Telling Your Story: Taking It to the World

We’ve talked about why you need to tell your story, the foundation of your story and creating a story that is clear and unique, and now we want to talk about going beyond your story. Your story shouldn’t stop at your front door, or even your website. It should be connected both to the grand story we are telling together as a Church, and also to all of the stories of everyday life – of struggles and joys, loss and birth, of ordinary meals and chores and fabulous gatherings of friends and feasting. We don’t do ministry for money or fame or even honor or legacy, but to answer the call to life together. And if your story doesn’t connect to other people where they are, why are we telling it?

The story we have to tell has power. We talked about telling an authentic story so people could be drawn toward a community that contains truth and meaning at the center. People are constantly searching for a life that means something. It is why we see people invest in work and things and power, and most often do not find what they are looking for. It is why so many people seek out answers from religious institutions when there is a crisis – we claim to have truth to share. And we shouldn’t wait for a crisis to share that truth. The more we offer our story in ways that touch people’s lives, the more they will seek us out when they are ready to go deeper.

Some of the powerful ways people are telling this story of faith are through short videos, such as the Slate Project creates, tiny audio pieces, like 30 Seconds or Less, blogs, photos, prayers, twitter chats, devotional writing – a million ways to take the things we’re already talking about in our churches, and share them with the world.

Baghdad Paris Beirut picture prayer

Originally posted by The Young Clergy Women Project

One example is a simple picture prayer in response to the attacks in Baghdad, Beirut and Paris within a few days, shared by The Young Clergy Women Project, a Worship Times member. Their mission is to create a community to support young women in ministry, and they have conferences and a private Facebook group that do so, but they also have a blog and a public Facebook page, where they share their words and thoughts with the world. This simple picture prayer went viral because they had built up an audience with their other writing and sharing, and when people went looking for something to speak to so much tragedy, they responded with something meaningful.

The more you are able to reach an audience with the story you are already telling, the more they will want to hear. What are some ways you can share your story with new audiences? How will you meet them where they are with the truth and meaning they seek?

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.

silhouette in reflection, identity

Telling Your Story: Branding and Identity

silhouette in reflection, identityA ministry establishes its identity in telling its story. Your brand is your identity and it’s telling a story. Each ministry has a story to tell. Who are you? What do you do? Why do you do it?

What’s in a brand?

Your image is built on your beliefs, values, character, logo and digital “curb-appeal,” i.e. social media and web presence. How your brand is viewed comes down to content, customer service and messaging, and that includes color schemes, visual elements, font selection/usage, and making sure you have a well-developed message in the first place.

That may seem like a lot, but it all fits together in expressing who you are as a ministry. Your story isn’t just words, it’s color, pictures, and images that reflect who you are and your call in and to the world.

A good place to start in branding and identity is with your mission statement. Don’t have one? Write one. (With proper committee approval, of course.) This will serve as the foundation in everything you do as a ministry. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, but to the point. (A classic: Matthew 28’s Great Commission.)

The next step is identifying who you are through your brand, which is all of those things mentioned up top.

So why do this?

1.     It improves clarity around and understanding of your mission;
2.    It promotes a disciplined approach to ensure that everything your
church does aligns with that mission;
3.    It establishes a clear point as well as a source of inspiration and
information; and
4.     It will leave an impression on visitors.

What does this look like in practice?

Worship Times logoAt Worship Times, our mission is: To serve ministries communicating their message and mission in the world. Like our ministry partners our on-line presence is intended to express our mission clearly. For us, using a liturgical color (green for Ordinary time), our logo graphics, and the pictures and examples on our site represent our commitment to ministries and sharing your stories with effective digital communication solutions.

This is who we are and what we do, and we’ve heard from many of our members that they came to us because our website clearly reflected both our expertise and our understanding of ministry. What a compliment to our branding and identity!

What’s next?

Incorporating your logo, design, color, etc. in your other communications such as Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, etc., is a first step. Making sure your message is consistent and matches the way you tell your story throughout all your communications and how you present yourselves on-line and in person is how you continue to live into and build your brand and identity.

What story are you telling with your website? What does your branding and identity say about your ministry and call in and to the world? How does it share your story and invite others to join in your story?

Worship Times is a Worship Leader Magazine Editor’s Pick for 2015

Worship Leader Magazine 2015 Editor's PickWe are delighted to announce that, for the second year in a row, Worship Times has been named as a 2015 Worship Leader Magazine Editor’s Pick for Web Developer!

Our passion for digital ministry comes from our excitement in working with customers who are passionate about sharing the Gospel through their particular experiences and stories. We couldn’t do what we do without the creativity and love of ministry we see in our members.

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 and other ministries.

In the next year, we will continue to focus on and strengthen our digital ministry solutions for ministries and non-profits. If you are thinking about a new or refreshed website, or a new ministry project using digital media, let us know – we’d love to work with you to make your dreams a reality.

