Ministry teams, our churches are full of them. I recently drafted a proposal to my church’s leadership in how I feel we could restructure our online efforts in order to more efficiently make use of that medium. Since then I’ve shared this vision with some friends in other churches around town to which I have received many positive reports of its application. So, I figured I’d share it with you all as well! As always, let me know what you think.
The primary goal of this strategy is to empower a team to be in control of the church’s online presence.
Our church is currently active in three areas of internet ministry: informative website, audio sermon podcasts, and Facebook. Each of these areas currently hold their own strengths and weaknesses in regards to how our church is using them to meet a ministry goal. In the following proposal I will list and compare some options I see that can boost our church’s internet presence and efficiency while keeping costs to a minimum.
h3>The Website Needs Video<span
Our website is currently styled as an information hub. The method of passing this information to the visitor is primarily text. Visual media is the style of the day and the tools to implement a visual media approach are easy to use and readily available.
For example, we have a column of quick links on the left of our primary graphic on the homepage. The top button is labeled, “New?” The button takes the visitor to a page that includes a lot of good information that a visitor would benefit from before coming to our church for the first time. It is currently all in text, but would make a great video. We could just as easily have a video embedded on this page which has a friendly, smiling member of our church family saying these words to the visitor. The video could be shot with our existing church equipment, edited on our church iMacs and hosted for free on YouTube.
That’s one example that can be applied across our church website. Imagine, for another example, that on the leadership page we had video messages from each pastor instead of a still shot with name and title.
It is my opinion that most pages on our church site should include some type of video media. I would exclude the homepage from having an upfront video but I would still have some type of linked visual media. For example, right now we have the graphic for our current sermon series. If a visitor clicks that link, I think it would be good for it to lead to a quick promotional video for the series. Something simple like a person giving a verbal preview for what to expect from the series would suffice.
I don’t think it would hurt to video record a whole Celebration Service and make the video available on the visitor section of the webpage. Text or spoken words can give an idea of what to expect, but seeing it gives knowledge as to how it actually looks. I would execute this by having the originally suggested video with a person describing our church be around 2 or 3 minutes in length but have an embedded clip of the full service video display at some point so that the person has the option of clicking it and watching (with a warning that it is over an hour in length). Another option is to have a clip of each service segment appear next to the speaker as they’re describing it. The person watching could click the link to see that segment, in the event they can’t visualize the verbal description. YouTube can do all of this.
Our church currently provides recorded sermons on the website in the podcast format. The quality of the recordings is good and the editing in of starting and ending bumpers adds a flavor of professionalism. The podcasts are not, however, as easy to access or as widely advertised as they should be.
The podcasts should be available on the iTunes store. Listeners can subscribe to our church on iTunes and are automatically served the latest sermon automatically. This simplicity aids in retaining listeners which own Apple’s mobile devices. Android users have less simple methods which our website already provides.
After a new podcast is made available on the website (and iTunes in the future) a notification should go out over social media services to alert people to the new posting. This method of advertising is not only free, but allows our church family members to easily share the link with friends and family who do not attend our church. The existence of the podcasts should be promoted around our church campus. I found them purely by chance.
Lastly, our podcast editors require a bit of training in metatags. In the past I have used the podcasts to keep up with a series if I missed a Sunday. After downloading a handful of messages I saw that they were scattered across my phone’s media folder under various artists and album titles. Some would say our church, others would say our church Church, and one even had the name of the editor of that podcast as the artist. The albums may have reflected the series or the date. These should be standardized. I should (by default and no effort of my own) have a single artist named “Your Church’s Name.” Opening that artist folder should show a single album for each series I have downloaded. Inside the album should be tracks for each sermon by that sermon’s title. All of these things are metatags which are entered by the person editing the podcast prior to uploading.
