Categories
Tools & Resources

My Transfer From Hostgator to SiteGround (And Why I Moved)

There are about as many reasons to search for a new hosting provider as there are reasons to build a website.

When the time came for me to transfer from HostGator, I had some very definite ideas about what I needed, at a minimum, from my new service provider.

For me, it was about making the pain go away.

Poor website performance and, ultimately, poor customer service had led me to take action.

Now, I’m dancing a jig over making the switch to my new web hosting provider, SiteGround.

Here’s why.

Categories
Tools & Resources

Church Website Maintenance: 25 Tasks You Can Outsource Today

What thoughts come to mind when you hear the phrase “church website maintenance”?

[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]

Church website maintenance is time-consuming

If you’re a busy leader in a small church, you may be thinking something like, “I don’t have time to maintain the website.”

Yep, I get that!

And, with so many other demands heaped upon your shoulders, it can be easy to prioritize church website maintenance behind them all.

Easier still is considering it a “non-essential”, and putting it off altogether.

We see the evidence of that kind of thinking strewn all over the Web in the form of abandoned church websites.

Poor church websites do little to help meet the needs of the people who visit them.

Dying, dead, or poorly constructed church websites also fail to bring glory to a creative God (which is the ultimate goal of all that the believer does) (1 Corinthians 10:31). Oswald Chambers comments on this verse in His Utmost for His Highest,

Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow aspects of life are not ordained by God . . .Even the shallow things of life, such as eating and drinking, walking and talking, are ordained by God. These are all things our Lord did.

The shallow things of life are those things which lack depth, or that are considered “superficial”. When compared to spiritual things or the things of God, building and maintaining a church website is a “shallow” thing in our modern lives.

Yet, it is ordained by God.

Did Jesus make websites? No, but that’s not the point. What He did do is honor God in everything that He did.

Since a disciple is not above his teacher (Matthew 10:24), believers are called to do the same.

If you’ve invested time (and money) in building a website for your local church, and if you’re aiming to effectively use it to help you accomplish some or all of your ministry goals online, then investing time and money in church website maintenance is not an option.

Church website maintenance is vital

This is worth saying again: if you’re aiming to effectively use your church website to help you accomplish some or all of your ministry goals online, investing time and money in church website maintenance is not an option.

Keeping software, add-ons, and plugins updated, researching, implementing, and monitoring security features, and regularly writing, editing, formatting, proofreading, and publishing new content just scratches the surface of all that church website maintenance involves.

Yes, these things are necessary. And, yes, they are incredibly time-consuming.

But, the good news is these tasks and more can all be delegated and accomplished, with minimal expense, through outsourcing.

[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]

Church website maintenance made easy

Now, you might be thinking, “Hmm, outsourcing? That’s not for churches.”

I can’t imagine why not! In fact, if you have a church website you’re probably already outsourcing church website tasks.

Do you pay a monthly fee for a third party hosting and technical support solution like FaithConnector or WP Engine (as opposed to hiring staff in-house to build and maintain your Web server)?

Guess what? You’re outsourcing.

Outsourcing is simply contracting out a business process to another party.

Many churches have already realized the benefits of outsourcing such administrative processes as payroll, bookkeeping, accounting, and legal services.

Leaving these tasks in the hands of experts is a no-brainer.

But, have you considered that trying to figure out how to design graphics, edit and produce videos, or design and build landing pages for church events is a HUGE waste of time if you don’t know what you’re doing?

Why not contract people who DO know what they’re doing?

They’ll get the job done right the first time, and you’ll be able to spend your time accomplishing the core ministry work the Lord’s entrusted to you.

25 church website maintenance tasks perfect for outsourcing

You’d be amazed at how many website maintenance tasks can be outsourced!

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are 25 website tasks you can outsource immediately to lighten your workload, as well as that of staff and/or volunteers:

  1. Designing banners, icons, and headers
  2. Designing landing pages for special events
  3. Editing and producing video
  4. Editing audio
  5. Updating content management software
  6. Installing, configuring, and updating add-ons, plugins, and themes
  7. Monitoring website security
  8. Customizing or “refreshing” themes
  9. Integrating your website with social media accounts
  10. Calendar management
  11. Updating website content
  12. Sitemap submissions
  13. Basic graphics editing
  14. Podcast setup
  15. Transcribing audio
  16. Online research
  17. Adding media to web pages
  18. Adding new web pages
  19. Writing, proofreading, and editing website content
  20. PDF conversion
  21. Forms creation
  22. Keyword research for church blog content
  23. Creating backlinks and linkbuilding
  24. Monitoring Google Analytics
  25. Troubleshooting and fixing website errors

The bottom line

No matter the size of your church or what church website solution you’re using, outsourcing is a low-cost option for getting the expert help you need to keep your website updated and properly maintained.

What would outsourcing church website maintenance tasks help you free up time to do?

[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
Tools & Resources

The Easy Way to Apply Church Website Color Schemes

Successfully picking and combining colors to produce beautiful palettes for visual design projects is both an art and science. Color pickers and palette (or color scheme) generators like COLOURLovers, ColorZilla, and EasyRGB can make easy work of the task.

A quick Google search yields pages and pages of tools.

I have quite a few bookmarked in my browser of choice. And, they do make easy work of creating balanced schemes for my graphic design work.

Using these tools to generate gorgeous church website color schemes, is also easy. But, I’ve always been challenged at effectively applying the schemes across the many interface components of a website design.

For web development, I’ve longed for a tool that enabled me to

  1. Quickly and easily generate church website color schemes,
  2. Sample the scheme, by automatically applying it to common interface components, and
  3. Customize the scheme, and how it’s applied, if I wished.

So, when I came across these two free generators, I did my happy dance!

Use Lavish Bootstrap to Sample Church Website Color Schemes

Lavish Bootstrap is an open source, Rails application that generates Bootstrap color schemes from an image.

Best of all, the app automatically applies the generated palette to the header, text, buttons, tabs, links, body background, and more. You can tweak and swap and customize both the color scheme and how it’s applied, to your heart’s content.

Once you’re satisfied, simply download the Bootstrap.css file.

While the app was created for Bootstrap development, you’re not restricted to using it with that framework.

Simply rename and edit the Bootstrap.css file to apply your church website color schemes to any development project framework.

Use Paintstrap to Sample Church Website Color Schemes

PaintStrap can generate beautiful Bootstrap themes using color schemes from COLOURlovers or Adobe Color CC (formerly Adobe Kuler).

To get started, generate a color scheme using either COLOURlovers or Adobe Color CC. Then, input either the color scheme theme ID or a permalink URL.