Let us help take your website to the next level, or go beyond your website, and explore:

  • Overall Communication Strategies
  • Digital Outreach
  • Podcasting
  • Social Media
  • Content Creation – Written, Audio, Video
  • Accessibility – How can you be welcoming to all?

And so much more. What are your needs and dreams? We’d love to help.

Thou Shalt Focus on Ministry

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

9th Commandment for Church Websites

Thou shalt focus on ministry

Websites are important, but don’t get caught up in thinking about your website 24/7 or expect one person on your staff to think about them 24/7. (Even full time church webmasters have other things to think about occasionally.) Focus on ministry and people and relationships.

A church’s website should help everything your congregation is doing, not be the focus of unending committee meetings or arguments. Set up a team for your website and other digital communications and trust them.

8. Thou shalt keep they calendar up to date

7. Thou shalt be thoughtful about using social media

6. Thy website is never done

5. Thy website shalt be mobile friendly

4. Thou shalt keep it short

3. Thou shalt use pictures that show thy community in action

2. Thou shalt be on thy website who God is calling thou to be in the world

1. Thou shalt put needed info right up front

Thou shalt keep thy calendar up-to-date

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

8th Commandment for Church Websites

Thou shalt keep thy calendar up-to-date

There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up to worship or another event at the wrong time, especially for visitors. If anything is canceled at the last minute, be sure to send out a cancellation via each way you advertised. If your church changes worship times in the summer, make sure that is noted on your site for a couple of months before the change will happen. Just a couple hours over the course of a month spent double checking and updating dates and times of events on the website can make a big difference. Be sure any Facebook events are updated as well.

7. Thou shalt be thoughtful about using social media

6. Thy website is never done

5. Thy website shalt be mobile friendly

4. Thou shalt keep it short

3. Thou shalt use pictures that show thy community in action

2. Thou shalt be on thy website who God is calling thou to be in the world

1. Thou shalt put needed info right up front

Thou shalt be thoughtful about using social media

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

7th Commandment for Church Websites

Thou shalt be thoughtful about using social media

Social media for churches is different than social media for individuals. You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out all the social media platforms out there. You don’t need to jump on every new form of social media that comes out. Focus on a couple that can really build up the communication between community members like Facebook and Google+.

They key thing to remember is: if your church leadership can’t explain clearly why the church is on a certain social media site, it’s time to re-think how you’re spending your digital energy.

6. Thy website is never done

5. Thy website shalt be mobile friendly

4. Thou shalt keep it short

3. Thou shalt use pictures that show thy community in action

2. Thou shalt be on thy website who God is calling thou to be in the world

1. Thou shalt put needed info right up front

6th Commandment for Church Websites

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

6th Commandment for Church Websites

Thy website is never done

It takes a lot of effort to build a website, and it’s tempting to think it’s done after you launch. Just like your church continues to listen to the Spirit and grow, your website needs to reflect that growth. Regular updates, new pictures, and fresh content are a key part of this. And you may need to occasionally change your design (we can do that, too). Designs go out of style pretty quickly–expect your website to be considered “old” every few years. If you can’t afford a custom website, don’t be afraid to use a nice pre-designed theme or template that can be jazzed up a bit.

5. Thy website shalt be mobile friendly

4. Thou shalt keep it short

3. Thou shalt use pictures that show thy community in action

2. Thou shalt be on thy website who God is calling thou to be in the world

1. Thou shalt put needed info right up front

5th Commandment for Church Websites

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

5th Commandment for Church Websites

Thy website shalt be mobile-friendly

Many people use their phones to access information on-the-go, including looking up churches and worship times. If your website looks great on a computer but doesn’t function on a phone, visitors may pass you up. Many tablets also default to a website’s mobile view. The easiest way to see how your website looks on a phone is to go to the site on your own phone and have a friend who’s never been to the church’s website check it out on their phone to see if the mobile version is visitor friendly.

Each template that Worship Times offers is mobile responsive (meaning the site automatically sees what device someone is using and adjusts to best view for the device), so if you have a Worship Times site your site is mobile-friendly.

4. Thou shalt keep it short

3. Thou shalt use pictures that show thy community in action

2. Thou shalt be on thy website who God is calling thou to be in the world

1. Thou shalt put needed info right up front

4th Commandment for Church Websites

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

 

4th Commandment for Church Websites:

Thou shalt keep it short

It’s tempting to want everything that can be on a website on your website, but it’s better to focus on a few things. Simple, brief, and streamlined is better than cluttered, long, and clunky especially on the homepage.

3. Thou shalt use pictures that show thy community in action

2. Thou shalt be on thy website who God is calling thou to be in the world

1. Thou shalt put needed info right up front