Archive for blogging

Targeting Your Site

Aiming at two groups of people

The most successful websites are those designed with their target audience clearly in mind. Your target audience is simply those people who you hope to attract to your site. Good church websites are hard to create because they must reach two target audiences, not just one. The key to ensuring that your website works well is to design according to the different needs of these two audiences. Your first and most important audience is those people who are not yet Christians but who are considering coming to your church (perhaps because they have a friend or neighbor who goes, but they want to find out more). The church website offers them an ideal way to find out about the church and the Christian faith in an anonymous way before taking the plunge and coming along in person. Your website’s second audience is your existing church members. This group is less important than the first, simply because there is probably little which you can place on the website that they don’t already know, or can’t easily find out from another source. So do provide information relevant to church members, but not at the expense of making the site inaccessible to your main audience of non-churchgoers.

Providing relevant content

The key to good design is to ask yourself what the members of each target audience are looking for when they visit your website. Potential visitors to your church probably want to know:

  • ·         Is this church weird, or do normal people go as well?
  • ·         What do Christians believe?
  • ·          Why do people go to church?
  • ·         Where is the church?
  • ·         How do I get in touch?
  • ·         What times are the services?
  • ·         Which service should I go to?
  • ·         Are there facilities for children?

Many church websites do not answer these sorts of questions. We often come across sites which look good, but which don’t rate very highly because they are not focused on the needs of non-churchgoers. By contrast, a good church website is aimed primarily at those who do not yet come to church.

The sort of information which church members may look for on the website is very different. They are more likely to ask questions like:

  • ·         Who is preaching next Sunday?
  • ·          When is the next WELCA/Council meeting?
  • ·          Is the prayer meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday?

Since the questions which church members are asking is so very different from that asked by other visitors, it is almost impossible to write one page which is interesting to both sets of visitors. Either you end up giving church members information they already know, in which case they won’t bother looking at the website very much, or you confuse potential church visitors. The solution is to have different pages for different audiences. For example, to tell people about the Sunday services create one page containing the basic information which an enquirer might need to know (e.g. service times), and then provide a link to a second page which contains detailed information for church members (e.g. who is preaching). If this is done throughout the site then you will achieve your aim of providing a website which is welcoming and informative for both your casual visitors and your church members.

An additional audience

There is a third group of people who will visit your site, namely those people who are already Christians but who don’t go to your church. Perhaps they go to another local church and came across your website, or perhaps they recently moved into the area and are looking for a church. Whoever they are, there is no need to design your website to reach these people. If you have followed the advice given above, your site will already welcome them and provide all the information they need to know.

Defend our freedom to share …

On the web for the past several weeks and months, the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act currently before Congress, if passed, would have serious consequences for the internet and would change the landscape drasticly.

The real question is how should society best balance the needs of the copyright holders and the  public using the internet, when sharing content is increasingly becoming the status quo. There are no easy answers.  We all need to be concerned about how this develops. Wikipedia’s FAQ provides a lot of information.

In a talk, Clay Shirky provides some background and brings forth the real issues.


A wiki is a tool used on websites for communication.


A wiki is a tool used on websites for communication. 

A wiki (Listeni/ˈwɪki/ wik-ee) is a website that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor.[1][2][3] Wikis are typically powered by wiki software and are often used collaboratively by multiple users. Examples include community websites, corporate intranets, knowledge management systems, and note services. The software can also be used for personal notetaking.

Wikis may serve many different purposes. Some permit control over different functions (levels of access). For example, editing rights may permit changing, adding or removing material. Others may permit access without enforcing access control. Other rules may also be imposed for organizing content.


Pastors on Facebook

Here are 8 great things a pastor can do on Facebook. by  Paul Steinbrueck

1. Listen. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters,
take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow
to become angry” Nothing could be more important on Facebook. Listen more than
you speak. By listening you’ll get to know people better and learn what’s going
on in their lives. You find out who is hurting, who is frustrated, who is
thriving, who is gifted in ways you never realized.

2. Pray. James 5:16 tells us, “The prayer of a righteous
person is powerful and effective.” Whether your Facebook friends post good news
or bad, a success or a failure, you can always pray for them. When you do, ask
God for guidance as to how to respond if at all. He may prompt you with the
words to type in a reply. He may prompt you to pick up the phone. Who knows
what could happen.

3. Engage/comment. Of course, if all you do is listen and
pray, you’re not going to have much impact on Facebook. In fact, nobody’s going
to even know you’re there. Show you care about your Facebook friends by engaging
with them. Comment on people’s updates. When other people comment on your
updates, reply back to them. Respond promptly to messages and new friend

4. Publicly encourage. One of the best ways you can engage
with people and show you care is to encourage them. It doesn’t take a lot of
time or effort either. You can post a comment on someone’s update with a simple:
“Congrats!” “That’s awesome!” or “I’m praying for you,” shows the person (and
their Facebook friends) that you really are listening and you care.

