Why do you visit liberal religious Web sites?

At this year’s General Assembly, the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalists in the United states, I’ll be leading a workshop on creating great Web site content. Here’s the description that will appear in the program book:

You don’t need a huge budget or technical wizardry to create a great church website. What you need is great content. Learn how to create rich content to attract guests and to help existing UUs deepen their faith. From case studies and presentation get practical, immediately useful ideas and techniques. Keywords for GA program index: website, electronic technology.

Now I’m looking for some input from people who read religious Web sites, and also from people who create liberal religious Web sites.

On the one hand, I’d love to hear from readers….

  • What kind of content do you like to see on a liberal religious Web site?
  • What kind of content keeps you coming back to read a Web site, week after week?
  • What kind of content would make you tell a friend about a religious Web site?

On the other hand, I’d also love to hear from religious bloggers and people who maintain liberal religious Web sites….

  • What kind of content gives you the most hits on your Web site or blog?
  • How much time do you spend each week creating content for your blog or Web site?
  • What strategies do you use to organize your content so visitors will have easy access to it?
  • And of course, if you have a magic formula for great Web content, let me know!

If you are moved to do so, spread the word — I’d love to get input from people other than the people who read this blog. You can leave a comment below, or if you’d prefer you can send an email message.

7 thoughts on “Why do you visit liberal religious Web sites?

  1. CDS

    Hey Dan,

    Are you fosusing on church websites or on our personal websites– or on both?

    I’ve got some pretty strong ideas on the former, and very little to add to the latter.

  2. Jewelia

    I was just thinking before I saw this particular entry, that I really enjoy reading your “Springwatch” entries. We get plenty of sunshine here in NM, but I miss the gradual but intense appearance of spring and have enjoyed reading about it. I grew up in Massachusetts, (a UU in Hanover/Rockland MA), and left there in 1999 to attend college in NM). In NM though we seek the first thunderstorm or spring rain like the people up there seek the first sunny weekend day or day above 55 degrees.
    I think I found your blog via peacebang or philocrite’s , and I read you and peacebang because I find your observations thought provoking. I don’t go to church here, (yes another young adult who has other things to do on Sunday morning and other communities to invest myself in), so I often look to the internet for something new to spark my spiritual sense. I sometimes find it in the blogs I read. I think I also read you and peacebang to keep abreast of important issues up there. I’m glad you mentioned the hate crime in the gay bar in New Bedford, your account of the community involvement was more helpful than the AP news coverage here and on the ‘net.

  3. Administrator

    CDS — Both. The workshop will focus on congregational Web sites. But some personal Web sites (especially blogs like Philocrites) are turning out to generate higher traffic than congregational Web sites, and thus may be better tools for outreach than traditional congregational Web sites.

    Jewelia — thanks for the feedback — very helpful — I think there are lots of younger Unitarian Universalists who are trying new ways of doing religion, with varying combinations of Web-based religion and face-to-face community. And yeah, part of what I’m trying to do is put spiritual sustenance on the Web, so I’m glad that seems to work for you. Two follow-up questions: — do you read sermons online? — and do you seek out face-to-face UU comunity, e.g., young adult conferences, etc.? (P.S. I read Peacebang regularly, too…and she’s even hipper and more fun in person than in her blog.)

  4. Scott Wells

    I want short, useful and portable resources. Quick, insightful reflections not sermons. Maps and directions. Graphics over explanations. Perhaps an at-length PDF in lieu of a dead-tree resource.

    I rarely download music or videos. There aren’t any religious podcasts I bother with any more. I might take a course if one I liked were offered. I like religious news and links to further resources, including book and film reviews.

    The religious site I go to with most purpose and over the longest period is Anglicans Online (anglicansonline.org) — a weekly web magazine with unbeatable links.

    I spend 1-3 hours a day creating and reviewing content, with usually one day off a week. I accidentially stumble into popular topics, but (apart from “boy bands”) contrversial UUA and news features pull in the most people.

  5. Administrator

    Received via email from a cranky friend who prefers to remain anonymous:

    Not that this is information you don’t already know or have, but here is my 2 cents.

    When I go to a church website, I’m looking for information. When I can’t find that information easily, I get a tad miffed. What information am I usually looking for?
    — Their address. (not one of the stupid map pictures)
    — The times of their services.
    — Who their minister is.
    — How to contact them (phone and email address).
    Beyond that… well beyond that it is all extras… without these things, its worthless to me.

    Now on the religious websites….

    Well, there I’m interested in things I can use… a good poem, a good story, a good reading, a good observation.
    I’m not really interested in diatribes or the like unless it is from someone I know.
    And if the content isn’t updated regularly, well then I stop coming back.

  6. Philocrites

    Give me a call for some detailed answers, Dan. (I’ll be part of a G.A. presentation about uuworld.org and UUA.org, where I’ll probably be going over the kinds of publisher information you’re seeking.) One thing I’ve noticed at Philocrites and at uuworld.org is that the largest audience is not UU at all; Google drives most of it — which is why both sites include the full navigational structure and primary promotional materials on every page. My operating principle is that magazines and blogs can draw in people who don’t yet realize that they’re interested in Unitarian Universalism, whereas a church website really does need to be oriented to people who are looking for Unitarian Universalism.

  7. Administrator

    Chris — You write:

    “My operating principle is that magazines and blogs can draw in people who don’t yet realize that they’re interested in Unitarian Universalism, whereas a church website really does need to be oriented to people who are looking for Unitarian Universalism.”

    Nice distinction — thanks!

    Two possible minor exceptions for church Web sites — on our church Web site, the pages on weddings and child dedications seem to be accessed by people who don’t yet know they’re interested in UUism — and I’m pretty sure we get people in the community who have seen our building and then check out our Web site out of curiosity. But yeah — that’s a really nice distinction.

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