Archive for the ‘Struggles’ Category

Our “Traditional” Church Web Site

January 3, 2010

In Tony Morgan’s The New Traditional Church: Web Strategy he fairly characterizes how most church web sites are formulated: as bull horns.  He then states that churches that are influencing are assuming people are online.  I’m not sure about your church, but in my church only half the people are “online” and less than that are active internet users.

It has been eleven months since I turned on commenting on the church web site.  It was part of an effort to open up the church site to enable a broader community and to start to engage the church in interactive activities.  At around the same time I took over the church’s stale Facebook group ultimately changing it to a Facebook page to allow updates to be directly in people’s news feeds.

Generally, this effort of facilitating interaction has been unsuccessful, with one exception.  There have been zero comments on the web site and four interactions on the Facebook page.  This is not a function of the lack of opportunity for the church to interact (though we do need to generate better and more interesting content) as much as it is that they don’t interact online right now.  Simply put, a large portion of my church community is not online right now and those who are do not significantly engage in social media activities.  Our web site is being used primarily for its event calendar, pick up missed sermon or bulletin, and to allow newcomers to learn the basics of our church.

But our church is sending missionaries and support around the world (e.g. Amazon River Churches).  And we’re growing.  We are “influencing”.  So, for us (for now), our “traditional” web site is suiting our purposes and is ready for when people (on both sides) start to use online technologies in a more meaningful way.

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Reflecting on six months of blogging

June 23, 2009

It has been six months since I started writing this blog.  I have discovered a number of things that have surprised me since I start writing.

Writing is hard work

This certainly isn’t a surprise to most, and I’ve done enough in my career to have already know this.  But still, the commitment necessary to write thoughtful content is large.  I didn’t expect to write every day, but I was hoping to write at least once or twice a week.  I started doing the bi-weekly “interesting church tech links” just to force me to keep doing something related to this effort in general.  When you only have a fairly limited amount of time to write it is harder still when you throw out posts after days and weeks of writing.  For someone who is not 0verly prolific in writing in the first place, this really cuts into the few posts that do come out.

Things have changed

Originally, I was dissatisfied with Christian web-tech related writing.  I think to some degree I was not looking in the right places.  However, I also think the quality of the content (at least that I’m interested in) has blossomed immensely in the last 9-12 months.  Sites like ChurchCrunch.com, ChurchMarketingSucks.com, and AnthonyCoppedge.com are providing quality and thought provoking writing of the likes I’ve not seen previously.  But, I do see some value writing here.  In my area, the largest church is around is only 1500 members and mine is only 150.  We don’t have the resources of the mega-chruches, but we have some of the same vision.  I think there are things to be learned but also be tuned for our smaller communities.

Topics of choice

I’d not intended for this to be a WordPress blog, or a copyright blog.  But it would seem the first six months have had a number of posts related to those topics.  Those posts have correlated with some recent personal efforts and interests.  I am pleased that my analysis of playing CD’s at a church service seems to be helping people (though I can only derive it from the hits, not the comments).

Thank you

“Thank you” to those of you who have stopped by to read my posts and who have occasionally commented.  While this hasn’t gone exactly as I’d intended, I don’t think this effort has been wasted.  I am considering starting a second blog that’s a bit more general to my life but I do wish to continue writing here.  This “web ministry” is a growing part of my life and I look forward to writing about this topic more and the upcoming improvements in my church’s web related outreach efforts.

Finalizing Church Projection Team Content Before the Service

May 29, 2009

I’m curious about other church’s practices for when content/info is given to their multimedia team (or that guy in the back who runs the PC hooked up to the projector).  We’re considering some changes in the practices and some of what we can and cannot do depends on others’ ability to deliver that content.  E.g.:

  • when the pastor submits his sermon notes
  • any last minute changes to the announcements scroll
  • last minute notifications of DVD’s being played
  • when the worship leader finalizes the song list

Most of our content is delivered at the last minute (and I mean 5-10 minutes before the service start). We’re finding that the last minute nature of everything does not allow for failures to be managed gracefully.  I’m looking to freeze changes to the projection team sometime before the start of service.  How do others manage this situation?

How evangelistic is your church web site?

April 24, 2009

Shouldn’t it be obvious?  I’ve seen many that are not, just like many churches are not.  It is good to have pastor’s blogging and current events showing a living church with real people.  It is good to use social media to connect the congregation with each other and the church leadership.  But what are you doing with “the web” to bring people to Christ?  My church site is doing a fair job of bringing existing Christians to our church.  But as I consider the content I have on the site, to be honest, it is not doing much to reach out to non-Christians.

With this in mind this year’s Internet Evangelism Day is April 26, 2009.  We need some strategy and plans for how we want to do our outreach.  It provides some resources to start.  I personally think we should be considering the web and our sites as a missions field.  Does anyone else treat their sites (or the web in general) in this way?

Question: What are you doing for site backups?

April 21, 2009

Recently I read of some web host failures. It got me thinking about what it would take to recover my church’s site. I periodically back up the WordPress db, but that doesn’t save the uploaded content.  So nothing would be preserved in the WP uploads folder or the sermons and other media that’s uploaded via FTP. If my host couldn’t recover the files we’d be very much out of luck and I don’t have local back ups of multiple years of MP3 and uploaded event pictures.

So how would you fair if your web host lost everything?  What is your disaster recovery strategy for your church’s web site?

How are you recording sermons for the web?

