So, You’re Ready for a New Website: Content

content blog imageA Good Church Website Communicates:

  1. A reflection of who your church is.
  2. Your commitment to communication in various forms.
  3. Your awareness to reach outside your walls.
  4. Ability to generate discussion and connection.
  5. As body language, grammar, and eye contact are to personal communication, a well-designed website is to digital communication.
  6. “Design isn’t just what it looks and feels like, it’s also how it works.” Steve Jobs

What are the things that should be included in our new website?

Here are Worship Times’ Top 11 things people want in your church’s website:

11. Organized Navigation: too many menu items and dropdowns can be overwhelming. Cull what’s not needed and organize!

10. Text, but not too wordy. Do you want to read pages upon pages of text when you visit a website? Neither do your visitors.

9. Audio/Video of sermons. 50% of visitors to a church website downloaded a sermon (it’s a great preview) 80% of first-time church visitors listened to a sermon online before they attended a particular church.

8. Updated information. Your site isn’t vintage. It’s old. Update it.

7. Coordinating colors. Rainbows and neon green don’t look good. Period.

6. Visitor-centric language – Using churchy language or language that’s unique or insider to your congregation or ministry is exclusive. Be inclusive and include information that’s easy to understand for all visitors and members, alike.

5. PICTURES/images. Of people actually in your church/ministry. A picture of the building is nice, put what goes on there? Sharing the life of your church tells a story. Great pictures can tell it well.

4. How to contact someone. Email a staff person. Fill out a contact form. How they call the church. 60% of visitors to a church website couldn’t find the information they were looking for or even a way to find it out!

3. When Worship Services are! It’s amazing how many church websites we’ve visited that didn’t list their worship times, anywhere.

2. YOUR LOCATION! The two indispensable items guests want on a website are address and times of service. It’s that basic!

#1 – A website. It’s 2016, and many churches still don’t have a website. It’s the new front door. 85% of people who are first time visitors to a church visited the website, first. 

What messages need to be included in our church website?

  1. Who are you as a church.
  2. What you offer: for spiritual growth, Christian education, mission and fellowship.
  3. How visitors can benefit from being part of your community.
  4. What you would want to know about the church.
  5. If it doesn’t answer the questions above, get rid of it.
Mouse hovering over the "Settings" option on the WordPress Dashboard menu

So You’re Ready for a New Website: Choosing a Web Company

Choosing the right website company is important in building your new website.

Mouse hovering over the "Settings" option on the WordPress Dashboard menuCost is an important factor in most ministry budgets, but there are other important considerations when choosing a company to build your ministry’s website.

General Website Builders vs. Ministry Specialists

Though we all too often try to treat the church like a business, the church world is just different. Decisions take longer, money is often tighter, and well-intentioned volunteers can’t easily be let go. There are sensitivities not mirrored in the business world. In addition, a company that understands the missions and stories of ministries realizes that a website isn’t just a tool for information. It’s a tool to reach people with THE story, and connect people with the congregation’s call in the world.

This does not mean that a website company that does not specialize in ministry will not understand your needs. Likewise, not every church-based website company will automatically meet your needs. Pay attention to how well the company is able to anticipate or respond to your unique needs. Creative design ideas or solutions come from designers who listen well and ask good questions.

Design

Custom vs. Template-Based: It’s all about having options. Templates often offer quick and simple solutions, which is appealing. However, custom options can offer a range of flexibility that fit the many facets of ministry. Once again, a company that listens to and understands your needs can make the process easier. You may want to use a platform or tools the company simply doesn’t have expertise in or offer. A good website company will be honest about what they can do for you and what they cannot.

Platforms

What is the best platform for your site. Choosing a platform that you understand or that can easily be learned is crucial. Our time is valuable. Learning a new language, be that computer can feel like a foreign language. Whether it’s WordPress, Rails, Joomla, or another, platforms need to meet skill set and needs. Keep in mind, any platform will have a learning curve.

Features: Consider your needs and your user’s experience. Do you want publications or an event management system included in your site? Do you use a specific directory or online giving program that you want to access from your site? Making sure the company you use has the tools you need or can assist you in creating the needed tools is key.

Price

With most ministries, budget is a concern. Finding a company that can work with your budget is important. Remember, you get what you pay for. Cheap websites are often just that. Going with a reputable company that can work with your budget can be more beneficial to your bottom line than the path of least expense. You also want to ask questions up front about additional costs or hidden fees so there won’t be unpleasant surprises down the road.