[note title=”TIP:” align=”right” width=”250″]Click the link labeled “Open the large preview” above the small preview pane, to see a full screen version of your color scheme applied to a web page.[/note]

Next, set the colors for interface components like text, navigation, buttons, background, and links.

Finally, generate the resulting CSS as a ZIP of all the files. Download them individually or as a theme. As with Lavish, you’re not restricted to using your color scheme with Bootstrap.

You can share your color scheme in the PaintStrap Gallery, making it available for anyone to download. You can also browse, preview, and download existing theme files from the Gallery.

Categories
Tools & Resources

Church Website Ideas Is A Flipboard Magazine

The interwebs are full of discussions and advice about church tech. A lot of it is rock solid guidance, full of wisdom and value. Some of it, not so much.

It can be a difficult, time-consuming task to search for, and wade through, the many websites and blogs publishing good, honest, value-added content. Harder still is wading through the myriad “church tech” topics to find nuggets focusing only on “church website” stuff.

That’s why, late last year, I began slowly curating the Church Website Ideas Flipboard Magazine.

What is Flipboard?

Flipboard is a news aggregation and social network application that displays articles in an elegant magazine, eye-catching format that’s fun and easy to use. Their mission is to let people discover and share content in beautiful, simple, and meaningful ways. The Flipboard app is available for iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, Kindle Fire, and Nook.

[tvideo type=”youtube” clip_id=”v2vpvEDS00o” autohide=”1″ autoplay=”false” controls=”true” fs=”true” loop=”false” rel=”false” modestbranding=”false” theme=”light”]

In March 2013, Flipboard users were given the ability to create and curate their own custom digital magazines on the site. In addition to smart phone and tablet support, magazines are also available for viewing in a conventional web browser.

At the time of this writing, I’ve curated more than 175 articles from around the web. In addition to flipping my own articles in from the Church Website Ideas blog, I’ve gathered articles that cover a wide variety of topics related specifically to church websites.

Example of Church Website Ideas Magazine on Flipboard
Example of Church Website Ideas Magazine on Flipboard

 

First I learn, then I share

I add new articles as often as I can, and read every single article myself before I add it.

Let me say that again: I read every single article myself, FIRST.

That way, I only add articles that are accurate, add value, and will benefit you. And, since I believe church web work need not be “all work”, I also add “just for fun” posts chatting up the lighter side of church web work (just check out the article “17 questions for online church”, and the “Church Website Start-up Guys” video).

Warning: they’ll make you giggle.

You should know, I’ve rejected lots of articles that would lead you astray in your learning and decision-making. That’s what happens when you follow erroneous advice. And, there’s plenty of it out there.

I’m taking great care to ensure that the Church Website Ideas Flipboard Magazine only contains high quality, insightful articles from around the web. Those are the kinds of articles that help all of us build better church websites.

A few of the articles you’ll find there now include:

[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

  • Develop A Church Content Strategy To Create A World-Class Website
  • Choosing An Online Giving Solution For Your Church Website
  • Who Owns a Pastor’s Sermons?
  • Using Google Images On Your Church Website? Careful…
  • The Pastors Guide To Blogging
  • Promoting Church Events Online

[/list]

If you want me to gather articles on a particular topic related to church websites, just let me know.

I hope you enjoy the magazine and find it useful. Don’t forget to FOLLOW the Church Website Ideas Flipboard Magazine to be notified whenever I add new nuggets.

Happy flipping!

Image Credit: thekenyeung | Flickr cc

Categories
Tools & Resources

Church Website Design Tools: 3 Cool Finds

Church website design and content creation is made so much easier with the right tools.

It’s been awhile since a post was published here pointing to some cool and useful church website design tools. Well, the last couple weeks I’ve come across a few services I’ve added to my own toolbox. What I love most about these tools is:

  • they’re made with non-techy, non-designer peeps in mind, and
  • they offer creative techs a quick, easy option for squaring away design tasks.

I hope my new cool finds help make your church website design and content creation work easier and a lot more fun!

Church Website Design + Content Creation Tools

Get Web Font Information

WhatFont Tool

While doing some research online last week, I ran across a couple great looking blogs. The designer’s font choices were fantastic! I just had to know what fonts they were using.

Now, I’m a huge fan of Web Fonts. So, I was excited to find a cool tool that makes fast and easy work of chasing them down.

WhatFont Tool in action
WhatFont Tool in action

The WhatFont Tool (in no way affiliated with MyFonts or WhatTheFont) enables you to quickly and easily find out what fonts are being used in a Web page.

Once installed, in literally one click you’ll get the font’s information. Web Font service detection is also available. And, you can share your favorite discoveries on Twitter.

The tool is available as a Bookmarklet (which I tested in Firefox). Chrome and Safari extensions are also available. At the time of this writing, Adobe Typekit and Google Font API Web Font services were supported.

When I tested the tool on a Web page where Web Fonts weren’t present, the tool simply didn’t activate.

Convert HTML to WordPress INSTANTLY

Theme Matcher

So here’s the problem: your church has a static website. You want to add a blog to it to increase traffic and engage your visitors.

Naturally, you want to use WordPress to manage it. But, you have neither the desire nor the budget to completely redesign your website in WordPress. On top of that, there aren’t any WordPress themes that even come close to matching your current static site.

Your only option is to settle for adding a blog that looks completely different from your main website, right? Wrong!

In three easy steps, Theme Matcher will take your static website and automatically generate a WordPress theme that matches your existing church website design.

[content_box title=”Watch Theme Matcher in action!” align=”center”][tvideo type=”youtube” clip_id=”8zRk71K2SUY” width=”632″ autoplay=”false” controls=”false” fs=”true” rel=”false” modestbranding=”false”] [/content_box]

The target users for this service are:

  • Non-technical webmasters wanting to add a WordPress blog to an existing site
  • WordPress developers looking to save time and get a head-start on client projects
  • Designers who create HTML templates, and want to fast-track creating WordPress themes from them
  • Freelancers migrating websites from another system to WordPress

There’s no cost to use the service to generate a theme. You’ll pay only when you’re ready to download the theme you generated. Here are your options:

Theme Matcher Pricing Options for Church Website Design
Theme Matcher Pricing Options

One thing to note: in a perfect world, all automatic HTML-to-Wordpress conversions would be absolutely perfect and require no additional revisions. But, since we don’t live in a perfect world, how well a website converts depends in large part on how well the existing site’s HTML code is written.

Theme Matcher doesn’t allow for a lot of flexibility when it comes to selecting content and optional sidebar regions for conversion. So, the better the code in the existing site, the fewer the tweaks in the new theme.

On several websites I tested, the service worked brilliantly. On others, where the code was poorly written, I was able to generate a good working theme. But, a bit of CSS editing would have been in order.

