The Front Page: The New Front Door

The front door of a church tells you a lot about the distinctive identity of the faith community. It’s the first impression people have of your church. For example, a carved oak door on an two hundred year church speaks to its history. But when a church’s front doors aren’t well marked or are in poor condition, what does that say to a first time guest? It’s not friendly or welcoming. It’s confusing and intimidating.

The new front door for churches that makes a first impression on potential visitors is your website’s front page.

Many potential visitors will check out your website before considering attending a worship service. Some will be looking for details like what denomination your church is a part of. Some will be seeing what mission you’re involved in. Some will be looking for a vibrant youth group. But if your front page is cluttered or difficult to navigate, you’re going to lose a lot of potential visitors.

Phone Book

A conversation with a millennial employee.

Many churches advertise their services and events around their town. You may hang up posters in the local coffee shops before an open mike night. You may have a booth at the local spring festival. You may pay for yellow page ads in the phone book or the newspaper.

There are good reasons why you may want to re-think using your church’s budget for things like traditional print ads. To the left is a conversation between our Worship Times’ owner Michael and a millennial-aged employee. You may hear a lot about the millennial generation “killing off” things like mass-produced beers or the paper napkin industry. What do these things have in common with your local phone book? Millennials aren’t the only ones who see them as wasteful and unnecessary.

Likewise, millennials aren’t the only ones who almost exclusively use the internet to search for a new church, and check out a church’s website before they visit, regardless of where they heard about you.

“I want to see a congregation’s identity on the front page,” this employee said. “And don’t just tell me–show me!” Research shows you only have a few seconds to capture people’s attention on your website.

Make sure your church’s personality and mission can be seen within the first few seconds. High resolution photos and clear, concise writing go a long way to making your new front door seem open and inviting.

If we do not want our churches to become like phone books or paper napkins – useful, but unnecessary, we need to regularly attend to our front doors. What do you want your front doors to show the world?

Get Started With A New Website

Make a Plan!

Churches know that they need to have websites, be on social media and share their faith in new ways. So, they do that. Get a website. Get a Facebook page. Get a Twitter account. Get an Instagram account. Get a Snapchat account. Delete the Snapchat account because your youth groan when you mention it. Then we…just go for it. Right?

We spend so much time planning out our worship, our Sunday School curriculum, even who will light the candles during Advent. But we just jump into communicating with the world with no plan just because we know we need to be out there? How would that go if we did worship that way? Even if we plan to open up our worship practices with more spontaneity and on-the-spot prayer, song choices, etc., we still make a plan so that we know what message we want to focus on, and where we want to end up together as a congregation.

Communication should be the same way. We need to think about what messages we want people to hear from us, and how we want them to interact and respond to those messages. Just as in the rest of church life, we have to make some sort of plan. It doesn’t need to be rigid, but making a plan helps you be creative and spontaneous because you aren’t always scrambling to figure out what to say, how to say it and who to say it to.

Start simple. Know who you are and who your audience is, and post pictures and other content that is true to those identities. Use the content you have – pictures that show your ministry in action, sermons, lessons, quotes from the Scripture readings for the week. Consider the time and energy you have available to create quality content, and how often you might be able to produce new content or repurpose older content.

Once you have an idea of your resources, write it all down – what you want to say, to which audience, and how often you can do that. If that means posting a sermon excerpt and a picture on Facebook every week, then start there.

Just because you could have a blog and be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and on, doesn’t mean that you can or should do all of those things. Figure out what makes sense for your ministry and central message and audience. Use the media that fits those the best.

At Worship Times, we use a spreadsheet to keep our blog and social media posting calendar straight, but you could use a simple monthly calendar, a text document, sticky notes, or whatever works best to keep yourself organized. Whatever you use, just do it. Create a plan, and try it out. You can always change and adapt it as you see how it works, or your needs change.

Make a plan.

Summer Review: Time for a New Theme?

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Fall in the United States typically comes with some standard themes – changing colors in the trees, cooler temperatures (in the Southern part of the U.S. it changes from unbearable heat to comfortable), and the standard school year begins. Even where there are no fall leaves or sweaters coming out of summer storage, new clothes and school supplies are purchased. Long after we are out of school, or perhaps our children are out of school, there is a feeling of longing for new things, a new look, perhaps.