Our church is currently using Facebook as an information distribution hub (similar to the website) as well as a place our church family members can post prayer requests, praises and so on. One weakness on our church Facebook page is posting and spam control. Right now, anyone who likes the page can post anything they want to share, be it a video or graphic they found to be humorous, or even outright spam. A simple fix to this can be found in Facebook’s privacy rules. The page can be configured to only allow the owner to make new posts to the page. Others can then respond to the post. This allows page owners to control the flow of the conversation.
For example, the page can have a new post each day that say’s something along the lines of, “How can we pray with you today?” or on a Sunday “What really rocked you today in Pastor John’s message?” Others can then respond to those posts. To keep down volunteer or staff time requirements, these posts can be pre-planned and auto posted by using an app such as Buffer (bufferapp.com).
We should be encouraging attendees to check-in to our church on Facebook (or other social media of choice. This can be easily executed by using QR codes placed in the bulletin, on the pre-service announcement slideshow and/or around our church campus. This capability requires a service such as Check In QR Code (checkinqrcode.com). The service is free for now but plans on charging in 2014.
Suggested Future Tools
Our church has had a Twitter account in the past. This account should be recovered and put to use. I suggest linking the Twitter account to the Facebook account. This would allow a single post on Twitter to reflect on Facebook as well. The, “How can we pray with you today?” post is now presented to two audiences via a single action.
Blogs are very popular in the ministry world. I suggest the pastoral staff make a goal of one blog post per week which is hosted on our church website. Announcements are then made for the posts on the Twitter account which (as described above) auto posts to the Facebook page.
The blog post itself can be written and scheduled to post in the future. When the author or blog admin schedules the future post, the website can be configured to automatically make the appropriate announcements. All the pastor has to do is write one or two encouraging paragraphs in a text document or email and send it to the administrator to be published.
YouVersion Live Events are a great way to reach out to the tech heads and geeks of the world. A live event can be easily formatted to have the sermon’s scriptures, sermon handout notes, a button to ask for prayer, even a button to tithe (using our church’s existing PayPal donations account).
Live broadcasting over the internet has become a very simple process in just the past year. Using one or more decent quality cameras ($200-$500) a dedicated streaming computer ($500) and a Google Account (Free) the church could be streaming on the web in a snap. The method would be to use the Google+ Hangouts-on-Air service. This free service offers high definition, ad free streaming over the Google+ community as well as YouTube. Also, because the service is streaming over YouTube, the live feed can be simply embedded on our church webpage. Announcements then go out over Twitter (which auto posts to Facebook) providing a link to our church website to watch the live service.
After the service is complete the video is automatically saved on our church YouTube Channel where it can be downloaded by a member of the media team. That person then makes edits similar to those we currently make to the audio podcasts: start and ending bumpers. The video is then offered for download over channels similar to the audio podcast.
Mobile Church App
A dedicated smartphone app makes mobile presence simple but comes with costs. Companies exist to simplify the process of creating and maintaining the app. Subsplash Consulting (http://www.subsplash.com/) created the apps for Elevation Church, New Spring Church, Billy Graham and many others. I suggest building a following using our existing toolset before venturing into this market.
Internet Ministry Management
In order to simplify management of these tools and programs, I suggest setting up a technology and media ministry within the church. Ideally this ministry should be headed by two to three tech savvy individuals who would hold administrator rights to the various platforms used by our church. I suggest that our church staff member be the top level admin (not counted in the two to three suggested above) who can grant and revoke the privileges of other admins. The volunteer admins would be granted all other rights needed to maintain the platforms and perform the grunt work. The volunteers would have a primary/secondary designation. The primary admin would be responsible for day to day operations while the secondary would be on back-up in the event the primary is not available. This prevents things like double postings.
This ministry would oversee:
- Online activities
- Service Audio/Video
The admins should possess the following experience:
- Active social media involvement
- Blog posting methods
- Website administration
Optional skills needed (can be trained) from volunteers:
- Soundboard management
- Lighting management
- Positive outlook and a can-do attitude
This is my extended church tech ministry team proposal, but I’d love to see what you have your your church if you could expand yours. What would you add to your list?