Amazingly Simple Graphic Design

Canva

The fun starts when you sign up! A 23-second tutorial shows you how to use the service. And, it’s insanely simple!

After that, you can take the Starter Challenges (there are five of them to get you warmed up). Or, you can jump right in and begin creating your first masterpiece.

Even if you think you’re not creative, you’ll have one whiz-bang of a time with this tool! You can create graphics for podcasts, Twitter and social media, presentations, posters, Facebook covers, blog post graphics…the list goes on.

Start with a design template and edit, or roll your own from scratch with an image or colored background and text. When you’re all done, you can share it on Twitter or Facebook, download it, or send a link.

Many elements are free to use. Premium images are $1 each or you can upload your own.

[tvideo type=”youtube” clip_id=”XqYti78riU8″ width=”632″ autoplay=”false” controls=”false” disablekb=”false” fs=”true” loop=”false” rel=”false” showinfo=”false” modestbranding=”false”]

For me, the most difficult part of using this tool was choosing from among all the options. Gracious! With more than 1 million images  and more than 100 fonts, you could really go buggy mixing and matching (perfectionists, you’ve been warned!).

Got any cool church website design tools in your toolbox?

Tell me about them. Share a link in the comments below!

Image Credit: Florian Richter | Flickr cc

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
Tools & Resources

A Church Website Powered by WordPress: What to Know

It’s possible you’ve heard of WordPress. It powers tens of millions of websites and is a popular solution for church websites.

The WordPress project began as a tool for blogging and has developed into a full-blown content management system (CMS). All types of websites use it, from online stores to restaurant websites and, yes, church websites. This article will tell you what you need to know – advantages, considerations, costs and how to get started by choosing the right WordPress theme for your new church website.

Advantages of WordPress for a Church Website

There are many advantages of using WordPress to power a church website.
[list style=”list2″ color=”blue”]

  • WordPress is a proven website solution (ten years and 70,000,000 websites)
  • WordPress is free because hundreds of web developers contribute to the project
  • Many themes are available for giving your church website the look you want
  • There is a huge availability of plugins (30,000) to add  features (giving, newsletters, etc.)
  • It can be setup to allow multiple staff and volunteers to manage content
  • Your church owns its site and has full control over it (use the web host of your choice)
  • Your church can do anything with its website because WordPress is open source
  • Building and updating the site can be done with zero design and programming skill

[/list]

Things to Consider with WordPress

Using WordPress means you have the freedom to choose providers of themes and hosting. You will want to add up the costs since you will be paying multiple companies. It’s also a “do it yourself” solution so there are responsibilities that need to be considered.

Costs to Know

Costs vary depending on the theme and hosting provider you choose. Here are a couple scenarios to give you an idea of the costs involved.

Lowest Cost – A free theme and DreamHost’s free hosting for nonprofits (more on that below). You only pay about $15 per year for your domain name (e.g. yourchurch.com). Everything else is free.

Middle Cost – A $50 church WordPress theme that includes one year of support and updates (renewable at $25/year), regular shared hosting under $10/month and a domain name for $15/year. Your one-time cost would be $50 and your annual recurring cost would be about $150.

Higher Cost – A $100 WordPress theme, $30/month for a host specializing in WordPress such as WP Engine and a $15 domain. Your one-time cost would be $100 and your annual recurring cost would be about $400.

I recommend the “Middle Cost” scenario for most churches because free themes do not include support and WordPress-only hosting is several times more expensive than regular hosting. Regular hosts like Bluehost and DreamHost are recommended by WordPress.org and work just fine for most websites.

Responsibilities to Consider

Unless you hire somebody to build the site for you, building the site is your responsibility. I’ll go into more detail on that in the next section. In my experience, it’s something most people are able to do when using a good church theme that includes support and documentation.

Your church’s staff or volunteers will also be responsible for maintaining the church website. This involves making sure WordPress, your theme and any plugins being used are up to date. This is similar to keeping software on your computer up to date. Updates include bug fixes and enhancements.

Your staff or volunteers will also need to update the website’s content (adding sermons, blogging, keeping events current, etc.) which is a matter of pointing, clicking and typing. Publishing content is similar to writing a document in word processing software with buttons for formatting text, adding links, inserting images, etc.

It will also be your responsibility to back your site up. Every website should be backed up. Most web hosts have a backup feature that you can use. There are also free and commercial WordPress plugins that can make backups for you. The solutions are available but it is your responsibility to make sure they are used.

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

It’s important to know the difference between self-hosted WordPress (often called “WordPress.org”) and WordPress.com. With a self-hosted installation of WordPress, you choose your own web hosting provider and have the freedom to use any theme and plugins you want. There are tens of thousands of them so this is the most powerful option.

WordPress.com on the other hand is a service provided by Automattic, a company started by one of the WordPress co-founders. They provide free WordPress hosting but you must use their smaller selection of themes and plugins. There are currently no church themes available on WordPress.com while there are dozens of church themes available for self-hosted installations.

You can read WordPress.com and WordPress.org for a full explanation. This article assumes you will use a self-hosted installation of WordPress on the host of your choice.

Building Your Church Website with WordPress

Everybody starts somewhere so I’ll introduce you to the process of building a church website using WordPress and a theme made for churches.

An Overview of the Process

First let me say that WordPress is made for regular people. I like to point out that the owners of those 70,000,000 WordPress-powered sites can’t all be geniuses. I’ve seen thousands of pastors, staff members and volunteers build their own church websites with WordPress and a good theme in the last two years.

  1. The first thing to do is pick a theme (read below).
  2. After that, you will need to sign up for web hosting with the provider of your choice. WordPress.org recommends Bluehost and DreamHost (free for qualifying nonprofits). The web host will also help you register your domain (e.g. yourchurch.com).
  3. Many web hosts have one-click installation of WordPress so you’ll use that feature.
  4. After installing WordPress, you’ll log into your site’s admin area to install the theme.
  5. At this point you can start adding your content to the site (pages, sermons, etc.)
  6. Polish the site off by adjusting appearance settings (menus, widgets and design settings such as colors and your logo, if the theme supports these things)

There are a few more tasks that you should make sure are taken care of before launching. Read Eight Things You Should Do After Building Your WordPress Site for guidance.

Picking a Church WordPress Theme

Examples of WordPress themes from churchthemes.com
Examples of WordPress themes from churchthemes.com

Since step number one is picking a theme, let’s look at that in more detail. Remember that a theme controls how your website appears. It is the design of your church website. Here are some absolute musts:

  1. Make sure support and documentation are available.
  2. Make sure the theme has the features you need. Sermons, events, locations and staff are common. WordPress provides a blog, photos and pages for other content.
  3. Choose a theme that has a responsive design (mobile-friendly). Phones and tablets are a big deal these days!
  4. Choose a theme that avoids the lock-in effect by asking if post types are registered in the theme or a plugin. Post types belong in plugins for easier theme switching.

