Categories
Web Content

Does Your Website Content Violate Child Privacy Laws?

In the United States, it’s nearly Summer. And, you know what that means: Vacation Bible School!

If your small church is like many others, you’ll likely want to share memories of the experience by capturing photos and video during the event, and publishing them to your website.

But, are you violating child privacy laws by publishing that content on your site?

Categories
Web Content

Ultimate Beginner’s Guide: How to Use Infographics to Create Fabulous Church Website Content

The goal of every piece of church website content you produce should be clear, simple communication. And, there’s no better way to clearly and simply convey complex information than with infographics.

In fact, an intelligent, well-designed infographic also can bring to life dull, uninteresting church website content.

I recently created a simple infographic for my church’s website that received rave reviews (and many thanks) from members of our congregation. [image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”5079″ align=”right” size=”small” fitMobile=”true” autoHeight=”true” quality=”100″]

Let me tell you what happened…

A huge transition is currently underway at my local church. We’re becoming a church of small groups, and with that change came a big update to our Sunday morning worship schedule.

For weeks, details about the schedule change were included in our weekly bulletin. But, I hadn’t been giving it too much attention.

You know how it is. I’ve already got loads of information to keep straight. So, I figured I’d wait until we were within a couple weeks of making the change, then I’d give it a look-see.

Now, all the details were there. But, holy smokes! I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around that new schedule.

I read it and re-read it, and re-re-read it.

But, I just couldn’t wrap my head around all of the movement that would be taking place, especially during one particular time slot.

I’m a pretty linear thinker when it comes stuff like this. So, to help me make heads or tails of it, I thought I’d start by transforming those paragraphs of text into a simple two column list of times and activities.

And, that’s when it hit me!

This schedule had just enough complexity to make it the PERFECT candidate for creating an infographic!

After all, I couldn’t imagine I was the only one having trouble comprehending the details in that paragraph-based format.

Judging from how the infographic was received, I’d say my hunch was spot on.

What are infographics and why should you use them?

Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. (Source: Wikipedia)

The reasons to consider mixing in infographics with your church website content are many and compelling. But, they all boil down to this: as visually-wired creatures, our brains crave them.

Humans Are Visual Creatures
Source: NeoMam Studios
(click the image to see the full size infographic)

 

What kind of church website content is best for making infographics?

Infographics have the potential to transform all kinds of church website content from ordinary to extraordinary.

Since graphic visual content simplifies communication, by far, content made up of complex information, data, and details are the best candidates for this type of treatment.

When should you use infographics?

Great website content serves people well. When visitors arrive at your website, they want content that answers their questions, helps them make a decision, or teaches them something new.

Infographics are an intriguing option for creating eye-popping content that awakens the senses while giving your visitors what they want. But, as tempting as it may be to create a website of infographics, don’t.

Use infographics sparingly and purposefully in your church website content.

More to the point, use them when you want to make information easier to comprehend, more persuasive, more engaging, or more shareable.

For example, consider using infographics in your church website content when you want to:[list icon=”check” color=”green”]

  • Explain a process
  • Make comparisons
  • Create a timeline
  • Simplify complex instructions
  • Explain how to complete a task
  • Create visual interest around a topic
  • Tell a story
  • Share a biography
  • Report results

[/list]

When your website visitors are able to easily digest, recall, and use content that’s also visually engaging, they’ll be more likely to want to share it with others (that’s what makes them a popular option for creating blog content).

Where should you use infographics?

You should use infographics in your church website content anywhere you want to better serve your visitors by making information easier to comprehend, more persuasive, and more engaging.

I added the infographic I created to pages where our Worship Service times are outlined.

The Tabernacle Church and Parker Hill Community Church used infographics to present their “Year In Review”.

You can use an infographic to [list icon=”check” color=”green”]

  • Present the historical timeline of your church
  • Break down a complex ministry process
  • Help new visitors prepare for their first visit by visually leading them from parking lot to sanctuary
  • Step parents through the nursery check-in process
  • Create a visually compelling biography for your pastor or staff
  • Summarize a weekly sermon or share the Gospel

[/list]

How can you create infographics?

As you can probably guess, you’ll find lots of tools online for making infographics. I’ve listed a few of them below.

Like some website builders, most of these tools make it easy for anyone to build “an infographic”. However, “an infographic” is one thing; a well-designed infographic is quite another.

Well-designed infographics are eye-catching and interesting. They’re also much more effective at helping people to digest, retain, and recall information.

Like bad websites, bad infographics don’t benefit users. They frustrate, confuse, and create barriers to people understanding the message you mean to convey.

It's a 243% Baby Boomer
Source: Design Your Way

Producing a well-designed infographic takes learning. And that takes time.

You don’t need a degree in graphic design. In fact, these tools offer huge libraries of pre-designed, customizable templates.

But, as Warren Wiersbe notes,

Technology is only as good as the skills of the people who manage it.
–On Being A Leader For God

You may not be creating infographics from scratch, but you’ll make the best use of whatever tool you choose if you take time to learn and follow a simple process for applying some basic data visualization and design principles.

If you don’t have the time to commit to learning how to create infographics yourself, you can always outsource that Web work.

For further reading

13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Infographics (this page is really cool!)
by NeoMam Studios

8 Steps To Designing The Perfect Infographic
by Jessica Draws on CreativeBloq

When Infographics Go Bad Or How Not To Design Data Visualization
from Design Your Way

5 Ways Churches Can Use Infographics
by Katrina at SameVine

5 Steps For Designing Church Infographics
by Jared Brandon

25 Ideas to Transform Ho-Hum Infographics into Something Extraordinary
by Barry Feldman on CopyBlogger

What are the best tools for making infographics?

As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of online tools available to help you build your own infographics.

Here are four tools to get you started with creating infographics for your church website:

Easel.ly
I used this tool to create my infographic. Easel.ly is a free tool you can use to create eye-catching, informative, and fun graphics on the web. You’ll find thousands of free, customizable infographic templates and design objects. Using the site is as easy as dragging and dropping design elements. You can either choose a template from their extensive library, or upload your own background image and start from scratch. They also offer an app for iOS.

Piktochart
Piktochart is an easy-to-use infographic creator. Their point-and-click editor makes it especially easy for non-designers to create gorgeous infographics in minutes. Get started by choosing a theme from their huge library (more than 400 themes in 100 categories available). Their standard account is 100% Free. Need more features? Go Pro, with special pricing for Non-Profit users.

Canva
This is one of my favorite tools for creating all kinds of graphics for the web. Canva wants to make design simple and collaborative, and they truly do. Try using the “Blog Graphic” template to create quick, summary infographics. To use Canva for free, create your graphics using their free images or upload your own. Premium images cost just a dollar an image. They offer a free app for iPad.

Venngage
Venngage enables you to drag and drop hundreds of charts, maps, and icons onto your canvas to create beautiful infographics. You also can upload your own images. The free version of this tool limits your access to assets and features. Premium pricing starts at $19/month or $190/year, and offers access to unlimited assets, removes their branding, and enables you to export your infographics to PDF and PNG format.

Where should you share your infographics?

People absolutely love to share infographics. So, some of the infographics you create should be shared, and shared as widely as possible.

The more beautiful the design and compelling the subject matter, the more widely it’ll be shared. The more widely its share, the more traffic should be returned to your website.

Examples of infographics that you can use for outreach include visual content that[list icon=”check” color=”green”]

  • Creates visual interest around a topic or trends
  • Summarizes a sermon
  • Shares the Gospel
  • Do not specifically relate to persons, places, or things within your local assembly

[/list]

You should definitely check out Evona Wiktoria’s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Infographic Marketing. She shares tons of ideas and links to websites and directories online to share your infographics.

What do you think about using infographics for church website content?

Compelling idea or pure waste of time?

