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Digital Ministry With Worship Times

“If you had three Communications positions, what would they be?” – from a recent post in a Facebook group for church communicators.

Sometimes we just need a little help from our friends

Three? 3! We love that churches that have the money are spending it on good communication ministry that seeks to reach out beyond their own congregation and Christian circles. However, most ministries can’t afford to hire even a part-time digital minister or communications director. Many denominations are also struggling to afford to hire people who are technically savvy, theologically grounded, and literate in both Bible and practical church matters.

This is exactly why Worship Times was started – to give ministries great websites and easy access to social media tools at an affordable price.

As the needs of our members grew, so did our ministry. Our members started to dream big, and with that the number of our offerings grew too. The only issue was finding the church staff hours to maintain the work required by adding these extra offerings. This became our new challenge, not only help our members build new platforms but also help them maintain it with a team of dedicated staff.

What can Worship Times help you do?

  • Add special features to your website – payment options, member databases, event registrations and bookings, etc.
  • Set up social media accounts – Facebook pages and groups, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, other social media platforms that haven’t been invented yet
  • Create a newsletter or other template on MailChimp, Constant Contact, or other mailing program
  • Maintain updates to your website
  • Maintain updates to your social media
  • Write blog posts
  • Copy editing
  • Create and send newsletters
  • Develop comprehensive digital ministry strategies
  • Create social media and website graphics to promote events, liturgical seasons, or programs

Ministry Partners

When you partner with Worship Times, you don’t just get tech geeks who speak programming, or social media, you get a partner in ministry that understands that Holy Week and Advent is incredibly important and busy, understand working with committees, and that change in the life of a religious organization can be scary. You also partner with theological nerds who can come up with great scripture passages that fit your Advent theme, and can update a website while using Facebook. You partner with a ministry with experience, education and skills in both of these worlds, and combine them with communication ministry expertise.

But most of all, Worship Times has a deep love for the work of ministry, and what makes it unique. We are partners in that work and call, not as contract labor. Whether we are just building your website, or you have a full digital ministry relationship with us, we work with you, not just for you.

Some of our digital ministry partners are: Bedford Presbyterian Church, Young Clergy Women International, Newark Presbytery, Foothills Presbytery, LEAD.

Are you interested in a digital ministry partnership with Worship Times? Let us know!

The Front Page: The New Front Door

The front door of a church tells you a lot about the distinctive identity of the faith community. It’s the first impression people have of your church. For example, a carved oak door on an two hundred year church speaks to its history. But when a church’s front doors aren’t well marked or are in poor condition, what does that say to a first time guest? It’s not friendly or welcoming. It’s confusing and intimidating.

The new front door for churches that makes a first impression on potential visitors is your website’s front page.

Many potential visitors will check out your website before considering attending a worship service. Some will be looking for details like what denomination your church is a part of. Some will be seeing what mission you’re involved in. Some will be looking for a vibrant youth group. But if your front page is cluttered or difficult to navigate, you’re going to lose a lot of potential visitors.

Phone Book

A conversation with a millennial employee.

Many churches advertise their services and events around their town. You may hang up posters in the local coffee shops before an open mike night. You may have a booth at the local spring festival. You may pay for yellow page ads in the phone book or the newspaper.

There are good reasons why you may want to re-think using your church’s budget for things like traditional print ads. To the left is a conversation between our Worship Times’ owner Michael and a millennial-aged employee. You may hear a lot about the millennial generation “killing off” things like mass-produced beers or the paper napkin industry. What do these things have in common with your local phone book? Millennials aren’t the only ones who see them as wasteful and unnecessary.

Likewise, millennials aren’t the only ones who almost exclusively use the internet to search for a new church, and check out a church’s website before they visit, regardless of where they heard about you.

“I want to see a congregation’s identity on the front page,” this employee said. “And don’t just tell me–show me!” Research shows you only have a few seconds to capture people’s attention on your website.

Make sure your church’s personality and mission can be seen within the first few seconds. High resolution photos and clear, concise writing go a long way to making your new front door seem open and inviting.

If we do not want our churches to become like phone books or paper napkins – useful, but unnecessary, we need to regularly attend to our front doors. What do you want your front doors to show the world?

Get Started With A New Website

Worship Times: Some Reflections from the PC(USA) General Assembly in Portland

A month ago, Worship Times flew home from the 222nd PC(USA) General Assembly in Portland, OR, tired but delighted. We were able to speak to hundreds of people, many of whom are longtime members we have only met by phone or email that we finally got to meet in person.