There are some other things I suggest looking for but are not essential if you are comfortable.

  1. Find out if the theme uses the Theme Customizer in WordPress so you can adjust colors, fonts, etc. Being able to do this with pointing and clicking is helpful in making your website match your church.
  2. Avoid theme sellers that promise “lifetime” or “unlimited” anything. This is almost always an unsustainable business model. You want them to be in business tomorrow so they can help you.
  3. Check if the theme seller has a money back guarantee. This is something I believe all theme sellers should offer. It’s very easy to refund a digital product if for some reason it’s not a match.
  4. Does the maker of the theme profess to be a Christian? They wouldn’t have to be to make a good theme but a web developer involved in a church will have a better idea of what church websites need.

There are tens of thousands of WordPress themes available with dozens being made specifically for churches. I recommend using a theme made specifically for church websites. My theme shop is churchthemes.com and meets the recommendations above. Others that I recommend are the Forgiven theme by BoxyStudio, WP for Church, Outreach Pro by StudioPress and the Uplifted theme by UpThemes. See ChurchWP (a website by a WordPress-savvy pastor) for other possibilities.

Wrapping Up

WordPress is a low cost website solution (thanks to volunteer developers) made for regular people. There is a variety of WordPress themes designed specifically for church websites. Good theme providers and web hosts have one-on-one support and thorough documentation to help you when you need it. Because of the popularity of WordPress, there are also many online training resources available.

Is WordPress the right solution for your church website? It is for tens of thousands of churches and it might be for yours – or it might not be. I hope this article has provided the information you need to make a good decision.

What are your thoughts on using WordPress for your church website? We’d love to hear comments from those who have done it and from those who are considering building their new church website with WordPress.

Categories
Tools & Resources

9,000+ Free Worship Loops For Churches

Last Update: October 2021

Years ago, as the Media Ministry leader for a local small church, I discovered free worship loops for Easyworship. What a refreshing change they were over static, single-colored backgrounds! Our members loved them, too.

I especially liked the nature scenes. Spring-themed blossoms, lush wooded paths and babbling brooks were my favorites.

In 2009 and 2010, Jesse Orndorff posted links to some great free worship loops and motion backgrounds for churches here on Church Website Ideas. For a long time, those two articles were the most popular posts on this blog!

But there was a problem. Things change fast on the interwebs.

Just five years after the original posts went live, nearly all of the links in those two posts either died or were no longer free.

So, I created this post to replace those two. At the time, the five media sites below had made more than 600 video loops, mini movies, motion backgrounds, and stills FREE and available to churches (or anyone else in search of high quality, free motion backgrounds).

As of this update, that number has since grown to more than 9,000 free media files and tools (and growing) that these gracious servants have made available to the church!

Download and use these as worship backgrounds, website backgrounds, Powerpoint video backgrounds, or in whatever project a moving background will enhance and clarify the message.

Happy downloading!

Free Worship Loops For Your Projects

FREE MOTION BACKGROUNDS FROM CHURCH MEDIA DROP

ChurchMediaDrop.com (formerly Church Media Design) was started in January 2008. As Church Media Design, the original goal was to provide those working or helping in local church a better understanding how to use media.

Now, as Church Media Drop, they’ve created a hub where churches and church creatives can share with other churches around the globe, the high quality graphics, motion backgrounds, video loops and other media they’ve created.

As a totally free resource, it’s pretty incredible. The Motion Backgrounds category alone is a doorway to more than 530 high quality worship video backgrounds.

FREE MOTION BACKGROUNDS FROM DAN STEVERS

As of this writing, StoryLoop.com (formerly DanStevers.com) offers more than 300 amazing, FREE worship and sermon graphics, motion backgrounds, stills, titles, and countdowns. The Flood Pack alone contains more than 37 files! Phenomenal!

Started in 2009 by director and animator Dan Stevers, DanStevers.com was launched as a resource by a one-man studio in 2009 to resource the global Church, the library has since grown into a collaboration of artists from around the world. In 2021, DanStevers.com transitioned into StoryLoop.com to reflect the collective of artists who are passionately creating new art each month to tell sacred stories.

Collide Magazine said,

“Dan Stevers creates animations that accomplish the most important function of any medium, effective communication. The bottom line is, Dan Stevers’ work is a benchmark for any aspiring animator.”

IGNITER MEDIA FREE WORSHIP MOTION BACKGROUNDS

Igniter Media (formerly Graceway Media) offers over 10,000 Still and Motion designs to meet your service needs. Easily search for designs for your worship service, special event and message design.

To download the 24 5 10 free worship loops Igniter Media offers, sign up is required.

FREE MOTION BACKGROUNDS FROM CREATIONSWAP™

Thousands of artists flock to CreationSwap to generously share their work with churches and pastors around the world. Check them out to download more than 70 90 free worship loops, titles, and countdowns.

FREE MOTION BACKGROUNDS FROM CHURCH MOTION GRAPHICS

Church Motion Graphics was started in 2009 and had a mission to create high quality church media for the creative church. They are still holding true to this call by creating beautiful worship motion backgrounds, mini-movies, titles, countdown timers and other free media and tools.

More than 8,000 files available for free download!

What’s Next?

Was this post helpful? Please share it.

Know of any other amazing sites offering free worship loops or free motion backgrounds? Let us know!

Leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!

Image Credit: xJason.RogersxFlickr cc

Categories
Tools & Resources

Choosing An Online Giving Solution For Your Church Website (Part 2)

In my last post, Choosing An Online Giving Solution For Your Church Website (Part 1),  I presented an overview of what you can expect as you begin researching options for enabling online giving through your church website. Well, that article should have actually been “Part 2”, and this article, “Part 1”.

That’s because, if you’re just getting started with online giving, and read that article first, you may have been left wondering,

With so many options and so many features, how in the world do I choose the perfect solution for my church?

I was asking myself that very same question when I discovered the multitude of solutions available. I learned my church already had options available through Church Community Builder and WordPress, applications we’re already using. So, I started checking them out.

I didn’t get very far before realizing that I’d started the process at the wrong step. D’oh!

Being the geeky gal that I am, I was eager to begin looking at software. However, in my haste, I’d forgotten that the process for choosing an online giving solution doesn’t begin with evaluating options. The process begins with planning. So, I backed up, and regrouped.

These steps are essentially the same ones you’d follow when choosing any software solution for your church.