What would be your biggest challenge to creating and using them on your church website?

Have you incorporated infographics into your church website content?

Share your thoughts (and links) in the Comments below!

Categories
Web Content

Get More Website Traffic Free

Want to get more website traffic free?

One thing you can do to increase traffic is to optimize your website for search engines. But to be effective, you’ll need to commit lots of time and effort to learning about SEO, and applying the best techniques.

You’ll also need to stay on top of changes and updates to the search engines as search continues to evolve.

That’s a lot to learn and manage, so most small churches simply don’t do it.

Another way to get more website traffic free is to produce useful content and regularly update it. Adding a church blog can be a tremendous help. But, again, maintaining a blog is big commitment.

There’s an easier way to produce useful content that makes visitors want to return again and again. And, this weekly update should take you less than 10 minutes to complete.

Try adding a “This Sunday” section to your Home page.

Get more website traffic free (before “This Sunday”)

Adding a “This Sunday” section to your website gives your visitors a sneak peek at what’s coming up during worship service this Sunday.

You have just two rules to remember: keep it brief and keep it fresh.

Keep it brief

You shouldn’t include every single thing that’s planned during your worship service.

A one- to three-sentence summary about who will be speaking and what they’ll be teaching is all you’ll need to keep visitors coming back each week.

If your church regularly welcomes guest speakers, “This Sunday” alerts your site visitors that the pastor won’t be in the pulpit (that’s an important piece of intel for first-time visitors who are expecting to hear the pastor teach when they visit).

Keep it fresh

Ideally, this section should be updated every Monday so that it’s fresh all week leading up to Sunday.

My church also encourages new visitors to explore more of the website by adding “sticky” features and hyper-linking key terms and phrases:

  • Pastor/Elder name = linked to “Our Leaders” page using anchor tags
  • Sermon Series title = linked to our “Sermon Library” page
  • Scripture reference = interactive tooltip

Adding a “This Sunday” section on your Home page is a super simple way to build a loyal audience of recurring visitors who will return weekly to see what’s new.

If you add the section to your website (or use one already), leave me a link to it in the comments below!

 

Image Credit: Joan Campderrós-i-Canas | Flickr cc

Categories
Web Content

How to Use Tooltips to Make Your Website “Sticky”

I just love sticky websites, don’t you?

Sticky content refers to content published on a website, which has the purpose of getting a user to return to that particular website or hold their attention and get them to spend longer periods of time at that site. Webmasters use this method to build up a community of returning visitors to a website. –Wikipedia

Sticky websites make you want to keep going back again and again. The content holds your attention, so you’re less likely to bounce off the page seconds after arriving there.

For me, websites that save me time are sticky. When I visit a site that’s added thoughtful features to make my browsing more efficient, it makes me feel like the site owners considered me, and are truly interested in caring for me while I’m there.

This may sound a little counter-intuitive, but the more time a website saves me, the longer I tend to stay on the website.

My church definitely wants our website visitors to stick around. We want them to feel cared from the moment they arrive, and throughout their visit. And, we want them to come back often.

Creating sticky visits

I’m always on the lookout for tools or creative methods to help me add thoughtful little features to my church’s website. We especially want those new to our church to stick around, and enjoy a productive visit.

One way we accomplish that is by providing features that help visitors get the information they’re after, without them having to take extra steps to get it.

For example, take a look at our Core Values page. Notice how all of the Scripture references appear as “tooltips” when you hover your cursor over them?

Pretty neat, huh?

The little things make a BIG difference

It’s such a small detail. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to overlook.

But, think about your own browsing experience on another church’s website. (Can’t ask you about your own website, because you may be a little biased.) 🙂

Did you check out their “About Us” section? I’ll bet it’s likely you’d need to have taken a Bible in hand to read a page or two in that section.

Did you? If you didn’t, why not?

Didn’t have a Bible nearby? Did you get discouraged because it looked so time-consuming, and you didn’t have the time?

Maybe you just plain didn’t feel like making the effort?

Do you think that church published that page because they wanted you to ignore it and bounce off the page?

Of course not!

We want people to stick around and consume the content on our web pages, don’t we?

So, make it easy for them to do what you want them to do.

Here’s how to use tooltips to make that happen.

How to use tooltips to captivate your visitors

There are lots of tooltip makers out there.

But, we use the Reftagger WordPress plugin from FaithLife (Logos Bible software) to add interactivity to Bible references throughout our website.

(I also use it here, on Church Website Ideas . . . check it out: John 3:16)

As you can see, Reftagger automatically tags the reference and instantly shows your readers the Bible verses when they hover over a Scripture reference.

A tooltip displays the verse’s text, so your readers can stick around. They won’t have to leave your site to look up the references (they won’t need their Bible to read your About Us page anymore!).

They’ll even be able to view the entire passage by clicking through the tooltip to an online Bible reader.

Using Reftagger’s online tools, you can customize the look and feel of the tooltips so that they match your website’s styles. You can choose a default Bible translation and online Bible reader.

And, talk about a sticky feature: if your visitors use Logos Bible Software, you can include a link that will allow them to open the Scripture passage directly in Logos (VERY cool if you want to, say, create interactive Bible studies on your church blog).

What a great way to encourage longer visits on your website: help your readers dig deeper into Scripture, find answers, and connect with the Word.

Don’t have WordPress? No problem. FaithLife also offer tutorials for installing Reftagger in Blogger, Drupal, and Joomla.

And, adding Reftagger to any website is as simple as adding a few lines of code to the footer of your template pages.

It’s your turn to tell us how to use tooltips

How can you use tooltips to make your church website content sticky, and easier to consume?

Share your ideas! Leave a comment below.

Categories
Web Content

Ask The Readers: Is A Corporate Sponsor Page A Good Church Website Idea?

Not long ago, while updating a couple of my social media accounts, one of the services prompted me to get in touch with an old friend I haven’t seen in quite a long time.

Curious, I thought I’d look him up to see where ministry had taken him. It didn’t take long to learn where he was pastoring, so I browsed over to the church website to see what they were all about.

The website looked good. I’m always happy to see that, especially with small churches.

Then, I clicked on their About Us section and, well…I was kinda…I don’t know, shocked?

I mean, I’d never considered that a church would solicit corporate sponsorship as a means to generate revenue, let alone post an info page and proposal on their church website.

So, yeah, I guess it threw me for a loop!

Does it matter where the money comes from?

I was all set to write a post that included this idea along with a list of others that I thought were poor content ideas for church websites. I made some notes, created a rough a outline, and filed it away in my “Ideas” folder.

Then today, while researching a completely different topic, a Google search led me to SmartChurch.com.

As I was scrolling down the page, reading the article I’d found, another title in the sidebar caught my eye: How Your Church Website Is Breaking The Law.

Click.

The author, Raul Rivera, invites readers to ponder the question:

If the IRS were to review my (church) website, will it be 100% compliant?

Then, he takes a quick look at three areas where church websites may be in dutch:

  1. What your church is selling online
  2. The pastor’s blog
  3. Selling ads versus corporate sponsorship

Yeah. After blinking a few times, I had to read that last one again, too.

According to Mr. Rivera,

Many churches these days raise extra revenue by selling ads in their church bulletin, on their website, and in other materials. Any paid promotion of a private business is classified as advertising and an unrelated business activity. The good news is that the IRS has created a safe harbor for churches to raise advertising revenues by selling ads known as corporate sponsorships. There is a legal difference between selling ads and selling corporate sponsorships. The IRS allows tax-free corporate sponsorships so long as they meet certain criteria such as publishing their logo, or slogan, website address and their telephone number, and as long as they do not contain qualitative or comparative descriptions of the sponsors’ products or services. What you must not do is publish the sponsors’ prices, or other wording that promotes savings, value or endorsement.

