Categories
Perspectives

Who Cares About Your Church Website?

Who cares what you’re doing? Seriously. Who cares about the work you do maintaining your church website?

Not long ago, I spent some devotional time looking at passages where Paul speaks of the need for believers to “build up” one another.

I started thinking about the impact of my service to my local church.

For sure, the skills and abilities I’ve been given provide practical benefit. I’ve seen that. But I wanted to know how people are being refreshed and encouraged by the work I do.

In other words, does my web work spiritually build up the body at my local assembly and beyond? And, if it does, how?

Maybe you’ve wondered that, too. I don’t think it’s uncommon to feel that way.

Though the product of our work is laid bare before a global audience, web work is still very much a “behind the scenes” ministry.

Church web workers work their magic while going largely unnoticed and unknown. And, truth be told, we kinda like it like that.

But, we’re still as encouraged as anyone else when we learn that our work has made a real impact in someone’s life.

I see the trees

When my pastor walked with me during the year I wanted to read the entire Bible for the first time, he did a practical thing sending me an “accountability” email every week.

Instead of asking me a simple “yes or no” question, he took it a step further by having me explain what insights God revealed during my daily readings.

The obvious, practical benefit was that, with his help, I was able to reach my goal.

But, the kindness and patience and sacrifice he made also built me up spiritually. During that year, I grew in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, learned more about God than I ever imagined, and matured in my faith as I did what I heard (James 1:22).

So, it’s easy for me to know how, even now, I benefit spiritually from his work.

But from my perspective, I can’t see how others likewise benefit from my work. That “behind the scenes” nature of the work makes it easy for me to get all caught up in the technical and creative aspects of it. So, I have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.

Add to that the ever-shifting environment of the Web. Staying on top of the changes and their effect on what I do is a real challenge. That tension makes it tempting to focus on the temporal aspects of the work.

It’s a daily fight. And, that’s what prompted me to ask my pastor for help.

I asked him to help me see how what I do is up-building to him and to the body. Though I was energized by his response, it took several days for me to realize that I still could only see the “trees.”

Oh, there’s the forest!

At first glance, his list reveals that practical needs are being met. That’s certainly encouraging!

But, the more I thought about it, it still didn’t seem particularly “spiritual.” I still couldn’t see what “eternal value” my efforts produce.

If he’d told me people were growing in their faith (or, even being saved) as a direct result of visiting our website, I’d be counting that for sure!

But, what eternal value is there to updating plugins, taking down outdated content, or compressing images and PDF files?

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this article that it hit me: the body is built up through practical means, and in practical ways.

[slogan size=”small” color=”#88200ee”]”[…] even a cup of cold water, given with the right spirit, brings its own reward.”  –Warren Wiersbe[/slogan]

Working in the name of Jesus to make our websites safe for people to visit, easy to navigate, convenient to use, and useful for learning and getting things done, means as much to Him as handing someone a glass of water (Matthew 10:42).

And, giving a thirsty person a drink of water is about as practical as it gets!

So, who cares what I’m doing?

What does it matter? Well…

  • It mattered to the man in Detroit, Michigan, the woman in Moshi Tanzania, and that other guy in Albuquerque, New Mexico who were able to get answers to their questions about spiritual matters.
  • It matters to my pastor because he has access to a knowledgeable source for answers to all kinds of technical questions, and help to accomplish ministry goals online.
  • My work also matters to him because he wants his teaching ministry/efforts to be strengthened and enlarged as his voice (speaking God’s truth) is carried across the globe.
  • My work matters to people all over the globe, especially those who want to learn more about God, and are able to do so, as they hear the Word and insights my pastor shares.
  • My work matters to brothers and sisters in our assembly who want to be able listen to sermons and otherwise stay connected and “in the loop” when they’re away due to travel , illness, etc.
  • My work mattered to visitors to our area who wanted to locate and fellowship with like-minded believers while they were away from their own home church on a short-term work assignment.
  • My work mattered to a young Marine newly-stationed at a nearby installation who, before he arrived, wanted to locate a body of like-minded believers to assemble with.