Being very clear about your needs up front, and what it might cost if you change your mind about particular elements is important – some costs may be included in the initial price, and some may not.

Support

When you need help, help should be there. When looking for a company, ask about their support system and typical response times. Keep in mind some support needs are unique, but response and attention is key.


These are some of the major considerations that go into choosing a website company, but you probably have some specific questions and concerns we haven’t addressed. Make sure any website company you talk to is willing and able to clearly address your questions and concerns in your initial conversations with them. And if you have any other suggestions or questions about the process of choosing the right website company for your ministry’s website, please let us know in the comments.

Tips & Tricks: Facebook Page – How to Add Administrators

tips and tricks smallWe’re going to do some more extensive posts and videos on how to claim, administer and manage your ministry’s Facebook page, but today we’re going to tackle a question we’ve received more than once this week.

Today’s Facebook conundrum: “I’m the administrator on a Facebook page, and I need to add another administrator. And I have no idea where or how to do that.” (How you do this has actually changed over the many iterations of Facebook, so don’t worry if you once knew how to do this, but now it all seems different. It is.)

Before we get started on instructions, one of the important things to remember is that when you add administrators (or other roles – we’ll get into that), they have to be real Facebook members, with real accounts, with real emails. You cannot set a page administrator to be another page or group. Ok, let’s get into it.

1. Go to your ministry’s page, and select ‘Settings’:

fb admin instructions 1

2. Under ‘Settings,’ select ‘Page Roles’:

fb admin instructions 2

3. In ‘Page Roles,’ there is a spot where you can choose other people to administer the page (or other roles – not everyone needs to be an administrator to edit the page):

fb admin instructions 3

4. Enter the name or email of the person you want to add and use the drop-down menu of roles to select the role for that person:

(Must be the email used for that person’s Facebook account. And for most of your ministry pages, this role will likely be Administrator or Editor, but check out the ‘Learn More’ link if you want to find out more about the roles and options.)

fb admin instructions 4

5. Save update. Repeat for each person you want to add.

fb admin instructions 6

 

More on Facebook later, but we hope this is helpful for Facebook page administrators as you think about sharing that work.

Featured Client: Presbytery of Philadelphia

pby of philThe Presbytery of Philadelphia is a long-time member of Worship Times, and we were excited to recently build and launch a brand new site for the presbytery that includes updated design, navigation and other usability features. You might think we get sad when our members start talking about a website facelift, but we actually think it’s great.

We encourage our members to update the look of their sites every couple of years to keep them fresh and working well. Design and web tools change and improve over time, and we want our members to take advantage of new tools that have been created or added since their last updates. Also, we hope your ministries are growing and changing as well, and the website you created three years ago might not fit you anymore.

Our work with the Presbytery of Philadelphia also reflects the kind of relationship we like to have with our members. As the presbytery recognized the need for an updated look, and a website that better highlighted the specific work and mission of their presbytery, they began conversations with Worship Times.

When we work with our members, we appreciate these conversations about what the goals of a particular website need to be, the character of a particular ministry, and the needs of visitors to that ministry’s website. Our goal is to use our own ministry experience and web design skills to translate your ministry’s mission to a website that fits the ministry’s character and is easily accessible and understandable for users. As your ministry needs and mission are grown, updated, or become outdated, we want to continue to be part of those conversations.

The Presbytery of Philadelphia wanted to reorganize their blog, make navigation of their resources for each regional group of churches clearer, and better highlight ministry happening throughout the presbytery, all in a design that flowed from their updated logo and color scheme. The result is clean and user-friendly, and lifts up in new ways their innovative Ministry and Leadership Incubator, the work being done in camp and conference ministry, community outreach and connectional ministries.

Presbyteries do a lot of work, and have a wide audience, so their websites can be complicated. Being able to showcase that work in a beautiful and easy-to-use website is a satisfying job that we are happy to share with you. So, go take a look!

So, You’re Ready for a New Website: Leadership Questions

articulated-male-818202_640So, you are ready for a new website. There are many things to think about in building a new website, so we will be doing a series talking about some different aspects as you prepare to take the next steps.

The first thing you need in place is buy-in from your leadership. If you need help with this, we can give you some good tools to help talk about the need for a new website with your leadership. Once the decision is made to get a new website, the next question will be, who should make the decisions about design, content, etc.

Just as different ministries have different leadership models, they have different ideas about who will make decisions when you are figuring out if and how to build a new website. However decisions are made in your ministry, having a team or committee accompany you through this process and who should be on a team is a big decision. The leadership involved can help or hinder a site build project. Many times our staff are asked, “How long does the process take to build a new site?” Inevitably, the answer is, it depends on you or your team.

