What was the impetus behind developing a CMS solution aimed specifically at houses of worship?
JS: We had enjoyed the blessing of a successful business experience in developing internet applications and commerce sites for the commercial world. We became very familiar with the tools available to industry and we wanted to offer those same tools to houses of worship; at a price that made sense for churches and ministries. Churches and Ministries have special needs but the internet marketing, functionality and customer service techniques used by the commercial world should be embraced to raise the level of what we do for Christ online.
Can you share some of your philosophy when it comes to a house of worship developing their web strategy?
JS: We believe that there are three primary purposes of a ministry website:
REVEAL – Reveal your ministry to the community that you serve. Help the community understand the impact your ministry can have in their lives and the lives of their family. We help ministries reveal their vision through industry level design and robust functionality intended to fully engage site users. “Brochure-ware” web sites are no longer sufficient to properly engage an increasingly savvy internet audience.
CONNECT – Provide avenues of connection between people in need and the support, prayer and worship that your ministry has to offer. Provide avenues of connection between ministries and people that are looking for opportunities to use their talents and capabilities to serve in your ministry. A ministry’s web site should connect them with their site users and in some cases connect site users together. We work closely with each ministry client to determine those tools that would best help them properly engage their audience.
GROW – “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” The internet is a big part of our world. We need to be there and use the tools God has provided to GROW the Kingdom. Many times the first place a person goes when seeking a local Church is that church’s web site. If implemented properly a church’s web site could be one of their strongest tools for growth.
What are some discussions you recommend should take place before a house of worship delves into approaching a revamp of their web strategy?
JS: Most churches and ministries have already formed their vision for their organization and most have already articulated their mission and how their strengths will be used for the Kingdom. We guide ministries and help them put that information on paper. This documentation then helps us develop a proposed blueprint for the web strategy. Conversations within the ministry, that clarify and further develop the intentionality of mission will lead to a clearer blueprint. Our strength is developing a web strategy that matches the mission and passion of the ministry.
What consulting advice Do you normally give house of worship clients in regards to developing a “brand” and tying a website into that process?
JS: Many often limit brand to be just a look, maybe even just a logo. A brand is actually all of the expectations that are associated with an experience. The ministry should consider what visual elements communicate the experience that they wish to share; and what expectations those visual elements elicit.
A series of simple questions, and the discussion that follows can often quickly lead to a concept of the ministry “brand”. Questions like “Who is your target audience, How do you worship? What is the preaching style? Describe your congregation. How does that look?”
It is so much fun being involved in these discussions and learning about how different ministries relate to the world around them. And then, converting that understanding into a visual and auditory communication that conveys the experience and expectations of their unique place in the Kingdom.
Our goal is to use the brand experience that we implemented for industry and significantly raise the level of brand marketing for churches and ministries. We feel that while many churches understand the power of their brand, there are many that don’t. The brand a ministry portrays in all their media will have a significant impact on their ability to be successful at “Reaching the World”.
In what ways have house of worship web strategies changed since you first began this business?
JS: The economic recession has made the web site even more important to churches and ministries. People are moving around the country. They have lost jobs, they are changing careers and they are experiencing wrenching changes in their personal lives. They are searching for opportunities to worship and opportunities to serve in their new communities. They are searching the same place they are buying shirts and books and everything else – the internet. It is now more important than ever to REVEAL your ministry on the web, CONNECT people to opportunities to worship and serve, and GROW the Kingdom.
When we first started FaithNetwork, it seemed that many ministries were satisfied with having a simple brochure type web site. Over a short amount of time, that opinion had significantly changed. Churches and Ministries now realize the power of the web and are increasing their use of Audio, Video, Podcasting, Live Broadcast, blogging, social media, e-commerce and other mainstream tools to effectively grow their organization’s impact at a reasonable cost for the gain.
We no longer feel like missionaries, bringing the power of the internet to the Christian world. They get it and the leaders in these ministries are becoming more and more aware of what the internet can do for them.
For houses of worship without a website: Do you have access to a checklist for houses of worship to go through when they are ready to build a website? ie: hosting information, domain name selection, costs… all the things they need to be prepared to do?
JS: We work through of all those details with them. Giving the church a high quality web presence is OUR ministry. We want to take responsibility for that ministry and enable the pastors and staff to do the ministry they were trained for and called to do. We will handle the logistics of getting a complete web site set up and running from nuts to bolts walking them through the process each step at a time.
Site Watch: Capital Christian Center • www.capitalchristian.com
Capital Christian recently gave their web presence an overhaul. We spoke with Marcus Hackler, Director of Communications and Media about the experience.
When you set out to develop your web strategy for Capital, did you survey your congregation to determine what the approach should be?
MH: We actually did not do an official survey, but we noted the feedback we’ve received from various congregation members relating to our old site and feature requests. Our main goal was to create a simplified site that features our strengths, was user friendly, and social media rich.
What type of feedback did you get?
MH: Since the launch, feedback has been great. Making our media library available on the front page has been the biggest draw to the site, both from our congregation, and those outside of our geographical area. We also figure that one of the best ways to inform visitors of what our church is like is through video. We are continuing to build out video content that promotes accurate expectations of their experience.
What differentiates Capital’s web strategy from a “stayed” webpage approach?
MH: Our approach is to harness the power of rich dynamic content to create an engaging experience for the user. Rather than using flash animations and design, we simplified by using WordPress as our Content Management System (CMS) and have sought to engage the viewer by making content available, and information easily accessible. Future features will include integrated forum-style commenting, as well as the ability to share across social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
What are the most important things you learned through this process?
MH: We’ve learned to make the most important things the most prominent. For us that is our sermon content and events which have their place on the front page as an image rotator and mini-media library sidebar. The rest of our content is easily accessed through navigation and quick-hit icons. We’ve found that by making the most important things the most prominent, our visitors stay longer and come back more often.
What advice can you impart to other teams who are in the midst of planning a website upgrade?
MH: Make the most important the most prominent and don’t worry about having every single detail of every ministry in a web format. Much of the time when people are looking for more information, pdf documents can do the trick. Stay visually focused, and eliminate or consolidate as much text as possible. Find out what your viewers are after the most, and make that a focal point.
The next stage for us is to start generating conversation over the topics we present though forum style commenting and blog entries. We’ll see where that takes us 🙂