Case Study: First Presbyterian Church of Ramsey

Ministry

First Presbyterian Church of Ramsey (Ramsey, NJ)

Challenge

A new website solution that also integrated with their church management software (CMS).

Details

First Presbyterian Church of Ramsey (FPC, Ramsey) wanted a new website, updating both the platform and the look. They also wanted to retain their CMS because they liked the robust capabilities it offered.

They had been using the website platform offered by the company that created and managed their CMS because the two could be fully integrated. This allowed members to access and edit their profiles, online giving, RSVP and pay for special events, and sign up for volunteer opportunities, all from the church website.

FPC, Ramsey, asked Worship Times to look into:

  1. A Worship Times website solution that would a) be more user friendly for the website administrators, and b) update the overall look and feel of the website theme and aesthetics.
  2. A Worship Times website solution that would integrate with their CMS.
  3. If a full integration with a Worship Times site and their CMS was not possible, to work with FPC, Ramsey, to come up with an alternative plan.

Worship Times Solution

Worship Times recommended a new Worship Times website, Breeze as a new CMS platform and developed a Breeze plug-in to integrate desired features into the website.

How We Got There

FPC, Ramsey, chose the Joyful theme because it had an intuitive and connective flow that would be friendly for their majority older congregation.

As Worship Times and FPC, Ramsey, were looking at their previous CMS to assess whether it would integrate with the new Worship Times site, the CMS made some big changes. They discontinued their SMS (Short Message Service/texting), which eliminated an communication tool important to FPC, Ramsey. Because of the elimination of this key feature and the difficulty of integration, FPC, Ramsey, chose to look at other CMS solutions, and Worship Times recommended Breeze, which is a great fit for the needs of many Worship Times members.

Worship Times then developed a WordPress plug-in for Breeze to meet the integration needs of FPC, Ramsey. This plug-in is available to all Worship Times members, included in their websites.

Next steps

There are more integration features that Worship Times is working to add to our Breeze plug-in, including booking and paying for special event tickets and online volunteer sign-ups directly through Worship Times and other WordPress sites using the plug-in. Stay tuned!

Announcing a New Breeze Plug-in for WordPress

Yesterday we talked about why we have been recommending Breeze as a church management software (CMS) solution for our members. We like how Breeze incorporates the most important elements of a database, event management and financial tracking system (with integrations with Quickbooks), and yet is still simple to use. Our members value user-friendly technology, and so do we!

In order to make the information in Breeze even more user friendly for your church or ministry members, we built a Breeze plug-in for WordPress. This plug-in is available for all WordPress sites, but is also included with your Worship Times membership.

As we said, CMS solutions do not just track how many people came to church on Sunday morning, but can assist in tracking giving, event registrations and payments and signing up volunteers. This plug-in helps you do that directly on your website, and display important information about those things to your members.

Here is a quick video that demonstrates how easy it is to connect your WordPress site to the information in your Breeze database. You’ll notice that it is similar to adding pictures, videos or event lists, which you are already familiar with from editing your Worship Times site and our other training videos.

Church Management Software and a New Plug-in!

One of the most frequent questions we have heard from members and prospective members in the last year is about church databases or church management software (CMS). Specifically, people are looking for web-based solutions that will also integrate with their websites.

Tracking membership, giving and attendance at the very least are not just about counting butts in seats, but about making sure we are attending to all of our members as we do ministry. Even the smallest churches keep track of these numbers in some form, if not a whole software database.

Church management systems can also assist you in organizing classes and groups of volunteers, event calendars and registration, outreach through directed email, texts and mailings, and more. Not all systems have the same features, but most have included these features as churches recognize that they needed an integrated system that covered all of these functions.

Churches looking at new CMS solutions today want web-based systems where members can more easily access and update their information online. Church administrators and pastors can also pull up this information if they are away from the office and need it.

Capterra has a great run-down of the top church management software products. If you are looking for a new church management system, this is a great resource.