Steps For Choosing An Online Giving Solution

STEP 1: Plan (Proverbs 2:11)[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

  • Pray for God’s guidance and for His wisdom (Proverbs 3:6, 16:9; James 1:5)
  • Thoroughly define requirements (what we need) and goals (why we need it)

[/list]

STEP 2: Research & Evaluate[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

  • Determine what solutions are available (including options through software we’re already using)
  • Evaluate those solutions, strictly adhering to the needs and goals defined in Step 1
  • Narrow the list of contenders to two or three options

[/list]

STEP 3: Test Drive & Choose[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

  • Take each contender for a test drive, if possible
  • Choose the best option

[/list]

Those steps seem simple to me. Time-consuming, but simple.

Now, I realize you may still have many more questions about online giving. So, I’ve gathered a few additional resources together for you. I hope you’ll find them helpful as you plan, evaluate, and choose an option to enable online giving through your church website.

Downloadable Online Giving Guides & Tools

[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Software Comparison Charts & Lists

[list style=”list2″ color=”green”]

  • Church Management Software Comparison Chart
    Source: Christian Computing Magazine
    Comparison of 40 software Church Management Software (ChMS) solutions. A few of these options have an online giving component. I used this chart to discover that my church’s ChMS includes an online giving tool.
  • Top Donation Management Software
    Source: Capterra
    Capterra is a free service churches can use to help them find the right software. Capterra offers one of the most comprehensive lists I’ve seen of business software solutions on the Web.

[/list]

Image Credit: zhouxuan 12345678 | Flickr cc

Categories
Tools & Resources

Choosing An Online Giving Solution For Your Church Website (Part 1)

Choosing an online giving solution for your church website should be pretty painless, right?

Well, as I’ve been researching the idea of proposing online giving to my church, I’ve discovered there’s a lot to consider. I didn’t want to rush blindly into adding a donation page to my church’s website. It seemed prudent to first examine what our priorities for adding online giving should be.

That exercise led me to explore why making spiritually-profitable donation pages is crucial, especially for the benefit of believing givers. Then, I looked at 14 ideas and examples of great church donation page content that can encourage gracious giving.

Now I’m ready to turn my attention to learning what online giving solutions are available for churches. I had assumed there would only be a few options specifically made for churches. Boy, was I wrong! A quick Google search revealed an overwhelming number of church-focused providers and services. Pages and pages of them, in fact.

With so many options, I really didn’t know where to begin. Then, as I poured over feature pages, pricing structures, and delivery methods, I realized that narrowing my focus to find the right option for my church website was actually easier than I first thought.

Turns out, online giving solutions appear to come in one of five flavors:

  1. Client-installed computer software
  2. Software as a Service (or SaaS) Providers
  3. Web Content Management System Add-ons
  4. Church CMS Service Providers
  5. Church Management Software Options

The goal of this post is not to review or recommend individual options or service providers. Rather, I mean to present an overview of what you can expect as you begin your own research to find the best online giving solution for your church website.

Online Giving Solutions For Churches

Client-installed computer software

Some online giving solutions are packaged and delivered as computer software programs. The software may be packaged as digital files available for download to a client’s computer. Some are only available as boxed CDs. In either case, your computer will need to meet minimum system requirements in order for the software to be installed and properly run.

Examples of client-installed computer software include the following:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Providers

With this category of software, service providers host the software application and deliver it to customers over a network or the Internet. Automatic updates, easy administration, and global accessibility are just a few of the benefits associated with this software distribution model. Web-based options for online giving range from general purpose payment tools to feature-rich, ministry-focused applications.

Examples of SaaS providers include:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Web Content Management System Add-ons

Web content management systems (CMS) allow users with little knowledge of web programming or mark-up languages to easily create and manage website content.  Content management systems enable you to easily extend the features of your website by installing free or premium (paid) add-on software programs. Depending on the CMS, these add-on software programs may be called plugins or extensions, or may be known by other names.

Examples of content management systems that offer donation page add-on software include:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Church CMS Service Providers

Church CMS service providers specialize in offering feature-rich, hosted website design and maintenance solutions that meet the unique needs of churches and ministries. Many of these ministry-focused service providers either bundle online giving features into the core functionality of their CMS, or offer an online giving solution as a separate add-on option.

Examples of church CMS providers who offer online giving solutions include:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

Church Management Software Options

Churches use church management software to help them organize and automate many of their day-to-day operations. These specialized software programs enable churches to more easily manage such tasks as event planning, accounting and report generation, and volunteer management.

Some church management software programs include an online giving component that can be easily integrated into your church website. Examples include:

[list style=”list1″ color=”green”]

[/list]

What’s next?

My church uses Church Community Builder to help us get things done. Our website is powered by WordPress. So, that’s where I’ll begin my review and service comparison.

Choosing an online giving solution is not as difficult as you might think. In my next post, I’ll include a list of resources to make reviewing and narrowing down your options that much easier.

Image Credit: zhouxuan 12345678 | Flickr cc

Categories
Tools & Resources

Preview WordPress 3.8 Features You Can Test Drive TODAY

WordPress 3.8 is scheduled for release on December 12th. YAY!

WordPress 3.7, released about a month ago, was all about functional improvements. We saw plenty of  “behind the scenes” features  like automatic updates to help simplify and streamline workflow.

WordPress 3.8 features are focused on enhancing the user experience. The church Web worker’s user experience. Lots of exciting visual and accessibility improvements to the interface are on tap.

Unlike previous WordPress updates, the “cool factor” for this release is that some of the new features have been developed as plugins. That enabled contributors and developers to work in tandem on their projects.

You can test drive these plugins now. But a word of caution: since they’re still in development, I don’t recommend using them on a “live” website. If you’re feeling adventurous, take them for a spin in a development environment.

New WordPress 3.8 Features

Visually Overhauled Admin Area

The WordPress Admin area hasn’t seen a major visual upgrade since WordPress 2.7. The MP6 plugin is currently in use on WordPress.com websites, and greatly simplifies the Admin user interface. Approved for core, MP6 gives WordPress 3.8 a complete visual overhaul right out of the box.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3090″ caption=”Wordpress 3.8 Default Color Scheme” alt=”Wordpress 3.8 Default Color Scheme” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

The updated interface sports the Open Sans font, cleaner styles, flatter elements, and lots of spacing among elements. The upgrades work together to create an interface that’s very user friendly and easy on the eyes.

In Users » Profile, you can choose from eight beautiful, high-contrast color schemes to customize your experience.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3092″ caption=”Wordpress 3.8 Ectoplasm Color Scheme” alt=”Wordpress 3.8 Ectoplasm Color Scheme” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

Redesigned Dashboard

When I activated the Dashboard plugin, I was like, “Whoa!” My Dashboard went from this:

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3097″ caption=”Current WordPress Dashboard” alt=”Current WordPress Dashboard” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

To this:

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3098″ caption=”Wordpress 3.8 Dashboard” alt=”Wordpress 3.8 Dashboard” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

As you can see, this new feature rearranges, tightens, combines, and cleans up the Dashboard nicely.

