Unforgivable Sin: Google Images On Your Church Website

You wouldn’t walk into a Christian Bookstore, grab a CD, shirt, and Bible commentary off of their respective shelves and walk out without paying, would you? Of course not! That is stealing and we were all taught at a young age stealing is bad. It is even God’s 8th commandment handed down to Moses on his stone tablets. Since the beginning of time stealing has always been bad.

Then why would you think that it is okay to download an image from Google without at least checking to see if it is a royalty free image or if it is someone’s digital property? Taking downloadable images directly from a Google search is in fact stealing. It is no different than walking into the Christian Bookstore and lifting whatever you wanted.

Unfortunately, many people do this exact thing and don’t ever think twice about it. However, if this is you, you may want to stop. In fact, I would encourage you to go back and take inventory of every image you have taken from Google images and immediately delete and replace them. If you don’t, you may have some serious consequences.


If you use an image you found on Google images and it is in fact someone’s digital property that you have used without written consent then they can (and many will) come after you with a lawsuit or a demand of payment. There are many ways these image owners can track who is using their images from back end trackers to reverse Google searches. No matter how big or small your church may be, if you are using images stolen from Google images, then you can get caught and have to pay thousands of dollars.

We have seen this happen first hand with multiple clients of ours who did not heed our advice and downloaded the images anyways. These clients were forced to pay anywhere between $4,000 – $18,000 for the usage of these stolen images. And using the excuse “I didn’t know it was illegal” will not get you out of paying!

One last warning when downloading an image from the internet: Just because your church may be a nonprofit, in the eyes of the digital world you are still considered commercial. So if you see something in the usage agreement denying free use for commercial purposes, that means you cannot use it unless you either buy it or get written permission to use it.


First, you should be using high quality images of your own church members interacting. Have a volunteer or pay someone to come and take high quality photos during your potluck, church softball game, or any other church function. An actual image of your church member will go a long way to build comfort and trust with users on your website than any stock photo would.

Then, if a real photo of your church members simply won’t work, find royalty free images or vector art from a trusted resource. Our five favorite royalty free image websites are:

You can plainly see that you are “free to download for personal or commercial use.”

Want a library of stock photos that you can use anytime without having to worry about a lawsuit? Email us today and we’ll send you over hundreds of quality images absolutely free!

For more church website sins we suggest you read our recent article: The 7 Deadly Sins Of A Church Website.

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