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    Best Practices! - Entries tagged "Church Communications"

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    MonMondayMayMay20th2013 Thoughts About 'Dangerous: A Go-to Guide for Church Communication' I just finished reading Dangerous: A Go-to Guide for Church Communication. It's a concise (by that I mean short) read from various professionals in the area of church communications. It gives some basics on the who, what, how and when of communications. I enjoyed it as it confirms a lot of what we discuss with churches. We now have a resource to share with churches and ministries if they want to dig a little deeper on the topic without getting overwhelmed. Clocking in at 89 pages, it doesn't take long to read it cover to cover.

    Here are some thoughts and quotes that were worth sharing from the book.

    I always suggest that churches start off with what they are capable of doing. Our websites have lots of features available and when you add the social media layer on top, it can quickly overwhelm you. This book confirms that.

    "We little guys are no megachurch. We’re not ready to tweet and blog and podcast. So start small. Make one steady, consistent, maintainable improvement at a time. Baby steps to the website. Baby steps to bulletins without typos. Baby steps to ditching clipart. Aim for incremental improvements. Good communication is like a light guiding you in the darkness: It can’t flare up and fade out, it has to burn slow and steady through the night."

    Looking at the church website as the central hub of all communication is another way to state this.

    "Your website should always be the most trusted source of information. Then all other media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) should point to that content."

    Couldn't say it any better myself.

    "The most important element about reaching your online audience is engagement."

    The next quote discusses announcement slides and bulletin news and announcement. There is no reason it couldn't apply to a church website. Sometimes I suggest that churches should celebrate what has happened at the church more than talking about what it coming up. Past events are more interesting and worth sharing. It will help create engagement.

    "There are important updates that need to be communicated. But they’re not everything. Your church has the greatest story ever told. Are you telling that gospel story in your communications or are you talking about diapers in the nursery?"

    Similar to the above idea.

    "Put people and their stories before events and their details. Stories are engaging. Don’t just talk about reading the Bible, tell stories about how it changes people"

    Have you read the book yet? What did you think? 

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    TueTuesdayAprApril30th2013 What Should a Giving Page Look Like on a Church Website?

    According to the website internetworldstats.com, 79% of the North American population is considered an internet user. The United States alone claims to have 78.1% of it's population online. 

    This simple statistic tells me two things:
    1. You had better have a good website for your church!
    2. The people in your pews are online and it's important to make online giving an option.
    Utilizing a church website to help answer questions about giving and provide opportunities for online giving is essential. A question we get often is "what should a giving page look like on our church website?"

    money

    While researching this article I came across a great article at billygraham.org that answered the following question.

    Q: Why do churches keep asking for money all the time? Frankly, it turns me off and I think it does the same to lots of others. If people want to give that's fine, but I don't think they ought to be talked into giving money.

    A: The Bible says we should give because we want to, and "not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).

    At the same time, churches and other ministries need money to operate; to be blunt, if they don't have any, they'll go out of existence. Even Jesus' little band of disciples had a treasurer, and the Bible mentions several women who "were helping to support them out of their own means" (Luke 8:3). In our own ministry, we have always tried to make people aware of the opportunities we have before us, and encourage them to support us if God leads them to do so.


    In the answer he suggests that they are "trying to make people aware of opportunities we have before us, and encourage them to support us if God leads them to do so." This is exactly what I propose an online giving page should do. I couldn't say it any better myself.

    The giving page (like every page on your site) should be simple and concise. First, provide an opening statement reminding the site visitor of the importance of giving. Something like this from First Baptist Church Elgin is a great example.

    "It is through the generous financial gifts and offerings of God's people that we are able to spread the Gospel throughout Elgin and the World. We are committed to faithful stewardship of all that God would entrust to us. We have the privilege of partnering with God’s work in the World by using our gifts and resources through the local church."

    The online giving page shouldn't be used to "preach" at the site visitor. It's safe to assume that a site visitor who views the giving page is a church member or regular attender who has already made the decision to give. It's probably not a page that's getting visited much by the casual site browser thinking of attending your church.

    Second, outline the various methods of giving. Be sure to include, along with the option to give online, other methods of giving. Wheaton Bible Church has setup a great page outlining what giving looks like for them. WBC talks about stock gifts, personal property, and "in memory" gifts among many other opportunities available. If your church offers other options for giving besides check and credit cards, be sure to share it. Church members may not even be aware of their options.

    If there is a give link on your website, whether it's in the main menu or as a prominent button/call to action, try and avoid linking directly to an online form. Some sort of in-between page outlining giving and providing some context will help ensure a good experience for the giver. Be sure to let them know that all giving is safe, secure, and confidential.

    Lastly, I'll leave you with the best example of an online giving page I've seen at a church. The page to view is by New Spring Church. Here is what they do that works:
    • They have a great video on why to give. This acts as an opening statement.
    • They are transparent in the fact that they provide an annual report. The giver knows where the money is going.
    • They answer frequently asked questions. It's detailed and helpful.
    • They offer financial coaching. Maybe you want to give but can't, they will help you. Awesome.
    • They outline how to give.
    All this is clearly outlined and displayed on one simple page.

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    TueTuesdayAprApril23rd2013 Church Communication Strategy: Why Have One? The website for a church can be looked at as the central hub for all communications. Events, news, sermons, and blog entries are all added to the website and disseminated to email newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media platforms the church uses. When creating a strategy for how this might work, the church has three main questions to answer:
    1. Who are we communicating to?
    2. How will we communicate?
    3. When will we communicate?
    Prior to launching a new online presence, especially building a new website, it's important to have these questions answered. This article will help identify how to apply a communication strategy to a church website and overall online presence. It is healthy to look at this broader and ensure that everything from welcome slides to bulletins to printed communications are addressed with the strategy. Even something like the chuches branding should be addressed when building an overall communication strategy.

    communication

    Who are we communicating to?

    Most chuches will say that they are intending for the website to communicate to existing members of the church congregation and perspective members. So, they are trying to reach everyone. From the analytics we study, roughly 50% of hits to our server are first time website visitors and 50% are returning. 67% of those visitors stay on the website for less than one minute. With that number, I propose that the homepage, the most important page, of a website has a strong focus on communicating to the new website visitors. The new person who is researching and thinking about attending on a Sunday morning. Allow the homepage to set the tone of the church. Just placing upcoming events, some graphics to announce those and the churches address may not be enough. Remember, 67% of visitors stay for less than one minute. In fact, 50% stay for less than 10 seconds. The time you have is limited, wasting it on having the person decide to make a click to dig deeper into the site might be losing site visitors.

    How will we communicate?

    With the iMinistries CMS there are many avenues to communicate though. Examples include:
    • Events
    • News
    • Sermons
    • Newsletters
    • Blogs
    Most churches jump on board and want to utilize all of iMinistries' features right away. We have churches with over 10,000 weekly attenders that have a full staff dedicated to updating a website and church plants with less than 100 weekly attenders and one staff member, the pastor. These two churches will communicate much differently and much of that has to do with resources. It takes time and some dedication to keep a website updated. I haven't even addressed social media yet! My suggestion is to identify what's important to communicate and ensure that you have time to do it through the methods that make the most sense. If you are a church of 100, don't try and communicate like a multi-campus ministry such as Harvest Bible Chapel communicates. Create a strategy that works for you.

    When will we communicate?

    Creating a schedule and realistic expectations for when communication will occur is often overlooked. These expectations will help determine what you communicate. Try and determine what the availability is and create consistency so that website visitors know what to expect. Then stick to it. A church with a dedicated staff needs to evaluate this just as much as the church plant with only the pastor updating the website. Erratic and inconsistent communications should be avoided. A big part of creating an online presence is consistent communication. Keeping the online community aware of your existence and reminding them often of who you are is important.

    Resources


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    WedWednesdayAprApril10th2013 Google Analytics Infographics for Churches
    byDavid Pohlmeier Tagged Church Communications 0 comments Add comment
    A few days ago we posted an article discussing what kind of attendance and web traffic churches receive in the weeks prior to Easter. Today, I was introduced to a great new tool from visual.ly that creates an infographic of the last week of statistics from a Google Analytics account. Below, you'll find one that I ran for all the church websites hosted by iMinistries.

    It's interesting to see the major dip in the stats from the week prior to Easter.



    Create your own infographic.

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    ThuThursdayAprApril4th2013 Website Traffic and Church Attendance Prior to Easter: What Does it Look Like? Eric Smith, the resident web and social media specialist at Wheaton Bible Church asked me an interesting question the other day.

    "I'm looking at our analytics around Easter time and comparing it to previous years. Do you know the percentage of increase the average church website sees around Easter time/Holy Week or other information similar?"


    I didn't know. We monitor the traffic on our server through Google Analytics and I looked into his question and discovered some interesting results. I also talked with Jason Poland, the executive pastor at First Baptist Elgin (my home church) about the churches attendance numbers for the three weeks leading up to Easter Sunday.



    How the numbers break down.


    Easter Sunday 2013 - March 31st
    • March 25, 2013 to March 31, 2013 had 64,232 unique visitors. 45.27% of those were new visitors.
    • March 18, 2013 to March 24, 2013 had 49,891 unique visitors. 43.40% of those were new visitors.
    • March 11, 2013 to March 17, 2013 had 48,601 unique visitors. 42.63% of those were new visitors.
    Weekly attendance numbers at First Baptist Church Elgin 
    • March 31, 2013 had 550 adults in attendance.
    • March 24 1, 2013 had 354 adults in attendance.
    • March 17, 2013 had 295 adults in attendance.


    Easter Sunday 2012 - April 8th

    • April 2, 2012 to April 8, 2013 had 56,557 unique visitors. 46.23% of those were new visitors.
    • March 26, 2012 to April 1, 2012 had 43,967 unique visitors. 47.41% of those were new visitors. 
    • March 19, 2012 to March 25, 2012 had 39,331 unique visitors. 46.10% of those were new visitors. 
    Weekly attendance numbers at First Baptist Church Elgin 
    • April 8, 2012 had 587 adults in attendance.
    • April 1, 2012 had 332 adults in attendance.
    • March 25, 2012 had 312 adults in attendance.


    This exercise brought interesting results for me. I expected to see a higher percentage of new website visitors. I assume that most churches would like to see that number increase significantly, too. There was an increase but it's just not as dramatic as I would expect. The numbers do tell me that attendance increases significantly, at least at the church I attend. I could also tell by the church across the street from FBC that they experience a significant attendance increase on Easter Sunday.

    1. Is that what you experienced at your church?
    2. What do these numbers say to you?
    3. Can anything be done differently next year at your church?
     
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    WedWednesdayMarMarch6th2013 Denomination Name in Church Branding
    byDavid Pohlmeier Tagged Church Communications 0 comments Add comment
    I shared a link on Twitter recently and something about it really stuck with me and I thought it would be helpful to highlight a few items here on our blog. The article asks the question, "Should Protestant churches include or exclude a reference to their denomination in the church name?"

    Church Messages #2

     I think about this all the time when working with churches. I've even suggested not using the word church as it's not needed when using the denomination name. Why call yourself First Baptist Church when you could simply go by First Baptist and I'm assuming everyone would know you are a church? The Baptist in the name clearly identifies that.

    It's interesting to learn what that word Baptist means to individuals.