The campus where my small church assembles is one mile off the main road in a rural, heavily-wooded area. During the Summer of 2014, we lost the lease on a patch of land on the main road where our sign had been pitched for more than 25 years.

Since then, we’ve made our plans, but we’re still waiting for God to provide land and signage replacements.

And yet, He’s shown me that my work matters to Him. Even as we wait on Him, He guides weary souls down that narrow road to our church each week, and many times He’s used our website to do it.

During the last 10 months we’ve welcomed 61 guests, 23 of whom found us online and came after visiting our website.

Who cares what you’re doing?

So, what care do you take with your church’s website? Who are you thinking about or caring about as you perform your work to maintain it?

Is your attitude and motivation God-honoring or self-serving?

Do you think anyone cares about what you’re doing?

If you think no one cares about the work you do, you also might be tempted to not care about it. That attitude will most certainly be reflected in what people find when they visit your church website.

The web is littered with dead or dying church websites that no one cares about.

I hope you won’t let your website be counted among them.

Find out who your church website matters to

If you want to know what impact your work is making, start asking questions.

Who greets new visitors to your church? Do they ask your guests how they heard about the church? Ask them to share that with you.

Do you use guest cards to gather contact information and track new visitors attending your church? Do you ask “How Did You Learn About Us” or include a similar question on the card? If not, take steps to get it added in.

Our guest card didn’t include that question. So, I asked our Office Manager to add it. Now we’re all encouraged when visitors arrive on our doorstep as a result of finding and spending time on our website!

Talk to your pastor, your Office Manager, or anyone who’s on the “front lines” at your church. Ask them to share what they’ve heard people say about it.

Of course, on this side of eternity, none of us can truly know the full extent to which God is using our work. But you can be sure your work matters to Him.

Our duty is to remain faithful in our service to Him.

Remember, God is not unfair. He will not forget the work you did or the love you showed for Him in the help you gave and are still giving to other Christians. (Hebrews 6:10 GNT)

Categories
Perspectives

Why Learning To Say NO Is A Good Thing

Learning to say No is hard. But, I’ve discovered that learning to say No, even to “good things,” is a good thing.

In fact, it’s a very good and essential thing for church Web workers.

How learning to say No saved my life

Growing up, I was taught that you said Yes to “nice” or “good” things, and No to “bad” or “evil” things.

As a young military enlistee, I was taught saying Yes signaled obedience and submission. Those were good things.

Soldiers who said No were looking for trouble.

After the military, the civilian workforce taught me that agreeable, cooperative, team players said Yes.

People who wanted to get fired said No.

I learned that saying Yes pleased people. And, so I learned to be a people-pleaser.

Then, after months of being overwhelmed, overworked, and suffering from a sudden and severe bout of headaches and dizziness, I was diagnosed as being dangerously close to having a stroke.

I was 28 years old.

My doctor told me that if I didn’t immediately make some major changes in my life, I would likely not live to see 30.

That was my kick-start.  It wasn’t easy, but my life quite literally depended on my learning to say No.

Learning to say No as a Christ-follower

Later, after God rescued me, I was eager to learn all I could about what living this new life in Christ meant.

It didn’t take long to discover that the word Yes is just as highly valued in the Church.

As with the civilian workforce, saying Yes in the Church often brands you as an agreeable, cooperative, team player.

In fact, some will even judge your spiritual maturity and level of commitment to the cause of Christ based on how often you say Yes.

In other words, the more requests you say Yes to, the more highly esteemed you are as a selfless servant of Christ.

When it comes to “church work,” we humans can attach great piety to the word Yes. But, that’s not how God judges our commitment and work in Christ.

What a comfort to know that I’m neither expected nor required to say Yes to every human request made of me!

Learning to say No as a church Web worker

For church Web workers, saying No can be especially difficult.

Websites need our regular, ongoing attention if they are to be fashioned into the effective ministry tools we want them to be.

