As part of my duties here, I am called upon for computer or tech support help. This comes from co-workers, church administrators, clergy, web designers, you name it. I came across this picture from xkcd.com which totally explains how it’s done. Now to get ready for convention…..
Normally this blog site deals with technology issues and trends that I think are worthwhile pieces of information for people doing digital technology for their faith communities. However, our Canon for Finance, Chris Smith-Clark has brought to my attention some good tips on protecting your organization from “financial chicanery”. I am posting her article here and hope you will take it to heart. Continue reading Is Your Church an Embezzler’s Dream?
I have been following Dave at a blogsite entitled Internet Toolbox for Churches. He has some really great tips and resources for websites and social media. The following is from his latest newsletter and it really resonated with me so I am passing it on. Enjoy! Continue reading How To Ensure People See Your Website Material
I have found that since I started my position here at the Diocese of Olympia, my focus has changed on talking about church websites. Initially it was all about tools, how to do it, how to maintain the site, etc., real nuts and bolts stuff. When I talk with church groups who are working on websites, they invariably want to know what plugins to use, how many navigation tabs, etc., but they never ask me “what is the best way to show my church?” More and more I believe this is the question that should be asked first. Continue reading What Is Your 15 Second Elevator Speech?
When it comes to updating a computer system, most people seem to fall into two camps: those that want to update but don’t know what to get and those who are quite happy with what they have and see no need to change. Both of these ideas have their pluses and minuses.
If you have been using the same computer system for over five years, I would strongly urge you to look at upgrading. It may be working fine for now but hard drives are notorious for failing after five years. If you are running Windows on this machine, it is probably Windows XP which Microsoft will stop supporting next April. As the programs that you are using will invariably require updates, you will find over time that on these older machines the programs will either start to run slower or not install at all. By not updating and running older versions, you run the risk to experiencing bugs or security compromises that have been fixed in later versions. By doing nothing you risk a potential major problem down the road.
So if you want to upgrade, what do you need? It’s like buying a car or house. What extras must you have? However, based on the information I have received from churches around the diocese on their computer and software setup and based on what we use here at Diocesan House, this is the minimum you will need for the next couple of years. Note: This is a Windows based solution. Not being a Mac person I do not know what would be comparable.
- Windows 7 Professional (64-bit version) If you want to use Windows 8 I would wait until 8.1 is released.
- 4 GB of RAM
- Core 2 Processor – 2.7 GHZ or higher processor
- 250 GB hard drive (Preferably solid state, which will increase the life of your disk and allow you to use your computer system longer before replacing)
- A video card that will support videoconferencing
- Webcam, either built-in or external
- Broadband Internet connection with a recommended bandwidth of 768kbps upload and download. You need about 1.2Mbps upload and download for 720p HD video calls.
- Google Docs or Microsoft Office 2010
- CD-ROM Drive – this can be internal or external
With this system configuration you should be able to run most applications easily and be able to do videoconferencing which is becoming more and more common for web conferences and support calls. While this is the minimum configuration, make sure before you buy the system that it has the ability to upgrade components. You may want to speed up the machine by adding more RAM or putting in a second drive, so make sure you will have the ability to do that.
Lastly, technology is constantly changing and improving, so when you create your church budgets, put in a few hundred dollars a year into a fund for your computer system. It will make life easier for you when you are ready for the next upgrade which, like death and taxes, will be inevitable.
I love it when I find nuggets that will help churches with their mission. Here is a nice little article from one of my favorite websites, Church Marketing Sucks (can I get an Amen!) that talks about how to get started with a communications strategy for your church. With all of the tools and apps out there, it is possible to put together a really nice communications strategy for your church or faith community with little financial outlay and not get yourself overwhelmed.
The Lead from Episcopal Cafe posted an interesting set of videos from Apple and posed the question, “What can the church learn from these Apple ads?” It is a very thought provoking question that has caused me to comment on it.
One of the things that struck me about the ads was the attention to detail. I have a very dear friend who used to work for Apple and he would tell stories of how obsessed the engineers could be about getting the interface just right. “Slap and Dash” was not their philosophy. They worked very hard to make sure that the user experience was just right. You don’t have to be technically savvy to use their devices or products. Many non-technical people have talked about how they like Apple products because they are so intuitive, so user friendly. So how does this relate to the church?
Churches seem to put things in the way to confuse and confound its “users”. We have bulletins, inserts, prayer books, one or two hymnals and maybe a Bible all in a pew rack with no “quick start guide” or instruction manual. You walk in the door and you are pretty much on your own, no tech support, no help desk. We put up websites with unruly navigation and content that does not help our mission. We “know” how these are supposed to work, but we don’t consider who our overall audience is.
How do we fix this? Like Apple, we need to pay more attention to detail. View what you present through the lens of someone who has never before been at your church. Look at your website. If I have never been here before how would I find the service times? How about contact information? Directions to the church? Is there child care and do they have a Christian ed program? If I come to your church on Sunday will I be able to find my way around? Will I be able to navigate my way around the service? If I want to give an offering and do not have cash or a checkbook, how can I do it?
None of this is particularly hard, but you have to be intentional it doing it. No pun intended, but “God is in the detail.”
We have seen the signs for years, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You”. While this is nice to have in front of your church or down the street with an arrow pointing the way, is this the only way that people will know about your church? Are you counting on people finding you in the Yellow Pages? If these are your two major advertising methods, expect few visitors to your church door this summer.
As we begin to enter summer, vacations and traveling will be the order of the day for many people. This brings the opportunity to update your website and local listing information targeted toward newcomers & visitors. Is your church ready to help potential visitors this summer?
On your website, there are three things you should look at on your homepage and make sure are correct.
- Do you have your correct service times posted (you may have summer hours)?
- Do you have a map showing where your church is along with its address?
- Do you have a contact link, contact phone number or email address listed?
All three of these should be on your homepage and accessible without having to scroll. If these cannot be readily found or are outdated, people will go elsewhere.
People search for churches the same way they search for restaurants and shopping, therefore the location listings on search engines are very powerful. Take advantage of these. You can claim your local listings and manage them for search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, SuperPages, etc. Another thing that will help you be found is www.faithstreet.com. Signup is free and you can add your church quite easily.
Writing reviews is a very popular function of the web and social media. 34% of bloggers write reviews and 90% of customers trust peer recommendations over direct advertising. Don’t be surprised if you find reviews of a visitor’s experience at your church on one of these local listing sites or other sites like ChurchRater , Ship of Fools or ChurchPick. The reviewers may want to link to your website, Facebook page or other social media platform. Be ready and as my grandmother would say “put your best foot forward”. Use the tools and technologies available to show that in the 21st century, just as we have done for years, the Episcopal Church truly DOES welcome you!
As I travel around the diocese talking about websites and social media, one thing that comes up is “how to attract younger people.” My short answer is “be authentic.” What do I mean by that and how does one apply this, you might ask. This posting by the United Methodist Church explains it pretty well. The next time someone asks the question, this is a good answer to start.
I am always looking for tips and other input on how to best reach people in sharing the Good News. A new blog has just popped up and it looks really promising. It is Episcopalshare – Adventures in the World of Church Social Media. Laura is the curator of this site and her goal of “sharing what I am learning about social media for churches as I go along” is off to a good start. I particularly liked her post on using Google Docs for an online signup sheet. A great little tip that churches can use and it is easy to implement. Thanks Laura, and keep ‘em coming!