categories: church, communication
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September 17th, 2008

by Bobby Gruenewald

27 comments (+ Add)

What the Church should learn from Google (1 of many)

The title speaks for itself…so here ya go.

1. Make your user interface simple!

There are few user interfaces that are simpler to use than the Google search box.  Who would have imagined that the massive scope of the entire Internet could be navigated through that simple box?  In contrast, we (The Church) often seem to create extremely complex interfaces to the same basic, but yet important, content.  Now, to be fair, many times that is not intentional.  But…that’s actually the problem (lack of intention)!

Just to clarify, I’m not simply talking about our websites.  We make it complex for people to find answers about God or be a part of a church in general.  We put so many barriers in front of people and try to simultaneously convey way too much information and give people very little control over what information they receive and how/where they receive it.

I would never use Google if it required me to leave my house and travel to an unfamiliar building on Sunday only once a week…listen to 30 minutes of unrecognizable music, followed by a person talking for 30-40 minutes, and still possibly have to try to find a person who looked “official” just to find “results” for my search.  That would be absurd! But, that is a substantially abbreviated version of what so many churches put people through who are searching.

I’m not talking about the content you communicate (though that should be easy to understand/navigate too!), but rather the way people access and interact with that content. Is it easy for them to find what they’re looking for? And what about things they don’t even know they should be looking for—is there a simple flow of involvement that leads them there?

Some of you have already simplified the “interface.”  What are some examples of things that need to be simplified in the Church interface?  What are some simplifcations that have worked for you?


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there are a total of27
  1. Sep 17, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Great post… I think that complexity of any kind becomes a deterrent, and it is certainly no different among the church.

  2. Sep 17, 2008 at 1:31 pm


    I completely agree. Too many times we try to draw people into our churches and organizations with complex messages. Google’s approach has certainly challenged that thinking by keeping it short and simple.

    When working with churches on promotional material I have often noticed they can overwhelm potential ‘users’ with information. Everyone is already over-saturated with content thanks to the Internet so there is no need to fit the church history book into a mailer or bulletin. Likewise, there is no need to explain the last 50 years of your church’s transitions to a first time visitor.

    Sometimes I think in being zealous for sharing the Gospel we actually crowd it up with irrelevance. The more we take the Google approach and keep everything stripped down, the more chances we’ll have to reach people in new and exciting ways.

  3. 3Brandon Pierce
    Sep 17, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    There is an entire book on this subject. Simple Church advocates this topic in everything we do. Basically, the more simple the more likely people will read it/watch it/follow it etc. The idea has greatly affected the way I see the ministry.

  4. 4Dennis Peay
    Sep 17, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    c.f. Len Sweet’s material on the MRI church. Worked with him on a speaking engagement this summer where his premise was simply that our churches are too often stuck in a Gutenberg model while the current culture is a Google culture. He referenced Church of the Perfect Storm and Gospel According to Starbucks.

  5. Sep 17, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    I am presently re-reading Simple Church and am reading Essential Church. Great books that don’t call us to dumb down, but to simplify and deepen.

  6. 6Mike
    Sep 17, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    I am always looking for answers to things I don’t understand. On the one hand, I agree with simplicity…like making love simple…that is until I ask the question, “What does simple love look like in every situation?” Suddenly…complexity is in my face. Sure its easy to say…”ok, quit the church history class for seekers…they don’t care.” I understand this. Here’s what I don’t understand: How do you simplify church without liquifying church?

  7. Sep 17, 2008 at 5:55 pm


    Good stuff. I wrote about a bad experience I had with Starbux wi-fi with a similar theme. We should look for simple “user interfaces” in every facet of the church.

    Great thoughts.

  8. Sep 17, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    man this is so good! thanks! looking forward to the additional Google lessons…

  9. Sep 17, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Great thoughts, Craig. I made a huge mistake by reading “It” right before I went to bed last night. I tossed and turned for an hour and a half, haunted by some of the questions you ask in that book. I woke up again at 3:30 this morning, fell asleep again until 4:30 to get up for my 5am workout. When I got back, I cried out to God for the answers. How could the vision get so blurry so fast? Why wasn’t it as clear as it was when we began? God answered me! He is giving clarity back to the vision… we’re discussing your book at our upcoming church staff retreat. Just wanted you to know the impact you’re making. Thanks, brother.

  10. Sep 17, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    My family and I started adding a church summer that we loved the worship, and really wanted to connect with the church as a whole. For the entire summer, we tried to find ways to connect… small groups, youth, visitor times, pastor meeting, newcomers meeting, pizza with the pastor… SOMETHING! We could not find anything.

    Then as we were looking to probably go some place else, they started to announce many different new places to connect and interface with the church as a whole. So we are looking at staying at this church… but visitors should not have to go looking too hard for information on how to connect.

