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.

 

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.

The Cost of Neglecting Your Church Website

money-3630_640“We don’t need a website.”

 

“Our website is fine. We just updated it 7 years ago.”

Have you heard this in your ministry or congregation? Have you said it? Too often and for many ministries, your website is the last thing to get attention. Updates become after thoughts on Saturday evening, a dreaded chore. The reality is that your website is your church’s new front door.

And would we just leave an empty space where our front door should be, or leave it hanging off its hinges? 85% of guests will visit your website before they come to the church for the first time. Let’s read that again: 85% of guests will visit the website before they come to the church for the first time. That’s a lot of people.

If you have a bad website without necessary information like your worship times or location, outdated or hard-to-find information, or comic sans font, what does that say?

If you have no website, what does that say?

It speaks volumes.

The real cost of neglecting your church’s website is that you miss an amazing opportunity to reach out and minister to people. A website isn’t just a website. It’s a tool for communication. It’s a tool for evangelism. It’s a tool to connect people. It’s a tool to tell a story and invite people into that story. But only if you use it.  Before we look at the amount of money or time that is invested, we must know the cost to our ministries if we don’t communicate.

Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Let us see the value of our communication ministry with clear eyes, and the real cost to our ministries if we choose to leave our front doors untended.

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.

 

Happy New Year in Scrabble tiles

Telling Your Story: A New Hope

Happy New Year in Scrabble tilesAs we continue to celebrate Christmas, and look toward the new calendar year, this is often a week of reflection – on what happened in the previous year, and what we hope for in the new year. We ponder our successes and misses, and think about how we might be able to shake off old habits that bog us down, and create new habits that will make us healthier, happier, more loving and giving people.

Even if our life is going pretty well, taking time to reflect on what you do well and other areas in which you would like to learn and grow is important. It helps you become even more the person you were created to be, and contribute more awesome to the world. The same is true when it comes to telling our story.

In Christian ministries, we tell a story that is both ancient, but also made new each day through the renewing work of God, especially as we invite new disciples into this work. As Christianity encounters new cultures and new generations, it learns new ways to tell its story. Likewise, our ministries cannot simply continue to tell this ancient story only in familiar ways. For one thing, the ways we worship and tell stories today would certainly not feel familiar to the first Christians.

New Year’s resolutions are about taking on new views and attitudes about life. If we are successful in sticking to our resolutions, we will find ourselves walking with our heads a little higher, our steps a little lighter. As our storytelling changes in our ministries, our ministries will take on new attitudes and new ways of being in the world as well. This is a good time to think about new ways to share those new ways of being in our mission statements, our branding and the face of our ministries shown in social media and websites.

At Worship Times, we are working to keep learning about and developing new digital tools and website themes, too, so we can help you tell your stories in new ways. Even if you are a current Worship Times member, we can help you think about a new look or new storytelling tools as we go into the new year. We love talking about the new things you are trying and excited about, so come chat with us about them!