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    Best Practices! - Entries from December 2010

    Home - Blog - Best Practices! - Entries from December 2010
    MonMondayDecDecember20th2010 Does It Move You Forward?

    Keeping up with the technology "Joneses" doesn't necessarily mean that  your church website is affective.

    I recently read an article from Chris Brogan's website titled, "Is it Moving You Forward" and thought that I should share a little snippet from it.
    I'm not using paper to write any "daily whatevers." I'm not using Quora to answer questions. I haven’t tried that new Twitter client. In fact, I'm not doing a LOT of things.

    I have a very simple question to answer each time: will this move me forward?
    With that in mind, something that I think we all should consider on a weekly basis comes from 1 Corinthians 10:23-24.
    "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up.
    Just like in our spiritual lives, the same principles can be applied to your ministry or church website. While we use and have promoted the use of Twitter and Facebook in these two blog entries:
    you must be the one who measures its effectiveness and if you should continue to foster the relationships that it brings in. While we have seen an increased interaction with our customers by doing Twitter and Facebook, we have to do an even better job of evaluating its effectiveness. Maybe after a solid effort (over a years time), we set it aside these technologies and/or trends, and focus our attention elsewhere. I will even take this a step further and say that we refocus our energy back on our core competencies. This is something that Dave McCall does really well, but it's an area that I am lacking in.

    Tell us...has using Twitter and Facebook been advantageous for you? If so, how do you know? What success stories have you seen?

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    WedWednesdayDecDecember15th2010 Harvest Barrie iPhone App
    byTravis Hickox Tagged Portfolio 0 comments Add comment

    Harvest Barrie gets accepted by Apple for their church iPhone app!

    Not only did Harvest Bible Chapel Barrie want to partner with iMinistries for their new church website, they also wanted to have their own Church iPhone app! Check out and download their fully integrated Church iPhone app today.



    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.

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    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.

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    TueTuesdayDecDecember7th2010 Custom Designed Church Website for Harvest Bible Chapel - Barrie
    byTravis Hickox Tagged Portfolio 0 comments Add comment

    Selecting the right church website provider is important. 

    Our latest customer, Harvest Bible Chapel of Barrie, Ontario, did their research and moved their church website over to the iMinistries Church CMS from Clover.

    Once their website was live, we asked them why they decided to switch. They told us that they were looking to save money, and liked that we offer so many features right out of the box. They were also excited about getting an iPhone app for their church.

    We also asked them what they thought of working with us to bring their website to life. They told us that they loved our project management and thought that we were very professional and timely. They also appreciated that we provided helpful insights to them along the way.


    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.

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    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