Just as spring brings an urge to clean out our closets and dust the corners we only get at rarely, in the fall we are often seeking out new things, new projects. And as you are reviewing your website, you may want a new look for that as well.

There are lots of ways you can give your website a makeover. We’ve talked about cleaning up old information, replacing old pictures and making sure your website is organized in a way that is inviting and makes sense to visitors. With many website platforms and themes, you have the opportunity to move elements around on the home page and other pages in the site, to change fonts and heading sizes, all of which can update the look and feel of your site. But, what about changing the theme altogether?

With many platforms, this may be as easy as clicking a button, then making sure to adjust for different element areas and sizes. With some platforms, it may require actually moving content. You may need to pay an additional fee for a change or upgrade. If you are planning to simply change the look of your website with the same website provider or platform, you should check to see what that will require.

The Benefit of Worship Times Membership

If you are a Worship Times member, changing themes is simple. First, take a new look at our Divine Designs page – we regularly update our theme options to keep them fresh and up-to-date. Once you choose one or a few themes, use a support ticket to connect with Worship Times, and we will connect with you about updating your theme.

 

You can update your Worship Times theme at any time, and make any adjustments needed yourself. However, most of our members are, understandably, a little squeamish about making those updates on their own. The good news is that with your Worship Times membership comes the option for Worship Times to do a theme update for you up to once a year. Many of our members forget that option, but it is a great benefit of working with Worship Times.

Many ministries update their websites as they are doing discernment about the future. They may start with a theme that is perfect your current mission and community, and as they evolve they find it no longer fits. If you find that your theme no longer fits your identity, we’re happy to help figure out which theme is a better fit at this point, and help make that update.

Never be afraid to ask us about a new theme. It doesn’t hurt our feelings when people want a new look for their site, and our intention is that your website doesn’t get stale. The industry standard for a particular look for a website is around three years. If you get to that point with your particular theme, we’ll start nudging you to look at an update, anyway.

So, as you do your website reviews, keep the overall look in mind as well as the structure and content. And let us know if you are ready for an update!

Facebook Pages: Intermediate, Part 2

Yesterday we explored some new ways to use and organize your Facebook page. Now, let’s look at how to tell how your page is reaching people.

Action Button

You don’t want visitors to just come and look at your Facebook page, you want them to do something while they are there. With the Action Button, you can send them to your website, have them sign up for a class or special event, or participate in a fundraiser. If you are designated as a non-profit pages you have the option of creating a donation button. You can confirm your status in your page settings.

 

Page Insights

Page Insights show you how your page is performing, week to week, month to month, etc. You can see overall page performance as well as details on specific posts, how people are using your page, who your page is reaching, and more. Insights can help you figure out what type of posts work best for your audience, as well as the best days and times of day to post.  Numbers aren’t everything, but the point of social media is to be social and interact, and your page statistics can tell you how well you are doing.

Next Steps

Learning to use your Facebook page well is all about trying, seeing what works, and making adjustments to improve interaction and engagement. Even the most expert social media professionals are constantly evolving their Facebook strategy.

Try some different types of posts, experiment with ads, and add an action button. Let us know what gets the most engagement, and what you tried that didn’t work, but you’d love to adjust and try again.

Facebook Pages: Intermediate, Part 1

Posts

Last month we discussed the basics of getting and maintaining a Facebook page for your ministry. We included tips about the dos and don’ts of Facebook posts. Let’s explore some of the features of your Facebook page that will help make your page a center of engagement with your audience.

Post Types

Did you know that there are more types of posts than just simple text, links or media, like photos and videos? You can also create an ad, event, survey, write a note and more. Try out different types of posts – you never know what might reach people in new ways.

Post Settings

One of the features that is unique to Facebook pages is the ability to schedule posts or create draft posts that you can come back to at a later time to revise and schedule. Click on the arrow next to the “Publish” button in order to use these features. You can also backdate posts, which might be useful for past events you want to add to your timeline.

Publishing Tools

In the publishing tools area you will find your scheduled and draft posts, if you need to edit them. There are a few other unique tools you can check out to help you with video, forms and unique advertising (Canvas).

Page Settings 

There are several items you can adjust in your page settings to create a page environment that fits your ministry. Most of the settings you will use will be in the “General” settings area – who can comment or post on your page, whether your reviews are turned on or off, and more.

Edit Page

Editing your page allows you to rearrange, add and delete elements on your page to highlight the information most relevant to your audience and make them easily accessible. In this section, you can try out different templates and adjust the tabs displayed. Tabs are found on the left sidebar in the current standard page template.