Whether you work with a team of people or not, having someone as the project manager is key. This will be the direct link between you and your website builder as we gather the necessary information for your site.

Keep in mind, your point person or website team doesn’t have to have website building experience, but rather it’s best to have people that know your church/ministry, know and understand how to express your vision and mission, are open-minded, know where to find needed information, and can keep the project on task.

 

If you plan to use a team, here are some suggestions on who you should be looking for:

(we recommend keeping it small, three key people is an ideal number)

Communications representative: Knows what tools the church needs and uses to communicate. This can be the admin assistant or communications director or a volunteer that assists with newsletters, updating the site, etc.

A staff member: They know the day-to-day activities of the church or ministry, as well as hold institutional memory about vision and mission.

A visitor or new member: a visitor or new member will be able to point out the things needed that might be overlooked because it is information that you assume “everybody knows” (worship times and locations, parking and nursery info, etc.). They will be able to talk about items that are important to visitors looking for information for the first time, and point out language that might be confusing or “insider baseball” – terminology that long-time members and staff might understand, but wouldn’t be known by new people.

 

Remember to be open-minded, understanding that a website is dynamic, not static, so the decisions you make now about design and content can and should be adapted as your ministry changes and adapts over time – a good website will adapt to the life of the ministry.

 

Tips & Tricks: Recurring Events End-Dates

tips and tricks smallA couple months ago we talked about the ins-and-outs of entering recurring events into Event Manager. There are a lot of great features included in the recurring event option in Event Manager, but there are a few things to remember that we’d like to highlight today:

  1. Recurring Event End Dates
    In Worship Times sites we have limited recurring event end dates to 2 years in the future. “Why is that?” you may ask, “We know worship will always be at the same time, and I’d love to have 10-years worth of worship times in my calendar, so I don’t have to think about it for a while.” Well, there are several reasons:

    • Think about how many events you are adding when you add an event like Sunday worship, which happens every week (and for some of you, more than once every Sunday): At least 52 times per year, which is already over 100 events at the end of two years. Then multiply that by additional services, Sunday School, Choir Rehearsal, etc. – any event that is likely to happen 30-50 times per year. That adds up quickly.
    • The more events you have in your calendar, the more data they take on your website, the slower it gets. Imagine 10 years of events at a busy church, and you are pretty much using all of your data storage on events.
    • That many events loaded into the Event Management system has been known to cause not just slow-downs in loading your site, but other issues, including not being able to edit or delete individual events within the recurring event. This means valuable time lost you could be spending on other things.
  2. Editing Recurring Events
    When you edit a recurring event it creates a bunch of individual events, as mentioned above. When you are editing a recurring event, it is important to remember the following:

    • When you edit a recurring event within the recurring event (rather than in a single event within that series of events), you edit every event attached to that recurring event. There are ways to detach single events from the recurring event, but most of the time this will change every event attached to this recurring event, so:
    • If you have edited single events (with information specific to that date or meeting), editing the recurring event will override those changes.
    • So, try to avoid editing recurring events unless there is a major change, like a change in meeting time or day of the week that will continue into the future.
  3. Renewing Recurring Events (Setting up new recurring events with new end dates.)
    Since you can only set end dates for recurring events to 2 years into the future, you might want to set a reminder near and before that end date, so you can add new versions of those recurring events with new end dates.
  4. Cleaning Up Past Events
    At the time you renew your recurring events is a good time to clean up events that have passed, too. You can filter your events by category, but you can also filter them by whether they are future or past events. To clean up past events, you can filter the individual events, then select the ones you wish to get rid of, and use Bulk Action to send them to the trash. Even when they are in the trash, they are not completely deleted from your site, so if you accidentally trash an event you meant to keep, you can always restore it from the trash until you empty the trash to delete permanently. (Keeping at least a couple calendar months of past events isn’t a bad idea if someone needs to remember a recent meeting or event date.)
  5. Best Practices
    You might want to develop some best practice guidelines around entering individual and recurring events into the Event Manager so if multiple people in your ministry are entering events, or if there is ever a change in volunteer or paid staff, they will know what procedures work best, keeping in mind our tips above.
  6. Remember Worship Times Support!
    If you ever have questions about entering, editing or deleting recurring or single events, we have several ways to get help.

