Church Websites: The Importance of a Certification Program

“Best efforts will not substitute for knowledge.”

 W. Edwards Deming

To put it frankly, Churches are struggling in regards to communications; this includes their websites. This certainly does not have to be the case though. There are several measures that Churches can take that will have an immediate impact on the effectiveness of their websites. 

A good Church website needs to be maintained and updated frequently. Herein lies the first opportunity for churches to improve their websites.

Someone has to make the changes to the website. The more ministry employees that are capable of making these changes, the better. Without employees that can effectively run its website, a ministry is inhibiting its ability to communicate effectively through this online medium. Creating ideas is only one part of the formula for getting quality content on a Church website. In addition, the technological side of the website needs to be executed so that ideas can become reality. A Church will be free to make website updates and changes if their employees are proficient when it comes to website management. 

So how does a ministry ensure its employees can effectively run its website?

Effective training materials and quizzes that test the retainment of website management knowledge can ensure that employees have what they need to make changes on a site. 

Running a Church website requires certain knowledge. There is no doubt about that. One common idea that needs to be extinguished, however, is that only young, tech-savvy people can run a Church website. This is blatantly false. With proper training and practice, anyone can learn to run a content management system. It is simply a matter of providing the proper training and practice to ministry employees.   

Ministry employees and volunteers need to be empowered. Doing so will aid in ministry development. See how we are crafting communications empowerment.

Seven Essential Tools for a Project Manager

Efficiency is one of my main goals as the PM of a small but fast-paced and successful web design agency. For me, efficiency means speed while compromising neither the sanity of my co-workers nor the quality of our projects. Here are 7 essential tricks and tools that I use on a daily basis to help me do my job well.

1. Alfred: the essential speed tool

Named after Batman’s butler, Alfred basically does anything you ask him to do—and fast. It is a free productivity app that allows you to open files, documents, websites, and applications in a fraction of a second with a few quick keystrokes. You can choose your own shortcut (mine is “option + a”) and then type in the name of a file or application. Then press Enter. If I need to open my browser, I type “option + a + ch + Enter” and I’ve opened Chrome without using my mouse. The same goes for documents. Alfred gets accustomed to what you command most frequently, so I often only need to type in the first few letters of my request. If I am on the phone with a client and they begin talking about their wireframe, I can have it up in 5 seconds. I consider Alfred a true necessity. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 2.38.03 PM.png
Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 2.38.18 PM.png

2. Google Docs: the essential organization tool

Although I really only have one Google Doc that I use consistently, I still must attribute much of the timeliness of our tasks and projects to my “Progress” doc. I currently manage about 60 projects, about 28 of which are active (pre-launch,) and this Google spreadsheet helps me keep track of every step along the way. One of my favorite features: conditional formatting.

Conditional formatting allows you to set keywords as indicators for the background of cells to become a certain color. Whenever I type “Done” in any given cell, the background changes to a bright green. As I have more of these bright green cells lined up, I have a visual representation of the progress of my project. See below.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 2.39.19 PM.png
Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 3.20.09 PM.png

3. GoToMeeting: the essential training tool

I am fortunate to be able to train my clients in on how to use their brand new Squarespace website. Only a small percentage of our clients are local, so what am I supposed to do about the clients in another state, or even in another country thousands of miles away? I love GoToMeeting because I can share my screen and voice with these clients as if they were with me in our office space. Whether my clients are hands-on, visual, or audio learners, GoToMeeting gets the job done. Clients may see my screen and hear my voice in real time. While that is happening, they may also open up the backend of their website and work alongside me. 

4. Basecamp: the essential task-delegating tool

I don’t know what we would do without Basecamp. Basecamp is mainly a communication tool that allows us to send messages files and tasks between team members. Doesn’t email do that too? Well… yes and no. Sure, we can send messages, files, and tasks to each other, but Basecamp sorts task by project and sub-project (or “metaproject,”) and includes due dates and checkboxes. Tasks go away once they are checked off (but are kind of archived so that you can revisit them if necessary). It is also a hub of completed files and a great way to share raw files for other team members to work with. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 3.13.29 PM.png

5. Chrome: the essential shortcutting tool

Chrome remembers your most-visited sites across all computers while you’re using the same account. This is especially helpful as I manage clients’ websites and often work from multiple computers. If any client calls, no matter what computer I’m using, I can always have their website up in a second.

Google Chrome is the fastest, most compatible and shortcut-friendly browser. Compatible? That just means that more websites are going to work more smoothly on Chrome because it has been optimized to accommodate more features than other browsers. Another thing that sets Chrome apart is that the URL bar doubles as Google. So if you type a phrase rather than a URL, it will automatically display Google search results. Also, I love the super-simplified bookmark bar that allows you to drag-and-drop.

6. The Legal Pad: the essential keep-track-of-everything tool

I am a hands-on, tactile person—so I love to write things out and see my hands make letters, lists, and checkmarks. (I also love painting, pottery, cooking, rock climbing, and petting cats... yeah all that hands-on type stuff.) And it just feels so good to check something off of a to-do list! I’m also a huge fan of having a physical copy as well as a digital copy of a checklist. Physical checklists allow you to put everything in one place as well as actually check things off with a pen. Plus, you get to draw cool animals and stuff on them. 

photo 1.JPG

Well… You can buy your legal pads... 