Next Steps

Try out some different post types, take a look at your page layout, and stay tuned for part 2 (tomorrow), where we’ll look into some tools to measure how you are doing.

 

Case Study: North American Association for the Catechumenate

Ministry

Journey to Baptismal Living/North American Association for the Catechumenate (NAAC)

Challenge

A complete rebranding, including a new website, logo, name and focus.

Details

The North American Association for the Catechumenate was formed in 1993 as a part of an internationally renewed interest in adult Christian education for new Christians preparing for baptism.

While ‘catechumenate’ precisely describes the mission of NAAC, most people have difficultly pronouncing ‘catechumenate,’ much less have a familiarity with the term. A catechumen is someone preparing for baptism, so the idea was to simply state that in the name, message and design of the new logo and website.

Worship Times Solution

A new website with a clean, updated design and UX (User Experience), incorporating the new name, logo and look.

The new website does not eliminate the familiar name of NAAC, but properly centers Journey to Baptismal Living as the main mission of NAAC. This allows the new name to be implanted in the popular conscience while retaining the connection to NAAC’s familiar name and roots.

How We Got There

The key to the kind of total rebranding that NAAC was hoping for is a smooth transition. If we completely eliminated the NAAC branding, it could be confusing instead of enlightening and engaging. NAAC and Worship Times worked together to reduce the prominence of the NAAC name in the design, yet incorporated it seamlessly into the new branding.

With their logo update, we are drawn into life-giving water and introduced to the mission of Journey to Baptismal Living. The colors and design evoke a sense of calm, water, and journey in soft and calming tones. ‘North American Association for the Catechumenate’ is incorporated into the logo without detracting from the main message.

Their color scheme continues through the site, incorporating the various shades of blue with images from their training events, conferences and participating ministries.

We also designed a map that connects those seeking more information with the different locations, settings and denominational affiliations using these baptismal preparation programs.

Next steps

Worship Times is working with NAAC to consult about a social media strategy that will continue to expand their new brand identity and re-focused message.

A new website is often just one part of updating a ministry’s communication strategy, re-branding and/or identity efforts. Worship Times has the tools and experience to accompany your ministry with projects that range from a simple logo or website updates to a full rebranding to helping ministries explore new missions and identities. If you are considering a change, big or small, we’d love to see how we can work together to meet your needs.

Worship Times Features: Hidden Gems

When we hand off a newly built Worship Times site to a member, we offer a run-through of the site’s Dashboard, the tools you will use in editing and adding to your site. One of the most important areas of the Dashboard we highlight is our custom Worship Times area.

There are four sub-items under the Worship Times area, labeled Worship Times, Support Center, Learning Center and Social Media Settings.

The sub-item labeled Worship Times is where we enter the name and contact information for your ministry. The email listed here will be the default email listed in your contact information and in forms settings. If your name, address, phone number or main email change, this is where you will update it. Note: You will want to change this in your local SEO settings, as well.

Social Media Settings is where one enters any social media accounts to list on the site. (Take a look – there are quite a few possibilities!)

Those are important tools, but the Support and Learning centers are the real hidden gems.

With the Support Center, you always have direct access to Worship Times support. It is the most efficient way to contact us, and we are happy to answer any question you have about your site. Do you have a question about creating a form? Did a page accidentally get deleted? Perhaps you just need to reach out to a friendly Worship Times employee to say, “Hi!” We are here to help, and the Support Center feature helps us keep track of your questions, and resolve any issues quickly.

The Learning Center has a series of video tutorials to help accomplish needed tasks on your Worship Times site. We know most of our members are not spending all day building and maintaining WordPress websites. Our short (2-7 minutes each) tutorial videos will help you master the tools available in your Worship Times site. They are always available in your Dashboard, and we continue to add to our tutorial videos collection.

Next Steps

Look through these custom Worship Times features, and try them out. Learn a new skill with a tutorial video, and put it in practice. You can even send us a note in the Support Center to let us know what you tried!

Quick Fix: Resizing Pictures

The correct size and shape of pictures will help a website looking great. If you have a Worship Times site, this especially applies for pictures included in the staff and slider plug-ins, and if you are using featured pages and posts.

WordPress does include some simple cropping tools for your pictures. However, it is easier and less frustrating to edit your pictures prior to loading them to your site.

