Seek organizational support. The support of your church communication committee, congregational council, committees, staff and congregation will be extremely helpful in undertaking this information intensive/cooperative effort that will call for on-going budget support. Go to www.elca.org/webministry for links to articles and statistics that will help you explain the importance of this vital communication tool in your congregation.
What does it take? Computer capability, modem, browser (Communicator, Firefox, etc.), ISP (Internet service provider), software if designing in-house (Dreamweaver, FrontPage, etc.), a host site, and registration of a domain name. How much will it cost? How much can you spend? There are many low-cost options including template sites* and free hosting, for example on Thrivent’s Lutherans Online Web site at http://www.lutheransonline.com/servlet/lo_ProcServ/DBPAGE=cge. Probable costs are: monthly hosting fee, domain name registration ($70 for two years), possible monthly fees for some optional programs. Note: Your ISP may offer free hosting for a modest-sized site. To register your domain name go to http://www.networksolutions.com, http://www.godaddy.com or http://www.register.com For inexpensive hosting try these http://www.iceishot.com, http://www.hostcompare.com, http://www.createafreewebsite.net/web_hosting_comparison_chart.html
If using a template site* there may be an initial set-up cost, then a monthly fee that includes hosting, and possible additional costs for increased requested services. Choose a company where technical assistance is included in the monthly fee. If choosing to design and maintain the site rather than using a template site: Designed by professional:
Expenses are usually by the hour. Ask for references (check them) and to see several samples. Make sure you sign a contract that includes the date of delivery and fees. Gather all your content and have it ready in documents before giving it to the designer. Major changes and additions will add to the cost. Decide who will maintain the site before you begin. If it’s other than a staff member or volunteer, this could add greatly to your monthly costs. Get a copy of the site on CD. Make sure in the contract that you own the site design.
Designed by volunteer:
This is the most economical but riskiest option, especially if the designer is a member. It’s difficult to be honest about how you feel about the design. This is not a paying job so it will be on the volunteer’s timetable. Make sure you ask for a back-up disk of the site in case the person leaves the congregation or moves. Ask which program was used to create the site; FrontPage and Dreamweaver are the most commonly used.
Consider a database:
It has interactivity options like calendars and photo albums, updates without HTML, and can be updated online from various locations and therefore by several folks. This is how a template site works but could also be a requested part of a designed site. Who will design, build, manage and maintain the site?
Volunteer vs. professional, congregation or staff member, or a team? These are extremely important considerations in considering the complexity of the design and content. Make sure you can keep your site a manageable size so it can be kept fresh and updated. Who will provide the original content?
Pastor, a member of the congregation or staff, a committee? This can be a lengthy process. Having the content ready and proofed before the design phase can save considerable time and money. A site map is critical. (This is a layout of how the pages will flow from one to another.) Where to find help?
Helpful Resources are available from the ELCA.
ELCA Web Works – resources for enhancing your Web ministry: www.elca.org/webministry
Don’t forget to promote it. Put the address (URL) on all your stationary, business cards, brochures, e-mail signatures, newsletters, church sign. Send it to the synod www.elca.org/scriptlib/it/cds_CongrWebPages/cds_main.asp to be included on their sites.
*A company that provides simplified Web site design and hosting for a fee. You select from template pages and insert your information. They can be maintained without special html coding knowledge and have a professional appearance. There are many; go to a search engine and check for “church web sites.” http://www.cyberchurch.com