Evaluation Criteria & Scoring Methodology
- The Gospel message – Score green: clear Gospel message, including both sinand forgiveness, yellow: vague Gospel message, without a clear presentation of sin and forgiveness, red: no Gospel message
- The Sacraments – the Means of Grace. Score green: Lord's Supper or Baptism is specifically mentioned, yellow: vague reference to the Sacraments, without specific mention of Lord’s Supper or Baptism, red: no mention of the Sacraments
- God’s Word – the Means of Grace. Score green: a verse from Scripture, yellow: a vague reference to the Bible or Scripture without a verse from Scripture, red: no verses from Scripture or references to Scripture.
- The Lutheran name – Score green: the word "Lutheran" is part of the congregation’s name and is clearly and prominently displayed, yellow: the word "Lutheran" is not part of the name, or is minimized in small font, red: the word "Lutheran" is not found on the home page.
- The Lutheran Confessions – Score green: a clear reference to the Lutheran Confessions, such as the Apostles' Creed or Book of Concord, yellow: a confession that is faithful to or consistent with the Lutheran Confessions, without reference to them, red: no confession consistent with the Lutheran Confessions
- The liturgical service – Score green: acknowledges use of a liturgical service, yellow: no mention of the form of worship, red: promotes a contemporary service, or doing their own thing, or promoting "breaking the rules" of worship
One circuit was randomly chosen from each of the twelve districts of the WELS. Six to eight congregations were selected from that circuit for analysis. Only those circuits which had at least six congregations with a website were considered for the analysis. A total of ninety congregational websites were selected and analyzed according to the criteria described above. At least five individual lay people submitted input for each website homepage of each congregation selected. The individual inputs for each criterion for each congregation were averaged to minimize the effect of human subjectivity.
A high level representation of the analysis is presented in the following chart. Vertical columns represent the average input for each of the criteria; horizontal rows represent individual congregational websites that were analyzed. For this first look, the results are grouped and reported by district, but the districts and congregations are not identified.
In the simplest terms, areas of green reflect confessional Lutheran standards clearly communicated on congregational websites. Areas of yellow reflect vague, incomplete, or minimization of confessional Lutheran standards. Areas of red indicate an absence of confessional Lutheran standards.
This analysis, as described in the original proposal of this project, was limited to the home page of each website analyzed. Clearly, the analysis has the potential of providing different results, perhaps very different results, if one were to “drill down” into those websites where additional pages existed. But the intent here was, in part, to see what congregational website planners and administrators considered most important. The assumption is that what one considers most important would be most obvious on a website, and therefore be present on the home page. As confessional Lutherans, we would expect to see evidence of:
- our purpose, to spread the Gospel.
- the Means of Grace through which the Holy Spirit works, the Word and the Sacraments.
- the Lutheran Confessions, as they properly reflect the truths of Scripture.
In this “first look”, the following observations could be made. Each of the observations is stated in the context of the prevailing behavior.
- A majority of WELS congregational websites surveyed do NOT have a clear Gospel message on the home page.
- A vast majority of WELS congregations surveyed say NOTHING about the Sacraments on the home page.
- A majority of WELS congregations surveyed do NOT use a verse from God’s Word on the home page of the website.
- A majority of WELS congregations surveyed USE the name “Lutheran” on the website home page.
- A vast majority of the WELS congregations surveyed say NOTHING about the Lutheran Confessions on the home page.
- And finally, a vast majority of WELS congregations surveyed say NOTHING about the type of worship service on the home page of the website.
A follow-on post will take into consideration any questions that might arise from this work, and examine the results in more detail.