When it comes to control over the finances, some parishes like to be in direct control of what comes in. Directly operating your church’s merchant account may bring you financial gifts faster, but the process comes with some inherent risks.
When you picture world missions, what do you imagine? Most of us might think of a remote village, building projects, and catechism lessons in one-room schoolhouses. Modern American life is disconnected on multiple levels from the everyday life of a foreign missionary. This World Mission Month, the team at Missio is trying to bridge that gap in an innovative way: a Papal ChatBot.
Who’s Responsible for Your Church’s Online Strategy?
As technologists, we’re only one big piece in this puzzle. Many of the challenges we have with encouraging technology adoption aren’t rooted in the technology itself, but rather the adoption of it. Technology is just a tool. It’s how we use it that counts.
“A well-intended volunteer stepped forward to set up our church website. At first, they were totally responsive and information was updated the same day within hours. After a few months, the updates would happen less frequently. I would send them emails with what to place on the site and it would be posted within weeks. Then emails and calls to the volunteer would not lead to any updates at all. Our church website is now static and is still advertising last summer’s festival. It’s been a year and we have no way to update it.”
Or worse yet, you want to visit the homepage and it’s not the church website anymore.
This is a guest post from Edmund Mitchell.
I stood in St. Peter’s Square a few years ago and a friend said the Pope’s office window is the last light to turn off at the Vatican, communicating to everyone just how hard the Pope is working for his flock. “Pope’s Window Syndrome” hits people who work for the Church, as they put in grueling 50-60 hour workweeks, leaving lights on in their office long after everyone else leaves for the evening. And while putting in 60 hours a week may make you feel like you are working hard, not getting paid enough, and completely unappreciated, there is a lot of evidence that suggests the more hours you work, the less productive you become. (See this link, that article, and here.) Not to mention the huge negative impact on your family life if you’re married.
Enter Sheryl Sandberg and Parkinson’s Law.
How Good Photography Reveals Beauty and Draws People to the Church
We live in a world where nearly everyone has access to a camera. It has never been easier to document and record our lives. With the click of a button, we can share the beauty of our faith with the world, a faith that is naturally beautiful on many different levels. Our human instinct to capture beauty is a direct reflection of God’s word when he saw all that he made and “found it very good.”
Photography matters in our world—and should matter to the Church—because it is the bridge or gateway of communication and storytelling. Statistics show that more and more people are visual learners, which shows that photography makes a difference. With the Instagram generation having a bigger impact in the world of communications and evangelization, taking a photo with purpose and reason can give someone a reason to stop, pause, and be curious as to what that photo can offer. Most importantly, it offers the story behind the photo.
Imagine if that same purpose and reason were applied to the way we approach photography within church communications. Here are five tips to help the photos you take leave a deeper impression.
Those are simple instructions, right? Yes, go to Google and find out what information is on the internet about your parish. My hope is that you find your church website as #1 on the list of results, which means you’re doing some things right online.
Greetings and salutations! My name is Sr. Helena Burns, fsp. The initials after my name stand for my congregation, the Daughters of St. Paul (in Latin). Founded in 1915 to evangelize with media, the Daughters of St. Paul are obviously very pro-media and pro-technology! Our Founder, Blessed Fr. James Alberione, told us to use “the fastest, most modern, most efficacious means to reach the greatest number of people” with the Word of God. He gave us the mandate to use every new medium, every new form of communication as soon as it appears on the horizon. In other words, the Daughters of St. Paul are called to be “early adopters.” We then learn the particular “language” of each new medium in order to use it to communicate optimally, as our Founder said: “in an appealing, attractive way that people are used to.”
There are a few things to consider when refreshing your parish website including knowing what your audience needs, wants, and expects, and making sure the look is consistent with your parish communications. After that, all you need to update your parish website is a brighter, more modern design and a little reorganization.
When Christine, the webmaster at St. Bernard Parish in Wauwatosa, WI, asked LPi for help this is exactly what we did to refresh her church website.
Choose a new look
If you are using a website service with templates, choose a template that has the colors you use in your church communications or offers the choice to use those colors. In this case, we chose a template that would show off the beautiful brand identity already created.
Add a headline
The headline on your website is the first thing a visitor will read. We recommend the headline stay between 5 and 7 words. For St. Bernard Parish, we selected the tagline they already use with their logo and on their church communications.
Simplify the home page
Working closely with St. Bernard’s parishioners, Christine had specific content she had identified that was needed and wanted on the home page. The next step was to simplify how it was presented by placing the most important information first and reorganizing the related content together. This is important not only for readability on a full desktop, but also for a mobile-friendly environment because the content will display vertically from left to right.
Reorganize the menu
A menu should have no more than seven items visible when the page loads. One way to think of these menu items is as categories. So, all other Web pages must be moved under these categories. For St. Bernard, we adjusted the menu options to be one word that communicates simple categories for easy assessment, readability, and organization of all the content within the website.
Adjust the layout on other pages
When you change a template, it is important to review all existing pages to make sure they are displaying correctly in the new template. Through the assessment of the St. Bernard website, we identified several pages where we could combine the content into one page. Then we established guidelines for which header style to use on every page. Lastly, we rearranged pages to match the menu bar and included images and videos.
Nearly half of people who use the Internet expect a website to load in less than two seconds. Within four seconds, 25% of your website viewers will leave if it doesn’t.
This means, if your website take four or more seconds to load, and there are one hundred people visiting your website, you will lose twenty-five of them. That doesn’t seem like a huge number, but the ones willing to wait the extra time are most likely your existing parishioners, so you just missed out on twenty-five new parishioners.
Here are two things you can do to decrease the amount of time it takes for your website to load, images and all. Best part is, you don’t have to be tech savvy to make these changes.
Optimize your images for Web use
Optimize? That’s a big word. Let’s simplify it. Every file you place on your website is made of megabytes. The Internet reads information in megabytes per second. The goal is to make your image so small that it only uses a tiny fraction of the megabytes that will load in 1-2 seconds.
To do that, save your images in the exact dimensions you will need it to be at a resolution of 72 pixels, or dots, per inch (ppi or dpi).
Each program, app, and software has a different way of doing exactly that. Here are some articles to help you in the program you use:
If you don’t see your program listed here, type “Save for web in [the name of your program]” in the search box on the Internet.
Clean up your home page
Just like the images, each bit of information is made up of megabytes. Plus, if you throw too much information at a new visitor on your website, you are going to overload them and scare them away.
In short, remove unnecessary information and shorten long sections to small excerpts.