Youth, Vitality, and Content

12 comments | Posted: 14 February 06 in General, by Ryan Heneise

Having a website is great, but nothing beats a fresh website. In fact, if the content on your church’s website gets outdated, you might as well kiss it goodbye. That’s how important it is.

Pastors always wonder why I harp on websites so much. I mean, isn’t it enough to have a web page in the first place? Well, no, it’s not. Think about it this way: The people who are going to be looking for a church in America today were toddlers when the first video games came out. These folks can’t remember the world before the web. (I know because I’m one of them.) Your church’s target audience is increasingly internet-savvy. For many of these people, your church’s website will be their first impression. And if you have a crummy-looking or out-of-date website, it may be their only impression.

Here are three practical ideas for setting up a website management system in your church.

1. Designate someone as the website caretaker.

They used to call this a “webmaster”, but that’s so Y2K. Other names I’ve heard for this position include “web designer”, “web developer”, “web guy”, “web gal”, and “grand poobah of the church’s website”. Preferably, the website caretaker would be a member of the church staff who has experience designing and maintaining websites. Having a skilled web person on staff is an ideal option, as it will help to ensure that your website is always be updated and current, and that the design and content of the website is always aligned with the mission and vision of the church.

Another option that works well for many churches is outsourcing their website management to a professional that specializes in church websites. While this can seem expensive, it may actually turn out to be cheaper than maintaining a staff person for that job, and working with a professional firm virtually guarantees high-quality results.

What about volunteers? While this sounds good (and seems very inexpensive) on the surface, in my experience relying on volunteers to manage the church’s website often leads to one of two outcomes: First, volunteers may be too busy to really put enough time into managing the website. This leads either to high turnover or to a neglected website. Second, volunteers may lack the experience and skills to really manage a website correctly and effectively, which can lead to a poor-quality website. Having said that, if your church has a skilled web professional who is willing to donate their time to manage the website, then go for it – that’s what you call a blessing!

2. Meet regularly with your website caretaker.

Meet regularly to make sure your website caretaker is well-fed with information, that they have the most current information, and that the website’s content is aligned with the church’s vision and marketing efforts. For some churches it may be enough to meet once a month. For more active churches, a weekly meeting may be in order. For more frequent meetings, I recommend quick stand-up meetings over coffee – no longer than ten or 15 minutes to keep things moving.

3. Use a Content Management System

A Content Management System (CMS) lets you manage and update the content (pages, articles, images, downloads, podcasts, etc.) without worrying about the programming or graphic design side of your website. A CMS is actually a piece of software that either lives on your website, or on a particular computer that you use to update your website. A good CMS will be easy to use, easy to update, and will allow your web designer or caretaker to easily create web standards-compliant design templates.

There are literally hundreds of CMSs out there, so I won’t explore them in depth in this article. However, here are a few better-known CMSs designed to live on your website:

These CMSs are designed to live on a particular computer in your office:

These CMSs are services that you subscribe to:

Check out Andy Knight’s awesome article With All Thy Getting, Get a Site You Can Update. I’ll be outlining a variety of available content management systems in an upcoming article.

Update: Also see Robert Evans’ article Marketing to your Consumer, a Christian Approach.

This article is cross-posted over at Art of Mission.

Discuss This Topic

  1. 1 Robert

    Good introduction for Churches to follow in preparing and taking on the task of going live on the internet. Nice write up Ryan.

     
  2. 2 Ryan Heneise

    I meant to mention this in the article, but I forgot until Robert’s comment. Robert has a great article over at bioevans.com about how churches can effectively market to their customers. Marketing to your Consumer, a Christian Approach. Thanks Robert!

     
  3. 3 Yannick

    Definitely a good intro for churches taking the leap online.

    Ryan: You can still add in the link in the original article. Perhaps even use the < ins > tag which in textile is ”+” at the start and end of the text you would like to insert.

     
  4. 4 Ben

    Definitely true. I’m a minister to students. When I was candidating at different churches the first thing I would do upon an interview request was check out the church website. If I couldn’t find one at all I just assumed that they were a backwards thinking church who didn’t see a need for a website.

     
  5. 5 Robert

    Thanks Ryan. I have been meaning to write a more indepth article on the concepts of marketing in a Church online environment.

     
  6. 6 Chris

    I’m starting to look into Joomla as a CMS for our church’s web site. I know of churches that use the prequel to this (Mambo) successfully.

     
  7. 7 Nathan Smith

    Chris: I’ve tried Joomla, and can safely say that it stinks pretty badly. Aside from looking nice with perdy icons, the rest of the system is table-soup. I’d steer clear, and use Expression Engine instead if I were you. Just my 2 cents.

     
  8. 8 Ryan Heneise

    Yeah, I looked at Joomla too, and wasn’t too impressed. I’m still trying to figure out if EE is worth the hype though. So far my favorite is Typo.

     
  9. 9 Yannick

    I tried Typo a little and it is nice but I found it somewhat lacking in features for the basic install. But then again I didn’t dig too deep into it and any plugins that might have been developed for it.

     
  10. 10 Robert

    I used to run my Realtor’s web site on Joomla(Mambo then), before my standards awareness. I really didn’t like it that much. It felt like it was just too much.

    I was going to install Typo this weekend on my server and mess around with it a bit. I have yet to try it out. It looks quite nice.

     
  11. 11 Chris

    OK, I guess I’ll try out some of the others you mention!! Cheers. I’ll let you know what I think after a few days of trying them out!

     
  12. 12 Josh

    Ryan – so of the CMS’s you mentioned do you have any recommendations for church sites based on ease of use, functionality, plugins, administration, etc.? Which in your list are good for maintaining the entire site?

     

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