I was looking around for some opportunities to build Lutheran websites when I came across a church in Michigan that seemed to be in need: Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kingsford. The link from LCMS central was http://www.jesusourredeemer.org/. When I followed it, I got to a page that said, "This site is currently deactivated."

I went to the Facebook page of the church, and that link was the same. That's when I sent a Facebook message stating that the site seemed to be down and that Luthernet could help. I received a message soon after that assured me the site was up and that it was pretty much new.

It gets even weirder.

I pasted http://www.jesusourredeemer.org/ into Google, and the first result says the site has been hacked. I neglected to look at the url for that site, and went ahead and sent a Facebook message saying the site was definitely down and that it might have been hacked. The url Google listed when I searched for http://www.jesusourredeemer.org/ was http://www.jesusourredeemer.com, which appears to be a church in Maryland that has been hacked.

But now I was wondering what was going on, so I just searched for the church itself, and I eventually found http://www.jesusourredeemerlc.org/ , which is apparently the correct url and domain.

When I sent along a final message explaining my mistake and the church's mistake, I did not receive a quick response. A day later, the url was still wrong on the Facebook page as well as the LCMS page. Sadly, someone with the church may have started to think I was the hacker looking to cause some problems for the website, but the truth is that I was just an honest businessman who wasted way too much time helping out. 

The lesson is that you need to make sure your own Facebook page and your own Synod has the correct listing for your website. How are visitors going to find you if you have an old url out there? Yes, I could have been more careful in my research, but other people looking for a church will not Google the heck out of a location before they give up. The error message and possible hacking would have been enough. I also assume there are a dozen church or business listing sites with the wrong information, too, and you have to make those changes. No one is going to do it for you. If you change your domain name (url), then you have to update all the links to your site. That's just the way it works.

After I thought about this some more, I figured that the main reason no one found the errors was because no one was looking for the errors, meaning all of the insiders knew about the new website being built and knew how to find it. The outsiders, the ones confused by the wrong links, just went away. While that's the opposite of what you want your website and church to do, most congregations figure out some way to do just that.

With this story in mind, Luthernet has added a web check for each new website built. The basic idea is to be the outsider / seeker, looking up information about the church. Does the synod page have the right url? Facebook, local business listing pages, church listing pages, Google+ page, etc. After each build, we go through the first 20 Google hits for your church to make sure as many of the links leading in are correct as possible. And if it's a link to page that no longer exists, we'll even create a redirect. It's common sense, but it's also not standard operating procedure for most volunteer website builders.