Helpful Tools

There are a variety of tools you can use to edit your pictures. Most computer operating systems include a simple picture viewer and editor. Adobe Photoshop provides a powerful set of editing tools that can assist not only with simple cropping, but also in color correction and beyond.

Online picture editing programs are available to upload pictures from your desktop and offer the tools to accomplish everything from cropping a picture to creating fliers and graphics for your organization are available. We have used and recommend PicMonkey, Snappa and Canva. All offer free versions with some great basic tools, as well as upgrades to increase services and options.

We encourage you to try out different tools to see which one best fit your needs and comfort level.

Try It Out

Let us use the example of adding a staff photo to your site to illustrate best practices as you edit and add pictures to your site.

Note: It is helpful to know that all picture measurements in WordPress will be noted in pixels, so we will also use pixel measurements in our example.

Here is a sample staff picture (you are not always going to have professional pictures to use):

The standard size for pictures for the Worship Times’ staff plug-in is 125 pixels wide by 145 pixels tall (dimensions for sliders and featured pictures can be found in slider and theme settings). If you let WordPress automatically crop the staff photo, it might look like this:

To better control the look and consistency of your pictures, we recommend:

  1. Start with a larger version of your pictures.
    (Like the sample photo above, much larger than 125×145 pixels.)
  2. Crop the pictures to have consistent framing.
    However you crop your pictures, consistency between the pictures is key. How you do your initial crop will also depend on the size and shape of your pictures – you may not have as much room to play with as our original picture. If your crop doesn’t work, simply undo and begin again.

    For sliders, it’s best to crop out unnecessary space that takes away from the main focus of the picture.

  3. Resize your pictures.
    In this case, we resized to the correct width for the staff picture, because we know we have extra length we will crop out in the final crop.

  4. Do a final crop to your desired size.

You can use this technique to crop any pictures for your site.

Note: Regardless if you use the recommended 125×145 pixels, make sure ALL pictures for staff pages are the same size. This created a uniform page and alignment.

Now you are ready to upload your staff pictures to your Worship Times site!

ABC’s of WordPress with Worship Times: Pages, part 2

Yesterday we re-introduced you to Pages, and how to enter basic content on your WordPress site. Today we will look at the additional tools you can use to build beautiful pages throughout your site.

Your page content and format is the main way you will distinguish your pages from others on the internet, and even others within your website.

Extra Tools:

WordPress has some additional tools built into their sites, as well as Worship Times plug-ins that can help you create a great page.

With the ‘Add Media’ tool, you can not only add individual pictures, picture galleries, video or pdf documents from your Media Library, but upload pictures from your computer, and more. You can add event lists from the Event Manager, and embed videos, calendars and social media content directly from other websites and platforms:

Other tools are available to help you add forms and picture sliders you have created in your site as well as maps, location addresses and office hours. Explore these tools, and see all the things they can do as you make your pages unique and welcoming to your website visitors.

Helpful Hint: We recommend adding and editing your text content before adding in media, forms, maps, etc., for ease of editing.

Visual vs. Text

You may notice as you’re editing that you are editing in the Visual editor of the content box:

What is the text editor, and do you need to worry about it? The text editor displays code that assists in building your page. You will almost never need to look at or worry about that tab in your content box. BUT, you might accidentally click on it and see a bunch of code. You can always click back over to the Visual tab, and see the view you are used to.

One more note on the content box: Because the fonts and font styles are unique to your theme, the layout of the content box will not look exactly like the actual page. If you look at the actual page, and want to move text or pictures, or change headers size or styles, you can always go back into the page’s editor and make those changes quickly.

Screen Options

You will notice that there are other boxes with options for your page. For most pages, you will not need to do anything with these options, but we will introduce you to them briefly. If you can’t see some of the available tools, you can find them in the screen options for the editing section, and choose which sections you want to see or hide:

Page Attributes:

There are two main options within Page Attributes that you will use. Parent pages indicate whether the page you are creating is a “child” page to another page in the site. For instance, you might have a main ministry page, and list pages for specific ministries as child pages.

Example: “About Us” would be a parent page. “Our Staff” would be a child page of “About Us”

Templates determine the type of page that will appear to your site’s visitors. You can create blog, blog archive and landing pages as well as the typical pages that will make up most of your site’s content. The best way to see what each template looks like is to test them out.