    Here are my biggest takeaways from the research that was done. Taken directly from the original article by Grey Matter Research.
    • When a church does not reference its denomination in the church name, unchurched people tend to see that church as less formal, rigid, and old-fashioned, but this also makes them feel more uncertain and wonder whether the church is trying to hide its beliefs.
    • When people see a church with a denominational reference in its name, they are over four times more likely to perceive that church as formal than if it has no such reference.
    • Denominational references are also three times more likely to make people see that church as old-fashioned, and almost three times more likely to make them feel it is structured and rigid
    • Including a denominational reference is more than twice as likely to help people feel the church is honest.
    • Excluding a denominational reference is more than twice as likely to give people feelings of uncertainty, and almost five times more likely to lead to thoughts that the church may be trying to hide what they believe.
    • People who attend a denominational Protestant church believe (by a margin of 33% to 20%) that a church with its denomination in its name would be more welcoming to visitors. But the unchurched, by a very similar margin, have exactly the opposite perception (30% to 19%).
    • People already attending a denominational Protestant church say they’re more likely to consider a church with the denomination in its name (39% to 23%).  But among the unchurched, it’s a split decision, with 24% opting for the denominational name, and 20% preferring a church without a denominational reference.
    • People age 65 and older are especially likely to see non-denominational names as the church trying to hide what they believe (55% to 3%) and as making them feel uncertain (51% to 7%), as well as to see denominational names as welcoming new visitors (38% to 18%) and as a church they might consider visiting (48% to 14%).
    • On the other hand, adults under the age of 35 are much more divided over this issue.  For instance, while they agree with older adults that non-denominational names are more likely to make them feel uncertain, the split is only 34% to 22%, and it’s noteworthy that 22% say a denominational reference is what would be more likely to make them feel more uncertain.  Younger adults are also more likely to see non-denominational names as welcoming to new visitors (36%, versus 27% who say this about denominational names), as a church for people like them (27% to 18%), or as one they might consider visiting (27% to 19%).
    I know that I'll refer back to this study when helping brand a church and I hope churches take this study into consideration.


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    MonMondayJanJanuary28th2013 Rotator/Carousel Interaction Analysis Church website administrators love to use carousels. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find any website that doesn't feature some sort of rotating image carousel. We even base most of our designs here at iMinistries around them since we know churches love to use them. Have you ever wondered how effective they are? It's often the most prominent feature on a churches website. Is it actually being used by site visitors? One designer who manages the websites for Notre Dame University monitored the usage and gathered some interesting results.

    First, let's get some terminology straightened out. In the aforementioned article, it referes to the feature as a carousel. In the iMinistries church CMS, we refer to this feature as a rotator. 

    Highlights from the article:
    • The average number of clicks was between 1.7% and 2.3% on the carousel.
    • The first position/slide received 48%-62% of clicks.
    • The most evenly distributed percentage of clicks was with carousels using the least amount of images.
    • The carousel with the most clicks, had the least amount of images (3).
    • The site they tested that received the most clicks to the carousel was static. (This means it didn't cycle to the next slide automatically.)
    The article summarized the finding nicely. "First, if they’re [the client] going to insist on a carousel, they need to include compelling content that not only entices users to click, but can get their attention in the first place. Second, I might suggest keeping the number of features to a maximum of four (or better yet, three), as it appears that as the number of features increases, the click-throughs on sub-features decreases dramatically."

    So much can be taken out of articles like this. Obviously, each website is different and each audience is different. Churches need to be sure that the content in the carousel is well designed and is meaningful to the site visitor.

    For further reading on this topic, check out these two articles:


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    MonMondayAugAugust6th2012 Half of Churches Never Blog: Should You? [STUDY]

    In a recent survey by Buzzplant, a Christian digital advertising agency, they found that around half of the churches they contacted never blog.

    Some other interesting findings:

    • 51% of churches said that a least one of their senior staff regularly blogs or updates social media.
    • 67% of churches that blog update 1-2 times per week.
    • 33% of churches that blog update 3+ times per week.

    View the full infographic on churches and social media by Buzzplant.


    Should Your Church Blog?


    With so many church marketing and tech experts (including us) saying churches should blog, who is in the right? Should you spend precious time and energy posting entries on a blog? Here are five reasons your church should have and regularly update a blog.

    1. Blogs connect with a desirable audience.
    The type of person who read blogs regularly are more web saavy, have passion and initiative, and are seeking the next level in engagement. You want to connect with these people.

    2. Blogs provide fresh content.
    New content means a reason for people to keep coming back to your website.

    3. Blogs are conversational.
    Blogs allow for comments which allows your visitors to interact with you and share their voice.

    4. Blogs are a gateway to your website's other content.
    Link to other entries, feature stories, or upcoming events.

    5. Search engines love blogs.
    Websites with constantly updating content get more "street cred" from search engines.

    Learn more about the benefits of blogging >>


    Do You Blog?


    If you already regularly post entries on a blog, what fruits have you seen from you efforts? Leave your stories in the comments.

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    MonMondayJulJuly23rd2012 What Pages are Viewed Most on Church Websites? [INFOGRAPHIC] Have you ever wondered what pages are viewed most on a church websites? iMinistries hosts hundreds of websites which get millions of pageviews, so I hopped onto Google Analytics and reviewed our data.

    The Process
    I searched for the types of pages that most churches on our system have on their website, identify a key word in that title, and then see how many unique pageviews those pages with a particular word or phrase received over a 6 month period.

    Examples:
    • I'm New/New Here - it would be listed as just New Here
    • What we Believe/Beliefs - it wold be listed as What we Believe
    • Statement/Statement of Faith - it would be listed as just Statement
    The reason for choosing unique pageviews is to see what visitors looked at the first time they checked out your site. Since we just wrote a post on what should be on an "I'm New" page, I wanted some numbers that might help churches decide what to show. This might also help evaluate what's most important to display on your home page.

    First impressions are everything. You had better make it a memorable one.


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    WedWednesdayJunJune20th2012 Internet Usage for Religious Purposes [INFOGRAPHIC]
    byDavid Pohlmeier Tagged Church Communications 4 comments Add comment
    A recent study from Grey Matter Research and Consulting compiled statistics on how Americans use the internet for religious purposes. "The sample of 1,011 online adults is accurate to within ±3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.

    "The study was conducted in all 50 states. Respondents’ age, education, household income, geography, racial/ethnic background, Internet use, and gender were carefully tracked and weighted to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy."

    We here at iMinistries thought the information was interesting and decided to create an infographic with the results. Rather than detailing everything, we chose a few of the topics we felt gave the best overall viewpoint of the results.

    What's Up With Evangelicals?

    I found it interesting that overall, Evangelicals claim to attend church more and use the Internet for more religious purposes. I've been trying to come up with a reason for that but I've got nothing. Anyone have a hypothesis as to why this is? I have some generalizations based on my own life experience with my family and friends but it is by no means backed by any known research or knowledge. Are Evangelicals more susceptible to the "Hawthorne Effect," saying something because they know they are part of a study and they know this is what the "Christian world-view" expects of them?



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    MonMondayAprApril23rd2012 5 Blogs Every Church Website Administrator Should Read We all look for inspiration and advice from people smarter than us. For people who create websites, the challenge is finding which of the many "experts" are everything they claim. Good news -- we've done that work for you. Here are five blogs and online magazines you should start reading today.


    1. Katya's Non-Profit Marketing Blog

    www.nonprofitmarketingblog.com
    This blog from Katya Andreson, Chief Strategist for online giving platform Network for Good, drops a lot of knowledge in her regular posts. Entries give insight on how to market your non-profit to your regular supporters, as well as people just discovering you. She explains how to communicate your mission through telling stories of those you've impacted personally. She also shares ways to increase online giving, and promotes books and other resources on marketing trends.

    Favorite recent post:
    The Five Words That Made Women Give 20% More


    2. UX Magazine

    www.uxmagazine.com
    You won't find any fluff on this preeminent online magazine about User Experience (UX). Each article is deep, challenging, and full of information on website user behavior and how to make your website user friendly. Diverse writers provide a broad array of viewpoints, from the psychology of UX design to why storytelling is important. If you want to make your website users happy (you do, don't you?), UX Magazine is invaluable.

    Favorite recent post:
    Five Popular Web Strategies That Don't Work


    3. Mashable

    www.mashable.com
    Things in web world change every day -- sometimes even quicker. To stay ahead of the game, follow this social media and web news agency. Since Facebook regularly revamps their system (Timeline, anyone?) and new social media websites explode almost overnight, keeping informed is vital to any organization who uses social media to communicate. Just as valuable are the best-practice articles Mashable posts on topics like website content, marketing, and website creation.

    Favorite recent post:
    Content Markting: 5 Non-Profit Success Stories to Learn From


    4. A List Apart

    www.alistapart.com
    "For people who make websites" is this online magazines subtitle and mission. Here you'll find tons of articles on workflow and project management, design, content, and user experience. What you won't find is light reading. Each feature is packed with wisdom from seasoned website developers that you'll probably want to print out, highlight, and re-read.

    Favorite recent posts:
    A Checklist for Content Work
    Audiences, Outcomes, and Determining User Needs


    5. iMinistries Blog

    www.iministries.org/blog
    Building and maintaining a church website is no easy task. It takes special people with a broad array of talents and a deep understanding of ministry. When we present compelling ideas, church website inspiration, and useful advice to our readers, we speak from experience -- from building and maintaining church websites ourselves. So we hope this experience gives us perspective into what you need and what your users seek.

    Favorite recent post:
    What Makes a Healthy Online Presence for Churches? [INFOGRAPHIC]

    Don't see your favorite blog? Share it with us in the comments.

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    MonMondayAprApril9th2012 Gain User Support by Meeting These 4 Common Needs

    The folks at nonprofitmarketingblog.com often have incredible insights into the minds of the people who support non-profits. Many times, these insights are relatable for people who build websites -- especially church websites.

    All people have common needs and patterns of behavior. We can use these needs and behaviors to help gain their support, loyalty, and website visits. Meet these needs, and they will return again and again. Here are four common desires people have and how to satisfy them through your church website.


    TO BE SEEN AND HEARD


    People have always desired to stand out from the crowd, and most marketing efforts today pander to the idea that everyone is unique and special. No one wants to be a faceless number, now more than ever. So don't make them feel that way when they're on your website.

    Make it easy for people to contact you. And when they do, contact them back IMMEDIATELY. Listen to their feedback, too. If no one visits or likes something on your website, change it, even if it's your pet project.

    "Not listening is the root of most problems, personal and professional."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    TO BE CONNECTED TO SOMEONE/SOMETHING


    More than just being seen and heard, people want to feel like they are contributing to a cause. Be creative in the way in which you interact with your website visitors. Facebook and blogs are easy ways to create a dialogue with people, but how can you get people to join your movement? Why not tap your church's talented people to make videos, graphics, stories, and other inspiring content?

    "Engage by connecting to what your audience (NOT YOU) wants to hear."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    TO BE PART OF SOMETHING GREATER THAN THEMSELVES


    The most important reason to have a website is to share your mission. Why do you exist? What are your goals? How do you achieve them? Explaining your vision is key if you desire others to be inspired into uniting with you.

    "We need to lay out the grand vision of our cause ... That means a hopeful, inspiring message."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    TO HAVE THE SECURITY OF TRUST


    Don't just write out your mission statement. Anyone can say they do something. Show your ministry at work through compelling stories, videos, and other content. Make regular updates to display a continuous striving to accomplish your vision. When people see you back up your promises, they will trust and support you.

