Update:We are happy to report that the Admin. Committee is working on a new site this summer.
As I begin, let me be clear: the following article is about me being angry, and I’m not simply trying to poke fun. I’m trying help my brothers in the PCA realize how truly embarrassing our current online presence really is.
Last night while I was perusing some church news site, I came across some of the info regarding the Free Church of Scotland’s General Assembly. Curious about the going ons, I went over to their site. When I clicked on their Assembly page, http://assembly.freechurch.org, I was impressed with what I saw. A website with a purposeful organization, and a clean and simple interface that made browsing the site quite pleasant.
Then I thought about the PCA’s GA website… you know the one that seems like it was ripped from a geocities account in 1998. The one that actually makes the rest of the PCA’s web presence, look like a million bucks. As someone with a web background, going to that site is painful. I’ve stood atop this soap box before, but the PCA must do a better job with online communications.
We live in a world where less and less is being mailed to us, and more and more information is found online. This means that we need to take this online information seriously. You might think this doesn’t matter. Tell that to my soon-to-be-intern who recently found out his vacation is going to be interrupted and he might be out hundreds of dollars in transfer fees, because our Presbytery website and the denominational website have conflicting dates for the meeting where he is supposed to officially become an intern. We can’t continue to pretend like this stuff doesn’t matter. In the last several years our denomination has made a big deal about introducing declarations about important issues facing our churches. Yet the way our digital presence is handled, the only people who will find these declarations will be historians searching through our old minutes.
If it would bother you in Print Why Doesn’t It Bother you Online?
Lets jump into a hypothetical situation. Lets say I were to fill in at your church’s office next week, and you asked me to make the bulletins. Let’s say that when you showed up on Sunday you saw me handing out folded paper towels, with the song titles and sermon texts scribbled out with a magic marker. By the way, I have awful handwriting. I’m guessing this would bother most of you, and you would probably ask me why things turned out as bad as they did. I could say, well I didn’t have the money, when of course numerous low cost options would give you a better result. I could say you shouldn’t fuss so much about style, all the information is there, and of course you could respond, “yes but it is impossible to retrieve that information.” You might also say, “While we aren’t looking for perfection, it is important to make a good impression, and it’s important that people be able to use the bulletins.”
All of these excuses that I’ve made above have been the common reasoning as to why our denominational website sites languishes year after year. 2012 marks our 40th General Assembly, it also marks the ten year anniversary of the current version of pcanet.org. The same exact site has been up for over a decade. This means it has been around for a quarter of the entire time we have been a denomination. I’m not saying we have to update the BCO or Westminster, but we could update our website.
In 2010 I proposed several suggestions for how the PCA could update its technology. None of them have been implemented. Within the Reformed and Presbyterian world, we pride ourself for being the big dog. Yet, denomination after denomination is shaming us online. Compared to every other NAPARC site, our website makes the PCA look like a tiny, money-strapped “micro-denomination.” Remember some of these denominations have fewer total members than we have Ruling Elders at GA! Yet, they have the resources to at least have somewhat up to date sites.
So to the Administration Committee: I understand that you folks are doing a lot with a little, but please do something about PCAGA.org! I’d cheerfully serve on a sub-committee that helps update our denominational site, shoot, I’ll help make the site myself. The rumored $40,000 cost of a new denominational site is absurd.(As we posted here PCAnet is going to be receiving a much needed update, and the price was not the purported 40K)
To any GA Host Committee: there are countless options available for simple and effective conference focused website. These can be hosted services, or self hosted platforms. Please realize that each year the primary time that my congregation looks at our websites, it is to see what I will be doing at this thing called General Assembly. For many people today the PCA’s Website is the first interaction with the larger church. As such, it needs to be given care and oversight.