at every single page and ask the question: “If I knew nothing at all about Jesus Christ, would the information on this page matter to me, and would it be relevant to my spiritual walk?” If it’s not relevant to growing in my faith, ditch it. (A Merry Heart needs to go, so do links to the city newspaper and other irrelevant links.)

     | Permalink
  • kevin
    November 1, 2005

    A couple things for you:
    -I like the contact, services, directions and ministries across the top. That’s pretty helpful. I also like that you link to other churches in your area on the contact page. That’s pretty bold but it shows that you’re not exclusive. (Of course a few of thos links appear to be entered wrong). But then the Ministry page is blank–that’s not cool, especially for such a prominent page.
    -I do like that your opening text is trying to be welcoming. However, I think it’s stuck between welcoming non-Christians and welcoming other Christians. I doubt many non-Christians are looking for a worship service. And does it matter that you serve communion to all Christians? That means something to the Christians, but not to the non-Christians. I’d also try to space this out a bit more. The elipses at the beginning don’t work very well–try making a bulleted list. Also, language like “worship the lord, the living god through his son, our savior, jesus christ, in the power of the holy spirit” isn’t going to mean much to non-Christians.
    -Others have commented on the visuals, and I’d echo those sentiments. Not a fan of the colors. Not a fan of the Jesus art.
    -The homepage has some pretty random content. I’d try to make this more applicable to your church. This day in history, the Christmas quiz and the weather seem pretty random. I’d go with the sermon Bible verses and the softball series–post more church news that’s applicable.
    -The left menu is pretty long. I’d try to consolidate some things. The youth chat room could easily go under the Youth Ministry section (BTW, the chat room wouldn’t load for me. Not sure if I don’t have the right javascript stuff, but that’s at least one person it didn’t work for).
    -A lot of folks have commented on the fonts and styles, and I’d agree. The staff page is pretty painful to read. Put the titles on their own lines.
    -I agree with Justin that it’s a bit odd to link to outside sites in your main menu. I’d put these links somewhere else, either on your links page or the bottom of the homepage.
    -However, I disagree with Justin about linking to outside sites in general. It should be pretty obvious that a church isn’t responsible for the content on an outside site. Perhaps the grannies won’t get this, but I don’t think that should keep you from linking to them. If it’s that big of a deal, put a disclaimer. But linking to other sites is what makes the web the web.

     | Permalink
  • Michael
    November 1, 2005

    This may very well be your first website, and ya know what you’ve got to get your feet wet somehow. I won’t rehash what’s been said already, but keep going and don’t stop until you hit excellent.
    What is sad is that a company would charge you for this and that they want to continue to build sites like this for other churches. Of course if you looked at their company website (netministry) you would be keyed in that maybe they need some help too. Sorry, it’s just frustrating to see.

     | Permalink
  • Justin Broome
    November 1, 2005

    If you link to an outside site it’s like saying: “This is a site that we like and approve of, and we think you’ll like it too.” It’s no different than giving a recommendation for a car repair shop, an insurance agent, or a good restaurant. When you tell someone to go somewhere you attach your name to it. Becareful what you attach your name to…

     | Permalink
  • kevin
    November 1, 2005

    Well, sure, Justin, you have to use some common sense when you link to other sites. You don’t want to send someone to a porn site. But that doesn’t mean you don’t link to any sites. Linking to the denominational web site, the local newspaper, the weather channel, some resources–what’s wrong with that?
    Don’t forget that the context of how you link to a site says a lot, too.

     | Permalink
  • Wesley Walser
    November 2, 2005

    The site doesn’t look bad, and hence for most of the viewers it will be ok. However there are the obvious issues of standards compliance, bad navigation, usability, and just being ‘behind the times’.
    I could go off on all Javascript/Table based layout/Standards issues, but I think those have been covered in previous comments well enough.
    I will instead just add that the URL’s are nasty, pages like this one
    don’t fare well for search engines. I have found out recently just how much good URL’s help, it’s amazing really. Also on that same page I guess there must be a CMS involved where church members/workers can edit the pages, because there is no way a graphic designer chose those colors.
    Average church standards, not bad. Web design standards from a ‘company’ that does this for a living, terrible.

     | Permalink
  • Steve
    November 2, 2005

    Just a note… the Know Him / Make Him Known line is not new. The Navigators have used that for years, as have others. But it’s a good one, so I’ll let it slide :)
    Generally, I thought the site was ok. I like that everything was consistent. Like someone else pointed out, I don’t mind that the youth minstry has a slightly different look, although the highlighting doesn’t work for me.
    On my church’s site, we give the youth ministry it’s own look, nothing like the main church site. In our case, it works well. Most of our youth don’t go to our church on Sundays, so it’s already seen as its own thing.
    All in all, it’s clean and easy to navigate, so I’ll give it props for that.

     | Permalink
  • Steve Odom
    November 3, 2005

    Dear Friends, Many thanks for taking the time to not only go to the site but to give my your valuable comments! I’ve already started working on some of the issues you’ve highlighted for us, including the “highlighting” issue! I don’t understand some of the technical comments, CSS, etc. but I’ve passed some of them on to NetMinistry for their edification. Would love to hear more after a few days. Gratefully, Steve Odom

     | Permalink
  • Jose Gomez
    November 30, 2005

    WOW – I am absolutely shocked at the tone in this review. I am the developer responsible for NetMinistry, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts for consideration.
    NetMinistry is a platform that has existed since the late 90s. Yes – there are many compliance upgrades that can be done. But, as a professional in the web industry for over a decade, I am not sure I agree with the drastic nature of the feedback provided here.
    Tables and javascripting are NOT obsolete technologies. They are fully functional technologies implemented on the majority of sites on the web. The newer standards are obviously something that everyone must move to – but when you have an entire platform to modify, you have to take your time to do things right. This is in the works.
    We don’t specify a DOCTYPE because of the fact that we have many newbie coders that use our system. We wanted things to be flexible enough for them to use.
    I think everyone here has missed the point of using a CMS like ours – the true value is in the FUNCTIONALITY. The absolutely sites render correctly with over 90% of the visitors that visit these websites, with minor problems for the less that 10% that don’t render perfectly. But, the organization using our system are able to enjoy the benefits of having a completely database-driven system for content management, relationships management, and e-commerce management. For less that $500, they get all the tools and some great design work.
    I think that we all need to reconsider what we are suggesting here. The site itself can be inproved greatly by the user or a hired layout artist. But, to critique the platform in such an elitist way just isn’t fair.
    We’ve built over 1,500 sites and have processed over $1M in transactions for our members. The that has to say SOMETHING about the platform.
    It’s not about snooty cutting-edge standards – it’s about results. increased donation, purchases, name aquisition, new visitors, etc. Isn’t it?

     | Permalink
  • Brad Hill
    January 9, 2006

    Jose– I agree with your response. I’d rather see folks stick to constructive design critiques, rather than continually bash the finer points that only a code geek would appreciate.
    I wholeheartedly support the idea of excellence in design–we preach this incessantly at our firm–but as you say, you must balance this with functionality and results. It’s disappointing to see people out there doing the armchair quarterback routine, and decreeing that all non-CSS sites are evil, Firefox is the only True Browser, etc.
    How about creating compelling, attractive, relevant sites that are easy to use and effective for their stated purpose? That’s what I care about.

     | Permalink
  • Rick Thorne
    June 2, 2007


     | Permalink

Peer Review