So what’s changed?

  • WordPress Blog, Other WordPress News, and Plugins are now combined to form WordPress News.
  • Recent Comments as well as your scheduled and recently published posts have been merged into Activity.
  • QuickPress and Recent Drafts are now Quick Drafts.
  • Number of columns screen option is removed and replaced with a new responsive Dashboard. Now, the appropriate number of columns will automatically display based on your screen resolution.

A few extras are also added, including that  fun little smiley in Activity if you delete all posts and comments.

Simpler widgets area interface

I work a lot with the Striking Theme by Kaptinlin. The theme is packed with widgets and sidebars. On top of that, the ability to create custom sidebars is built in. I love that! Then, some of the plugins I use add even more widgets to the Widget area. I love that too. But, the current layout and “drag and drop” functionality has always made working with widgets and sidebars a pain in the neck.

This problem is solved beautifully with the new Widget area User Interface. The new Widgets Area Chooser allows you to simply click a widget and choose where it goes. Juggling lots widgets and sidebars will definitely be made a lot easier.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3107″ caption=”Widgets Area Chooser Plugin” alt=”Widgets Area Chooser Plugin” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

If you try out the plugin, be sure you have the MP6 plugin installed and activated first. The developer of the Widgets Area Chooser notes that if you don’t “things may look a little wonky.” This is a true statement.

Better theme browsing and full-screen previews

The Themes area is currently very text heavy and overloaded with information. The THX38 plugin transforms the WordPress Themes experience into an interface that’s uncluttered and easy to use. And when previewing a theme, you’re now able to completely collapse the sidebar for a  full-screen theme preview.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3113″ caption=”Wordpress 3.8 Themes Experience” alt=”Wordpress 3.8 Themes Experience” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

As with the Widgets Area Chooser, if you want to try out this plug, you’ll need to have the MP6 plugin installed and activated first.

Other goodies on the way

Omnisearch

Omnisearch enables users to search once and get results from all of your posts, pages, comments, and feedback. The plugin is currently available for JetPack plugin users. But, it’s still “in development” for core, and won’t be included with the new WordPress 3.8 features.

Twenty-Fourteen Theme

Twenty-Fourteen is a beautiful magazine layout theme that is scheduled for release with WordPress 3.8. It will become the default theme for the new year. A customizable Featured Content area and stunning treatment of Featured Images are just two of the many design changes, performance tweaks, and UI enhancements rolled into this great looking theme.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3119″ caption=”Twenty-Fourteen WordPress Theme” alt=”Twenty-Fourteen WordPress Theme” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

If you want to take a peek, a live demo is available. A beta release is available at GitHub, if you’ve got a hankering to get your hands dirty.

Which features are you most excited about?

I hope you’re as excited as I am about the new features coming with WordPress 3.8. Actually, I have a confession to make. The new Widgets Area Chooser made me squeal! {blushing}

Do any of the new features make you especially giddy? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

And, if you found this post helpful, please be sure to share it with all of the WordPress lovers you know!

Categories
Tools & Resources

Stay Focused – 8 Apps That Will Keep You Focused

We live in a busy world. Endless amounts of data are being presented to us, and all of them are fighting for a small piece of our attention. If you are like me and spend a decent amount of time online, it’s easy to find yourself distracted by constant interruptions. Not only interruptions, but I am discovering that I am always wanting to do more “things”. These things might be hobbies, building a new web app, discovering something to do in the area, or just spending time with my wife.

I find myself looking back at a day, wondering where the heck did the time go? If I am honest with myself, I find that this time creep comes in when I am highly unfocused during my day. So how do we become more focused? How do we build habits that keep us focused on our jobs, our families, and our activities?

Categories
Tools & Resources

Urban City Theme Review

I am starting a new, hopefully weekly, feature were I review various church website services and offerings. This week I wanted to take a look at a WordPress theme from ChurchThemes.net. I was initially very impressed with their offering and designs. It appeared to me that maybe finally a theme company could put great efforts into their design, and functionality, not only in their code.

Does Urban Theme deliver what your church will need? Keep reading to find out.

Categories
Tools & Resources

8 Best WordPress Themes for Churches or Non-Profits

[icon style=”calendar” color=”blue”]Last updated on Jul 7, 2015 @ 6:58 pm[/icon]

I love WordPress. When done right, using WordPress for your church website is a great choice for a CMS. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of choices when it comes to beautiful WordPress themes for churches. I spent some time digging for quality WordPress themes churches could use, and I found eight that stood out over what is out there. All of these are paid themes and their features vary.

Have a WordPress theme you love? Share in the comments! Enjoy!

Categories
Tools & Resources

8 Things You Need to Setup Your Own Web Server

Original Server Photo by: Tom Raftery via Flickr

For some of us, paying a hosting service is worth the monthly cost. Being able to hand over control to someone else can remove potential headaches. But 3rd party hosting isn’t for everyone. I use a local server for testing out web apps I am developing, which cuts down on hosting costs for a dedicated server for testing, which can easily run $100+ a month!

This is the first part of an on-going series that will walk us through the process of setting up our own web server. First thing we need to do is look at what you will need in order to get your own server up and running!

Categories
Tools & Resources

Holiday Apple Gift Guide for Church Creatives

It’s coming up on the holiday season, and it’s time to start thinking about gifts for family and friends. It might also be time to look at upgrading your hardware to something newer. Being the Apple fanboy that I am, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on the current Apple line and where it might best fit for your uses.

Categories
Tools & Resources

Defined: What Is The Cloud?

Image Credit: mnsc @fickr

The internet is always changing, it is always adapting, and it is always has something new to offer. The concept of the cloud is not a new one, but the internet is now in a place to make all our of cloud computing dreams possible.

Let’s take a look at what exactly this cloud thing is.

Categories
Tools & Resources

6 Great Apps for Your Jailbroken iOS Device

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love Apple products. I especially love my iPhone 3GS. But iOS doesn’t have all the features I want, so one of the first things I did was Jailbreak my iPhone. Over time I have added some great apps that increase the functionality of my phone and also help me get things done. Let’s take a look at some great iOS apps for your Jailbroken devices.

Categories
Tools & Resources

I Love Subtle Patterns

[icon style=”calendar” color=”blue”]Last updated on Jul 7, 2015 @ 7:12 pm[/icon]

This site is my new favorite. I am always looking for nice, clean, high quality patterns for my designs. Subtle Patterns gives you the ability to test out a pattern before you download it. It is awesome and you should check them out.