    If a church wants to connect with people, they need to go overboard to make them feel at home… wanted… and a place that is easy to connect and interface with the church. Here is a book, The Starbucks’ Experience [] that I believe that all churches need to read and implement… and how they can implement the Starbucks way of doing things and it comes down to the experience for the customer [or in our case the visitor].

    This is already too long.



  11. 11Victor Tran
    Sep 18, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Great post Bobby!
    My church been doing a series on the Tabernacle (Where He Dwells) and how God planned it all to be the foreshadow of Jesus Christ, being the door into the presence of God.

    One of the elements of the tabernacle is the outer layer or the tent covering made of badger skin. This skin is no fancy leather that we wear today, it represented humility and simplicity. It meant that anyone was able to approach the tabernacle.

    I think this is a great lesson to take. That the Christian message is simple so that anyone can receive it, however when we go deeper (enter into the tabernacle) there is so much more to it.

    I’m definitely keeping this in mind as we do a rebuild of our church’s website.

    God bless

  12. 12Jared
    Sep 18, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Thinking about what you just said…I think it would be cool if you made “” an instant connection to the live service with a simple video box in the middle (similar to Google’s interface/look). A clean, white look. Maybe sermon notes below it…but not much else. Like you said - simple is sometimes better. I would say it is definitely more freeing!

  13. Sep 18, 2008 at 3:28 pm


    You must be in our team’s planning meetings :)

  14. Sep 20, 2008 at 7:33 am

    [...] relationship) more than the idea.  Later in the week it was followed up with a post entitled, What the Church Should Learn from Google,” about making your “interface” simple.  Definitely worth the read, especially [...]

  15. Sep 26, 2008 at 7:07 am

    [...] // Interesting article about what the Church can learn from Google. // Just discovered this interesting blog // This is [...]

  16. Sep 26, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    [...] You’ll notice at least 5 new signs up.  They’re temporary for now, so we need your help.  Is something missing from a sign?  Did we miss an obvious location for a sign?  Try looking at our church as if you’d never walked in before.  What confuses you?  Our goal is to be a church that’s as easy to navigate as Google. [...]

  17. Sep 29, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    [...] is a statement from a longer post which he makes the statement, What the Church should learn from [...]

  18. Sep 29, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    While I agree that we need to reduce hurdles, flatten speed bumps, etc. in our church systems, let’s see if google endures as long as the church. how many years does google have under it’s belt? 10 years ago this month?

    “I will establish my Google and the gates of hell will not prevail.”

  19. Sep 29, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    You’ve heard the saying, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” I always say, “If there’s a will, there’s a simpler way.”

    So true. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  20. Sep 30, 2008 at 9:30 am

    bryonm… I agree that Google has been around for 10 years and the church for a bit longer. But you have to agree that in the last 10 years, few things have impacted the the culture like Google, Starbucks, Apple and others.

    We are in a different day these days… and the church needs to look at what is influencing the culture and what is not.

    Many of the key influencers in today’s culture have a number of key and critical factors that are intertwined that we in the church need to learn from.

  21. Oct 1, 2008 at 9:03 am

    [...] With I like what these guys are doing, but I have serious reservations about the underlying idea in this post. Please leave a comment and let me know what you [...]

  22. Oct 1, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Some things to chew on. I have been chewing over some of these things recently and love your post. Now to make things simpler. I am planting a church in Canberra Australia and already find our things getting more complex and for pointless reasons.


    LifeCity Church Canberra

  23. 23Darrell
    Oct 5, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Intriguing…google-church. Simple. Available.
    I don’t believe the intent of “the church” is to be available only on Sunday, or to be as separated from the individual as may be suggested here. That’s why Jesus left us the Holy Spirit…to be WITH us, to come along side us. To comfort and guide us. That’s why we have Scripture and “daily devotions”… to keep ourselves before the Lord.
    I want to be careful that the “church” is NEVER just about “Sunday”. And, that “accessing” the Lord is never about “traveling away from home”.

  24. Oct 9, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    [...] few weeks ago I ran across this article on Swerve called What the church should learn from google. Here’s the meat of the post: There are few user interfaces that are simpler to use than the [...]

  25. Oct 10, 2008 at 9:11 am

    [...] here’s a point where I feel LifeChurch.TV’s Bobby Gruenewald and I agree, where in his first post on he asserts: Make your user interface [...]

  26. Oct 10, 2008 at 9:14 am

    [...] here’s a point where I feel LifeChurch.TV’s Bobby Gruenewald and I agree, where in his first post on he asserts: Make your user interface [...]

  27. Oct 22, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Great post guys. We are getting ready to talk about simplicity this November at our church. I think that we add things to our lives and the life of the church that we could do without. What may look good, may not always be the right thing to do for us.