    "Honor the trust others have put in your organization."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    LEARN MORE



    Optimize Your Church Website for How People Think - iMinistries Blog
    What Makes a Healthy Online Presence for Churches? [INFOGRAPHIC] - iMinistries Blog
    What Do 76% of Visitors Want From Your Church Website? - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayFebFebruary13th2012 What Makes a Healthy Online Presence for Churches? [INFOGRAPHIC]

    Over a period of six months we monitored the usage of all of iMinistries websites using Google Analytics. Some results were to be expected. Others surprised us. From these statistics we've come to the conclusion that the convergence of technology, social media, and design/UX create a healthy church web presence.


    Technology


    Definition: The platform your website is built upon, and how you manage website content.

    A church should be using some sort of content management system (CMS). Website content includes, pages, blog entries, sermons, news, and events. This technology should be SEO friendly and easy to update.

    Why?: People come to your website for content (see the astounding numbers below). It is important to present that content in a way that is easy to find and interesting. A CMS is the best tool for completing those tasks because:

    1. A CMS helps you organize your content.
    2. A CMS lets you concentrate on the content, instead of the back-end technology.
    3. A CMS makes your website findable on search engines.

    Social Media


    Definition: Outlets used to engage and connect with users and draw traffic to your website.

    Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, and LinkedIn are a few examples. Newcomers are Google+ and Pinterest--both showed good results in the first six months, but not enough to give much thought to them yet. We plan on revisiting this in another six months and are curious to see if that changes.

    Why?: Social media hubs like Facebook give you a level of personal interaction that is usually lacking on your main website. Twitter and video sites can also help your content be shared to audiences who wouldn't normally come into contact with you.


    Design/UX


    Definition: How your website looks and functions.

    Is it easy to navigate and find content. Is your website visually appealing? Is it simple? Your website should look professional. This design should be carried over into the social media outlets to create a uniform online presence.

    Why?: What good is content if your visitors can't find it? Or if interacting with your website is not a positive experience? Your UX leaves a lasting impression to users, most of the time within seconds of their arrival.


    The Infographic


    Put all these things together, and you have a healthy web presence. Here is a visual representation of our data:

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    MonMondayNovNovember21st2011 4 Things the First Thanksgiving Can Teach us About Church Websites On Thursday, Americans will sit around tables with family and gorge themselves with food. Afterward, they'll try to stave off naps with football and pumpkin pie. And, if they remember, they'll thank God for the many blessings he's provided them over the past year.

    Our history books (Wikipedia) tell us that this event hearkens back to a 1621 feast held by Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe to celebrate a successful harvest season. Since history can be studied to teach us lessons for the future, I thought it would be fun to see what the first Thanksgiving could teach us about church websites.

    Don't assume newcomers know what they're doing.

    "Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them."
    History
    After landing in Plymouth in 1620, the Pilgrims found their new home unforgiving--less than half of the original survived the first winter. It was only because the local Native Americans welcomed them and showed them how to gather food that they later thrived.

    Church Website Wisdom
    If your visitors are new to your site, they could be easily overwhelmed by confusing navigation and uncertain messaging. Make it clear what your users should do next with clear calls to action.

    Put your own spin on the commonly done--it might go viral.

    "Thanksgiving services were routine in what was to become the Commonwealth of Virginia as early as 1607, with the first permanent settlement of Jamestown, Virginia holding a thanksgiving in 1610 ... harvest festivals [previously] existed in English and Wampanoag tradition alike."
    History
    The first Thanksgiving was not the first time a similar event had taken place. Other harvest feasts in the U.S. were celebrated as far back as the 16th century, but when we think Thanksgiving, we think of the one held in Plymouth.

    Church Website Wisdom
    Just because pastor blogs, sermon podcasts, ministry videos, and other content have been made before, doesn't mean you can't do it better. Be creative when posting content on your church website and watch it spread.

    Being social and sharing are good.

    "Wampanoag leader Massasoit had donated food stores to the fledgling colony during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient ... The celebration lasted three days and featured a feast that included numerous types of waterfowl, wild turkeys and fish procured by the colonists, and five deer brought by the Native Americans."

    History
    The Pilgrims weren't alone when they celebrated Thanksgiving. They were joined by 90 Native Americans, contributing food and reveling in the colony's success.

    Church Website Wisdom
    Engaging your users through social media, by re-posting content from your website on Facebook or linking to it from Twitter, is an effective way to get people to your website. Getting people to interact with or share your content with others also can positively influence your search rankings.

    Focus on the purpose.

    "Thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings, for which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity." - William Bradford
    History
    Although the Pilgrims had achieved some success in hunting, harvesting crops, and reviving a dying colony the Pilgrims did not forget the true source of their blessings--God and the Native Americans whom God sent.

    Church Website Wisdom
    Never forget why your website exists. It is for your users to find information about you and your ministry, and ultimately to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This understanding will drive everything else you do on your website.

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    MonMondayNovNovember14th2011 7 Characteristics of Good Content on Church Websites Smart people heed the advice of people smarter than them. So I often look to the folks at A List Apart for wisdom on best practices for the web. Below is their seven-part checklist for effective website content and how it applies to church websites.

    Good Content is Concise

    "Omit needless content"
    The slogans "less is more" and "Keep It Simple, Stupid" became truisms for a reason. More content on your website makes it harder for your visitors to find what they came looking for. Using analytics and user testing can give you an idea if people can find what they want and help you rid your website of superfluous content.

    Good Content is Supported

    "Publish no content without a support plan"
    You wouldn't plant a vegetable garden and leave it to fend for itself. You must tend it, water it, and care for it. The same is true for your web content. Weed out and trim back your content ROT. Water your pages with updated information. Fertilize your sections with fresh ways to present your information--with videos, blogs, or social media integration. Only then will your content bear fruit for you users.

    Good Content Fits Your Purpose

    "Publish content that is right for the user and for the business"
    • It is right for the user: it helps them accomplish their goals
      Some users come to learn what you believe. Some visit to find out where you are. Others want to know how they can give. If your content does not help your user fulfill their mission for visiting, it is not good content.
    • It is right for you, the organization: it helps you achieve your goals
      Ultimately, churches create websites to carry-out their goals. Spreading the gospel beyond their local community, increasing online giving, and developing a bigger base of volunteers are just some goals that church website content can help you achieve.

    Good Content is Useful

    "Define a clear, specific purpose for each piece of content; evaluate content against this purpose"
    After developing some big-picture goals for your website, take it a step further by identifying the precise reason for each content item. If you can't determine a good reason for having a page or video on your website, it shouldn't be there.

    Good Content is User-Centered

    "Adopt the cognitive frameworks of your users"
    When developing content, think like your user does. According to A List Apart, "[this] means that the days of designing a site map to mirror an org chart are over." If your visitors don't know your junior high ministry's name is Uplift, why would you include that name in your navigation? Take the time to remove content that would not make sense to a user with no previous knowledge of your ministry--internal mission statements, jargon, and vague descriptions.

    Good Content is Clear

    "Seek clarity in all things"
    All content should be easy to understand and find. The more thinking your user has to do because of your content, the less likely they'll leave your website with a full reservoir of goodwill toward your ministry.

    Good Content is Consistent

    "Mandate consistency, within reason"
    Just like content that is difficult to understand increases your visitors' cognitive workload, so too does content with inconsistent voice, presentation, and mission. Inconsistent content also makes it easier for your user to become distracted or find content difficult to understand.

    Learn more about Good Content for Church Websites

    Content Strategy for Church Websites - iMinistries Blog
    5 Tips for Making Your Church Website Content More Readable - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
     
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    MonMondayOctOctober24th2011 5 Essential Articles For Freshening Up Your Church Website Does your church website need a pick-me-up? Read these five articles packed full of tips for bringing new life to your old website.

    Content Clean-Up: Get Rid of Your Church Website's ROT

    How to remove your website's redundant, outdated, and trivial content.

    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience

    Instead of adding new stuff, delete some content. Giving your users less choices actually helps them. Novel concept, huh?

    5 Ways to Prepare Your Church Website For A New Ministry Year

    Ever held a content manager summit or done user testing? How about setting up a content schedule? Creating landing pages for new sermon series? Here's some ideas on how to get started.

    4 Calls to Action Your Church Website Should Have

    How to incorporate calls to learn, visit, contact, and give throughout your website and on your home page.

    5 Ways to Improve Your Church Website, Gordon Ramsay Style

    My mom says reality TV is useless garbage. I love proving her wrong. Learn what this celebrity chef says about restaurants and how to make his advice useful on your church website.

    What do you think?

    Do you have any tips for refreshing your church website? Share them in the comments.

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    MonMondaySepSeptember19th2011 Content Clean-Up: Get Rid of Your Church Website's ROT
    "Big websites aren’t better websites. Get rid of the ROT." - Brain Traffic Blog
    Fall is the perfect time for a re-evaluation of your church website's content. Before the new ministry year jumps into full gear, now is the time to check every page on your site and remove the ROT.

    What is ROT?

    ROT is content that is ...
    • Redundant
    • Outdated
    • Trivial

     
     

    Redundant

    If you have two pages on your website that provide the same information, delete one. If two pages are similar, combine the information onto one unified page.

    Example:

    If your Service Times page includes your address, map, and directions, you don't need a Location page. Delete it and give your location its own section on your Service Times page.

     
     

    Outdated

    You may have a thriving ministry, but if you have content on your home page that hasn't been updated, what is that telling your website's new visitors? By displaying long-past content, you're implying that your ministry is stuck in inactivity.

    Example:

    Remove those old items and post upcoming events and fresh news stories. Add some new blog entries and feature photos from this year's youth camp (not ones from last year). 

     
     

    Trivial

    The content you include on your website tells its visitors what you value. Think twice about each piece of content you add:
    • Does it fit what your ministry promotes?
    • Is this what people want from your website?
    Example:
    If you're a ministry that focuses on world missions, it's probably not appropriate to post local sports scores on your website. And that widget that pulls in the weather? Leave that to the Weather Channel.



    Learn more about UX

    5 Ways to Prepare Your Church Website For A New Ministry Year - iMinistries Blog
    Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full) - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayAugAugust8th2011 5 Reasons Why Your Church Website Should Have a Blog In this digital age, one of the most important ways businesses, companies, and organizations connect with the world is through blogs on their websites. While corporate websites provide traditional information for web users (your typical About, Contact, and History pages), blogs provide more insight into an organization.

    In his book, Blog Wild: A Guide For Small Business Blogging, Andy Wibbels explains why small businesses should create and update a blog regularly in order to better connect with web surfers. His reasoning also applies to church websites, where potential visitors and church members have the same desire to more deeply connect with your ministry.

    Here are five reasons why your church or ministry website needs a blog.

    1. Blogs connect with a desirable audience.

    According to Wibbels, the type of person who reads blogs regularly are the people you probably most want to connect with.
    • Blog readers are web-savvy.
      The people reading your blog aren't afraid of the web. They like exploring websites, so they are more prone to have a long look around yours. And the longer they stay, the more informed they are.
    • Blog readers have passion and initiative.
      The people who run your food pantry or volunteer for children's ministry probably read your blog. If you need volunteers, a blog entry might be a good place to start.
    • Blog readers are seeking the next level in engagement.
      Obviously, if they are reading your blog they want a deeper level of connection with your ministry, and, ultimately, Jesus Christ. Intimate, compelling blog posts about past sermons, Bible verses, or personal experiences can help fill that need.

    2. Blogs provide fresh content.

    Web users might only visit your website once to find your address or learn about your mission, but they keep coming back when you have constantly updated content. Posting upcoming news and events, videos, and pictures are all good ways to produce new content--so are blogs.

    Every new blog entry is another reason for a web user to come back to your website and connect with your ministry. This is why setting up a regular blogging schedule (once a week; every Monday and Thursday; every day) and sticking to it is so important. Readers will come to expect and look forward to your entries. You don't want to let them down.