February 26, 2009

I’m looking for some help.  Over the last several years we’ve been trying to double-up the projector PC as also being the recording station.  Our online sermons  are growing in their use but we’ve had a few problems.  On occasion, but usually an important occasion, we don’t get the file saved properly or we don’t get the right feed from the board (any no one notices) so we record nothing.  After some discussions, I’ve been given permission to do something different.

I see two primary solutions: 1) put a new PC in place dedicated to recording, or 2) find a device that better integrates into the board – something like a stand-alone, solid state, field recorder.  I’m ruling the first option out as I don’t want another PC in the sanctuary.  So that leaves option 2.  My leading candidate is a Zoom H2 from Samson.  It is portable, has a line input (can connect to the board), built-in mics for small groups, and not too expensive.

I’m wondering what others are using to record their services.

Copyright’s “fair use” within the church

February 16, 2009

Church Marketing Sucks has Richard Byrd as a guest blogger writing about fair use rules for copyright as it applies to churches.  So far the first of three posts is up and I like how its being considered.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the posts.  This is an area I think we all need to become better versed in and nicely complements my earlier post on copyright law and how it applies to churches.

Maybe we can start agreeing that doing something for a church doesn’t justify breaking the law.

Technology is meaningless

February 15, 2009

Last week was a hard week for me.  The Lord took a hold of my career and pointed it in a different direction on Tuesday.  Thankfully, I didn’t lose my job, but pretty much everything I’ve built for the last seven years is something to get out of within my new organization, not something to continue and grow.  It is a business decision, and while I may disagree with it, it is not my decision specifically to make. But, as I was doing my impression of Jacob wrestling with God this week He reminded me of two things that He shows me all the time that I keep forgetting:

  1. He is taking care of me and my family – I have lost count of the times I can directly see His hand in my life but for some reason I need to be reminded of it all the time.
  2. Technology is meaningless – Technology is a tool, it always changes, and always fails eventually. To invest one’s life in technology of any kind is vanity.

I was reminded of the saying: the two only things that last forever are the Word of God and the souls of men (never been able to find a definitive reference for that saying).  If I’m to invest in something, regardless of how, it should be those two things. For us who are working in His ministry using technology we (should) understand this – we are using technology, ostensibly, for His purposes.  It doesn’t matter what CMS/Blog Engine we’re using, or if (or not) we’re using Twitter, Facebook, PHP, Java, Ruby… none of this matters.  The only thing that matters is where you are with God and what you are doing to follow His direction for your life.  If you’re using technology in your ministry, great!  But don’t lose the focus that what we’re doing with our ministries and our technologies should be showing people Christ’s love and their need for Him or encouraging the faith of of our brothers and sisters.

Technology, in and of itself, is meaningless.  Use technology, learn technology, but don’t invest your life in technology.  Invest your life in the only thing that will last – Jesus Christ.

More “interesting” content for the church site: a senior pastor blog

February 14, 2009

Now that the  comments are open on the church site, its probably not going to be sufficient to have only bulletins, some key announcements, and some sermons to comment upon.  Sure, the sermons might start some, but being primarily audio, I’m not confident that they alone will generate interest.  No, what we need is more “interesting” content.

A Senior Pastor Blog

The first area I’m trying to develop is a senior pastor blog.  The senior pastor is the face of the church.  When I was visiting churches a few years ago I would have loved to have had a chance to read the thoughts of the pastor before attending.  For potential visitors, this gives them an opportunity to understand who he is and what he’s concerned about.  For church members, he has an opportunity to continue the discussion of Sunday’s sermon expanding it in ways that are not possible at the pulpit.  Plus, he can use it as an alternative pulpit to write about other topics and target the local community (or even the larger web community).  If you can get him to use Twitter, there’s even more possibilities, but that’s for another post.

I find myself fortunate that my pastor agrees that this is a valuable and important concept.  He is busy finishing his M.Div right now, but in May has committed to start doing this.  I know many churches have their senior pastor writing, but I know many don’t.   I hope it soon becomes automatic. Building your site over a good CMS (like WordPress) can go a long ways toward facilitating this.

I have several more ideas that I’m going to be moving forward.  I’ll write more about them soon.  I’m curious about  how well pastor blogs are working out for others.

Using your church web site for discipleship

February 6, 2009

One responsibility of being put onto the WOLCF’s leadership team is that I now have to use my ministry (web) to grow and disciple others within the church.  The control freak in me makes this a bit harder than it probably should be.  But I’ve been looking carefully at what operations in the maintenance of the site can be split into discrete areas for which others could take responsibility.

There are several important positives that result from this:

  1. others start having an investment in the church
  2. the workload is distributed more (my immediate responsibilities are reduced)
  3. we create opportunities to mentor and encourage others in their daily walk
  4. I can look a bit more strategically at what we can do with our site and the ministry in general
  5. we start getting more ideas on what we might do and where we could go with the site

I’ve also pulled in another church member to serve as a backup to me – someone else to have the “keys to the web kingdom” and have the understanding of what’s going on in case I’m unavailable.  In a professional shop these steps are automatic (depending on the size of the organization).  But the churches I’ve been part of have all been smaller and had their members all activitely involved in other areas. It still makes sense to grow and develop others within the church as this ultimately comes around to developing relationships and encouraging each other in Lord.  That is part of what you’re trying to do with your church web site, right?  I’m wondering how others are dividing up responsibilties on their sites, or not.