    1. Video Tutorials – Available in the Support section of your Worship Times website Dashboard. (And on worshiptimes.org)
    2. Support Tickets – Send us a Support Ticket, also available in the Support section of your Worship Times website Dashboard. Email us questions, concerns, fears or successes as you create events. We love hearing from you, and we want to help whenever we can.

Featured Client: San Francisco Theological Seminary

from the San Francisco Theological Seminary home pageWorship Times has been working on some exciting projects, and launching beautiful websites for ministries of all shapes and sizes. We love the breadth and depth of the work we get to do and the members we get to work with. Today we are please to announce the launch of the new look for the San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) website. Worship Times has been working closely with our business partners, Poka Yoke Design, and SFTS to design and build a site that fits the needs and style of this wonderful gem of a Presbyterian seminary.

SFTS has been working diligently in the last few years to change the face of theological education offered on their campus – renewing fundraising efforts, launching a Center for Innovation in Ministry, building new student housing to re-center the community and better meet student needs, highlighting their excellent Christian Spirituality program, and creating opportunities to live into the spiritual practices being taught. The collaboration on the new website was centered around the values seen throughout San Francisco Theological Seminary.

We think the new look for the SFTS site well reflects who they are, as we hope to achieve in every project we work on. Our goal is to keep our member ministries’ values, identity and message at the center while providing the highest quality collaborative process, customer service, design and user experience. If you are looking for a web development company to work as partners in the process of building a new site we hope you will consider working with Worship Times.

Featured Client: NEXT Church

next church logoNEXT Church was formed around the questions that have arisen in a turbulent time in the church. Specifically, as the Presbyterian Church (USA) has seen people and churches leaving for other denominations, or no worshipping community at all, anxiety around identity and the future of the churches and people remaining in the denomination have led to conversations and gatherings to address those anxieties and fears head on.

NEXT Church strives not to blow up the church, but look for new answers and new ways of living into the old questions in this ancient faith. Leaders who attend NEXT gatherings and form connections and networks within the NEXT community are looking to form, reform and transform themselves and their communities around the hope found in Christ, an antidote to our anxieties.

NEXT doesn’t seek to stop people from having questions and doubts, but to have fruitful and life-giving conversations about those questions, to reframe answers around hope, instead of fear, and to connect leaders in the PC(USA) who are doing just that.

Worship Times has had the privilege of working alongside NEXT Church as they have grown, asked questions about their own identity, and come up with some interesting answers about where they are, and where they want to go. In the last few months, we have worked closely with NEXT leadership to update their branding and website, to match their renewed understanding of who NEXT Church is, and where NEXT is going. We were excited to be able to reveal the new website and logo to kick off the national gathering happening this week.

We look forward to our continued ministry partnership with NEXT Church, and we are excited to see what new ministry ideas lay ahead for those engaged with their gatherings and conversations. This is the sort of relationship we seek with Worship Times members, and we are blessed to see it happen time and time again. We celebrate NEXT Church’s ministry, and we would love to celebrate with your ministry, too!

The Real Cost of Building a Good Website

 

"Money" spelled out in Scrabble tiles

Picture from StockMonkey

You want a new website for your ministry.

You want a site that’s clean, organized, but also secure and has the tools you need to share the information you need and tell your story.

But now comes the scary part, talking about the cost. We all hate talking about money. And in ministry settings, it seems impolite, even a bit dirty. But the reality is, ministries take money to run, or resources of some kind, and many are not free.

Last week we talked about the costs of having a poor website, or no website at all for your ministry – it’s not about putting butts in pews or having the flashiest promotional material on the web, it’s about telling this beautiful story of faith well. And a good website that is easily updated and used well does cost some money. Worship Times endeavors to use your money wisely with a unique package of tools designed for ministries, as well as a team of people who see our work as not just a quality business, but as supporting ministries in their mission.

On our What’s Included page, we list the great features included in our sites, but we wanted to go a bit deeper into these tools, so you truly understand what’s included in your Worship Times site:

Word Press is an easy to use platform to update and manage your website.  Word Press is open source. Therefore, you’re never locked into WT’s own system. If you are ever dissatisfied, you can take your site, and host it elsewhere.

Gravity Forms: assists in making building forms, registration, surveys, donations, and other forms a breeze. All you have to do is drag and drop!

Backup Buddy: every week your files and data is backed up, zipped, and sent to a separate server on Amazon S3.

Support System: We are always here to help. Our support system is built into your website. You have access to our team. Support is never outsourced.

Learning Center: A video tutorial library is built into your system to assist with every section of your site.

Publications: You can easily add MP3, PDFs, video, and other media to your website. We built a publications tools you can easily add and display sermons, newsletters, Bible studies, meeting minutes, and so much more!