7. Spotify + Earbuds: the essential zoning tool

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 2.47.54 PM.png

Last but certainly not least… sometimes you just need to tune out and zone in on stuff. I like my little Skullcandy earbuds and have invested in Spotify Premium for $10/month. 

photo 2.JPG

I can't imagine a workday without one of these essential seven tools. I believe each one of these is key to success!

  • speed
  • organization
  • training
  • task-delegating
  • shortcutting
  • keep-track-of-everything
  • zoning

The Age of Relevancy

The Situation: The church website market, like anything else in the online realm, is constantly changing. The traditional model forchurch websites is still being used by churches today, but the fact is, this model is outdated and often is not the right fit for ministries.

The Traditional Model: Right now churches simply shell out a large lump sum of money and receive a custom website. A high level of importance is placed on the initial website build, but after this, the websites often don’t receive the frequent updates and care they need to be effective. With time, this can lead to a drop in relevancy for the site. This, in turn, results in a website that does not connect with its target audience so it needs to be completely replaced with a new and revamped website. Simply stated, many Churches spend a lot of money on websites that do not sufficiently meet their communication needs over time. 

The Solution: Through ongoing maintenance and design, a church website can be kept timely and fresh. Emphasizing an ongoing relationship, a day to day, month to month partnership, BlendFive provides a solution that empowers ministries. It’s important to realize that a constant decline of quality and relevance can easily be avoided. 

Rather than spending thousands of dollars up front, that money is spent over time to ensure your ministry is constantly getting the most out of its website. This means that every month, the website acknowledges the changes of your ministries, with a proactive approach to stay relevant. Failure to reflect these changes on your website can greatly reduce the quality of your online presence. Issues do not compound because they are addressed as they arise; this also avoids the need to completely overhaul a website. This not only leads to a superior website build, but it also increases the value of each dollar spent. 

Church websites should not be handed off with a simple transaction. Ministries need a solution that is ongoing and structured around relationships.

Directional Digital Strategy: Using your Church Website to Meet Long-term Goals

Long-term communication goals. Despite the importance of having these goals, many ministries fail to establish them. There is often a lack of recognition that long-term goals don’t mean sitting back complacently and waiting to take action in the future. 

Reaching long-term ministry goals starts now. So, it’s a leader’s job to determine which people and tactics to use so goals are achieved. Development of a strategy and its consolidation on a ministry website provides leaders a great place to start pursuing communication goals. 

A quality ministry website is immediate, relevant, dynamic and ongoing. 

Immediate- Once a website change is made, people that visit the website will immediately see the change. The speed with which updates can be made, and the number of people that can quickly view the updates sets websites apart from many other channels of communication. 

Relevant- Since updates and changes can be made so quickly on a website, they have the ability to reach a high level of relevancy. A website’s changes can coincide with any changes that are occurring in the ministry. This will allow the site to connect with users. 

Dynamic- There are many technological features online now that allow a website to be exciting for users. For one, several media can be incorporated on a website. This offers ministry members alternative ways to receive information other than the traditional method of simply reading information. In addition, websites are often interactive which helps ministry members build a sense of community through online conversation. 

Ongoing- Once a website is up, it stays up. People are always able to visit it and find out information. While updates may be made to the site, the site can still be viewed.  This means communicating with a website greatly minimizes lapses in the communication process. People can access the site whenever they want. With verbal communication, both parties are limited to a time when they are both available. No such restrictions exist with a website. 

For these reasons, websites are valuable in reaching long-term communication goals. Any communication tool is important, but a website stands above the rest for the reasons listed. If constructed and maintained properly, they can immediately and effectively connect with the target audience.  

With an effective website, Churches can further enhance their ministries and reach their goals online. This begins by finding an effective solution.


Connecting Digitally: A Restructured Website Solution for Churches

Frequently, ministries are not optimizing their websites. As a result, Church websites are often in need of help, upkeep, etc. The benefit gained from having the website is diminished when this is the case. 

Many Churches are still following the traditional model of the church website market.

The Traditional Model: Right now, Church websites are often done on a transactional basis. In other words, Churches spend a lot of money to receive a website. Design companies simply build the Church a site and hand it over. With time, this leads to an issue of relevancy; in many ways its like bailing out a sinking ship. There’s a cyclical process and a dwindling of relevancy. This ultimately results in a website that is incapable of connecting with the target audience in a meaningful way and has to be scrapped completely and replaced with a new one. The process then starts over. In short, churches are investing a lot of money on websites that have a shelf life in regards to relevancy. 

The new model for Church websites addresses these glaring issues and sets churches up for greater communication success online.  

The New Model: After their construction, websites need to be constantly maintained because not only is the online realm always changing, but ministries are always changing as well. Due to these changes, websites need to be tweaked frequently so that they are kept timely and relevant. This will avoid a drop in effectiveness over time, and ensure the website is constantly fresh. This new model of Church websites features continuous service that can maintain a high level of relevancy on church websites. Rather than totally redesigning a website once it is ineffective, the new model features a proactive approach that updates websites before there is a drop in relevancy. The key to this is the idea that a website unlike the old model, is not a simple transaction; it’s a relationship. Websites should not be constructed and pawned off to Ministries. An agency should build the site and then provide the Church with assistance for the entire life of the website. This is a great way to enhance a Church’s online presence.      

Each Church has its own specific needs, passions and pursuits. Because of this, how you structure your website is extremely important. Remember, relevancy is becoming more and more important, especially in this new age. 

Want to hear about some ways you can adapt into the new model and keep your website relevant? Check out our BlendFive solution.