There were many highlights from our conversations over the week we were visiting with the Presbyterians (well, this branch of the Presbys, at least), but our favorite conversations were the ones that started with, “Do you need help with your website?” Which often prompted this expression:

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“Yes! We really do. Tell us more.”

We are blessed to be in a business that helps people. And doesn’t just help people, but helps people be faithful in the world, and share that faith with others. Throughout the year we get to speak to many people on the phone, and by email, and we love these conversations, but there is nothing like seeing that relief and joy in someone’s face when they find out that we can help them do what they do better, more easily.

The PC(USA) General Assembly isn’t the only denominational gathering we have gone to, but, so far, it’s the largest. Each time we go to one of these gatherings, it gives us the opportunity to have conversations that often range far beyond websites. We were able to provide a place for people to take a break, charge their devices, and just chat about their lives, their ministries, their passions for their work and the world. Though there is some cynicism present in any large church gathering, for the most part, the people who participate, from commissioners to denominational leaders to volunteers to observers to students to people representing organizations throughout the church – mission, camp and conferences, affinity groups – are passionate about this mission we share together, even when we disagree. And we got to hear their stories. Your stories. And think together about how we can help tell those stories.

The work that happens at large church gatherings are just a beginning, or continuation, of the work. Worship Times is currently hard at work following up on all of the conversations we started in Portland, and building on deeper conversations we were able to have with current members.

If you have the opportunity to take part of the larger conversations your churches or denominations are having, take part! Sometimes we get isolated from each other in our little corners of the world, and we need to be reminded that we are not in this alone. We never have been.

Blessings and gratitude for all of you,
Worship Times Team

 

**If you think Worship Times should be at your denominational gathering, please comment below, or send us a note. We can’t be at everything, but if it fits, we would love to be there. Please include dates and contact info for organizers.

We also have done trainings with regional church bodies and leadership organizations. If you are interested in booking Worship Times for a deeper look at websites and church communications, we’d be happy to talk to you about that, too.**

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.

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.

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

Worship Times named Editor’s Pick

EditorsPick_2014_200Worship Leader Magazine has named Worship Times as one of its 2014 Editor’s Pick for web development.

Worship Times is a team of congregational leaders, and we are honored to be featured in this trusted resource for congregational leaders. Several team members have seminary degrees. Owner Michael Gyura credits a particularly memorable class in seminary as the moment when the idea for Worship Times was born: easy-to-use websites for congregations by congregational leaders who understand the challenges facing the church today.

We know designing a website can be a challenge, and we offer multiple themed templates that are easy to customize to your church’s unique identity.

We know that assessing your current website can be a challenge, and we offer a free website review where one of our talented team members will help you figure out what you’d like to see changed.

We know budget is a challenge, and we offer several options for pricing. If you’re a smaller church or church plant, we will make sure that Worship Times is affordable for your community. (Contact us for more.)

We know that congregational leaders have stressed schedules, and we offer multiple ways to get your questions answered to fit those schedules.

We know that technology in church can be a challenge, and we write an ongoing blog related to those issues.

We know visualizing your site with a Worship Times template can be a challenge, and we offer a 30 day free trial.

We’re here to help you. Questions? Comments? Want to get in touch? You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can email us or use this contact form or call us at (888) 442-8731.

About Our Community

This post was originally published as part of WordCamp Nashville (2014), which Worship Times sponsored.

missionsOur community includes a variety of groups from small churches to large nonprofit organizations.

Some have been established for hundreds of years, and some are just starting out. Some just need the basics. They wanted a simple website that highlights the most important information about the church.

Some members of our community, like the First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, want a traditional look with a compelling platform to be able to share their ministry with their worshiping and local communities. We also pitched in to provide high quality photography.

And some groups just need something specialized like LEAD–a non-profit focused on church leadership development. They needed a site to that combined the 4 colors representing the 4 main areas they work in in order to showcase the resources they have for all these areas without having an overcrowded or over-complicated website. We made a colorful but distinct homepage and Pinterest-style boxes on their resource pages so that users can quickly scan for all the info they need.

Working with Worship Times is joining a community. We’re pretty active on Twitter joining in conversations and linking to useful resources. All members of our community are encouraged to jump in on conversations, ask questions, and share ideas. The combined creativity of our community and our staff inspires us to constantly do things we’ve never done before.

Together our community helps small churches and big nonprofits and every kind of ministry in between. We know the pressures of 21st century ministry at the small church level, the big nonprofit level, and lots in between. We have the skills to handle any size job. But at the end of the day this is a ministry for us to support the ministries of others.

Take a look at our designs (we have some new ones!) and the features we offer for your website, and if you’d like to join our community contact us.