Now, this article was written back in 2012, so I don’t know if the IRS has changed any of the rules.

Still, I had no idea.

When is corporate sponsorship appropriate?

I had a sense that there was more to this topic, so I did a little digging, and found this article by Kristina Krill on Church Marketing Sucks.

I’m sure there are many more voices discussing this topic around the blogosphere. But this is such a new idea to me, I just had to ask you guys…

Should churches solicit corporate sponsorships?

Is soliciting corporate sponsorships an appropriate activity for churches under any circumstances?

Can receiving corporate sponsorship cloud your church’s message?

Does it encourage consumerism?

What steps can be taken to keep that from happening?

Does the Bible contain similar examples we can study and consider?

Would your church consider soliciting corporate sponsorships?

Under what conditions?

Is adding a corporate sponsorship page a good church website idea?

Should churches use their main website to solicit corporate sponsorships?

If a church wanted to solicit sponsorships for an event, would they do well to create a separate event website?

If adding a corporate sponsorship page is a good church website idea, where should it be placed in the architecture?

So, corporate sponsorship pages a good church website idea: right or wrong? What’s appropriate? What isn’t? What matters most?

What’s surprising?

Categories
Web Content

The Church Lingo Page is Your Website’s “Secret Decoder Ring” (Part 2)

Years ago—before God rescued me—I ran with a circle of fun-loving Puerto Ricans. We were employed at the same company, and worked the same crazy-late hours.

Over time, they kind of “adopted” me as their “little sister”. They taught me how to dance the salsa and the merengue, and introduced me to ceviche. Yummy fun!

My favorite (and, oddly, most disappointing) memory with them occurred during the one Christmas holiday we spent together. They invited me to go “a trullas” one evening after work.

For the uninitiated, “parrandas” or “trullas navideñas” is when a small group of friends gather together to “asaltar” or surprise another friend. I’ve heard it described as “the Puerto Rican version of Christmas caroling”.

Basically, we arrived very late and very quietly at the front door of one of their good friends. The family had long gone to bed, as had most of their neighbors. At a signal, everyone started singing and banging on the door; I was stunned! We totally surprised them, which I later learned, is part of the custom.

I kept wondering if we were going to find ourselves flying face-first into the snow. To my surprise and initial delight we received a warm and happy welcome!

[framed_box width=”625px” bgColor=”rgba(245,242,134,1)”]Bonus: Download a free blueprint containing an easy 3-step process + resources to help you create a church Lingo Page your website visitors will value and appreciate.[/framed_box]

But, disappointment arrived in short order. See, they all spoke English really well. I guess I kind of expected that since they all knew I didn’t speak Spanish, they would speak English so that I could participate and be fully engaged in the festivities. Unfortunately for me, my friend’s friends weren’t as hospitable as I’d hoped they would be.

For the first few sentences, everyone spoke English. But it only took one person to begin speaking Spanish. That was it.

The party went on for more than an hour, everyone around me laughing, singing, and speaking Spanish, and no one translating or helping me to understand what was going on or what was being said. Mostly, I sat there nibbling, feeling anxious and alienated, and wanting desperately to leave.

I was glad when we did. I never went back.

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers… Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)

Hospitality is both commanded and commended in Scripture. You already know people new to your church will very likely experience their first encounter with your ministry, online. And, you already know they’ll have a lot of questions.

Some of those questions will be answered by the “brain content” you include on your website. But what about the questions they’re really anxious about? Questions like, “Will these people care about me,” “Will I understand what they’re talking about,” or “Will I be able to fit in”?

[testimonials autoplay=”false”] [testimonial author=”Yvon Prehn” avatar_type=”url” avatar_value=”http://www.effectivechurchcom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/1-Cropped-jpg.jpg” meta=”Effective Church Communications” link=”http://www.effectivechurchcom.com/about/yvon-prehn/”]A Statement of Faith is expected, but very few church websites actually tell people why they believe what they believe or even explain the terms in it.  This is such a missed opportunity because comprehensive explanations can be a wonderful way to engage people about the Christian faith.[/testimonial] [/testimonials]

The thing we’ve got to keep in mind about the content we’re creating for our church websites is that we’re not merely uploading a video, or adding some more text to a page. By providing content like a church Lingo Page, we’re engaging in “virtual hospitality”.

Dictionary.com defines hospitality as,

1) the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers; 2) the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

So, to be hospitable is to receive or treat guests or strangers warmly and generously.

Adding a church Lingo Page to your website is expressing love in action. You’re putting yourself in your visitor’s shoes. You’re taking the initiative to reach out and engage them in a warm, friendly way. You’re seeing that their need to feel welcomed and valued is met.

You’re not leaving it up to them to ask questions about words and phrases they don’t understand. They may not.

Even with a Lingo Page, they’ll still have plenty of questions, for sure. But, making the effort to provide the page for them is a kind, generous, and hospitable gesture your visitors will appreciate.

Whether they’re searching for answers about the Christian faith, or looking for a community of like-minded friends, giving your visitors the inside track on some of the “local lingo” they’re likely to hear can make them feel at ease. And, that may make all the difference in their deciding to pay you a visit.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I made the case for creating a Lingo Page. I explained how the page would benefit your website visitors. I also talked about why this method of helping your audience decode “Christianese”—the unique jargon and terms used in the Christian faith and in your church—was superior to mere “word swapping” on your church website.

In this post, I’ll share some tips for creating effective church Lingo Page content. Along the way, we’ll look at a few church Lingo Pages I’ve discovered in my travels.

Best practices for writing Church Lingo Page content

The main thing to remember about creating Lingo Page content and linking it to your website, is that the content should be easy to read, useful, and easy to find. It should be written and compiled with your new visitor in mind.

That means, the goal isn’t to overwhelm them by defining and exhaustively explaining every unique term and phrase of the Christian faith. Keep it simple. The goal is to help your visitor’s feel welcomed and cared for. The goal is to introduce them to the life of your local body.

By defining and introducing context to the Christian vocabulary and unique terms and phrases used in the life of your local church, you’ll equip and encourage people new to both to enter into the conversation.

Here are a few tips to help you create useful church Lingo Page content:

Make your content easy to read

I’ve mentioned this before. The text on your website must be easy to read. Make sure there’s a high contrast between the color of the text and your website’s background color. The font size should be large enough to make it readable. Make use of whitespace. Break long paragraphs into short chunks. Use bullet points and numbered lists.

Write in a “natural”, conversational tone

The new terms and phrases are tough enough to get a handle on. Don’t make your visitors slog through dry, corporate-sounding definitions and explanations. Keep it interesting. Write like you’re talking to them. My favorite thing about Second Place’s Lingo Page is that they include examples of what guests might actually overhear.

Include a variety of terms

A Lingo Page is different from a “What We Believe” page or a Ministry Description page. A Lingo Page might include some content from both, but it serves a different purpose.

Here are a couple examples of what I mean. The student ministries at Roswell United Methodist Church and Vienna Presbyterian Church, both include “lingo” pages for their visitors. But, these two pages are really Ministry Description pages.

Your church Lingo Page should include terms and phrases common and unique to the Christian faith as well as unique terms and phrases regularly communicated at your church. For the latter, you might include any acronyms, nicknames, titles, or other ministry jargon unique to your local assembly. That also could include denomination-specific terms and lingo (the first time I saw the word “narthex”, I thought it was a typo).

Include an introduction to the page

The  introduction to your church Lingo Page is the “tell” of your care. That two- or three-sentence paragraph is your opportunity to help set the stage for your reader’s initial impressions of your church. Your motivation for creating the page means more to your visitors than the page itself.

Don’t assume they’ll “get it”. Tell them what motivated you to provide the page for them. Make sure they know you’re thinking of them!