I wonder if you’re like me. I’ve got lots of hopes, dreams, and ideas for my church’s website.

And, then there are all those requests (and sometimes demands) from leaders and members of your local assembly.

I don’t get very many of those, but maybe you do.

With all of the good things we can and want to be doing with our websites, it’s easy to get over-extended and overwhelmed with the work of our ministry.

But, we’re not required to say Yes to every request. Nor is our every idea and desire for the site profitable or needful.

Hard work can bring glory to God. Ministry burnout—not so much.

So what’s the solution? Where’s the balance?

It’s simple: learn to say No to the “right” good things.

How to know what good things to say No to

I was encouraged by Yvon Prehn’s insight about how learning to say No can actually free us up to follow our Lord’s example.

In her Devotions for Church Communicators, Yvon reminds us that Jesus said No to many things and many people. At all times, His chief concern was to do what His Father wanted Him to do (Matthew 26:39; Luke 2:49; John 4:34, 5:30).

[divider]

“I tell you the truth,” he continued, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.

Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:24-27).

One of the hardest words to say when you are involved in church communication is “no.” One of the hardest words to say when you are involved in church communication is “no.”

[framed_box align=”right”][/framed_box] There is always another project to be done, always someone you could help by putting together a flyer, newsletter, or web project for them. There is always a way to do a project better, a better photograph, or illustration, or clip art we know we can find if we just take the time to search. But we need to follow our Lord’s example and learn to say “no.”

It is never easy. After Jesus shared these words the people of his hometown tried to kill him. Hopefully the reaction to our refusal to do a project or to make another revision won’t be quite as harsh, but we shouldn’t be surprised at negative reactions.

What makes it difficult is that we have to learn to say “no” to good things. For many of us in the Christian life, we’ve spent so much time learning to say “no” to evil. Learning to say “no” to something that is good and needed—that’s tough.

What a good example Jesus is for us here. There were many things he said “no” to—people he didn’t heal, places he didn’t go to preach, and people he didn’t go after.

What he did do was his Father’s will. He knew only his Father had the big picture and knew exactly what Jesus needed to do to accomplish that plan. Jesus could say “no” in peace because he spent intense and intimate time with God.

Time with God, confirming his will for us, is the only way to determine what good things we must say “no” to in our lives and church communication ministries.

This post is an excerpt from Devotions for Church Communicators, by Yvon Prehn. It’s one of my “go-to” devotionals when I thirst for perspective and encouragement while performing the work entrusted to me.

[divider]

Jesus didn’t say Yes to everything and everyone. Nor does God our Father.

His desire is for us to be wise, to try to understand what He wants us to do, and to follow His example in everything we do (Ephesians 5:1, 15-17).

He neither expects nor demands that we say Yes to everything and everyone.

And, that’s a good thing.

Categories
Tools & Resources

Outsourcing: How to Work Smarter and Get Things Done

Building and maintaining a church website is time-consuming work. Accomplishing even small, simple tasks can be a huge challenge for the lone church Web worker or non-technical team.

If you think a lack of resources—time, expertise, money, or human—is keeping you from having a great website, I’ve got news for you.

The truth is, for a lot less expense than you may think, a treasure-trove of expert technical and creative help and support is literally at your fingertips.

You really have no reason to settle for having a poor website. Why not consider outsourcing your Web work?

[framed_box width=”625px” bgColor=”rgba(245,242,134,1)”]FEATURED RESOURCE:
Learn how to outsource your church Web work on a small budget[/framed_box]

Outsourcing Definition

Generally, outsourcing is defined as the practice of hiring outside companies or individuals to perform job functions, rather than handling them in-house.

For the church, creating service opportunities and recruiting from within your congregation is always preferable.

But, if the abilities and expertise to meet your technical or creative needs isn’t there (or is unavailable), hiring temporary help through outsourcing is a sensible solution.

What church Web work can be outsourced?

So, what kinds of website tasks fit neatly under the general outsourcing definition? Well, just about anything.