    3. Blogs are conversational.

    We've written before that your About Us page is your introduction to your web visitor--your digital handshake. If that's the case, your blog is the actual, two-way dialogue with your visitor. Blog entries begin with you writing you thoughts on a topic, then allow for users to comment. Blogs give your visitors a voice and empowerment. This is why entries should primarily be informal, welcoming, and non-intimidating.

    4. Blogs are a gateway to your website's other content.

    In most blog entries, you should try to find a way to reference other content on your website. Since users will continually come back to read your blog, linking them to more information is a good way to engage them further. Here are some ways partner information:
    • include cross-links to other, similar blog entries
    • add highlights or right column links to news or events
    • write a short "Have questions? Contact us ..." sentence at the bottom of each entry and link to your contact form
    • include a bio of your writer with each entry

    5. Google loves Blogs

    While your readers might express their enjoyment in your blog by return visits and posting comments, search engines show their blog-love by boosting your search rankings. Google especially gives special treatment to blogs. Here's why ...
    • Frequent updates:
      Because fresh content often equals more visits (see #2) and better website management, search engines often weight fresh content as more important.

    • Linked and networked:
      Blogs are likely to have more outgoing and incoming links through cross-linking and visitor comments. This generally means more people like these sites, so these links significantly effect page rankings.

    • Archived and organized:
      Because of the dated entry cataloging system, blogs have have a more "scan-friendly" behind-the-scenes architecture, which makes them more readable to search engines.

    Blogs are built into each iMinistries website

    Building a church website with a blog is easy with iMinistries. Each iMinistries church website comes with the ability to add site-wide or ministry-specific blogs--with no limitations as to how many or number of entries.

    LEARN MORE

    Cross-Linking: Search Engines and Website Visitors Love It - iMinistries Blog
    Connecting Through Your Website: Connecting is all About Others - iMinistries Blog
    Connecting Through Your Website: Connecting Goes Beyond Words - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayJulJuly25th2011 Pastor Jeremy Hill: Church Websites Get Your People Involved [Video]
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Communications 0 comments Add comment
    Pastor Jeremy Hill switched back to iMinistries from another church website firm and only has good things to say about his new website's capabilities. In the video below, he explains how his new website keeps his church members at Harvest Bible Chapel - Jupiter informed as to what his ministries are doing and how they can get involved.



    Video Transcript

    "One of the things we've seen since we switched to iMinistries is that it's given us a really good opportunity to promote our ministries and keep our people connected. But at the same time, on the back side of it, it gives us really good usability so that we can have a lot of our volunteers, with minimal knowledge, essentially take what we're doing as a ministry and get that to our people in a way that lets them know what's going on and how they can get involved. So that's been a huge part of how we've been using the website that we have.

    Another aspect that's been important to us is the value that we're getting for the cost that we're paying. We're able to do so much more with the website that we've gotten from iMinistries than we have with other web firms and that's been huge to us as a smaller church.
    "


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    MonMondayJulJuly18th2011 Pastor Brian Edwards: Your Church Website Connects People to God, Wherever They Are [Video]
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Communications 0 comments Add comment
    Pastor Brian Edwards recently partnered with iMinistries to create a website for Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia. In the video below, he explains how his church website has been used to connect people all over the world, including a member of his church deployed overseas, to the powerful message of God's saving grace.



    Video Transcript

    "A Blessed Hope knew we needed a website, however we didn't know where to go to find the right website for us. Thankfully, in God's Providence, he led us to iMinistries, and the guys there worked with us so well. They helped us develop our website in an inexpensive way, which, at the time, was very important to us. However, the website still had a very high-quality look.

    We knew we were glad to have the website, we just didn't know how God was going to use it. Since that time, thankfully, we have found out that there are people from all over the world who are finding Blessed Hope. By finding Blessed Hope, they're hearing our teaching, and through our teaching, they are learning about God, His Word, and His Son Jesus Christ.

    The wonderful thing we learned recently was a young man from our church was deployed in Afghanistan. He had to leave behind a wife and three children. So much of his life was uprooted and overturned. Yet, while he was in Afghanistan, because of the website iMinistries provided for us, he was able to stay connected to his church. And, without access to a church, through the website he was able to stay connected to God.

    We are so thankful for that and we just love the guys at iMinistries, and would highly, highly recommend you investigate their ministry for your church.
    "


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    MonMondayJunJune27th2011 Pastor John Cox: Church Websites Explain Who You Are [Video] Church websites are a valuable tool for explaining your mission, values, and your church to prospective visitors. John Cox, Senior Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel Carson Tahoe in Nevada, shared with us how this is true for his church through his iMinistries website.



    Video Transcript

    Today, in our age, one of the biggest things that we need is a solid website and one areas that we have done as a church in Carson/Tahoe, Nevada is to able to have a website through iMinistries, which has been able to not only proclaim the gospel through its website, but to direct people to exactly who we are and what we preach and what we stand for.

    When people come to our website they are able to access everything from our sermons to all of our doctrine. its ease of accessibility has allowed people to not only hear the truth before they come, but to understand and really visually see what the church is about before they even step through the door.

    It's been a blessing to be with iMinistries. We see them as a partner in our ministry of the proclamation of the Gospel. And we are thoroughly thrilled to be able to take that next step as iMinistries grows we know our church will grow, as well, in the proclamation of Truth.

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    MonMondayJunJune13th2011 Pastor Jeff Miller: "Churches Today Have to Have a Website" [Video] It was awesome to see so many of our customers at Harvest University this past May. While there, we were able to ask them how their website has made their ministry more effective and how important they feel it is to have a great church website. This 40 second video is from Senior Pastor, Jeff Miller from Harvest Bible Chapel Pittsburgh North who just came on board with us a few months ago. He had this to say...



    Video Transcript

    "Churches today have to have a website, you have to have a website...it's not even an option, you have to have a website.

    So when I talked to iMinistries about putting a website together for Harvest Bible Chapel Pittsburgh North, I said I wanted something clean, easy to navigate through, something very aesthetically appealing, and iMinistries hit a home run.

    I was completely thrilled with the way the website turned out. I have gotten so many compliments on it and it has been a tremendous hub for our church. The people can access, get the news, see what's going on, understand our doctrine. It is a tool in ministry that you have to have and iMinistries really delivers.
    "

    Free Trial

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    Create Your Free Trial Account
    MonMondayAprApril25th2011 Applying 5 Leadership Principles to Your Church Website

    Inspiration can come from the most unexpected sources sometimes. My small group is currently studying R. Kent Hughes's insightful book, Disciplines of A Godly Man. In his chapter on the Discipline of Leadership, Hughes describes five requirements of a leader, and as I read through these five characteristics I couldn't help but notice that these traits are also representative of great church websites.

    As we walk through these attributes, ask yourself if your church website could be described using these qualities.


    1. Vision


    "Leadership must have a dream, a vision, a mental image, a precise goal of what is to be accomplished."
    - pg. 187

    Before you begin building your church website, you must have a definitive strategy--a list of goals you want your website to achieve. To develop your website strategy, start by asking yourself these questions:

    • What is the purpose of my church website?
    • What do I want my church website to do? (What features should it have?)
    • What is my budget (both money and time)?

    After you have these answers, you can begin to build your website and develop your website's content.


    2. Effective Communication


    "A leader must not only have a dream, he must be able to communicate it." - pg. 187

    The best way to produce content that will help you reach your website's goals is to first establish a content strategy. A solid content strategy will tell you what your website should say, how it should say it, and who will say it, to make it most effective.

    Once you have a content strategy, work hard to make your writing clear, concise, and pleasing to the eye, so your church website visitors will want to read your content.


    3. Governance


    "Good leaders ... delegate and orchestrate." - pg. 187

    Finding and building capable content creators is important to keeping your church website filled with fresh, relevant content. New content is what keeps visitors coming back to your site and is a big influence on your search engine rankings. As the project lead or website manager, it is key that you can farm out some of the work it takes to keep your website chugging along.

    Here are three things that can help you delegate responsibility:

    • Content managers: let your individual ministry leaders control the content in their section (How can iMinistries' CMS help?)
    • Content creators: volunteers or admins with strong writing skills are essential for successful content
    • Content calendar: schedule your blog posts, news articles, and other new content to ensure consistent updates

    4. Credibility (Show What You Say)


    "Good leaders lead by demonstration." - pg. 187

    As important as it is to communicate your church or ministry's mission and beliefs on your website, it is just as important to show your ministry's mission at work.

    • Use news articles to tell stories of lives effected by your church or ministry.
    • Create blog entries to update visitors on ministry projects let them interact with you.
    • Post pictures and videos of your ministry helping others.

    5. Persistence


    "Good leaders are determined." - pg. 188

    In order for your church website to be successful, it needs constant attention. A bland website with static content is useless, so you must be willing to put in the time it takes to keep making your website better. There are many free tools, like Google Analytics or Website Grader, that can help you continually improve your website.

    Three keys to a progressive church website

    • Content updates: To get new and returning visitors, this is crucial
    • Content evaluation: What content gets the most feedback? The most web traffic? What do you do well?
    • Being in-the-know: Read everything you can about making a better website from the people who have done it, then apply this knowledge to your website

    READ MORE

    Content Strategy for Church Websites - iMinistries Blog
    Online Giving Study Findings To Apply To Your Church Website - iMinistries Blog
    5 Ways to Improve Your Church Website, Gordon Ramsay Style - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayMarMarch14th2011 Content Strategy for Church Websites

    What is Content Strategy and Why Should I Care?

    Content Strategy is becoming more and more popular among web professionals--both the idea and the practice. So much focus has gone into design, user experience, and techniques of getting people to websites that the reason people come to websites can get lost. Of course, I'm talking about the content, itself.  
    "Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content." Kristina Halvorson
    Just like you wouldn't begin a sermon without first coming up with a topic, researching, and planning, you shouldn't do the same with the content on your website. Everything successful, from businesses, to books, to websites, begins with goals and figures out the best way to achieve them.

    In order for your ministry website's content to do what you want it to do (increase ministry visitors, volunteers, dialogue), you must have a strategy and then carry out your strategy. Here's a simplified process for developing that strategy.

    1. Develop Goals (Analyze)

    Before you start typing, ask yourself some questions about the visitors to your church website.
    • What do they want to know about my church or ministry?
    • What do I want them to know?
    • What would make them want to come back to my website?
    Start a list of pages or types of content you must have on your site. These usually consist of News, Events, About, and Contact. As you develop your list of desired content, keep asking yourself if the content helps answer the questions above. If it doesn't, maybe it shouldn't be on your website.

    2. Create Your Content (Collect)

    Now that you have your list of pages or desired content, start writing. It is important for you content to be clear, simple, easy to read, and easy on the eyes, so if you aren't skilled as a writer, find someone who is, or read through our previous blogs on Writing for the Web.

    To get people to regularly visit your website, you'll need to regularly update it with interesting content. Now is the time to figure out what this content is, where it is coming from, and who will keep content creators accountable for this task. It might be helpful to create a content creation calendar.

    3. Organize Your Content on Your Website (Publish)

    Now that your content is written and you know where updates will be coming from, it's time to figure out where to put it all. Start with your most important pages--About, News, Events, Ministries, Blog, Contact--and work your way down. Think about where a user who is completely unfamiliar with your ministry would look for content and put it there.

