Before you choose colors, images, pages and features for your church website you need to find out who is going to contribute. Often times, a volunteer web designer will explain all of the possible bells and whistles for a website in an attempt to “sell” the need to the church staff. It is with good intention that this friendly helper starts down the path. You must understand that the bells and whistles require effort to create and even more effort to keep updated. Don’t ask (or allow) someone to build tools that you won’t (or can’t) keep up to date.
Before taking responsibility for a website the volunteer and the rest of the team needs to clarify who can and will help with the web site. Here are a few questions to ask:
Do you have the basics covered? Make sure the essentials are covered first. Get the content for the foundation defined an in place before adding the fancy website features. Include Service Times and Locations. Explain the church beliefs. Add simple Contact information. Create a simple list of the different Ministries.
Do you want a Pastor Blog? Does the pastor like to write? How often and in what format. A pastor blog on a website is a great idea, but only if the pastor likes to write and has the time to write. A stale blog with an update every few months is OK, but everyone needs to know this is the plan (especially the readers).
Do you want an online events list? Does the office staff create the weekly bulletin with events and announcements? Who will be responsible for the various events? Will the events be provided by each small group leader? Will a single person enter it all? Will a single person gather it all? Are there “submission” deadlines to get into the weekly bulletin? How much more work would it be to add this information to the website if you use a particular program to create the bulletin? Would it be better to simply add it to the website and print the web page?
Obviously, it all depends on your church. If you have a church full of iPhone and blackberry junkies a web version of the bulletin may be OK. The church members may have read the information before church starts if it is posted online the day before (think of RSS feeds). On the other hand, if your church members generally enjoy carrying a piece of paper tucked in their bibles you may want to focus on the nice printouts and skip the constant web updates.
What about audio or video downloads? Is the web team also the audio and video team? Will mp3 files be available online? Do you sell CD’s and is this revenue necessary? If the Audio files are coming from a different person, do all the “handlers” have the right software to manipulate the files?
Communication – Often and Early!
The bottom line is to identify who does what and make sure they understand what is expected. Don’t let a single person sign up for everything — they may burn out and leave a proprietary mess. Start small and try to minimize sending all the files and information through a single person. Your webmaster should be in a position to help the rest of the church share information online.