You can hire technical experts to take care of “heavy lifting” projects like adding new features and services to your website.

You also can outsource something as small as changing the copyright date in the footer of your website, removing a page that’s no longer relevant, or applying available updates to site applications.

Tips for outsourcing success

I recently wrapped up my very first experience with outsourcing. I hired two freelancers—one on oDesk, one on Fiverr—to complete two projects for me. The oDesk project was a one-month contract, and the Fiverr project took less than 7 days to complete.

With both services, I found amazing talent right out the gate. Prayer, good planning, and common sense guided my hiring process. It was a breeze! And, now I have the confidence (and the know-how) to get the help I need when I need it, and all within my budget.

To find the best people for my projects, here are a few basic tips I adhered to:
[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

  • First, I got clear about my basic requirements. I started by deciding what I needed done, why I needed to outsource it, and what my budget was for getting the work done. I documented it all to help me stay focused. I also needed a written reference to help with course-correction if I found myself veering off by chasing after “wants” instead of sticking with my “needs”.
  • Reviewed options, then learned all about the services I selected. Some services offer experts who only perform “personal assistant” kinds of jobs, like booking reservations or setting appointments. Others provide everything from tech, creative, and general office support to voice-overs, jewelry-making, and song-writing. Since this was my first attempt at outsourcing, I wanted to learn how to find the best freelancers for my job types, as well as tips for how to handle the application/interview process. Each service provides a Help or Support section. I used it to get grounded.
  • Researched similar jobs. Completing this step helped me to determine what skills successful candidates needed to have. I was glad I did this step, because there were some (necessary) abilities and software expertise I had not even considered for what I needed done. It also helped me to write a very detailed and thorough job description for the oDesk project. If you’re a non-technical or non-creative person looking for technical or creative help, this step will empower you to communicate your needs clearly, and make informed choices among applicants.
  • Decided early to only hire individuals, NOT agencies. I knew I wouldn’t have any control over who completed my project if I hired an agency. That meant the probability was high that the process for getting it done could take longer, as I very likely would have needed to communicate through a “middleman”. Start to finish, I wanted to work directly, one-on-one, with the candidate of my own choosing.
  • Used the service tools to filter and select only top freelancers who met my criteria, and saved their profiles. I hate spam. So, on oDesk, I decided I would be saved much time and frustration by choosing candidates myself first, then inviting them to apply for my job. Posting the job publicly would have meant having to wade through and filter out all the spam from unqualified applicants—a most unsavory option. Following this path enabled me to arrive at my shortlist about 2 days after my job posted.
  • Inserted a “reply code” at the very end of my job description. Ahh, I discovered this little gem while researching similar jobs on oDesk. It was gold Jerry, GOLD! The “reply code” accomplished two things: first, by placing it at the very end of my job description, I would know whether or not the candidate had read my entire job description. You’d be surprised how many applicants don’t take the time to read the full job description before applying for the job. Second, it revealed whether or not the candidate had an attention to detail and could follow simple instructions. The “reply code” was just a request to add a certain phrase in their Subject line when applying for the job. Honestly, that single bit of instruction made super easy work of filtering out a lot of applicants. No “reply code”, see-you-bye-bye.
  • Tested all candidates on my shortlist. I wanted to confirm that they could do what they said they could do. So, in the oDesk job description, I let them know that, if selected, they would be required to complete a very small job as part of the application process. This wasn’t “spec” work, meaning a request to complete a project that would be used as the final product. I gave them a very small assignment designed to test the same skills needed for the actual job I was hiring them to do.
  • Insisted on conducting my interview through Skype. It was really important to me that the final candidate and I got to see and hear each other, face to face, during the application process. A Skype video interview was added as a requirement in my job description. If an applicant only wanted to communicate by email, that raised a red flag and they were immediately disqualified.
  • Chose to hire at a fixed rate. I chose to do this, as opposed to paying hourly, because I didn’t have a lot of time to manage the freelancer or the project once things got under way. I needed the freelancer to do that.  I also didn’t want to risk having the project drag on and on, if the freelancer exercised poor time management or failed to prioritize my project. Hiring at a fixed rate for a fixed period, with fixed milestones and deadlines, ensured my project was completed and delivered when I needed it to be and at the price I budgeted for.
  • Clear and ongoing communication was key. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Poor communication on the part of either party is a  recipe for disaster. Success depends on how clearly you communicate what you need and when you need it, as well as your requirements and expectations. And, you need to be sure to find a freelancer who takes communication just as seriously. Provide as much detail as possible, then include some more. Don’t assume your candidate “understands” what you mean.