Make your content informative, but not exhaustive

Remember, the goal isn’t to overwhelm your website visitors by defining and explaining every single term you can think of. Start by sticking to a few terms found on your website, or regularly “heard in the halls”. Expand your list with terms or phrases people frequently ask about.

Resist the urge to provide an exhaustive explanation of every term you do decide to list. One to three sentences summarizing the core idea is best. For ministry acronyms and terms, a high-level description of the ministry is best.

Make good use of internal linking

Thoughtfully linking your web pages helps guide your visitors as they move through your website. If your list includes names of ministries or groups more fully described elsewhere on your website, linking to those pages creates an easy path to more information.

Remember, the quickest way to make a visitor leave your website is to frustrate them. So, be sure not to skip including a summary description on you Lingo Page of the ministry or group you link to. Otherwise, your visitor will be subjected to clicking back and forth between your Lingo Page and the description pages—not good. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Invite people to ask questions

Let your visitor’s know you welcome their questions and feedback. Invite them to connect. Include a link to your Contact Page to make it easy for them to get in touch. Many people may be hesitant to ask questions while on your website. Nonetheless, they’ll be pleased to see you’re open to it.

Make sure the page is easy to find

Remember, the reason you’re creating this page. Be helpful and hospitable. Make sure your church Lingo Page is easy to find. Provide a clear link to it in the “About” and “I’m New” sections of your website’s main navigation. Also, link to the page in the secondary navigation of each section.

Great church Lingo Page examples

For two examples of great church Lingo Page content, check out Hope Culture Church and Canyon Creek Church.

How can you use this information for your website?

I created a free, 3-step blueprint  that you can use to easily apply the most important information from this post to your website.

The blueprint contains the 8 best practices on this list…

… and a super-actionable 3-step process and resource list that you can use to create a church Lingo Page your website visitors will appreciate and value.

Click the graphic below to download the free blueprint:

Image Credit: Dave Walker | CartoonChurch.com

Categories
Web Content

How to “Decode” Your Church Website Content (Part 1)

Visiting a new church is stressful. It’s not easy to walk into a new, unfamiliar environment. Chances are, to alleviate some of the pressure, your potential first-time guest will want to get an idea of what he can expect. So, he’ll swing by your website to check things out.

Talk to the hand…

Now, if your aim is to make new visitors to your website and church feel at ease, you must take great care to ensure that your presence online accurately reflects who you are offline. So, it’s natural for you to want to communicate your message using terms and phrases you’re familiar with.

But, whether it’s building or room names, ministry acronyms, member pseudonyms, or terms unique to your denomination, the “insider language” your local body uses to communicate with one another, may be off-putting to those attempting to enter the conversation for the first time.

There’s also a school of thought that using certain words and phrases related to the Christian faith, creates a barrier for those who aren’t familiar with them. Advocates of this idea suggest that churches should make it their priority to create Web content that’s more “non-believer friendly” by replacing words like sin, salvation, repentance, and faith with less “churchy” alternative expressions.

So how can we solve this problem? What’s the best solution?

As we use our websites to serve and communicate online, how can we balance remaining true to our identity as a local body of believers in Christ, with helping our visitors to feel less alienated and more warmly welcomed?

Here’s an idea: add a Lingo Page to your church website!

In this first of two posts, I’ll step you through the what, why, and how (with examples) of creating one!

What’s a Lingo Page?

The Lingo Page isn’t a new idea, but one inspired by the print publishing world.

Dictionary.com defines a glossary as

A list of terms in a special subject, field, or area of usage, with accompanying definitions. Their purpose, for example, at the back of a book, is to explain or define difficult or unusual words and expressions used in the text.

A Lingo Page on your church website accomplishes the same purpose. You use it to define and explain terms specific to your local body, and to the Christian faith, in general.

Why a Lingo Page is better than “word swapping”

As I said earlier, some have suggested that using certain Christian words and phrases—a.k.a. Christianese—creates a barrier for those who aren’t familiar with them. Proponents of this idea point mostly to non-believers as the ones who are alienated by the so-called “insider” language Christians use to share our faith.

They suggest that, in all of our communications, words like sin, salvation, repentance, faith—even worship and Holy Spirit—should be replaced with less “churchy” alternative expressions that they claim are much more meaningful.

This topic deserves a more in-depth treatment. But, that’s not what this post is for. However, I’ll say simply that I think this idea falls short. Here’s why.

Non-believers do not understand Christian jargon, and they never will. That is true. Some may feel uncomfortable or even “turned off” by some of the terms and phrases. True again. To others, the Bible may even seem like nonsensical gibberish. That is absolutely true.

But, the non-believer’s discomfort with, and inability to understand, the Bible is not a problem of antiquated or inferior words and messaging.

In his commentary of 2 Corinthians 4:3, John MacArthur notes,

The false teachers accused Paul of preaching an antiquated message. So Paul showed that the problem was not with the message or the messenger, but with the hearers headed for hell (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14). The preacher cannot persuade people to believe; only God can do that.

Words do matter. But, merely using more “neutral”, contemporary, or accommodating phrases and terms will not inspire understanding. It also won’t move people to believe the message of the Gospel. Only God can do that.

Church website content should communicate …and serve

One goal of the content we create for our website is to communicate who we are as a local body. We want to be authentic. We want our church website content to accurately reflect online what people can reasonably expect to experience offline.

However, developing our content using “religiously neutral” language will not sustain a visitor’s confidence if, when they arrive at our churches and Bible studies as first-time guests, [lightbox type=”iframe” href=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/4H-29cJSuv8?rel=0&showinfo=0″ width=”640″ height=”480″]they encounter this[/lightbox].

People will naturally have questions about what you’re communicating if your vocabulary is new to them. But, merely swapping out certain words and phrases with more “comfortable” terms will do little to help them understand the true and deeper meaning behind the words and phrases you use.

Even “religiously neutral” language needs to be defined and explained if the concepts behind the words and phrases are new to the hearer.

We serve people well when our church website content is clear, current, complete, and consistent with who we are as a local body, offline. To accurately communicate ideas new to the hearer, definition and context are crucial.

That’s why creating a Lingo Page for your church website is superior to mere “word swapping”.

You’ll “decode” your content by defining and introducing context to Christian vocabulary and the unique terms used in the life of your local church. And, you’ll create church website content that equips and encourages people new to both to enter into the conversation.

Gee, that kinda sounds like disciple-making.

It’s your turn

Do you think adding a Lingo Page to your church website is the best way to serve people unfamiliar with your family or your faith?

Leave a comment!

Image Credit: Henry Burrows | Flickr cc

Categories
Web Content

The Secret to Creating Inspiring Ministry Descriptions

Composing ministry descriptions that are both informative and inspiring to visitors of your church website is a bit of a balancing act.

It’s also easier to accomplish than you think.

Why you need content for brains AND hearts

Tim Peters, a church communications advocate, coach, and leader, published a short but insightful article on his blog about the two types of essential website content.

To make your church website engaging to any audience, you must publish  brain content and heart content.

As Tim points out,

Brain content is informative and knowledge driven. Heart content is inspiring and emotional. These two are not at odds with each other; rather, they work together to give visitors a total experience. Each serves a specific purpose.

He goes on to offer some great examples of both types.

Now, maybe you’ve got the brain content covered. Most churches do. But, what about the heart content?

I’d venture to say most small-church communicators would admit that consistently producing, adding, and updating their website with warm, heart-tugging content is one of their biggest challenges.

I can certainly admit, it’s a challenge for me.

If that’s you, too, and your church website is missing heart content, what’s needed is a simple way to kick-start production, right?

Here’s an idea! And the good news: you can use content that’s already on your website.

The secret sauce for inspiring ministry descriptions

It’s no surprise that Tim included Ministry Descriptions in his list of “brain content” examples. Brain content is commonly used to construct ministry description pages.