    4. Is It Working? (Manage)

    Just because your content is live, doesn't mean your work is done. You should always be trying to improve your content and how it's structured.
    • Do your users get frustrated when trying to find information?
    • Does the content on your site meet all your goals and answer all user questions?
    • Is new content being created on time? Is it quality content?
    Ask these questions constantly. If you aren't happy with the answers, your users aren't happy with your content, and changes should be made.

    Content Audits

    A great way to make sure your website content is the best is can be is to schedule regular content audits. Sweep your website to see if your content meets all of your goals. Ask "who cares?" to each page. If no one does, get rid of it.

    Diagram in the article was created by Rahel Bailie.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT CONTENT STRATEGY

    Complete Beginner's Guide to Content Strategy - UX Booth
    The DIscipline of Content Strategy - A List Apart
    Content Strategy Blog - Brain Traffic
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    MonMondayFebFebruary21st2011 5 Ways to Improve Your Church Website, Gordon Ramsay Style

    One of my favorite TV shows is Kitchen Nightmares, where world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay visits failing restaurants and helps them turn their businesses around.

    He always uses the same steps to eliminate their weaknesses, highlight their strengths, and streamline their processes. The same steps can be followed to improve your website ... without all the screaming or colorful language.

    Step 1: Simplify Your Menu

    Most of the restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares have one thing in common: large, cluttered menus. Ramsay strips the menu down to the basics and concentrates on preparing a handful of signature dishes. The less dishes chefs have to know, the better they can prepare those dishes. Instead of 40 mediocre dishes, the restaurant focuses on 10 fantastic dishes.

    Your website menu is no different. The less choices your website visitor has to make, the better they can find and use the information they want.

    Start by stripping down your menu (and your site's content) to what's absolutely necessary. Build upon the foundation of these pages:
    • About
    • Contact
    • Location
    • What We Believe/Our Mission
    • News and Events

    Step 2: Identify With Your Customers

    In the restaurant's new menu dishes, Ramsay always includes meals that identify with the neighboring community. In ocean-side Massachusetts, this included locally caught seafood. In hip Los Angeles, he recommended brick oven pizzas (a real crowd-pleaser). And in a New York community aching for a steakhouse, Ramsey made one out of a bankrupt bistro.

    The lesson here is simple. Give your website visitors what they want.
    • If they come to your site wanting to know how they can get involved in your ministry, tell them.
    • If they want a way to give to your ministry, let them.
    • If they want to interact with your ministry, provide a way for them to do so through a blog or other media.

    Step 3: Highlight Your Strengths

    Gordon Ramsay has a knack for figuring out what the restaurant is best at and finding a way to bring it to the forefront. Some restaurants have excellent chefs who are stuck making uninspired dishes. Others have managers who relate well with people, but are assigned to menial tasks by themselves. Instead of spending all his time harping on the bad, Ramsey is a master at shifting things so the good shines through.

    If your ministry has powerful teaching, you should be promoting it through podcasts and videos and through banners and ads on your home page. If instead your strength is connecting people with volunteer opportunities, this should be front and center. Your website visitors shouldn't have to wonder what your ministry is all about.



    Step 4: Keep it Clean

    A clean restaurant is a successful restaurant. And we're not just talking about shiny ovens and mopped floors. Efficiency is required for any business to be successful, but this is more true for food service. Waiters must be able to juggle multiple tables. Chefs have to make delicious meals to order, and quickly. And managers must support both so that everything runs smoothly.

    The same can be said for your website. What good is information if your visitors can't find it?

    A tightened, simplified menu will help organize your content. But what about pages that don't fall directly under your menu headings? Links can act as a "restaurant manager" for your content. Embed links to other pages in your main pages, and add ads or banners that entice your visitors to explore your website, easily and without frustration.

    Step 5: Listen to Criticism and Seek Advice

    Gordon Ramsay is probably most well-known for the way in which he interacts with the participants of Kitchen Nightmares and his other show, Hell's Kitchen. He doesn't back down from confrontation. He yells, uses obscenities liberally, and tells it like it is. He can get away with this, of course, because he knows what he's talking about. He's done it before, and it works. For those who take his harsh criticism and implement his advice, their businesses are improved dramatically.

    Most of us don't like to hear when we fall short. But website administrators should invite criticism from their website visitors. Your site is for them, after all. Set up a feedback form on your website and listen to what your users have to say. What if they have different views as to what's most important than you do?

    You should also welcome advice from experts who have built effective websites. Make it a goal to read books and blogs (like this one) that help you make your website better. Then take their advice and put it into practice.


    More resources for improving your ministry website

    Better Web Writing - iMinistries Blog
    Your About Us Page: Beginning the Conversation - iMinistries Blog
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    MonMondayFebFebruary14th2011 How Does Your Church Communicate? I was adding a comment to a website recently. The blogger posed the question, "How does your church provide announcements to your congregation each week". As I got closer to completing my answer, I realized that I was getting more passionate. Not mad or anything, just passionate so it prompted me to write this.

    1 new way and 2 common presentations of weekly announcements.

    1. One idea is to have your announcements presented to congregants via video each week. I visited a church recently who did this and I have to admit, it was very cool. However, not every church has the appropriate staffing or equipment to get this done. Also, I might have liked it simply because it was something new. I would be curious to learn that if I experienced it week in and out, if I would still feel the same way.

    2. Another idea is to send out e-mail announcements each week. Um...no. This is a big time #fail in my opinion. How many e-mails do you get each day? I don't want to count how many I get, but I know I am constantly deleting e-mails that come in that I don't have time for or care to read. How many more people are out there that do the same thing as me? I can't be alone.

    3. The trusty bulletin. I am sorry...will you think less of me or think that I am not a true Believer if I tell you that I avoid getting that handed to me each week? It's true. I think it is a waste of a lot of the church staff's time, ultimately affecting the bottom line and ministry effectiveness. I think that I would be fine with it if it simply provided the message outline. But when I see everything else on it, I can hear the Peanuts teacher talking to Charlie Brown as I read.

    Solution

    I realize that this could heavily depend on your churches demographics, (for those of you who can't read between the lines, I am saying not "full of age") but the way I see the best use of everyone's (church staff and congregant) time would be to put less focus on the bulletin and more on the way the church staff communicates online.
    1. I would drastically reduce the bulletins prominence.
      • Grant your designer (hired or volunteer) some quality time to come up with a compelling front cover that ties in the current sermon series or the theme of the ministry year.
      • On the back, provide the church's contact information, website address, RSS feed URL's and the budget numbers
      • Have an insert for those note takers out there with the sermon outline.

    2. I would drastically increase the websites prominence.
      • Communicate to your staff that you are going to be hitting a nail pretty hard to the congregants. Explain that 95% of all future communication is going to come via your website. At first, this is going to take:
        • Buy in from the top leadership to grant you time to get this implemented and working.
        • Determination on your part, to do the above.
        • Determination on your staffs part, to do the above.
        • Patience with your congregation, to do the above.
        • Discernment. Why discernment? The advent of great technologies birthed the idea that everything happens instantaneously and perfectly. This is rarely the case. You will need discernment as you will probably get a few people complaining to you that they liked the old way better. Trust me, it's going to happen.
      • Have a "Did you know" section of your website telling your congregants how to get the most from your website.
      • Create some Ads to appear directing people to the above section.
      • RSS Feeds. If you don't know what that is, please read Wikipedia's description on RSS and continue reading. Our Church CMS is set up in such a way that your Site Level News, Events and Blogs all have their own independent RSS feed URL's and so does each Ministry that you create. This means that if your staff is plugging in the information that was in the bulletin each week in their section of your website, your RSS feeds would be filled with timely information. If you do this, you will have begun to turn that huge flywheel that is storing tons of energy. It is crazy hard to get moving, but once it is, it is quite simple.
      • If you aren't, I would really put some effort into getting your pastors message online and include the sermon notes. If I was going to your site, I would want to have a way to filter your weekly messages by topic, book and speaker. If you had both the audio and video I would be even more happy. Video for when I have time to watch, audio for when I am on the go.
    While the crowd is silent and unsure of this new information, Travis confidently steps off stage left awaiting each readers response and future understanding.

    I want your feedback, please chime in!

    Free Trial

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    Create Your Free Trial Account
    MonMondayFebFebruary7th2011 Programs for Broadcasting Worship Services Online for Free

    Ustream and Livestream are platforms that make it easy for anyone with an Internet connection and a camera to stream a live broadcast without limit to the audience's size.

    Do you have elderly or ill congregation members who can't leave their home? Missionaries overseas who want to keep up with their home church? Former attenders who have recently moved? Stream your worship services on your website with these online streaming applications.

    How Does it Work?

    By plugging your ministry's camera feed into your computer, you can stream your video live across the Internet to an embedded player on your website. Kinda like YouTube, but with live video, streaming to anyone with access to your website.

    What Do I Need to Stream Live Video?

    1. A Camera
    Check this list for cameras compatible with Ustream.

    2. Internet Connection
    The faster the better, but at least DSL or Cable.

    3. A Browser-Based Video Producer
    Like Ustream's Producer or Livestream's Procaster. Learn more about these applications below.

    4. A Website
    For people to watch your stream, you'll need a place to embed the streaming video player.
    Don't have a website? We can help you with that.

    How do Ustream and Livestream's Features Compare?

    Ustream's Free Channel and Producer
      Livestream's Free Channel and Procaster

    Ustream provides you a free streaming channel and a free video producing application which allows you to do the following:

    • Supports one camera
    • Allows importing movies and audio
    • Enables up to three transitions
    • Supports picture in picture
    • Provides screen capture feature
    • Real-time viewer polls and chat

    If you upgrade to the Pro version, for a one-time fee of $199, you get the features above, but without any limits as to cameras, transitions, and adds titles and overlays.


     

    Livestream's free video producing software includes the following features:

    • moderated, real-time chat with your stream
    • multiple cameras supported
    • unlimited transitions
    • on-demand viewing (view past streams)

    You can upgrade your channel from Free to Premium for $350 per month. Upgraded features include HD streaming, no ads, and the exclusive rights to your channel's content.


    How is it Free?

    The biggest downside of using a free service is having to endure the text ads they place at the bottom of your stream player or before your stream begins. If this is not a sacrifice you are willing to make for free streaming, you may want to look into a paid service, like Livestream's Premium channels.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT STREAMING LIVE VIDEO

    Live Stream Your Church Service - Media Ministry Blog
    How to Live Stream Your Church Services - Media Ministry Blog

    Free Trial

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    Start your 15-day free trial account,

    MonMondayJanJanuary31st2011 Connecting Through Your Website: Connecting Goes Beyond Words

    In this series, we examine how to connect with visitors to your ministry website, as defined in John Maxwell's book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.

    We all know that non-verbal communication is important. While speaking to a group of people, if you speak in monotone, stare at your notes, and spout off statistics, your audience will check out quickly, no matter how important your words are.

    On your ministry website, the text on each of your pages offers the information your users come for. But the non-textual aspects of your church website's pages can cause a person to check out as fast as that monotone voice.

    To make sure your communication is successful beyond the use of words, Maxwell explains you need to aim at connecting on four levels.

      FOUR COMPONENTS OF CONNECTION

      What People See - Connecting Visually

      "People expect any kind of communication to be a visual experience." (pg. 54)

      Putting it into practice
      Well-written content on a good-looking website is the perfect outfit. A tailored suit (content) is a classic look, but an expensive watch, colorful tie and pocket square, and polished shoes (website design) will make heads turn.

      By making your church website's look clean and simple, while using colors that please the eye, you can create an opportunity to make a connection from your visitors' first page.