There are a lot of fantastic products out there, but for members who are looking for a CMS option that also integrates well with their websites, we have been recommending Breeze. Worship Times strives to provide ministries with user-friendly, affordable website solutions, and Breeze fits this model as well.

Worship Times members value ease in usability, and both the Capterra review and this comparative review from Breeze show how Breeze gets top marks in that area. Breeze compares well to even more powerful systems because it integrates well with programs like Quickbooks that many churches use and like for financial tracking. Several of our members have already chosen to move to Breeze.

With this in mind, we have developed a Breeze plug-in for WordPress that will more smoothly integrate your website and database, and make it easier to access for church members.

Check out how our Breeze plug-in will work to integrate Breeze into your WordPress website.

Announcing a New WordPress Plugin in Partnership With sermon.net

Black computer keyboard with a 'Connect' key in place of the 'Enter' keyChurches often see new technology as a problem to be solved, or an obstacle to overcome to get on with “real” ministry. Worship Times and sermon.net were created by people who are excited by the opportunities in new forms of technology for deepening ministry and faith, and wanted to share their excitement and knowledge with others.

Even with the advent of website and podcasting platforms that can be more easily understood and used, these technologies can be intimidating for people not using them every day. And that’s where companies like sermon.net and Worship Times come in. Working with people who both understand the technology and are enthusiastic about helping you use it makes all the difference.

It only makes sense that two companies doing parallel work to help churches and ministries would end up working together to create a powerful new tool.

Worship Times uses WordPress, the most popular website platform in the world[1], as the basis for their websites, creating themes and tools specifically designed for the work of ministry. At the same time sermon.net built a powerful network of tools allowing churches and ministries to upload, store, deliver and livestream audio and video content (and more) efficiently and easily without a huge cost.

sermon.net has offered some unique ways to connect to their tools and apps through both PC and mobile technology, but had not yet developed a plug-in specifically for WordPress. As Worship Times began to look into the best ways to help their members connect their sermon.net content to their own websites, we were impressed with the work that sermon.net has done and continues to do. We wanted to make it even easier for our members to use sermon.net services and tools, so we decided to develop our own WordPress plug-in, along with the technical support of sermon.net developers.

Working with sermon.net has been a fun and productive collaboration. It is good to meet and work with partners who share the same goals and values, and who can help you improve what you do. We consistently seek to work with such partners when we are able, to be able to offer the best tools to our members, and to further the work of their ministries.

This plug-in will be available to any Worship Times members who are using or would like to use sermon.net services, which you can read about and sign up for at sermon.net. This plug-in is also available to sermon.net users with WordPress sites not on the Worship Times network.

May your Advent and Christmas seasons also be filled with fruitful and meaningful work with good partners and new friends.

[1] About 27% of websites worldwide use WordPress (up from 25% a year ago – https://w3techs.com).

Worship Times: Worship Leader Magazine Editor’s Pick for 2016

bestofbug-2016-200For the third year in a row, Worship Times has been named Worship Leader Magazine Editor’s Pick for Digital Worship Resources: Web Development!

Meeting the digital needs of ministries and non-profits is our call and passion. We love helping our members discover new ways to communicate and improve upon existing ones. We help ministries tell their story and share their work and call in the world.

Being chosen again as an Editor’s Pick by Worship Leader Magazine reaffirms our commitment to the work we do together, and energizes us for future collaborations with churches, ministries, and non-profits.

We thank our members for the confidence and trust they put in us and allowing us to accompany them in ministry.

Black computer keyboard with a 'Connect' key in place of the 'Enter' key

Summer Review: Accessibility

This week, we are honored to hear from a guest author, the Rev. Laura Bratton, about the importance of making your websites accessible to those with different physical and mental abilities. Rev. Bratton is a coach and consultant who works with people to face difficult situations with courage, as well as a Worship Times member. You can find out more about Rev. Bratton’s work on her website, Ubi Global, and you can find out more about reviewing and improving the accessibility of your website through the links she has provided at the end of her post.