[/list]

Once you’ve gotten clear about your project requirements and budget, it’s time to start researching service providers.

Below, I’ve listed five of the top online service providers for outsourcing freelance talent. Each service offers a “how it works” or Help section on their website to enable users to get a handle on what to do and how to do it.

For your convenience, I’ve linked to those sections.

Top Outsourcing Service Providers

Elance

Finding a freelancer on Elance is free and fast. Simply post your job, or browse categories. Get quotes from freelancers from around the world. Elance verifies each freelancer (and each client). Review portfolios, interview applicants, and choose the best one to complete your project. In 2013, Elance merged with another outsourcing powerhouse—oDesk.

oDesk

oDesk is a popular choice for finding expert freelance talent. Big or small, short- or long-term, individual or project team—whatever you need, oDesk has a solution. Tools and processes like Word Diary and Dispute Resolution provide peace of mind. They even offer a Money-Back Guarantee when you hire one of their freelancers with a Money-Back Guarantee stamp on their profile. The website is easy to use and intuitive. They made my first foray into outsourcing a stress-free experience.

Fiverr

Fiverr is an intriguing concept. You can get jobs done through registered freelancers of this website for as low as $5. The website currently has more than three million listed services, ranging from $5 to $500. Each job in Fiverr is known as a “gig”. Search gigs to find someone offering the task you need done, or post your own gig. Expect the unexpected when you visit Fiverr. You’ll find simple, straight-forward gigs like WordPress setup, Web banner design, and website maintenance. I had fun using this service. I’ll definitely use them again.

Freelancer.com

With access to more than 11 million skilled freelancers worldwide, Freelancer.com is the heaviest of the heavy-hitters. Projects start at $10, and the average job is under $200. Freelancer.com works like other outsourcing websites. As a client, the hiring process is simple. Tell freelancers what you need, freelancers contact you, you choose the best one and get the job done. You only pay freelancers once you are happy with their work.

Guru

Guru’s network of more than 1.5 million freelancers offers employers support for all kinds of technical, creative, and administrative projects. Get started by searching for services offered by freelancers that match the skills your need, then contact them. You can also post your job. Choose to display your job publicly on Google, limit viewing to all freelancers on Guru.com only, or make it private by inviting only select freelancers you choose on Guru.com.

Thinking of outsourcing some Web work?

Your church website requires a lot of work to keep it looking great, alive with fresh content, and running in tip-top shape.

When needs arise and hiring additional staff is not an option, outsourcing can be a quick and cost-effective way to get the help you need when you need it.

From website design and maintenance, to creative and administrative tasks, outsourcing enables you to work smart and get things done.

Would you consider outsourcing Web work? Has your church used outsourcing to get things done? What impact did that make on your ministry? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.

Image Credit: Willi Heidelbach | Flickr cc

[framed_box width=”625px” bgColor=”rgba(245,242,134,1)”]FEATURED RESOURCE:
Learn how to outsource your church Web work on a small budget[/framed_box]

Categories
Perspectives

Things that annoy me as the “Church Website Guy”

This is more of a rant post than anything. Being the website guy/girl at your church often you get asked to do a variety of other, non-web related, tasks. I find that most pastors assume that since you know how to update a website, you can do just about anything. I get tired of being asked to do things, simply because I own a Mac and love Jesus, so today I want to share a few of the things I have been asked to do as the “church web guy”. I hope some of you can relate to these!