      Here are other ways to connect visually:
      • Add images that explain or conceptualize your content
      • Embed video on your pages
      • Use bullet points, headers, and lists to create word pictures

      What People Understand - Connecting Intellectually

      "To effectively connect ... you must know two things: your subject and yourself" (pg. 62)
      "Effective communicators are comfortable in their own skin..." (pg. 63)

      Putting it into practice
      Your church website visitors desire one thing above all else: information. So give them what they want. Put yourself in their shoes and ask what you'd be looking for if you'd never visited your ministry before.

      Make a list of these questions and put your content to the test. Does it answer all these questions effectively? Will visitors have to click numerous times to find basic information? If so, maybe you should strategize how to better address your user's inquiries.

      What People Feel - Connecting Emotionally

      "If you want to win over another person, first win his heart, and the rest of him is likely to follow." (pg. 64)
      "That is your goal anytime you want to connect with people. Help them to feel what you feel" (pg. 67)

      Putting it into practice
      You are passionate about your ministry. How do you help your church website visitors share that passion?
      • Stories: Write news articles or produce videos to show God at work in your ministry.
      • Photos: Feature the people of your ministry on your staff and ministry pages. Everyone loves a smiling face.
      • Blog: Interact with your users through blog entries and comments. Connect your blog to your Facebook page for more interaction.

      What People Hear - Connecting Verbally

      "What we say and how we say things make quite an impact ... They can turn boring talk into a memorable moment." (pg. 67)

      Putting it into practice
      Just like your speaking voice can engage or bore your audience, your writing voice can do the same.
      • Use active voice and present tense to convey excitement.
      • Avoid "I think" or "I feel" language; instead use confident, absolute statements.
      • Write in short, direct sentences and small paragraphs to keep your user's attention.

      PUT THEM ALL TOGETHER

      "Best advice ... learn how to be yourself ... know [yourself] and [your] strengths." (pg. 68)
      "If you haven't discovered and developed your style, study other communicators ... Just make them your own." (pg. 69)

      Think about what your ministry's strengths are and find a way to make them prominent on your website.
      • Is it powerful teaching? Emphasize your podcast.
      • Edifying worship services? Show photos on your homepage and make your service times prominent.
      • A growing small group ministry? Write a series of stories about changed lives.
      Visit other websites for ministries that have similar strengths. How do they feature their strengths? How can you adapt their ideas for your website?

      Free Trial

      We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

      Create Your Free Trial Account

      OTHER RESOURCES FOR CONNECTING BEYOND WORDS

      Writing For the Web - iMinistries Blogs
      Is Your Homepage Attractive? - iMinistries Blogs
      MonMondayDecDecember13th2010 Is Your Church Website Visitor-Focused? Scott McClellan of Collide Magazine shared a recent frustrating experience with a well-known church's website. He visited their church website to find a specific piece of information. After sifting through the many banners, menus, links, and text, he found that the website didn't contain the information he was seeking. This prompted him to tweet ...
      "Some church websites absolutely boggle my mind. The design, the layout, the information overload, the blatant disregard for the visitor ..."
      Can your visitors say the same about your ministry website?

      Your Ministry Website Visitors Want Information

      During the construction and continued maintinence of websites, it is easy to forget that your visitors come to your website for one reason: information. The design, menus, ads, and fancy features are important, but only if they help your users find what they're looking for.

      Does your website contain important information?

      Here's a quick and easy test you can perform to make sure your website contains the information it should. Ask yourself the questions a person who has never heard of your ministry would want to know.
      • Where is your ministry?
      • When do you meet?
      • Do you have a children's ministry?
      • Where should I park?
      • How can I volunteer?
      • How can I join a small group?
      • How do I register my child for summer camp?
      Now try to answer these and other common questions on your website. Ask someone who has never seen your website to find these answers. Are there any questions that are only answered half-way? Or not at all?

      Is it easy to find important information?

      • How easy is it to find the answers to the above questions?
      • Do you/they have to navigate through numerous menus, submenus, and pages?
      • Are there any ads, banners, links, or highlights that act as shortcuts to this information?
      • Are there too many ads, banners, or links so that it's more difficult to see this information?
      • How do you/they feel when trying to find this information (confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, at-ease)?
      Take this information and use it to improve your website.

      Give your visitors what they want

      Remember, your website is for your visitor. Give your visitor what they want: answers with as little work as possible. Here's three easy steps you can take to make your ministry website more visitor-focused.

      Free Trial

      We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

      Create Your Free Trial Account
      MonMondayDecDecember6th2010 Writing They'll Never Read: WebTalk 201 Church Communicators,

      To blog or not to blog: is that your question? :)

      Perhaps you've elected for an e-newsletter over print and need to find a starting point? Or delivering quality web content has become a dilemma? If you'd raise your hand on any of the above...

      Welcome to the world of web writing.

      It's an arbitrary world of conventions, applied to intangibles with a short shelf-life. Which explains the lack of journalistic practices...which leads to a lot of writing that doesn't get read.

      Which is the reason for this WebTalk.

      If you or your pastor are staking out new blogging or e-news territory, or have never applied a process to your church's cyber-communications, here's a brief on:

      How to Write So They'll Read It



      1: Know your audience (and how to reach them).
      Blogs, e-newsletters and web stories each hit different rings of the demographic bull's eye, and most web providers have features that accomplish their basic functions.

      Learn yours, then define your target readers for each vehicle, then determine calendars and contents. As you assess your writing investments, consider:
      • Is this for congregants, or those outside, or both?
      • Viewable online, or to land in an inbox?
      • RSS-enabled, or pushed through a distribution list?
      • Who will author and who will edit? Who will manage the admin?
      • How often will it be posted or published? What would best serve the recipients?

      2: Know your purpose.
      Our purpose in every piece is to inform, inspire and instill. To adopt it as yours, coach your team to...
      • Inform: Write about what really matters.
        Of course cover sundries and events, but don't be limited to them--ministry news and personal stories are all around. Keep track of what's important and worthy, and shout it from the housetop!

      • Inspire: Let Scripture breathe verticality into your posts.
        Every story is ultimately a God-story...but not everyone will see that. A reflection on Sunday's sermon = obvious. Promoting a parking lot redirection = less so. Look for opportunities to reveal the greater narrative and help connect the vertical dots, and without over-spiritualizing, seize them.

      • Instill: Find angles that reinforce core values and your church's DNA.
        Every Harvest Bible Chapel has four Pillars. Worship, Walk with, Work for Christ. Life-transformation through small groups. Contemporary worship without compromise. Quality discipleship, not a quantity of disciples...

      3: Know your voice.
      For solo writers and projects, this one's easy. But if you're writing for yourself and ghosting for your pastor, and/or speaking generically for your church, it can be a challenge--and becomes more complex with a writing team.

      If your church's online presence waffles between vibrant first person and corporately-bland third, or your team needs some unifying direction, it's time to develop a writing style guide.

      Identify the "vocal" qualities, and the categories and types of articles you're after. Include editing and formatting guidelines.

      Identify the following:
      • Are you aiming for a collective voice or individual expression, or both? Whichever your aim, defining it will increase your effectiveness.

      • What tone do you want to convey? Avoid sounding too casual or elitist; keep the "dude" and über-scholastic references to a minimum. Extremes on both ends lose readers.
      • What buckets do your pieces fall into? Identifying the category and article type will help streamline the writing.
      Most God-stories start out as events, updates, testimonies, or teaching (categories), then become fillers, 150wc; shorts, 200-300wc; or features, 500-600wc (article types). If you're managing a team, clarify your categories and types, and find strong examples of each.
      • Are you writing with reader gender in mind? It's worth noting that a succinct, authoritative voice is received more favorably by both men and women than a descriptive, explanatory one.
      Include formatting basics:
      • visual design principles: contrast, alignment, proximity, repetition
      • bullet item lists (as opposed to paragraph form)
      • bold selectively; italics rarely; underline never
      • Scripture texts: generally italicize; only use quotes if someone is speaking
      • Scripture references: very small, no brackets
      • embed videos or galleries above the web fold
      • capitalize ministry categories, i.e. Children’s Ministry, Worship Ministry, etc...
      Gather your guidelines into a visually-friendly doc for reference and share with your team, staff, anyone with web or writing access.


      4. Now write so they'll read it.
      Not write what they'll read--we're not pandering to itching ears. But it pays to write for how they'll read. Most web readers are skimmers and will dismiss dense content. Short sentences, one-thought paragraphs, bulleted lists, white space, bold for emphasis, tight content--these are the keys to skim-writing.

      Not convinced?

      Consider how long an average visitor stays on your site. Analytics for HarvestBibleFellowship.org reveal an average of 2.44 minutes and 3.3 pages--which is relatively high.

      These stats indicate 28% or less of the content per page actually gets read. Pretty deflating if you've spent hours perfecting your transient piece.

      So let's raise the standard for:
      • high-caliber content / high-caliber writing
      • clarity, simplicity, urgency
      • strong titles, opening lines
      • quick, engaging answers to the who-what-where-when-why
      • one-thought paragraphs
      • short, active-voice sentences
      • bulleted lists
      • proofreading
      And be ruthless about word counts. If your "feature" pieces regularly top 700, start whittling down the content. If you're new or tend to be verbose, I'd commend the 50% rule: half of any first draft could probably be deleted. Seriously.

      The tighter the writing, the higher the caliber, the wider the reach...which is the whole point, right?



      Okay, so maybe this wasn’t a brief. :) Call it a “resource.”

      Know your readers, know your purpose, know your voice.

      And. Make. Every. Word. Count.

      Making Him known with you,




      About the Author

      Sharon Kostal oversees the Harvest Bible Fellowship website, digital media and other aspects of communication. Her delight is in spreading the word of God's work in our world today, encouraging Harvest church plants and pastors, and helping to further the reach of their ministries.

      Free Trial

      We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

      Create Your Free Trial Account
      MonMondayNovNovember29th2010 Back to School: WebTalk 101

      Pop quiz: How's your website looking today?

      • Just like it looked last week...or last month?
      • Is your content primarily fresh, but a casual glance would say it's cluttered?
      • How about the navigation - is it clear?
      • Does the layout make sense upon landing?
      • What would your visitors say? What about your members?
      These are a just a few invaluable questions to ask - and keep asking - because your church's website is priority number one when it comes to external communications.

      Whether your site is established, in development, or heading for a revamp, might those questions serve as a springboard to consider these greater principles, offered by ChurchJuice.com. Download the complete whitepaper to drill deeper.

      SEVEN BASICS VITAL TO A GOOD SITE

      1. Cater to the guest

        This is the most important thing you can think about when designing your website. As a church, we're called to bring people to Christ and as we mentioned in the intro, your website is where you'll be making your church's first impression...

      2. Remember your regular attendees too

        Your members and regular attendees have much different needs from your website than visitors do. Figure out what goals ministry leaders want to achieve with members online. Do you want members to use the website as a way to learn how to get connected in various ministries? Do you want...

      3. Clean front page

        We always want to make sure people have all the information they need, but it doesn't always have to be on the front page. Text heavy front pages can be a big turn off. Folks just don't want to filter through a sea of words to find the one thing they're looking for. People are visually orientated. For example, provide an area for info for visitors and then link to other pages...

      4. Staying up to date

        Commit to keeping things up to date and your website will better appeal to visitors and may become a place your members regularly visit. Your church won't look relevant if Christmas information is still there in March. Some churches have found success is decentralizing website content updating. They've put specific ministry leaders or rock star volunteers in charge of updating certain areas...