However, one of his “heart content” points focused on the need to communicate how your church helps people grow spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. That point made me think about, well, ministries.

So, why not start by expanding your ministry descriptions. Heart content is the secret sauce.

Don’t stop at merely describing a ministry in your church. Make your ministry descriptions head-filling AND heart-tugging by describing the benefits people receive by connecting.

How to do it

Begin by breaking down a ministry description into a list of features.

Think of ministry features as the who, what, when, where, of your ministry descriptions. The benefits of the ministry are the why.

An easy way to talk about the benefits they’ll receive is to answer the question, “Why is this so great?” for each feature you list.

For example, say your website describes a feature of your youth ministry like this: “Youth (who) meet together in the Fellowship Center (where) every Tuesday evening at 6:30pm (when) for games and fellowship, and then break up into middle and senior high groups for age appropriate Bible study (what).

That’s all brain content. Head stuff. Informative, but not too captivating.

Now, add the secret sauce—the heart content. Why is this so great? Your answer might be something like,

Connecting here is AWESOME, because getting together for fun and learning encourages teens to grow relationally and socially. They also become skilled at applying God’s principles to the issues they face in their everyday lives–at home, at school, everywhere!

BOOYAH! Here’s what you’re really offering them!

Here’s why they want to be a part of your congregation. This is what they’ll get: not merely access to a youth ministry, but an opportunity to see their teens grow relationally and socially, and become skilled at applying godly principles to every-day life.

What parent wouldn’t want THOSE BENEFITS for their kids (and for themselves)?

So to recap…

[process_steps type=”vertical” size=”small” number=”5″] [process_step title=”Step 1″ icon=”desktop”]Check out Tim’s article: Church Website Content Checklist[/process_step] [process_step title=”Step 2″ icon=”search”]Carefully review the pages of your website, especially the pages where your ministry descriptions live.[/process_step] [process_step title=”Step 3″ icon=”list-ol”]Break down each ministry description into a list of features of that ministry. [/process_step] [process_step title=”Step 4″ icon=”edit”]For each feature, answer the question, “Why is this so great?” [/process_step] [process_step title=”Step 5″ icon=”heart-o”]Assemble the pieces into a new ministry description that’s both informative AND inspiring. [/process_step] [/process_steps]

Now it’s your turn

Do your ministry descriptions inspire people to connect? Share your ideas (and methods). Leave a comment!

Image Credit: Paxson Woelber | Flickr cc

 

Categories
Web Content

12 AWESOME Student Ministry Websites for Your Inspiration

My last post about youth ministry websites contains a roundup of expert advice to help youth pastors think through whether or not creating a website to serve their student ministry is right for their church. In this follow up, I’ve gathered together 12 of the best student ministry websites I could find.

Finding student ministry websites that presented an engaging, interactive, informative hub for teens and parents was both challenging and insightful. I saw a lot of beautiful, dead websites—websites that looked great, but offered no value because they were no longer being maintained.

Being a WordPress fan, I was pleased to see several built on the platform using quality, premium themes like Steven Gliebe’s Resurrect. (By the way, Steve just rolled out another great looking theme he calls Exodus. I love the simple wide, flat design. Check it out!)

My criteria for selection

I see a lot of “best of” articles that round up great looking websites. Without question, a beautiful design is essential to creating an excellent first impression of a church or ministry. But while great looking design is important, it’s also subjective.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

A design that I think is incredible, might leave you yawning. So my idea of great design wasn’t the only criteria I used for choosing these websites.

Great ministry websites don’t just look good, they DO good. At a basic level, they reward their visitors with up-to-date event details, an easy-to-navigate structure, and lots of white space to make viewing easy on the eyes.

So, the websites in my roundup passed the test for these essential features:

  • Great looking, contemporary design
  • Uncluttered layout
  • Easy to navigate and find stuff
  • Up-to-date events and details (this one disqualified a ton of great looking websites)

Since I don’t know what goals were made for these websites, I’m hesitant to judge them on the basis of including interactive, disciple-making content (e.g. sermon media, bible studies or devotionals, blog, etc.).

Although, some do offer such content. That was awesome to see. I also enjoyed seeing a few sites go the extra mile in providing tools and resources to help parents do the equipping.

Do your reasons for building a student ministry website include discipleship and/or outreach?

Is an objective of your mission to help young people meet and know Jesus, and grow in their faith?

Then you would do well to include website content that actively supports that mission.

So, without further adieu, here’s inspiration. Enjoy!

12 Student Ministry Websites for Your Inspiration

[portfolio column=”3″ layout=”sidebar” sortable_all=”false” cat=”studentministrywebsites” titleLinkable=”true” more=”false” moreButton=”false” lightboxTitle=”image”]

Now, it’s your turn

Does your church have a student ministry website that would meet my criteria? In your online travels, have you seen any that do?

Add a little inspiration by sharing a link or two in the Comments below.

Image Credit: Sean MacEntee | Flickr cc

Categories
Web Content

Link Roundup: Get Your Church Website Ready For Easter

Is your church website ready for Easter?

The Easter season is just around the corner. When people begin thinking about where they’ll attend services on Easter Sunday, their first stop will very likely be the Internet.

Your website is your church’s new “front door.” When they arrive there, will what they find make them want to come in (to your church), or will they leave and continue their search.

Using your church website to welcome and connect with your potential guests and congregation is a no-brainer, especially during Easter. The goal of this link roundup is to help you get your church website ready for everyone who arrives there during the next few weeks.

If you apply even a few of these “evergreen” tips, your church will be off to a great start extending the kind of hospitality online that converts website visitors into eager, first-time guests.

Get Your Church Website Ready For Easter

Easter Sunday is the Super Bowl of Church Attendance
by Carol McPhail on AL.com

Many churches experience a substantial increase in visitors on Easter Sunday. Maybe your church is one of them.

As the greatest day of celebration in the Christian church year, Easter draws those who want to hear the good news. “They are so hungry for hope, so eager for a message that tells them they can begin anew and that no matter how bad things may seem, there is new life ahead of them,”…

New Research Reveals Why People Visit Church Websites
by Jeremy Weber on Christianity Today

Jeremy’s post on Christianity Today offers a concise summary of the results of a one-year research study conducted and published in 2012 by Grey Matter Research. While the research and resulting data are not “holiday specific”, they still serve to inform churches of the kind of information your website visitors are looking for.

The top three pieces of information your visitors are looking for, generally, will be especially needful to them as they assess church websites to help them determine where they’ll attend Easter Sunday services. Grey Matter Research reports,

Most commonly, people visiting the website of a place of worship are checking to see the times of services (43%). Other common activities include checking what activities are offered (e.g. youth groups, studies, events – 29%), looking for a map or directions to the church’s location (28%), watching streaming video (26%), and listening to streaming audio (26%).

9 Website Tips to Get Ready for Your Easter Service
by Daniel Threlfall on ShareFaith Magazine

Building anticipation, creating eye-catching graphics, and creatively using social media are three of my favorite tips from Daniel’s post:

Videos are an excellent form of content that can provide encouragement and increase attendance at your service. Try creating a quick video about your Easter service. Even a video taken with your phone will do the trick. Interview people, discuss your service, and share some info on what it’s all about.

Your Church Website: Be Sure it is Ready for Easter
by Yvon Prehn on Effective Church Communications

This is the first of two posts Yvon wrote on the subject of getting your church website ready for Easter. There’s some overlap in the tips offered. Both articles also contain some unique content. I especially like the Easter “give-a-way” ideas she includes in this post.

9 Essentials to Prepare Your Church Website for Easter
by Yvon Prehn on Effective Church Communications

One of my favorite tips from Yvon’s post is to add a section that answers the question, “What do we do when it isn’t Easter?”

Make the service times, parking directions, child care and programs all easy to find. This is especially important for an event like Easter where you may have totally different service times than your regular ones.