Page Layout:

With the page layout settings, you can easily change the look of a page. For most themes, the options are a right sidebar, a left sidebar or no sidebar. Some themes have more layout options. You can use these options as it makes sense in different parts of your site.

Featured Image:

Featured images can be added to pages you intend to use as featured pages in a widget section on your home page, landing page or in a sidebar.

Yoast SEO:

SEO, “search engine optimization,” is how your site and individual pages and posts within your site show up in search engines. We will address this further in a future post, but we encourage you to spend some time learning about SEO, and how this plug-in can optimize your site’s search appearances. There are some great posts on SEO on the internet, and you can explore the Yoast plug-in on your own to discover some of its tools, as well.

 

Next Steps:

Have fun! If you haven’t spent much time exploring the tools in your WordPress Pages section, try them out! Create a test page, and play around with adding different types of content, editing, different headers, page templates and layouts. Plot out a potential content layout, and enjoy the creative options.

 

 

*Most blogs on WordPress-based sites utilize ‘Posts’ rather than ‘Pages.’ Look for future information on Posts, why you use them to build a blog, and other uses for Posts.

ABC’s of WordPress with Worship Times: Pages, part 1

Periodic refreshers are helpful from time to time. These how-to can be a help to remind, encourage and instruct WordPress users as they work on their sites.

Pages

Pages are the basic building blocks of your WordPress site. Unless your site’s overall focus is a blog*, most of your content will be contained on pages.

This displays what you see when you add a new page (labels are courtesy of Worship Times):

Page Title:

You can change this later, but the original page title gets incorporated into the page url (web address), so if this is a page for an annual event, like Vacation Bible School, you might consider naming it the more general name, ‘Vacation Bible School,’ rather than ‘Vacation Bible School 2017.’

Once you publish your page, the permalink url will appear under this title bar:

Content Box:

The content box has several parts. The editor or main box is where content is added. This includes text, pictures, forms, maps, etc. The tool bars above the editor or content box help you add content.

 

Main tool bar:

When you first log in to your WordPress site, and open a page (or post*) you will likely see only the top line of the main tool bar. You can make the second line visible by clicking on the Toolbar Toggle option.

You will notice most of the tools are similar to a basic word processing program. You do not have the option of choosing exact font size, but the drop-down menu in the upper left of the tool bar does allow you to choose whether your text is Paragraph, or one of the Heading sizes and styles built into your particular WordPress theme. This is both to streamline your choices, and to help you create a web site that is easy on the eye, without a mishmash of fonts and font sizes.

Another unique WordPress tool is the quotation option – where you can highlight a section of text within your page by selecting it and choosing the quotation option. This will set apart the selected text from the rest of your text, often with indentation and a separate font style.

You can add links within your pages by selecting the link text and choosing the little chain link icon, and entering the url into the address bar:

You can also select the gear on the right of the url box to choose more options, including linking to other pages within your site:

You can learn what each of the other tools in the tool bar are by scrolling over them with your cursor. We encourage you to  explore the different headings and tools to discover what each of them can accomplish.

Preview, Publish and Update

The publishing box, located in the upper right corner of your page editor has helpful tools for you to know about, and one very important function that you will use on every page you create:

Regarding the appearance of your page, you can preview your newly created page (this will open a new window – to continue to edit, go back to the original tab or window), or any future edits before you publish your page, using the ‘Preview’ option, which will open a new tab or window with a page preview. You can then simply close that window or tab when you are done with the preview, and continue working in the editing section of your original window or tab.

When you are ready to publish, you will need to click on the ‘Publish’ button (the text will change to ‘Update’ once you have published the page) to make it live on your website.

Note: Simply publishing your page will not automatically add it to your site’s menu. If you want the page to appear on your site’s menu, you will need to go to your menu options under ‘Appearance’ in the main WordPress Dashboard.

There are a few other tools within the publishing box that are not used as often, such as Visibility – whether your page is public, private (only people who can log in to your website can see it), or password-protected, publishing schedule (can set it to publish in the future), and some other information about the page status and search engine optimization (SEO).

Now you have the tools to publish a basic page. Tomorrow we’ll cover more important tools offered in WordPress Pages to create a unique and welcoming website.

 

*Most blogs on WordPress-based sites utilize ‘Posts’ rather than ‘Pages.’ Look for future information on Posts, why you use them to build a blog, and other uses for Posts.