Update 10/1/2013: Be sure to check out the “do’s and don’ts” for use on their FAQs page.

Subtle Patterns

Subtle Patterns

Image Credit: fuzzy jr. | flickr

Categories
Tools & Resources

Bundle Hunt Is Back, Still Awesome.

So I have no connection to Bundle Hunt, but whenever I see a pack like this for sale, I jump on it. The great thing about these packs are you can get a ton of cool tools and design stuff for a really cheap price. You can also enter to win an iPad 2 if you’re interested! Offer ends May 31st! Check them out!

Break down of what’s included after the break.

Categories
Tools & Resources

13 Apps From My Digital Toolbox

I always enjoy when people share the tools they use everyday to do their jobs. Today I am sharing with you a few of my favorite apps from my digital toolbox. As a small business owner, designer, developer, and missionary these are all tools I use to get my work done. These are in no order, and the costs I listed are what I have paid, even though most of these have some free plans.

Categories
Tools & Resources

Is Your Pastor Bad At Blogging? Try Tumblr!

I have previously blogged about pastors being really bad at updating their blogs. Blogging is hard work, takes time, resources, and patience. Recently a client asked for a custom Tumblr theme and that got me thinking that Tumblr might be the tool pastors have been looking for. Tumblr is a micro-blogging service, which will allows you to make short posts, of photos, videos, quotes, and text. Let’s take a look at why this could be a cool tool for pastors.

Categories
Tools & Resources

Simple CMS: A Preview of a Simple CMS

This is our first in a series of content management system previews. Church Website Ideas is taking time to highlight content management systems that we come across that might work for your church website. Today we take a look at Simple CMS, a basic but very powerful CMS that offers some unique features!

Categories
Tools & Resources

4 New Twitter Tools for Your Church

Twitter is a big deal to some people that attend your church. I have believe that we should use as many platforms as possible to reach our people. Twitter, is no exception. Today, I wanted to highlight four new tools for Twitter I have recently come across. So fire up your Twitter account, and start reaching more people!

Categories
Tools & Resources

7 Donation WordPress Plugins for Your Church Website

Developing your church website on WordPress is a great solution for most churches. It’s free, there are thousands of great themes, and you can extend the functionality of your site by using plug-ins. Today I wanted to share with you my favorite donation WordPress plug-ins. Online giving is a huge reason to have a church website. Online giving makes giving convenient for your church members to give regularly.  So enjoy this list of the best WordPress donation plugins.

Categories
Tools & Resources

Why Thesis Theme Rules

Recently we posted a list of top content management systems for churches and ministries. While all of these systems are great for building your website on, for me one platform stands out: WordPress. There are many reasons to build a website using WordPress. First, it’s free. All you need to do is download a copy, upload to your webhost and you’re set. WordPress.com now supports the ability to map your domain to your WordPress hosted site! Second, the amount of free themes available are simply crazy, if you setup your website on WordPress you will have thousands of great design choices.

For the next few weeks I want to take you through my process and why I am building all of my websites utilizing an amazing framework for WordPress called Thesis. I can literally design, build, and launch a website within a matter of days, not weeks or months. Ready to see how Thesis will change your life? Good, keep reading.

Categories
Tools & Resources

7 Best Email Marketing Software Apps for Churches

As a church you have special needs when it comes to marketing. It has to have a large reach, have impact, generate a response, be measurable, and most of all, be affordable. Email marketing is one of the most, if not the, most effective way to reach people. It also carries a much lower cost than your traditional mailer would. In the coming weeks we will be outlining a few ways to generate better email lists and best practices, but for now let’s look at the best email marketing software you can use for your church.

Categories
Tools & Resources

The 7 Best CMS Systems for Your Church Website

As a web designer, developer, or church staff member, you have to update your church website. Usually it is a small change, updating an event, posting a new sermon, or writing a blog post. The best and simplest way to update your website is using a content management system. These systems provide an easy user interface that makes your website easy to update, come with add on components that add in additional functionality, and allow you to easily change the design of your church website. Today I wanted to share the 7 best CMS systems you can use for your church website, enjoy!

Categories
Tools & Resources

6 Free Pastor Tools For Online Goal Tracking

After our last post about setting goals for your church website, we felt it was important to highlight a few tools pastors can use to track their own goals. Whether you are wanting to write a book, write your sermons earlier in the week, or run in a marathon, here you will find 6 free tools you can use to track  your goals. If you have any that you use, please let us know!

Categories
Tools & Resources

Outreach and Genesis WordPress Theme Review

Studio Press is a WordPress template company that has over 20 different WordPress themes that are ready for your WordPress site. StudioPress is also one of the few providers that have created and are actively selling church themes. All their themes are build on the Genesis framework, which provides first time WordPress users the ability to easily update and modify their site.
Categories
Tools & Resources

PSD to HTML Services

PSD to HTML conversion services are nothing new to the industry, but if you enjoy design more than coding or if you don’t have the time, they can be useful services to any designer. Also, most services offer to code your sites to work with a variety of content management systems, which is great if you’re not so great at PHP and want to develop a WordPress site! I have been using coding services for most of my projects over the last year for two reasons: 1) I don’t enjoy coding and 2) I don’t have the time to code all my projects anyway. I have found my share of great, good, and downright awful coding companies and coders. I have compiled a list of coding companies that I love and hate. As well as a list of questions you should ask your next potential HTML coder.
Categories
Tools & Resources

5 New Online Event Planning Tools

Planning church events can be time consuming and overwhelming. Today we bring you 8 tools that will help you manage your next church event, party or concert. From simple party planning to selling tickets to that youth concert you have next month, we’ve got you covered.
Categories
Tools & Resources

22 High Quality Video Loops for Churches

Two weeks ago we shared 21 free video loops for churches. Well, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. This list includes 22 high quality video loops that can be purchased for use in your worship service or for your website videos.

Categories
Tools & Resources

27 Online Tools For New Church Website Designers

It can be difficult if you are tossed into updating your church website and have no idea what you are doing. I want to provide you a few tools that will help you in your journey to becoming a web designer! Well, at least some tools that will help you keep your church website up to date and looking good! Please enjoy and if you have more tools that you use please, leave them in the comments!

Categories
Tools & Resources

A blog you should be reading! (Part 1)

I am going to start sharing with you all more from my Google reader. I currently have 67 christian blogs the I subscribe to. These blogs vary in content, each hitting a different area of industry, ministry, or technology. Each week, I hope to share with you one person’s blog you should subscribe to or at least take a look at. This week I am happy to share with you what is currently my favorite blog. keep reading after the jump to see who it is!