My Top Church Websites This Easter
by Steve Fogg on SteveFogg.com

Since 2011, Steve’s been assembling a wonderful collection of some of his favorite Easter-themed church Web pages. If you haven’t yet designed your Easter Web graphics, these examples can offer great inspiration.

12 Great Examples of Church Website Design for Easter
by Steve Fogg on SteveFogg.com

This is the 2013 edition of Steve’s Easter-inspired church Web page collection.

Encourage Members to Invite Friends to Church With App
by Lauren Hunter on Church Tech Today

Proactive churches are already planning and engaging in outreach efforts to invite their communities in. Lauren shares her experience with ChurchInviter, an app that integrates with your church website to provide your members a simple way to send e-vites to their family and friends. Perfect for Easter outreach!

 

I realize you may already be overwhelmed with Easter season planning and preparation. Perhaps your church is in the throes of putting together a special program, and planning fun activities for the kids. But, in all of your planning and “house cleaning,” please be sure you include getting your website up to snuff.

At the very least, make sure people know how to get to you, and what time they should come. Directions to your church and your Easter Service time(s) must be clearly visible on the Home page of your website, or one click away.

Seen any other useful tips or articles out there? Please feel free to share your favorites in the Comments.

Image Credit: John_Stockton | Flickr cc

Categories
Web Content

14 Ideas For Building Profitable Church Donation Page Content

Offering the convenience of online giving is one practical way we can use our church website to care for God’s family (Galatians 6:10).

I began this series of posts by considering how some churches focus on the “convenience factor” when creating content for their donation pages. Churches misguide Christian donors when they prioritize hyping modern convenience in an effort to persuade and motivate online giving.

Making the most of every opportunity to foster maturity in the Christian life is God’s priority, and should be ours (Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 1:28-29). As our websites are meant to extend the influence and effectiveness of our church ministries online, it naturally follows that we should also make the most of every opportunity there too, right?

So how can we build donation pages that foster spiritual growth, and encourage Christians to excel in gracious giving (2 Corinthians 8:6-7)?

Making the pages of our church website spiritually profitable is just as easily done as said when we’re talking about, say, publishing sermon content online. But, what about church donation pages? What content can we add to make them spiritually profitable for the giver, while meeting their practical needs?

You’re adding a new service to your church website, so your team should start by making a plan. One simple and fun way to begin is by making a list of the most basic questions someone might have about using our online solution to give to our church. Once we have our list of questions in hand, it’s simply a matter of brainstorming ways we can respond to those questions. Then, create or assemble whatever content you’ve chosen to use.

How you structure and lay out your donation page(s) will depend on several factors, including what content your team chooses to publish. For this article, we’ll just be focusing on ideas for content.

Donation Page Content Ideas For Churches

Here are 14 ideas to help you and your team get your creative juices flowing. These are great examples of creative, engaging, and informative church donation page content that responds to a few of the most basic who-what-where-when-why-and-how questions our donors may have.

Question #1: WHY should I give? (4 Ideas)

First things first. Communicate the true priorities for gracious giving by adding content that encourages and teaches the biblical reasons for (and, results of) faithful, intentional giving from the heart.

Grace Church links relevant sermon content taught at their church. Linking to audio content would work well, too. NOTE: If you use a sermon snippet on the donation page, be sure to also provide a link to the entire message/series in your Sermon Library.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3506″ align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ link=”http://gracechurchsc.org/contact/online-giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” autoHeight=”true” quality=”100″]

Celebration Church links video testimonies shared by members of their congregation.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3509″ alt=”Celebration Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://celebrationchurchtx.com/give/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Gateway Church added commentary containing links to relevant Scriptures on giving.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3511″ alt=”Gateway Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://gatewaypeople.com/tithes/why-tithe” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Cross Pointe Church links to quality discipleship resources produced by respected Bible teachers.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3512″ alt=”Cross Pointe Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.crosspointechurch.com/giving/index.htm” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #2: WHO will benefit from my offering? (2 Ideas)

People don’t merely give to “organizations”. People give to people and support causes. Gracious givers are excited to know how God is using their giving to bless others.

Wausau Alliance Church lists and briefly describes the specific church Giving Funds donors can designate their offerings to.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3514″ alt=”Wausau Alliance Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.wausaualliance.org/home/connect/give-online/giving-funds/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

LifeChurch.tv lists and briefly describes the local and global programs and causes their church supports financially.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3515″ alt=”LifeChurch.tv Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”https://www.lifechurch.tv/giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #3: WHERE is the money going? (2 Ideas)

A little transparency goes a long way. Just as important as wanting to know who will benefit from their offerings, gracious givers want you to “show them the money”. They want to be assured that the church is faithfully stewarding the money entrusted to them.

Fellowship Bible Church offers a downloadable report of how the year’s funds were spent.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3518″ alt=”Fellowship Bible Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.fellowshipnashville.org/contact/online-giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Elevation Church created a incredible media experience. Their “year in review” video, highlights the ways people benefited through ministries and programs funded by their donor’s gifts and offerings. A downloadable PDF of the annual report is also available.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3519″ alt=”Elevation Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://annualreport2012.elevationchurch.org/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #4: WHEN and HOW can I give? (3 Ideas)

Make it clear that online giving IS NOT replacing “in the pew” giving (unless it is…which I hope it’s not). And, remember, when it comes to tech savviness, people are at all levels. Make it super easy for inexperienced givers to use the service.

Willow Creek Community Church lists all of the options (times and locations) for giving to their church, including online. NOTE: Be sure to include all acceptable methods for giving money (e.g. cash, personal checks, debit cards, etc.),  according to the giving options available.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3520″ alt=”Willow Creek Community Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.willowcreek.org/giving” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Word of Life Fellowship Church provides clear, detailed, printable, step-by-step instructions for using their service.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3531″ alt=”Word of Life Fellowship Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.wlfconline.org/content.cfm?id=357″ linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Community Bible Church offers a link to less detailed, printable PDF instructions. Their service provides a wizard that walks users through the process step-by-step.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3529″ alt=”Community Bible Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”https://www.communitybible.com/online-giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #5: WHAT other kinds of gifts can I give? (1 Idea)

Money isn’t the only acceptable form of donation. Some churches also accept gifts of real estate, stocks, and other assets. If your church accepts gifts other than money, be sure to communicate that on your donation page.

NorthRidge Church  lists all of the non-cash ways to give, segmented by category.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3522″ alt=”NorthRidge Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://northridgechurch.com/stewardship/giving/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #6: What if I’m new to giving? (1 Idea)

There are many creative ways churches can use their donation pages to teach and encourage those new to giving.

Horizons Church introduces new givers to the discipline of giving to God by encouraging them to participate in a short-term (90-day) giving challenge.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3523″ alt=”Horizons Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://www.myhorizonschurch.com/giving/90-day-challenge” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Question #7: What if I have more questions? (1 Idea)

Undoubtedly, people will have many more questions about using your donation page. Consider adding an FAQs section or page to address their questions and concerns, and to provide additional contact information, if available.

Eagle Brook Church added an FAQs page to respond to the questions most frequently asked.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3524″ alt=”Eagle Brook Church Online Giving” align=”left” icon=”link” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true” link=”http://eaglebrookchurch.com/giving/giving-faqs/” linkTarget=”_blank” quality=”100″]

Seen any great church donation page content?

Elevation’s media report made me want to pull out my wallet! What about you? Have you seen any great church donation pages in your travels? Post a link to the church’s donation page in the Comments below, so we can all be inspired!

In my next post, I want to take a look at options for online giving software and service providers.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with a friend.

Image Credit: Dean Croshere | Flickr

Categories
Web Content

Online Giving For Churches: Is It Spiritually Profitable?

Is online giving for churches spiritually profitable? Can it be? I think so.

