Saturday, 11 July 2015

Church Growth strategies: 'Be IT Savvy: get a website - part two!'

Hauerwas' strapline challenges us all to put off strategies and become authentic:

Church growth strategies are the death rattle of a church that has lost its way. 

And one of the ways in which we might make the 'way' found is to by being seen to be attractive, transparent and authentic. When people see integrity and attractive and compelling bundled together in open, honest, welcoming and engaged (and engaging), they want to know more and have a relationship (at best) and feel warmly (at worst) towards, and with, those people!

One of the shop windows on our hearts (apart from the eyes that is) is created by means of a well crafted, honest and attractive website. One of the simplest ways of getting a website can be found by using Wordpress. This is what we call a 'Content Management System' (CMS) - learn the language and you'll look like you're up there with the kids in no time (you can even buy yourself a hoodie and get a skateboard to complete the image). You can do it yourself or pay someone to set the whole thing up for you : The choice is (as always) yours:

What is a CMS all about then?
Exactly what it sounds like:

1. You find yourself a company who will do the web hosting and get yourself a server. Then you install Wordpress onto it (it's a simple process and you are guided on every step - it's a 'one click' process, so no need to panic).

2. You select the 'look and feel' (the Theme) of the site (and there are many to choose from already) and you start to build your site using it. Once you're happy with what you have as a start you upload* it to the server - this is easy too (there are so many guides and walk through available) and then you start to smooth the rough edges and add the features you want.

3. You 'plug in' any special features: members pages, images, photo albums, etc. (you can do this from you uploaded web page which means that once the site is loaded everything else is simply done by selecting the options and installing them by a click of the mouse) and customise the site to reflect your aims for it.

4. You add your content and assign 'rights' and 'roles' to people so that they can add, edit and generally tinker with the content (the words and images and stuff) but cannot change the look and feel or any of the major bits that make it what you want your site to look and feel like!

This is a completely quick and easy (and did I mention cheap) way of not only getting online but also making sure that you have a site that is contains up to date information from the people who own that area. The wardens write the 'from the Wardens' page -  the Vicar writes the 'from the Vicar' page and everyone who contributes to the site has their own little kingdom to keep relevant and worthwhile.

This is every web master's dream come true - currency of information without them having to sit and do the editing! (let me hear you say 'hallelujah!').

This is every church member's dream come true too because some of the biggest complaints I have regarding church websites are to do with being current too. ('Why isn't nnnn on the site' is no longer valid complaint when the members have access to a place for their area of interest to be featured).

This is every church site reader's dream too. I recently visited a site which spoke about a visit to the place from a band I like. 'Coming next Sunday' the front page proclaimed. So I rang about tickets and getting in to the event and was told, 'Oh yeah, that was last week, we need to change the web!'

Too flipping right (wonder who was daft enough to just turn up assuming the information to be current?).

So that's the 'How' sorted for this one - let's take a look at a site I made earlier. It's the site for Tamworth Street Angels and it's a simple site with a few pages and a private area where members can log in to get documents, leave and see reports from nights on the streets and see roots and the like. The whole thing took a couple of hours to select, get a server (and URL) and upload and it's run seamlessly and painlessly for a couple of years now. This is the sort of site that would serve some of the churches who at the moment have music and unnecessary bells, whistles and stuff, extremely well:

Here's the front page:

Click here to visit site

You can see the menu bar which has the almost mandatory 'About us' link and then there are newsletter, two members only areas - users have a password to access them - and a means of being contacted via the site.

Here's a link to the Wordpress site where you will find some of their 'popular' themes on display. Why not click HERE and have a look at the demos to see what you like. (If you type 'church' into the search box you'll find some other ideas. You can also just type 'church web sites Wordpress' into your search engine and have a play with the offerings there (some are free and others are 'paid for' - agin, you're choice: Find what you like and put a copy onto your machine:

1. find a theme

2. download it to your machine (create a folder and download into to that)

3. get a host (you'll need to tell them you want to host a Wordpress site on it because it needs some techie bits running,

4. upload - add plug ins - add content - assign roles - sit back with brew of choice (mine's tea) and await comments (praying that they are all good).


*Uploading - this means putting the stuff onto the server, usually using and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) utility. You put your user name, password and web name into the thing and this connects to your site and lets you push the information onto the server. Using Wordpress there are upload processes which can be activated and used without the need to purchase additional software though.


JGJ said...

Read it, found someone who has got me a web name, a servers and put the wordpress stuff onto it and have helped me loadup the stuff too and it will be all set for the PCC to discuss on Tuesday.

I haven't been this excited for years.



Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Hii Jon,

Of course I mean it - I may not be able to physically hack code for you but I can point you I the right direction and help you understand what you need to be asking or looking for - glad there's some excitement knocking around for you. Look forward to seeing the site.

Happy Monday,