      5. Embrace existing technology

        Your church members are already using social media, so why not meet them where they're already at? You can always use these tools as a way to push people back to your website for more information. Here are some very basic ideas for using various online tools...

      6. Be authentic to who you are

        Like any sort of communications, don't pretend to be something you're not. A church that's more traditional probably shouldn't have a website that has a grungy look. Along the same lines you shouldn't use pictures that show a racial rainbow of people if your congregation is not multicultural...

      7. Graphic design counts

        If you're putting all of the work into planning and organizing a website, it's a shame if it all goes to waste in bad or rushed design. There is no magic equation for what makes a graphically well-designed website... [download whitepaper]

      Food for thought that's fresh, clear and uncomplicated....just like we want our websites. :)



      About the Author

      Sharon Kostal oversees the Harvest Bible Fellowship website, digital media and other aspects of communication. Her delight is in spreading the word of God's work in our world today, encouraging Harvest church plants and pastors, and helping to further the reach of their ministries.

      Free Trial

      We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

      Create Your Free Trial Account
      MonMondayOctOctober11th2010 Should I Create a Google Place for My Church or Ministry?

      It isn't a secret that everyone fights to appear on the first page of Google.

      While you might not know a lot about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or even have a budget to put towards getting your church website "optimized"...an excellent free service that Google provides is Google Places.

      By creating a Google Place for your church or ministry, you can quickly provide key details to users who have searched on specific terms in your area. For example, a Google Place will provide someone with your:
      • Church Name
      • Church address
      • Church phone number
      • Church website address
      • Church contact e-mail address
      • Directions to your church
      • Description of your church
      And, as always...the more information you provide the better. You might consider:
      • Both inside and outside photos of your church building, preferably with lots of smiling happy people bustling around.
      • A quick 2 minute promotional video about why someone should come to your church.
      • Adding special announcements about important or key topics that your church is passionate about.

      What are the benefits of creating a Google Place for your church or ministry?

      After creating your Place and allowing a few weeks transpire, you will be able to easily review basic statistics that Google provides. They provide you with an easy to read chart of either the last 7 or 30 days worth of activity as well as the Top Search Queries that served up your listing and an impressions vs. actions break down like the one I am including below.

      1326   impressions

      How many times users saw your business listing as a local search result

      108   actions

      How many times users showed interest in your business listing

      14   Clicks for more info on Maps
      2   Clicks for driving directions
      92   Clicks to your website

      Bottom line, Google Places is a great way to increase your online presence in front of your local community.

      Is your ministry using Google Places? Please comment why or why not.


      Free Trial

      See how easy it is to build your church website!
      Start your 15-day free trial account,

      MonMondayAugAugust2nd2010 Helping Your Senior Pastor

      As a ministry "communicator" you are all about furthering the reach of the message of Christ--an aim that readily transfers into supporting His messenger, your Senior Pastor. This begs the question, have you helped your Senior Pastor today?

      Below are two important ways to consider...

      GET HIM CURRENT

      No, we're not talking cell phones, social media or even sweater vests :). We are talking about his web bio.
      • Is the information accurate?
      • Are the number and names of children correct?
      • Does he still resemble his photo?
      • Do you even have one posted on your website?
      If not, then it's time for an update! When doing so, a simple tip to lengthen his bio's shelf-life is to omit the ages of his children and replace time references with dates (i.e. change "married eight years" to "married in 2002").

      COMMUNICATE THE NEWS

      Is the Lord working out his purposes in your midst? Share on your website the good news by posting news, blog updates or send out e-newsletter blasts. The daily responsibilities of a typical Senior Pastor doesn’t always allow for timely sharing of even the most powerful moments in your church. The body of Christ that you are involved with can’t be kept up to date if they don't know. :)

      Noteworthy events in the life of your church or ministry might include:
      • Baptisms.
      • Anniversaries of specific dates and milestones.
      • Elder installations.
      • The launch of new programs.
      • Those unexpected faith-building circumstances that God orchestrates.
      Then...
      • Tap someone to take photos and/or video. Always!
      • Be selective. Upload 10-15 good images to your website.
      • Create a News item and summarize the gist of the event in a few paragraphs. Include wow-moments and a few quotes if possible for these really help to communicate the moment. Add your photos and/or video to your page.


      About the Author

      Sharon Kostal oversees the Harvest Bible Fellowship website, digital media and other aspects of communication. Her delight is in spreading the word of God's work in our world today, encouraging Harvest church plants and pastors, and helping to further the reach of their ministries.

      Free Trial

      We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

      Create Your Free Trial Account
      MonMondayFebFebruary1st2010 Your Church Media: Video The modern website visitor is one with a short attention span. They want information, and they want it immediately. They want news, and they want it the second it occurs. And the less effort they have to put forth, the better.

      Video is a great medium for spreading information, giving updates, and sharing stories. It engages the viewer without requiring anything on their end but the ability to push "play" and watch. Video combines the power of images with the authority of audio.

      Embedding Video with YouTube and Vimeo

      The best way to add streaming video content to your website is by uploading it to to a video hosting site like YouTube or Vimeo and embedding it into your desired page. Each video posted on these sites displays an embedding code. By copying this code and pasting it onto your site, you can add video to any page.

      Even easier, you can add your video by using our Widget feature. Just edit or create your page, click the Widget button, type in your video's location, and add.

      YouTube or Vimeo?

      Even though YouTube is more popular, we suggest using Vimeo to host your ministry's videos. Why?
      • YouTube limits uploading videos 10 minutes or less (unless you pay extra). Vimeo only limits you in amount of Mb of video uploaded per week.
      • Vimeo allows you to choose the videos your video links to. YouTube gives you the option to turn off the links, but only on the embedded video. The video on YouTube still displays links to random videos (some may have inappropriate content).
      • Vimeo allows you to password protect your videos to limit its viewability.
      • With Vimeo, you can limit which sites can embed your videos, limiting them from being posted on other sites.
      • You can create "Channels" for your Vimeo videos for better organization.
      • Your Vimeo videos or channels can be grouped into a slide show or badge widget for easy access to your video library.

      Free Trial

      We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

      Create Your Free Trial Account

      MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ADDING VIDEO

      Vimeo Basics - Vimeo.com
      "Upload a Video" Tutorial - Vimeo.com
      YouTube Help Center - YouTube.com
      "Embedding Video" Tutorial - iMinistries Support Video
      MonMondayJanJanuary18th2010 Your Church Media: Podcasting In this communication age, it is important to utilize as many ways as possible to reach your audience. In a previous blog entry, we explained how to find your audience and your writing voice. Through Podcasting your sermons and lessons, you can use your actual voice to reach a wider audience.

      What Is a Podcast?

      Podcasting is a standardized way to distribute audio files to Internet users, for downloading and listening offline (through a program like iTunes) or listening from a host site online. Podcasting is done by placing files on a Web server and using an RSS feed to describe each file. On your iMinistries site, podcasting is simplified using the Blog functionality. A Podcast on your site is a blog entry with an audio file embedded within the entry. Since all blogs on your site automatically offer an RSS feed, your blog becomes a Podcast when you add audio files to the entry.

      This all sounds more complicated than it really is. On an iMinistries site, all you have to do is create a blog, add entries, and upload your audio file with each entry.

      Creating a Podcast

      1. Create a Blog (see How to Create a Blog)
      2. Create a Blog Entry
      3. Upload an mp3 file as an enclosure by browsing to the file on your computer.
      4. Visit the blog page (you can use the open  to get to the blog page when you are on the actual Blog Entry page).
      5. Locate and click the RSS Feed link. It looks like a larger version of this : .
        If you don't see it on your page, you haven't add the RSS Feed panel to your Blog.
      6. Your browser should show some XML code (language used to communicate your Podcast). Find the URL in the address bar of your browser. This is the address of your Podcast.
      After adding your audio file to a blog entry, you can add your sermon or lesson to the iTunes directory to reach even more people. Those visiting the iTunes Store can search and download your Podcast without visiting your site.

      Adding Your Podcast to iTunes Podcast Directory

      1. If you have iTunes installed, you may simply follow this link and skip to step 5.
      2. Open iTunes (if you do not have it installed already, visit Apple's website for a free download)
      3. Visit iTunes Music Store
      4. Click Podcasts
      5. Click Submit a Podcast
      6. Paste your the address of your podcast into the box and follow all the steps

      MORE INFO/HELP ON PODCASTING

      How Do I Create A Podcast? - iMinistries Help System
      Making a Podcast - Apple.com
      FAQs: For Podcast Makers - Apple.com
      MonMondayDecDecember21st2009 Better Web Writing, Part 3: I Like Your Style Now that you have found your voice and learned how to beautify your text, it's important to set some rules for your content. You wouldn't teach your child to speak, dress them in their Sunday best, and then let them run amok. You shouldn't do the same to your content.

      Creating rules for yourself (and others who create content) helps to guide your content in the right direction. Like bumpers on a bowling lane, content rules help keep you from throwing gutter balls. Take the steps below to set up your guidelines.

      Incorporate links into the text.

      Avoid making links out of just "click here." Instead, build the links into a sentence. So, if I wanted you to check out a previous blog entry, I would add a link to the underlined text in this sentence.

      Be consistent.

      Pick a style and go with it. Not only will this promote a clean, uniform feel on your site, but it also improves its look.

      There are many established styles (AP, Chicago, MLA, APA). But you don't have to use one of these. You can create your own by making stylistic choices and utilizing that style throughout your content. What will you capitalize or abbreviate? What will you call reoccurring events? What will you name your ministries?
      Here are a few decisions to get you started:
      • 9:00 A.M. or 9 a.m. or 9am?
      • Colorado or Colo. or CO?
      • October 25 or Oct. 25th
      • 5th Graders or fifth grade students?
      • Children's Ministry: Jesus and Me or Kid's Club?
      • small groups or Small Groups?
      • address your visitors as "loved ones" or "friends"?
      • New Believers Class or First Steps or Theology 101?

      Avoid Churchisms.

      Keep your articles free of overused, ambiguous words and phrases that have become like Christian jargon. Think of something fresh that visitors, churched and un-churched, easily understand. A good rule of thumb to use: if you have to explain it, get rid of it.
      Start by purging your content of the following:
      • "food, friends, and fellowship"
      • "come alongside"
      • "lift up" as "in prayer" or "in song"
      • "God put it on my heart"
      • big theological words like: "dispensationalism," "parousia," and "transubstantiation"

      SOURCES FOR THIS BLOG/FURTHER READING ON WRITING FOR THE WEB

      The 10 Commandments of Internet Writing: Web Pro News
      Better Writing for the Internet: Ask Oxford
      50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills: Smashing Magazine
      Copywriting 101: Copyblogger
      MonMondayDecDecember7th2009 Better Web Writing, Part 2: Words As Pictures

      Writing Compelling Content for Your Church Website.

      There's a saying that "pictures are worth a thousand words." On the Web, because attention spans are so brief and space is so important, words have to be pictures. Confused? Use the advice below to start crafting your text into word-pictures.

      Care how it looks.

      Web content is a visual medium. Visitors like text that looks good on the page. If a page is not attractive, why would someone stay on that page, let alone read its content? If the text is distracting, visitors move on without reading what you have to say.

      Use white space to break up chunks of text to allow the reader to scan the content. Use lists, bullet points, and tables to organize your blocks of text. Use bold and italics to make important words, phrases, and headings stand out. Limit the use of all caps and exclamation points. Include images whenever possible.
      Instead of this...