In my last post, I talked about how some churches communicate the benefits of online giving on their church donation pages. I explained that building spiritually-profitable donation pages is God’s design for our church websites. That’s because using church donation pages to foster maturity in the Christian life is His priority (Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 1:28-29). Making the most of every opportunity to encourage Christian maturity is good (Galatians 6:10), and should be our priority, too.

Whether your church offers online giving or not, the ideas discussed in that post offer a perspective of our donation pages as discipleship opportunities for influencing the kind of intentional, heart-felt giving that pleases God (2 Corinthians 9:7).

As I mentioned in that post, my church doesn’t currently offer an online giving solution. Researching the option has been a real eye-opener for me. For example, I was surprised to discover that some people consider all online giving to be a “tool of the devil.” I don’t agree with that. But I do believe that, like any other tool meant for good, online giving has the potential to be used in ways that are unprofitable.

Russell Woodbridge, seminary professor and co-author of Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?, expressed numerous concerns he had for churches embracing online giving. At the time of his writing, he believed that,

Online giving may be financially profitable for the church, but it is unprofitable for corporate and individual spirituality.

Though I do not agree with his conclusion, I do think he raises some very valid concerns. I thought these were good starting points for thinking through the possible effects online giving might have on our ministry and the people we serve.

Here are the four main concerns he addresses, along with my thoughts and recommendations I would propose to my own church:

Will online giving be a supplement or detriment to the Sunday worship?

Woodbridge discusses two main concerns for how online giving may be detrimental to the Sunday worship:

  1. Giving is both an individual and corporate act of worship and the expediency of online giving may detract from thoughtful worship as we give.
  2. Observing everyone giving to the Kingdom (during Sunday worship) allows the church body to share life together and build community.

I agree with his concerns, but not with his conclusion. If we were talking about completely replacing corporate giving with online giving, I would agree. That would be detrimental.

Collecting an offering during the worship service allows the church body an opportunity to worship God corporately, share life together, and build community. But even corporate giving can be practiced with distant hearts and wrong motives.

My recommendation: I agree with Woodbridge: God is most concerned with the attitude of the heart as we give. So, I would propose that my church take care to create content for our church donation page that supplements and even expands upon the sound doctrine taught from the pulpit. Truth-filled teaching and support—offline and online—on topics like money, stewardship, giving, etc., will encourage worshipful giving regardless of the method used to offer the gift.

Will online giving help or harm members of a local church?

Woodbridge states,

Online giving can reinforce the individualism and pragmatism that engulfs the church.

He goes on to explore possible reasons why people don’t want to give when the plate is passed. He suggests that some churches attempt to solve the lack of giving by believing that making giving easier is the solution. So, as a knee-jerk response, they turn to online giving and put their faith in the claims made by software companies: financial contributions will increase substantially.

While Woodbridge’s concern seems more focused on the heart of the giver, I’m concerned about the motivation of church leaders offering the solution. I would ask, “Who are we putting our hope in to supply the resources we need? Who are we really depending on?”

As Christ followers, these are the kinds of “thin lines” we encounter every day. Sometimes, we don’t even realize what side of the line we’re on until our faith is tested. And, loss or lack is a great faith-tester.

My recommendation: I agree with Woodbridge: this issue of giving is ultimately related to the condition of our hearts. So, I would propose that the leadership of my church be careful to consider our own motivations for adding an online giving solution to our ministry. The desire to make giving convenient is okay. But, we must be diligent to guard against overlooking the moral principles underlying giving, like faith (Matthew 23:23-24), and teaching others to do the same.

Will automated giving inadvertently foster the notion that giving to God is similar to paying bills or taxes?

I agree with Woodbridge’s line of thinking here. In fact, I think the adage, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” applies.

In my previous post, I explained how convenient it is for me to use my bank’s automatic options to manage money. Using “set it and forget it”, recurring options for building savings accounts and paying debts is great. But, giving our offerings to God is not like paying bills (at least, it shouldn’t be).

Christian giving is an act of love and worship. Wrapped up in that act is a completely distinct motivation that calls for an intentional, fully-present gesture—mind, body, and spirit—every time we give.

My recommendation: I would propose that we do not offer an option for automatic, recurring gifts. I would propose that the giver must personally bring his offering, each time, to the donation page. Every time he comes, he’ll be presented with encouraging, supportive web page content that teaches and reminds him of the true benefits of Christian giving. With God’s help, the fruit of those online exchanges will be a change of heart and mind (Romans 12:1-2).

Should the church ask its members to use credit cards to give?

I’ve seen arguments in favor of discouraging the use of credit cards to make offerings. One of the most common, for a church’s part, is their desire to not encourage increasing debt on the part of the giver. Another common argument relates to churches avoiding the processing fees banks charge for each transaction.

My argument mirrors Woodbridge’s concern. In his article, he asks,

By using a credit card, is the member not giving out of the resources of VISA® rather than out of what he actually possesses?

My response: ABSOLUTELY! So, given that reality, I don’t understand why churches offer this option for giving at all. For clarity, let’s look at a couple of definitions. First, here’s how Merriam-Webster defines “credit”:

Money that a bank or business will allow a person to use and then pay back in the future.

Now, here’s how Investopedia defines “credit card”:

A card issued by a financial company giving the holder an option to borrow funds, usually at point of sale.

So, what are we saying by accepting credit cards on our church donation pages? Giving to God with borrowed funds is an acceptable offering. Seriously?

For online giving, I believe options that deduct money directly from an individual’s personal account best serve the giver and the church. It ensures the giver’s gift is offered, by faith, out of resources he himself possesses. Beginning with the account of the very first offering (Genesis 4:3-5), this is the pattern we see in the Bible of acceptable giving demonstrated (Hebrews 11:4).

Yes, God is concerned with our hearts in giving. But, giving the first and very best out of one’s own resources is a basic principle of practicing faithful stewardship. God approves of that kind of giving.

My recommendation: I would propose that my church not offer the option to accept credits cards online. Debit/check cards or other options that deduct funds directly from an individual’s personal account would be acceptable.

Embracing online giving for discipleship

Online giving provides a unique opportunity for our churches to embrace technology for discipleship. Prayerfully thinking through questions of impact and effect upon our ministry and the people we serve is crucial. Taking time to do so, guides us to carefully make choices that ensure our donation pages will:

  • supplement Sunday worship
  • help members of our local church
  • reinforce Christian giving as an act of love and worship
  • and, offer a convenient method for giving out of our own resources

In my next post, I’ll offer ideas for creating spiritually-profitable donation page content. I’ll be sure to include a few examples, too!

Do you think online giving can be spiritually profitable?

What do you think about using credit cards for offerings? Share your thoughts with a comment below.

Image credit: Kevin Dooley | Flickr

Categories
Web Content

Online Giving For Churches: How To Make Cheerful Givers

I used to be horrible at saving money. But several years ago, God used a particularly difficult season (financially and spiritually) to help me get my mind right. At the end of that lesson, I found myself ready to begin building my “rainy day” fund. Funny how that works.

So, I paused to consider my options. I could patiently endure the difficult process of transforming head and heart to become a disciplined saver. Or, I could take the easy path of convenience. I chose the latter. Enter online banking.

The benefits they promised were irresistible. And, the goal of those benefits was simple: to make a burdensome process easy and painless. So, I signed up online to use my bank’s automatic features to build my savings account. Once set up, a specified amount is now automatically transferred monthly from my checking account to my savings account.

You know what? They were right! It’s very easy to “set it and forget it”. It’s convenient. I don’t think much about saving money now, because I don’t need to. It just happens. I don’t have to lift a finger. And, the savings account consistently grows. That’s a total win for me, right?

What are our priorities for online giving?