Staff Manager: You can easily add and update staff! Visitors can search for your staff and contact them directly from the website. Sorting by department or ministry team is available. Many ministries use this tool to display their current board or session.

Media: You can display your 3rd party creations. Easily display videos from YouTube and Vimeo, live stream from Ustream, play clips from Hulu, offer directions with Google Maps, take a survey with Poll Daddy, share musical selections with Spotify, and much more!

Social Media: We’ve made it easy to display social media buttons to your favorite accounts.  You can also display feeds from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As new social media is invented, our offerings grow. Our team stays on top of the trends, and updates our offerings to you.

Members Only: With the click of a button, you can restrict certain parts of your website to be viewed only by members who are logged into your website.

Google Analytics: Track your website visitors with the robust Google tools. We use Google Analytics for WordPress by Yoast to tie your website into Google’s program.

StudioPress Themes: Professionally designed premium WordPress themes.  StudioPress developed Genesis which is the industry standard in WordPress designed frameworks. Most of our website solutions begin with a StudioPress theme. Our members have access to our constantly growing design catalog and can switch themes at anytime at no additional cost.

VaultPress: VaultPress is a subscription-based security and backup service for self-hosted WordPress sites. VaultPress is built on the same grid that reliably serves many millions of WordPress.com sites.

Cloud Flare Pro: CloudFlare protects and accelerates your website. Block threats and limit abusive bots and crawlers. CloudFlare-powered website see significant improvements in performance and a decrease in spam and other attacks.

Max CDN: With a content delivery network (CDN) your larger files are spread out over many different servers to vastly speed up your website.

Liquid Web Dedicated Server: Liquid Web is our hosting company with an unwavering dedication to providing the best hosting product available. We use a dedicated quad –core box with upgrades for security and speed.

This sounds great, but what’s it cost. (We understand church budgets. 😉

 

Cost Comparison:

To match us you’d spend, $8,017.95 in your first year, and $7, 549.00 in following years (without any upgrades or site design changes)

To use the middle ground on your own: $2,629.95 your first year and $2,161.00 in following years.

To use the cheap path on your own: $2,208. 95 your first year and $1, 740.00 in following years.

With Worship Times, your standard package is $1063 in the first year, and $564 in following years. That includes unlimited theme changes on your own and a once-a-year change of theme with assistance from our staff.

Worship Times, not only saves you money, where in most ministry and non-profit budgets every penny counts. Worship Times saves time. We help set you up, and train you to make the most out of your website. Your time is precious. Ignoring the site is not an option. Our self-updating calendars, event management system, and scheduled posts help you stay on top of  those communications tasks that often take a back seat to other needs.

So, come talk to us about your website needs, we want to hear your story.

Top 5 Things Church Visitors Look For: #5 – Content

tips and tricks smallNow that we’ve talked about the importance of worship times, events and calendars, staff pages and media, what else are people looking for on your ministry’s website? Content, of course – this includes pictures and other important information about locations and times of Sunday School, the nursery, youth group, Bible studies, mission projects and office hours, of course, but it also is about the words that connect that information.

No one wants to go to your website and simply find bulleted lists of information – times, dates, locations and titles – but they also do not want to read a book. You need to weave the facts into an interesting, but easily accessible story. (This includes your church history, even if your church is 500 years old.)

Studies have shown that most people will be on your website for less than a minute, though if your content is compelling, they will stay for more. If they get to the page about women’s ministries, and it is ten paragraphs about the history of the women’s auxiliary started in 1911, no one is reading that. What’s more, they probably won’t look at other pages on your site, either.

A good rule of thumb is to either keep your written content to “above-the-fold” – only the amount where people on a laptop won’t have to scroll down (a little is ok), or make it so interesting that people will want to read on and on (this is a rare page, indeed).

Do: Make sure important information, especially dates and times, are clearly indicated.

Do: Tell a story, your story, just make it short and engaging.

Do: Use pictures that clearly illustrate the main subject of the page (the bell choir playing music, not posing for a group photo).

Do: Add links for partner ministry and mission organizations listed, and a brief description of what they do, and how you work with them. (Brief!)

Do: Hire an editor and/or a photographer to make sure you have the content you need. Remember, like we talked about recently, this is the front door to your ministry. People are looking to connect to something meaningful, so give them something meaningful to dive into.

And, if you need some suggestions or pointers, we know a lot about this stuff, so ask us! We really love helping people tell their stories in new and meaningful ways.