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Unleashing Technology: Websites

Want to unleash the power of technology to enhance your church? Martyn Casserly explores the possibilities in Part 1: Websites

A young girl sat with her mother in the front row of church one Sunday morning. The preacher was an energetic chap who prowled around delivering his message with verve and gusto. Due to his wanderings, the lead from his microphone kept catching on the lectern, requiring him to whip the cable to free it again. After several instances of this, the little girl leaned into her mother with a concerned look on her face and said, ‘If he gets loose, will he hurt us?’

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It has the power to liberate, enrich and even transform the way we live and worship. Conversely, it can be a frightening prospect, like a wild preacher set free from his microphonic leash. So we’ve put together a guide for upgrading various aspects of your church that could act as a comforting hand along this potentially dark and treacherous road. Think of us as a sort of Apple Genius-type assistant, albeit without the youthful enthusiasm and elegantly designed workplace...

NB: We realise that some churches are way ahead on this, basking in the reflective glow of their iPads and light displays. This feature is for the rest of us, who are still drowning in a sea of acetate and dayglow posters.

Website

Yes, the Internet. It’s kind of a big deal. There’s a strong possibility that someone walking into your church for the first time has already visited your website, or at the very least done a Google search. Thankfully it’s never been easier to put together a good-looking online home, with services such as Wordpress (wordpress.com) offering everything you need, including hosting, for free.

The main consideration is what you want the website to actually do. There are essentially two main types: the slimmed-down brochure site which has only a few pages, most of which are static (ie the content rarely changes) and are more like online adverts for your church. Or you could have a full site that has more features, such as video clips, photo galleries, blogs, and can also hold secure information such as phone directories and forums. But bear in mind that you’ll need a volunteer or member of staff to regularly update this kind of site.

If the shop window appeal of a brochure site is more what you’re after, then the easiest way is to sign up for a blog with Wordpress. This will give you a free site whose appearance you can change and update with no need for programming or tech skills. Search for ‘Setting up a Wordpress blog’ on YouTube for many helpful videos that take you through it step by step.

If you want a more interactive site that church members can use as a place to exchange ideas, find rotas, receive automated emails from the Church calendar etc, then you need a full site which is probably best built by professionals as it can be complicated and time consuming. One of our personal favourites is 3sixtycreative.com who have built several quality church sites, all of which you can view from their homepage.
TIP: Simplicity is key to a usable website. Stick to the supplied templates, avoid garish colour schemes, and use good quality pictures (surely there’s someone into photography at your church?). Make sure your location and contact details are on the front page or under a ‘Contact Us’ menu, and never, under any circumstances, have music that automatically plays – seriously, just don’t do it.

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