No doubt, using online tools to manage money is convenient and prevalent. So it’s no surprise that, to many, adding an online giving option to their church website seems like a no-brainer. My church doesn’t currently offer online giving. Our congregation includes families serving in the military and other travel-prone industries. So, I think it would be a helpful feature.

But, as I think it through, trying to understand what the Lord wants (Ephesians 5:10, 15, 17) for our donation pages, I’m discovering I have a lot of  questions.

For instance, let’s take the benefits of online giving.

The profit and loss of motivating with “convenience”

Convenience is a benefit I see promoted a lot on church donation pages. Some churches follow the same worldly pattern of promising to make a seemingly “burdensome” process easy and painless. Unfortunately, using “convenience” as either a solitary or primary motivator for online giving shortchanges the believing giver.

For example, I’ve recently seen a few church website pages listing the following “benefits” of using their online giving option:
[framed_box rounded=”true”]

  1. You’re fulfilling your good intentions. Most of us want to give regularly but busyness, absences and distractions frustrate our good intentions.
  2. You will simplify your life by giving automatically on the schedule and date you decide. No writing a check, remembering to bring it, or sending it to church if you miss.
  3. You will be helping the church, making record keeping much easier and income more consistent.
  4. You are taking a step of faith, deciding in advance to faithfully give.

[/framed_box]
These seem reasonable. But, what motivation for giving do these “benefits” encourage?

What kind of giving are we encouraging through our donation pages? What kind do we want to encourage? Why does it matter?

Is convenience for the church and the donor the most important goal we should be shooting for? What benefits are we communicating to encourage donors to use the page? What are the eternal implications of what we’re communicating?

Are the benefits we’re most concerned with pleasing to God? Are the needs we’re trying to meet in sync with the needs God says we actually have?

I want to explore these questions in the next several posts. I also want to consider ideas for creating an online giving option for our church website that encourages the kind of heart change God desires (and Christ followers need).

Making intentional, cheerful offerings is what He’s pleased with.

God’s priority for online giving

Without question, online giving offers great convenience, and many practical benefits to both church administration and those wishing to provide financial support. But, purposing to work for the benefit of our donors (Galatians 6:10) when planning and building our donation pages is even more beneficial.

Sincerely caring for God’s family by laboring to create donation pages that influence thoughtful, worshipful giving moves us beyond being concerned merely with the temporal. As Christ followers, it also fire-proofs our work (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

Touting the benefits of convenience is okay. But, even more, we should take care to encourage perfection (or maturity) in the Christian life. Fostering discipline, faithfulness, and heart-felt worship in giving, leads to maturity in the Christian life.

Maturity in the Christian life is God’s priority and a goal of all ministry, including online ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 1:28-29).

Let’s make cheerful givers

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

In his commentary of 2 Corinthians 9:7 in the MacArthur Study Bible, John MacArthur notes,

God has a unique, special love for those who are happily committed to generous giving. The Greek word for “cheerful” is the word from which we get “hilarious,” which suggests that God loves a heart that is enthusiastically thrilled with the pleasure of giving.

It’s that thoughtful, intentional, from-the-heart giving that God is especially pleased with. That’s the goal of our giving, whether we make our offering in the pew or on the website.

Convenience is not what’s most important. Making things easy isn’t the priority. Laboring through our church websites to foster maturity in the Christian life is the priority.

The work involves choosing and adding tools and features that meet practical needs while encouraging spiritual growth. Included in that work is the responsibility to facilitate heart-change through our promotional efforts. That doesn’t mean that promoting convenience is a bad thing, or that it shouldn’t be done. It just means that we should be careful not to point to modern convenience as being the singular or primary reason for online giving.

Modern convenience is no substitute for maturity in the Christian life. Our aim must be to build and use donation pages on our church websites to encourage and nurture Christian maturity in the lives of believing givers. Doing so makes “selling convenience” unnecessary, and results in the kind of generous, consistent giving that delights both God and man.

Does your church offer an online giving option?

If so, what kind of giving is your church encouraging online? If not, is online giving an option you’re kicking around?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. And, if you found this post helpful, please be sure to share it!

Image Credit: Elliott P. | Flickr

Categories
Web Content

11 Great Ways to Publish Your Sermon Online

One of the hardest battles for small to mid-size churches is how to get their sermons online.

The benefits of adding your sermons to your website are huge and in the year 2011 there are no more excuses for not uploading your content. Technology advances have helped lower the cost and you don’t need anything too fancy to record your sermons. Later, we will cover simple ways to record your sermons, but for now let’s assume you are already recording your sermons. So, how do we get them online?

Categories
Web Content

Website Idea #3 – Optimize Your Web Forms

I am a big fan of clean and simple websites. I also believe that your contact forms should also be simple and easy to use. I see web forms all over the place that require too much information, or don’t have clear instructions. Today I want to look at what you can do to help create a great web form.

Now, I am a huge fan of Wufoo. A great company that provides a very easy way to create and edit your web forms. I love them so much, that I use them on just about every website I work on. So let’s take a look at what you can do to optimize your web forms.

Categories
Web Content

Website Idea #2 – Add A Google Map

Getting people to your church can be hard work. You would be surprised how many church websites I see without a directions/location page! But even worse are the churches that only put their address on their location page.

Today I want to encourage you to use http://www.google.com/maps to create a custom map and directions. This quick and easy update, you literally paste the Google Map code into your CMS, will give your site that extra little feature to highlight where you are located.

Take a look at a great example from LifeChurch.tv:

A map to lifechurch.tv

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a great example of what you can do to! I love that they list service times, a Google map, and contact information! Do you have a great example of a location page? I would love to see them!

Image Credit: heiwa4126 | flickr

Categories
Web Content

Website Idea #1: Personilize Your Church Website With Your Photo

Website Ideas is a new series that features quick tips on how to better improve your church website.

Personalize your church website by featuring your pastor on your homepage. By taking your pastor and putting their image on the homepage, you can create a personalized feel to your church website. With so many websites using templates and themes, you need a way to make sure your website feels personal. So put on your nicest suit, or best pair of designer jeans, let’s get your photo on your website.

Categories
Web Content

5 Quick Tips to Improve Your Church Website

Summer is over, well at least in the Northwest it is. So time to retreat to our offices and get back to work! Today I wanted to share five quick tips that will help your church website this fall. These are small things that I have noticed on a review of some of my client’s websites that I think will help you out.

If you have any please feel free to share in the comments!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaiton/
Categories
Web Content

Importance of Online Giving For Churches

This post discusses one of the primary issues concerning online giving for churches.

A pastor I know is looking into adding online giving to his church website. He is having a hard time justifying processing fees being taken out of the tithe. All credit card processing companies charge a small fee per transaction, usually 3% of the total transaction. So this raises an interesting question: Is it wrong to pay 3% of a church member’s tithe to a credit card company?

Let’s look at it from both sides of the issue.

Categories
Web Content

Making Sure Your Video Is Legal

There has been a lot of news recently about HTML5 and the use of video. Apple is endorsing a codec (a way of encoding video) called h.264, but with any new technology it is important to understand the licensing issues involved and to make sure your church is not breaking any type of licensing requirements.  After the break I will walk you h.264 and what to expect if you are posting videos to your church website.

Categories
Web Content

Why No One Visits Your Church Website

“I just don’t think our church is using our website.” It’s an issue I hear all the time.  The truth is that this has very little to do with your website design. It really has to do you and how your church utilizes your website. Most church websites suffer from content overload, too much content with very little focus. Keep reading to see how we can get back to simple church websites that are an effective ministry tool.

Categories
Web Content

Make Your Church Website Better Today

This was a post I originally made on my business website simplechurchmarketing.com. The idea was to get some basic information to pastors to help them with the no-duh type stuff most web designers are familiar with. Over the next five days I will be expanding this original article, exploring each aspect in more detail.