Categories
Tools & Resources

23 Podcasting Tools for Churches

[icon style=”calendar” color=”blue”]Last Updated Jul 7, 2015 @ 5:54 pm[/icon]

A lot of the questions I have received over the last few weeks have been in regards to podcasting. Podcasting is a great tool we have today that allows pastors and churches to share sermons with their memebers directly from the church website. Also, users can subscribe to messages which will automaticlly download to their computer. Today I would like to share with you a list of 23 different tools you can use to create, share, or listen to podcasts! As always enjoy this list, and please add your own favorite tool if yours is not listed!

Categories
Tools & Resources

17 Images for Memorial Day

I wanted to take time today to share wit you some images in honor of memorial day. Often it is easy for me just to blast through this holiday with out much thought. I want to encourage you all to take time this weekend to pray for our soldiers. Enjoy the long weekend.

Categories
Tools & Resources

16 More Online Apps For Your Church – File Storage and Email

This is the last of the online application posts for awhile, I think. Today we look at file storage and email marketing apps. Churches should now be keeping files online so that they can be accessed anywhere. I cannot think about how many times I have worked on a sermon out of the office, then had to email it to myself so that I could access it at my work.  Now, we can upload it online and access it from any computer with an internet connection! I also outlined a few email marketing applications that will allow  you to track all the emails you have sent, see who opened it, or clicked on a link. Enjoy!

Categories
Tools & Resources

24 Collaboration, Workgroup, Conference, Presentation & Meeting Tools For Pastors

Yesterday I shared Top Chart, Diagram, and Whiteboard Tools for Pastors. Today we look at the top applications for collaboration with your team! Managing your staff can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a pastor and most churches do not have typical business hours, so the use of collaboration tools can really benefit the church. I do want to highlight one major standout on this list: Text The Mob is a fantastic tool that you can use to get feedback during your sermons every week! Your congregation can text in answers to questions that you propose on Sunday mornings. I have been in a few services where this has been used and the result, if you have buy-in from your church is awesome! I am thinking about running an article on all the text applications that churches can use later on, but for now this was the only one to make this list. Enjoy!

Categories
Tools & Resources

Top Chart, Diagram, and Whiteboard Tools for Pastors

Yesterday we covered online calender and scheduling tools for pastors. Today we move on to online chart, diagram, and whiteboard tools for pastors. Each of these items are simple to use and provide a good way to jot down thoughts or ideas. I love the idea of being able to share a mind map about an event coming up, or even my next sermon series. This list is much shorter than normal, and breaks my rule of not posting things that have less than 10 items in it, but I am tired and I want to spend much needed time with my wife. So enjoy these! And don’t worry, the long lists will be back soon!

Categories
Tools & Resources

Online Tools for Pastors Part 1: Appointments and Calendars

This week I am going to share with you online tools that pastors should be using. Today is part one: Appointments and Calendars. I have said that pastors have to be extremely organized individuals, they have a lot of thing that they have to manage. Today, I want to share with you 11 online calender and meeting applications that will make tracking your time much easier. Some of these applications are free, but all of them have free trials. I have personally used most of these at one time or another. Enjoy!

Categories
Tools & Resources

Spring Images for April Inspiration

Happy April Fool’s Day! Instead of the typical jokes, fake news articles, or photoshoped images I am happy to share with you some Spring images to give you hope for the change in color that is already on its way. I use images to give me inspiration in my designs. The biggest takeaway I have from spring photos are the amazing color palates. Spring brings a wonderful splash of color when we most need it!

As always comments are welcomed! I am also interested in seeing your work as well! So if you have some work you would like featured here please email me and I will make it happen.

Enjoy these images!

Categories
Tools & Resources

Bottom 3 Reasons to Use Google Docs

This week we are reviewing the bottom three reasons to use Google Docs. G-Docs (that is what we call it in the hood) is an online service that allows you to manage documents online. We are talking about spread sheets, word documents, presentations and forms. They are not the only player in this game: Microsoft, Adobe and a sleu of small non-epic groups like Zoho, Ether Pad and Think Free offer similar products. So after waxing about the top three reasons to use G-Docs last week we present the least of these.

Categories
Tools & Resources

39 Apps to Organize Your Church and Life

A lot of companies have really embraced the Web 2.o movement and the church can make use of a lot of the applications available online. Today, your church staff needs to be very organized, as they are dealing with a lot of information: sermon notes, video, podcasts, meetings, counseling appointments, and planning events to name a few. I have listed 39 applications that you can use to organize your church and your life!

Enjoy!

Categories
Tools & Resources

46 Joomla Resources for Churches

It’s all about Joomla today! Joomla is a free, open source Content Management System that is used to power a ton of websites. It has a huge community of developers behind it.  philiprabon asked for some resources in how to work with the Joomla system. These resources cover everything from  the initial setup of Joomla to free templates! If you have any questions about something please send us a tweet!

Categories
Tools & Resources

21 Facebook Apps For Your Church

Yesterday we shared with you 45 Twitter App For Your Church, today we are going to share with you 21 Facebook Apps for Your Church! Facebook has overtaken MySpace as the major Social Network, with the majority of users over 18 years old. Just like MySpace, Facebook is a great way to connect to members of your community, help get your church name out there, and give your members another easy way to connect to each other. We hope that you find these apps of value and that they will help your ministry!

Categories
Tools & Resources

45 Twitter Apps for Churches

Today we share with you 45 Twitter apps that churches can benefit from! Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users’ updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 bytes in length. Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends.

Categories
Tools & Resources

Top 3 Reasons That Google Docs Will Help Your Ministry

Here are the top three reasons that Google Docs will help your ministry team get the word out to your church. None of these ideas are new to the web, but Google has founded a joint effort to allow you to collaborate, publish and access your docs from anywhere online. Give it a try on your next project and see how easy it is to create and manage content for your team and the families of your church!

Categories
Tools & Resources

30 Images to Inspire Your Designs

I love photography. I am always looking for new inspiration when it comes to designing websites. Exploring other mediums of art and design give us opportunity to push the boundaries of what we know. Over the next few weeks, I hope to keep bringing you more image lists that will help you in your design projects.   If you have images you would like to share please email me, or post in the comments.

Below is a collection of 30 images that will hopefully inspire you!  All of these have come from our good friends over at deviantART, enjoy.

Categories
Tools & Resources

Find Powerful Images for Your Website

This is a follow up article to “Make Your Website Better“. I wanted to take a chance over the next few days to dive deeper into five areas that I feel that most church websites lack. Today I want to provide some resources for pastors and web designers out there who are interested in where exactly to get stock images to use for sermon series, worship slides, or just to help inspire ideas. These resources include some free image libraries and some paid or subscription based libraries