Don't do that.
In this time of social media, texting, and the information explosion at our fingertips on websites, with our ability to write unlimited content and link to related information, I naively assumed nobody made the mistake of saying that in their church communications.
But then I was checking out a new website for a church that was doing a major re-branding (in what follows, the details are changed and location not given so as not to embarrass anyone). This church has been around for many years; it was a large, well-known church in the area it was in. The senior pastor retired and a new, young pastor came in (all very happily, no church fights or ill-feelings). The church changed its name away from a denominational label to a contemporary one. They decided to get a new website and hired a very expensive, well-regarded company to do it.
The website had beautiful graphics and lots of alliteration for all the areas of ministry. There was not a typo to be found.
All good. Well, not so much—the site seemed cold and mass-produced because it didn't have any pictures on it of real people on it (not even staff) and all the text seemed like a "fill-in-the-blanks-of-a-template"—but perhaps those negatives were because it was new and they didn't have time to put in pictures or content from real people. This isn't a design critique, so I'll leave it at that.
....No, I can't do that.....even if your website isn't perfect—be real. Have genuine pictures of staff, write a human, honest letter from the pastor why he/she hopes people come. Take pictures of your people at events, post them, and put in captions that will make sense to someone outside the church. People don't come to a church because of gorgeous graphics and flawless mission statements. They come to have questions answered, needs met, and to connect with fellow pilgrims.
I'm sorry, I digress, but this is important. We are trying to win people to Jesus and if the site seemed cold and sterile to me, someone who loves the church and is cheering on new churches and communications, I don't imagine it would have a very welcoming impact on someone who wasn't into church jargon—no matter how beautifully illustrated it might be.
Back to the topic....
What the site did have
The phrase "Call the church office for more information" or the more contemporary, but similar statement, "Email the church office for more information" was added after many descriptions of programs or events. If the activities described (and there were several pages of these) didn't have that statement that after each description of either the ministry or concept, it was at the bottom of the page. I can honestly say there was not one thing on the site that was completely explained in the brief overview of it.
What's wrong with this and what should have been done
It isn't fair to the people in the church office. Usually when this phrase is included excessively in a website or other communication piece it's because the people on staff or in the ministry didn't take the time to communicate fully what was going on when they wrote the information for the site. The person answering the phone or email can't be expected to know every detail about every ministry. If the ministry didn't give the person doing communications all the details when it was first written about, the people in the church office won't magically know them now.
What should have been done: Don't talk about a ministry, value, teaching, whatever unless it makes sense (at least at a basic level) in the communication piece you first talk about it in. This doesn't have to be lengthy, but should contain basic facts of what's going on, when it meets, who it is for, if there is a cost.
In addition: Each ministry that is mentioned should have one person IN THAT MINISTRY who is committed to answering phone calls or emails or other social media contacts about it. Of course you can't put complete information about every event in the bulletin or in a mention on the website and a personalized contact of someone actually involved in the ministry is important. But making people go through a series of people or phone calls to find the person who actually knows what is going, or the answers to basic questions on isn't efficient or kind.
People will not take additional steps to find out about something they know little about. Making a vague statement along the lines of "Connections are very important at our church, contact the church office for how you can get connected" probably won't get a lot of response.
What should have been done: Realize people are very busy today and love them enough to tell them what is going as fully as you can the first time you mention it.
Back to the website overall
It looked like the first draft (though a very polished one) of the website. It was so perfect that you could almost see the drafts passed from staff member to staff member to make sure not a typo escaped. Or maybe it was written by the website company and presented in all its perfection to the church.
It would have been so much better, as stated earlier, pictures of real people; content that didn't read like it was computer-generated, COMPLETE descriptions of people or ministries. This church as been around for decades and there was no sense of history or of any of the people actually involved in the ministries.
Simply "having a website" isn't enough. Make sure your content, perfect or not, reflects who you truly are as a church and be sure all the people in it take responsibility for their area of ministry and can be contacted directly (whenever possible) about it.
Afterthoughts and a check of the Wayback Machine
I was very grumpy when I wrote this, but after re-reading it, I realized that more than grumpy I was terribly sad because I remembered the website of the church in the past. I remembered it (though I'd forgotten when I first started writing this) because someone I knew was doing a special program there and I wanted to check it out. The images of the site came flooding back to me. It wasn't nearly as polished or perfect, but I remember it was filled with great content, that I linked to for a study I was doing on a similar topic. The site overflowed with people who loved the church and were involved in ministry. I remember thinking how good the site was at the time instead of my current frustration with every page on it.
To make sure I remembered correctly, I looked up the site on the Wayback Machine (an archive for old sites) and again, the site was not nearly as fancy, but it was human. Messages from ministry leaders, lots of pictures of the people and ministries, and not once did I find a "contact the church office for more information." If there was a contact link (and there were) it was always to a specific person at the church.
This is not a plea for old-fashioned sites and a bashing of new expensive ones, but a reminder that looks aren't nearly as important as your heart when you are reaching out to people in any communication channel. Let your heart, your care for people and love for Jesus come through. Think about the people who will be answering questions about the information you leave out, be complete, no matter if it is a little messy and your site will be worthy reflection of the church instead of a frustration because of invisible people and incomplete information.