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: 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.

Top 20 Church Website Mistakes

Top 20 Church Website Mistakes

At Worship Times we have seen our fair share of church websites. Not to be cliché (because that is one of the things we are trying to avoid), but we have certainly seen the good, the bad and the ugly of church websites. You want a website that welcomes visitors, is easy to work with and has unique and excellent content without overwhelming users.

We’ve created a free PDF book of the Top 20 Church Website Mistakes.

Get your copy below.

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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.

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.

Top 5 Things Church Visitors Look For: #4 – Staff List

tips and tricks smallWhen visitors are looking for a new church home, they want to know who you are. And yet, we still find that many churches don’t have easily accessible or visible staff lists (we’ll get into showing who you are as a congregation later). Important things for a staff listing are: name, correct title, picture and a brief bio. People want to know who to look for when they get to your church! This includes your church administrators and/or custodial staff who often are not members of the church, but are the face of the church during the week when people might stop by. (Getting administrator photos is often like pulling teeth, but your visitors will appreciate it.)

Worship Times makes it easy to create staff profiles and staff pages:

 

Top 5 Things Church Visitors Look For – A Double Dose

tips and tricks small

Worship Times has been busy lately, and loving it! We’re talking websites, digital communications and branding with many new and current members. So today we’re bringing you two short, helpful videos at once:

 

#2 – Calendar of Events (Events Lists)

Adding unique events lists to pages on your Worship Times site is a simple task that makes your site look quite sophisticated. The events your ministry offers is one of the top things It makes it easy for people to find events they want to attend, and has a number of potential uses:

#3 – Digital Media (Amazon S3)

Some of the things that make your websites pop are photos, videos, podcasts and sermons. But these media files take up a lot of data space if you add them directly to your site, which can slow it down. We recommend that members who plan to offer a lot of great media to their audiences utilize the cheap and abundant data storage offered by Amazon S3 (Worship Times also uses S3 for much of our data storage to keep our site running efficiently). Amazon S3 is a great tool, but can be overwhelming when using it for the first time. We want to make your data storage experience just as smooth as maintaining your Worship Times site, so here we give you a brief tour of adding media to S3, then linking that media to your Worship Times site.

Top 5 Things Visitors Look for on Church Websites: #1- Worship Times

Worship Times – Using Events Manager, Events Lists and Widgets

Welcome to our first Thursday tips and tricks post! We’re starting with the basics – the top 5 things visitors are looking for on church websites. A great refresher on the basics of your Worship Times WordPress site, and going a bit deeper into utilizing our Events Manager, event lists and widgets.

 

stack of old books and lamp on a table

Telling Your Story: How to Do It Well

stack of old books and lamp on a tableThe mission of Christians is clearly laid out in Matthew 28 (paraphrasing): Go, make disciples, baptize, and teach – in all the nations. However, by looking at most church websites you might think the way to follow Jesus is to go to meetings and potlucks and join sewing circles or the choir. Not that any of those things are bad, but so many churches and church websites are focused on who is already in the doors, and forget that there is a whole world of people out there looking for meaning, in the world and their lives, people who may not connect those meetings and potlucks with something bigger – God’s love, hope, caring for the sick, imprisoned or poor, and a rich story.

Additionally, many church websites seem to be telling the same story, rather than showing the beautiful tapestry of communities that celebrate God, share this story and their lives, in a multitude of ways. Not all faith gatherings are alike, and we should celebrate that! People come in a variety of shapes, sizes, learning styles and gifts, and so do our churches. We need to show that there is a place for you, no matter who you are. But if all of our websites look the same, and don’t share the rich life of faith with the world, why would anyone want to join us?

We need to stop thinking about our church websites as a member’s portal. First, your members either already know the information, find it out in person, or are finding things on your site through direct links in newsletter. They already know the lay of the land, and will be able to find what they are looking for quickly in any well-designed site.

Your website is not primarily for members, it is for those you are commissioned to go and seek out in Matthew 28. So when you think of your layout, pictures and organization, think about what communicates your unique story quickly and plainly to people who may not know anything about Jesus. Can people tell who Jesus and his followers are just by looking at your site? We hope so.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Use pictures of your actual members so people know who they might meet at your church.
  • Show pictures of those members doing something meaningful you do together (not something you did once 5 years ago), and not posed for group shots.
  • Use plain language – how would you explain what you do and what you believe to people who have never been to a church?
  • Keep it clean – no, not language, organization. Too many churches think they need to put all the information about all of their beliefs, programs, classes and history on the front page. No! Let people explore your story naturally, and you want them to go deeper into your site. Just make the navigation clear and simple, and they’ll find their way to everything you want them to find. (Likewise, don’t put every page in the site in the menus – that’s overwhelming and confusing.)
  • Do include the most important information on the front page – location, worship times, clear links to directions, education program info and childcare (if you have it, where, who)
  • Be authentic – if you only have one black family in your church, don’t put their pictures all over your website to intimate racial diversity that doesn’t exist. Just be honest about who you are and what you do.

As you look at how to tell your story with your website as your front door and front page, these are important first steps. If you stopped there, you would have a great website. But if you are up for more, there are lots of other great ways to help tell your story, and we’ll talk about more of those next week. Until then, go, make disciples, baptize and tell the story of Jesus in every way you can.