Black computer keyboard with a 'Connect' key in place of the 'Enter' keyIs your website accessible to people with disabilities? Typically this question is not at the top of our list of things to do. As churches, ministries, and nonprofits, we often strive to make our buildings accessible. What about our websites? It is true that only a small percentage of the people going to our website will have a disability. Yet what a powerful message we can send when even our website is accessible. A message that indeed all people are welcome and included!

As a person who is blind, accessible websites are the only way I can navigate the internet. The wonderful advancements of technology have allowed me and other people with disabilities the opportunity to have the same access to information. Through the use of a screen reader, such as Apple Voice Over, I am able to navigate the computer and internet. Both personally and professionally I use the internet constantly. When I come across a website that is not accessible, I am quickly frustrated. It means that I have to wait until someone can describe the website to me and help me navigate the site.

There are many resources that are available to help make websites accessible. Below are three links to help you create a website that is user friendly to all people. Thank you for your effort to have an accessible website so that everyone can use it equally.

https://webaccess.berkeley.edu/resources/tips/web-accessibility

http://www.w3.org/WAI/gettingstarted/Overview.html

http://www.afb.org/info/accessibility/creating-accessible-websites/23

-Laura Bratton

Summer Review: New Theme?

door-672999_640Fall 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.

If you are a Worship Times member, changing themes is simple. At any time you want to do the updates yourself, you have the ability to change the theme, and you can see our theme options on our design page, and in your dashboard under Appearance-Themes.

changing themes

However, most of our members are, understandably, a little squeamish about changing themes on their own. The good news for them 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. Most of our members forget that option, but it is a great little feature of working with us.

This is especially helpful if you are updating your website incrementally – many ministries update their websites as they are doing discernment about the future. As they complete that process they may find that the original theme they chose doesn’t quite fit new vision or identity. No problem! 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, which is pretty simple with our help.

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!

Summer Review: Organization

website organizationFollowing up on last week’s post, we are talking about doing some website review and cleanup as we close out the summer. Last week we talked about getting rid of old and outdates information and photos, and this week we want to talk about your website’s organization.

Many people don’t think much about how their website is organized once the initial design and build is complete, and the website is launched. However, like any system, as people use it, you will find places that your organization doesn’t make much sense, or is overwhelming. Websites are dynamic, and sites built on WordPress, like Worship Times sites, are meant to be changed easily. If something isn’t working, rearrange!

Some things to think about for menus:

  • Does the menu make sense – does the order flow in the way you would expect if you were visiting another church or ministry’s website?
  • Do you need all the menu items you currently have? Clutter is overwhelming, can you move page links to header pages instead? You do not need to list every page in the site on the menu.
  • Is there anything glaring missing? (Like staff pages or your calendar.)
  • Are your menu items clear? Do they use common, rather than insider language, i.e. would anyone outside your membership know what they mean?
  • Do you have sub-menus? This goes back to the clutter issue, and sub-menus are not always as mobile-friendly as your main menu.

Some things to think about for general organization:

  • If you have programs or events mentioned in several places, are they linked in those places?
  • Check your menu and in-page links to make sure they are all working. If not, you may have lost a link in a previous re-organization, or you may just need to freshen up the link.
  • Look at content on individual pages. If there is a lot of information on one page, you can add separate pages for programs/items listed on that page that link back to that page, but don’t also need to be listed on the menu. You could also insert a summary, with a link to “Read More Here,” if they are interested (especially for history page).
  • Additional pages do not need to be added to your menu (this applies to the previous point as well as any new pages you add for new programs, events, forms, etc.) Do link them on the appropriate pages but, once again, not everything needs to be on the menu.