      Help us serve those in our community by providing for their needs and DONATE TO OUR FOOD PANTRY!!
      Our current needs include: cereal, instant potatoes, canned vegetables, baby formula, and pasta.
      Please help us by dropping off your boxes or bags of NON-PERISHABLE foods in the Food Pantry bins in the lobby!

      Do this...

      Help us serve those in our community by providing for their needs. Donate to our Food Pantry.

      Our current needs include:
      • cereal
      • instant potatoes
      • canned vegetables
      • baby formula
      • pasta

      Drop off your boxes or bags of non-perishable foods in the Food Pantry bins in the lobby.

      Shorter the better.

      Use short, choppy sentences. Chunk these sentences together into brief paragraphs of 2-3 sentences so as not to intimidate the reader with long blocks of text.

      Like a newspaper article, answer all the important questions at the beginning (who, what, when, where, why, and how) and explain in more detail as the article continues. Cut out unnecessary information, adjectives, and adverbs. Adhere to the "Keep it Simple" attitude.
      Example of short and choppy:

      Calvary Baptist Student Ministries:

      Impact is our ministry for students in High School. Impact students are committed to a single purpose: living for the glory of God. They meet three times a month in home groups and at a large group meeting twice per month.

      Xtreme for Christ
      is our ministry for students in Junior High. They meet each Thursday at 7:00 P.M. in the Youth Room. Each week is filled with small discussion groups, worship, and hang out time.

      Jesus And Me (JAM) is our Children's Ministry. JAM meets every Sunday morning and evening during our main worship services. Each child is given a Bible-based lesson, activity, and memory verse every week.
      MonMondayNovNovember23rd2009 Better Web Writing, Part 1: Finding Your Voice

      Writing Compelling Content for Your Church Website.

      Visitors will come to your church website because of flashy imagery, but they'll keep coming back for fresh, well written content. Writing for the Web is different than writing for other mediums. Web visitors have shorter attention spans than any other medium, so it is important to know how to write to keep their attention as long as possible and keep them coming back for more.

      Over the next several blogs, we will give you tips for improving your Web writing. The first step to becoming a better Web writer is finding and developing your writing "voice." We've used the analogy in a previous blog entry that your church website is like a conversation. Your voice, like your speaking voice, is the tone projected by the words you use and how you use them.

      Here are three keys to developing your voice:


      Know your audience.


      Before you begin crafting the words directed toward your website users, it is important to understand their expectations and wants so you can meet them.

      Your ministry visitors want to feel in touch with your pastor and want to sense being cared for by staff members from the minute they walk in the door. They want to interact with you and not feel like a number sitting alone in a pew. You want them to feel at home, too, so when you greet these visitors to your ministry, you smile, welcome them, and give them your undivided attention. Your writing voice should do exactly the same thing.


      Be friendly.


      Your tone has the power to invite people in or turn people away. Use informal language. Say "we" and "you" instead of "our congregation" or "ministry leaders" to make yourself more relatable. Use your page as a handshake and your text as a "welcome."

      Example of friendly voice:

      If you are interested in becoming a member of Calvary Baptist, we invite you to attend Meet the Pastors.

      Meet the Pastors is a great first step towards becoming involved at Calvary. If you are investigating or have recently decided to make Calvary your church home, then we welcome you to join us at Meet the Pastors.

      Please register for Meet the Pastors today. We would love to see you there!


      Be firm and use active voice.


      Use active voice when writing news articles or blogs to energize the content and involve the reader. Use strong commands when writing ad content to promote action. Use the present tense and confident words to give your text authority.

      Example of firm, active voice using present tense:
      Join us at one of our two Sunday services. We meet at 9:30 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. each week. We invite you to engage in Christ-centered worship and an application-filled study of God’s Word with us.

      Visit our "What To Expect" page to find out more about our services and our beliefs. If you have a question or comment, fill out a Contact Us form.


      SOURCES FOR THIS BLOG/FURTHER READING ON WRITING FOR THE WEB


      The 10 Commandments of Internet Writing: Web Pro News

      MonMondayOctOctober26th2009 Improving Search Results, Chapter 2: Utilizing Meta Tags

      Make Your Ministry Website More Visible With Meta Tags

      What are Meta Tags?

      Meta Tags are keywords and phrases hidden in the background of your church website to describe your page to search engines. These tags help them determine if your site is best for a search query. They also appear as the title and description of your site in the results of those search queries.


      If you have not added Meta tags to your site, search engines will use the first lines of your page as your description, so you can see why Meta tags are an important tool to ensure that users find you. Meta tags give you control over the first impression you present to searchers.

      For example, Calvary Church and Grace Bible are two ministries in suburban Boston. Calvary has added Meta title and description tags to their site. Grace Bible has not, so the search engine has grabbed its menu bar as its description. Below are the search results for “Bible church in Boston suburbs”:
      Calvary Church - Welcome
      Calvary is a Bible-believing church that has faithfully served the Boston suburbs since 1974. Calvary offers diverse ministry for men, women, children, and students…

      Grace Bible – Home – Grace Bible Church
      Home – Ministries – Contact Us – FAQ – info@gracebible.net 123 Main St., Suburbs, MA 12345…
      You can see how these small tags can make a big impression on search engine users. Calvary Church’s website jumps out as more relevant, simply because they added a brief summary of their ministry as a Meta Tag.

      What Content Should I use in a Meta Tag?

      Concentrate on creating three types of Meta Tags, using the analogy of a book:
      • Title (book title): Summarize your ministry in a few short words. Obviously, you ministry name should come first. But adding two or three words after the ministry…
      • Description (back cover summary): In a few short sentences, describe your ministry. This description will be displayed under your site's title in search results (like above) and is often called a "snippet." To read more about how to create more effective snippets, check out this article from Google.
      • Keywords (subject, genre, author): List words and phrases that relate to your ministry. Like your location, your senior pastor or founder’s name, and even “church.” Google has decided to help you out with keyword development. Their Keyword Tool allows you to generate suggested keywords by entering in your website's URL.

      How can I add Meta Tags to My iMinistries site?

      Adding a Meta Tag to your iMinistries site is easy. Just follow these steps:
      1. Navigate to your Site Administration.
      2. In your Site Controls, select Site Preferences.
      3. On the General tab, click [Meta Tag Administration]
      4. Click Add Tag
      5. Name your tag (ex. “Description”), fill in the Content field, and save.
      You can also add Meta Tags to individual pages. When you edit any page, event, news article, or other content, navigate to its SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tag. Add your descriptions and keywords in the fields provided.
      MonMondaySepSeptember7th2009 About Us: Beginning The Conversation

      Use Your About Us Page to Introduce Yourself to Visitors

      When you first meet someone, you both ask questions to begin your interaction.

      What do you do? Where are you from? What do you like to do?



      The answers to these initial ice breakers often dictate how the exchange continues. If you both share common interests or personality traits, you could find yourself in a deep conversation. If not, it could end up just a brief chat.

      When people visit your church website for the first time, they are seeking similar information about your ministry. They should be able to find these answers immediately, and all in one place, or the “conversation” may end before it begins. This is why a well thought out About Us section is vital to an effective website.

      Next to the homepage, the About Us section of your website is the most visited by new users. It is more than just a place to list your history or address, but its goal should be to connect with visitors by taking steps to building a relationship with them.

      The three main questions that should be answered in this section are:

      • Who are you?
      • What do you do?
      • Why should I trust you?
      About Us should be offered in your menu and can list several pages as submenu items. Below are pages that you can include within your About Us section:
      • Ministry History
      • Basic Ministry Information
      • Ministry List/What You Offer
      • Beliefs/Values
      • Contact Information
      • Staff
      • Extension Ministries/Partners
      • Employment Opportunities
      • Ministry Location, Directions, and Maps
      • Frequently Asked Questions

      The more information you provide, the more trust you earn from visitors, the more credibility you give to your ministry, and the better likelihood of engaging in a meaningful conversation.

      Blog Sources/Further Reading

      http://www.onextrapixel.com/2009/07/31/the-essence-of-about-us-page-with-12-captivating-showcases/
      http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/01/best-practices-for-effective-design-of-about-us-pages/
      http://www.useit.com/homepageusability/guidelines.html

      Free Trial

      See how easy it is to build your church website!
      Start your 15-day free trial account,

      SunSundayJunJune1st2008 Shortcuts to Success
      byDave McCall Tagged Church Communications 0 comments Add comment
      While I wait for church to start on Sunday morning, I have begun playing a little game. Since our church is an iMinistries customer, I read through the bulletin and look for references to the church website. I've had weeks where the website gets 20+ references. What I am especially happy about are shortcut references.

      Throughout your site you are able to add shortcuts to practically any page. A shortcut allows you to give your visitors a direct, easy-to-remember reference to a page. For instance, if you create a shortcut to a photo gallery which is "potluckpictures," your visitors can access that gallery by simply typing "http://yoursite.org/potluckpictures."

      For our church, this has led to a dramatic change in the bulletin. The ministry team has been relieved of providing every bit of detail for each item and can now offer a small introduction while directing the curious straight to more information on the website. Our research shows that people use these shortcuts a lot.

      Free Trial

      We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

      Create Your Free Trial Account

      Here are a few tips to using shortcuts:


      Keep them short but descriptive
      People can only remember so much. A shortcut like "mensretreatandworkweekendphotogallery" sort of defeats the purpose--"mensweekendpics" is probably better.

      Avoid acronyms unless they are very well known
      "VBS" is good, since I'm more likely to identify the "church's summer program" as "VBS" than "Vacation Bible School" anymore. But if your church offers a class called "Introduction to Christian Faith," chances are that "ICF" isn't entirely memorable while "introtofaith" might be.

      Shortcuts can only be used once
      One customer has already run into "overlap" with their shortcuts. Last year's New Year's Eve event had the shortcut "newyears" and had to be removed before that shortcut could be used on this year's event. We'd suggest "newyears2008" as a better practice for something you do regularly.

      Feel free to drop the WWW

      Your site is most certainly reachable at both "www.mysite.org" and "mysite.org." When you write your shortcuts, save space and leave off the "www." The URL "mysite.org/shortcut1" is simple to type and takes up little of your valuable bulletin space.

      Don't miss out on using this feature.
      MonMondayJulJuly31st2006 How to Write for the Web
      byDave McCall Tagged Church Communications 0 comments Add comment
      Today, I'm simply going to point you to another website. This article was written by Jakob Nielsen. Jakob is widely regarded as the world's foremost usability expert. As a usability expert, his primary concern is not with the way computer applications (and websites) perform or look, but how easy it is for the end-user to use them.

      Free Trial

      We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

      Create Your Free Trial Account
      He wrote this guide "How to Write for the Web," that is almost required reading for anyone who maintains a website.

      As I know many people don't have time to read the whole thing, you may want to skip to the conclusions section at the bottom which gives you a summary of the findings.

      For those with more time, spending some of it on the host site, useit.com could be useful.
      MonMondayJunJune5th2006 Under Construction is Assumed
      byDave McCall Tagged Church Communications 0 comments Add comment
      Apart from animated images, nothing says "this website is lame" better than "Under Construction" pages. The dirty little secret of the web is that every site is under construction. Websites are meant to constantly change. This is what makes websites a valuable method for distributing information.

      Free Trial

      We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

      Create Your Free Trial Account
      The best way to build a website is to do it a little at a time. We recommend to our clients that they only add a page to their site once they have the information to fill out that page. This saves users from the frustration of following a link just to find out that the information they are looking for is not available.

      Don't worry if you've created "Under Construction" pages before. It happens to the best of us. I've done it. But, we become responsible for what we know. And now you know.