Some things to think about for layout:

  • Are your pictures the right size and in the right locations?
  • Do any of your front page widgets need updating? Information, size, display? If they don’t make sense as they are, you might think about trying them in new locations. If you have a place for sermons that never got uploaded, delete or replace it with another widget.
  • Look at styling – header sizes, bold and italics – on different pages. Do they look proportional? Are the bold and italicized items necessary, or do they detract from the look of your pages?

That’s enough to think about to get started. It’s also good to get fresh eyes on your site – ask other staff and members for their input as well as friends or neighbors who may not use your site often or at all. They may be able to spot problematic areas that you can’t see by working on the site more often. You don’t need to make every change other people suggest (there definitely can be too many cooks in the kitchen), but you can get an idea of places you might want to look at updating your organization for the best user experience.

And if you need a refresher about how to edit your menu(s), add or edit links, customizing your front page and other widget areas, or other tasks, our tutorial videos are always there to help you out.

Summer Review: Old Stuff, New Stuff

broomsAs the rate of support requests increases at Worship Times, we can tell summer is winding down for our member ministries. Vacations are ending, Fall programs kick-offs are on the horizon, and people are looking to clean up their websites. This is a perfect time to kick off our end-of-summer blog series on reviewing your websites.

Perhaps you have a dedicated staff member or volunteer who keeps your website up-to-date on a weekly or monthly basis. But even if you do, there are some things it is good to do on a yearly basis to keep your site looking fresh and welcoming.

The biggest thing we see when we review church websites is old information or pictures. Even if you are updating your announcements, events and sermon media each week, you may not be looking at many of the other pages in your site that often. This is a great time to take a deep dive to see if anything needs to be updated, deleted or added. Staff pages, education and mission pages, long-term events are all areas to check out to update bios, pictures, meeting places and times, curriculum information, etc.

Pay attention to the pictures throughout the site. If you are using pictures of children, especially, ones that are a couple years old are already severely out-of-date. Preschoolers are now 3rd-graders, 3rd-graders are middle schoolers, and your confirmation class could be in college.

If you have any new staff, new classes, new sermon series or new members, you want people to know about them. Make sure you are not hiding these things under a bushel basket, but let them shine!

One more thing, if you have any new staff or volunteers working on your website, or any staff or volunteer changes that affect the website, and who we need to contact at your ministry, please let us know. We want to update our own records, and offer any assistance we can as people get familiarized with your Worship Times website.

Simply looking at these areas of your website once a year will prevent old information from confusing visitors, or causing them to think that your programs are as outdated as your website. A quick look once a year can save a lot of work down the road.

Next week: Let’s look at organization.

Featured Client: St. John Lutheran Church, Wallis TX

St. John Lutheran Church in Wallis, TX, is a small church in a small town southwest of Houston, TX. Like many of the Lutheran churches in small Texas towns, they are made up of some longtime residents and generations of families, and they are getting older. No one would be surprised to learn they didn’t have a website – why would they? Everyone knew each other, and could easily get the church and family news they needed.

Wallis isn’t changing fast, but it is on the edge of one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States. And for new people moving in, how will they know about churches in the area if they can’t find them on the internet? (Yes, even out in the country people check your website before they visit.) With a new pastor, and a new spirit for sharing their story, along with a synod-wide push for churches to share those stories online so people could find welcoming communities, St. John decided to take the plunge, and asked Worship Times to help them.

st john wallis front pageIt is always fun to work with members who are excited not just for a new website, but to try new things, learn new things, and working with St. John was a treat. In addition to getting excited about new tools and a great way to share their community, they were one of the first churches to go with one of our newer themes we just added this year, Atmosphere, which has become one of our most asked-for themes. It is bright and clean, and makes telling the story of your ministry simple.

St. John also added a Facebook page at the same time, and jumped right into being social on social media.

Worship Times has helped other churches get their first websites, and it is always fun when ministries are excited by new tools and platforms to share who they are, but our work with St. John epitomizes the joy in what we do. If you want to work with a team that truly loves both what we do and what you do, call us!