5. Respond privately to sensitive issues. Facebook not only
provides the means to respond publicly to your friends, but also privately. If
someone posts an update alluding to a personal or sensitive issue – their
relationship status changes, they’ve lost their job, they sound depressed – in
addition to publicly encouraging them, you may want to want to send them a
private message. Not only does it give you the opportunity to say something you
might night want to say publicly, but by asking open-ended questions you invite
them to open up more privately about what’s going on and how they’re really

6. Be human. People are not connecting with you on Facebook
so they can hear about God and church all the time. They want to relate to you
as human being. Post about what’s happening in your life. Share photos and
video of your family. Talk about your other interests and hobbies. Share links
to articles you think are interesting.

7. Be authentic. People are also not connecting with you so
they can see how perfect people live. Don’t just post the good stuff that’s
going on in your life. It’s OK to express sadness, anger and frustration. In
fact, it’s not just OK, it’s necessary. We are all frail and sinful. People
need to understand that as a pastor you are not better than they are. You are
just blessed to be forgiven and have the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

8. Initiate friend requests. Some people are afraid to
initiate a friend request with a pastor. After you meet someone in the
community or meet someone for the first time at church, initiate a friend
request with them the next time you’re on Facebook. Remember Jesus hung out
with prostitutes and tax collectors, so you should be hanging out on Facebook
with people who are not Christians too.

Social Media Practices and Procedures Manual

Now that you’ve established guidelines for staff and volunteer leader participation online, this portion of your social media policy can describe HOW you hope to support and sustain a social media initiative. Here are some things topics you may want to discuss and document in your social media manual:

  • Publication schedule. Establish a plan for how often posts will appear in your various social media channels (e.g. one video a month on YouTube, two wall posts per week on Facebook, a Twitter update every other day). This ensures that the areas don’t become stale, and by spreading out posts you make “space” for member comments and contributions.
  • Automated posts. Automation methods can help keep your site fresh. For example, an “Announcements” RSS feed on your congregation website can automatically update your congregation Facebook Wall and Twitter feed. This acknowledges that members have different preferences for how they receive information, and you are striving to provide church information in the most convenient way for them.
  • Moderator schedule. If you are successful, members and prospective members will be participating with posts, comments on your Facebook wall, and be sharing links, photos and videos with other members. Part of the responsibility of having a social media presence is monitoring what goes on there. Establish and schedule a social media team to monitor your site 7 days a week. Not all members of the team need administrator rights to remove posts that are spam or offensive, but they need to know how to contact an administrator if intervention is needed.
  • Helpful tools. If you’re lucky enough to have several congregation staff members interested in participating online, tools like MediaFunnel and HootSuite can help coordinate and manage your social media presence by letting you schedule posts, establish a work flow and review process.
  • Talk about your approach. In the least, your social media presence might be a convenient way to get announcements out to members in a place where they are already visiting (and each announcement can be used to drive people to more information on your congregation Web site). So in addition to collecting together updates for occasional publication in the Sunday bulletin or congregation newsletter, as soon as you hear about some event, deadline, news item, update, etc., you would do a wall post on the congregation Facebook page. The best posts are ones that also invite members to comment. And the ideal site has members posting announcements and reminders themselves.
  • Developing a place for members to reflect on their faith. Is there a “member care” or “fellowship” group who could intentionally post reflections, event images and videos, and questions for member response? Maybe approach members of your adult education or learning committee to develop regular questions to post online (make sure other committee members are ready to respond with comments, in order to prime the pump). For some sample questions, check out some of the “talk bubbles” that have been posted on
  • Look for models of effective use of social media in congregations. One example of a congregation with well-developed e-communication tools is Zion Lutheran Church in Buffalo, Minn. ( A church staff person does regular Facebook posts and members occasionally comment ( It’s interesting to note that, in general, discussion boards seem fairly quiet on Facebook, but people are often willing to comment and “like” wall posts. Polling congregation staff and lay leaders to see if others are willing to post and comment is an important step, otherwise, by default all posts will be from you. That may be helpful for members, but not as interesting as the variety you have with many people contributing. A “Welcome” page is useful for people who may be new to Facebook. Facebook has become the most popular photo-sharing site. Zion has built up a large library of albums that help provide a window into congregational life. Facebook’s “tagging” feature lets parents or the people pictured decide if they will be identified in a photo.


Social Media and Congregations

Strategies, Guidelines, Best Practices and Resources

Elements of a Social Media Strategy

Elements of a Social Media Strategy

The resource list below has a number of good references for helping you develop a comprehensive social media strategy. Ideally this strategy will be one component of an overall communication plan for your congregation that includes all the ways you interact with your members and the community. A good strategy provides a rationale, plus some structure and foundation for this aspect of ministry. Basic strategy elements should address some of these questions:

  • What’s the plan? Involve key stakeholders in planning a strategy. What is your organizational strategy … where does social media fit in? Help the group answer the basic question of: What are your objectives? Evangelism and outreach? Information for members? Inspiration?
  • Who is your target audience? Are you primarily trying to reach and connect members, or are you primarily hoping to reach out to the community and prospective members? Most congregations are trying to reach both, but you should still describe your audience as thoroughly as possible, since you will want to target your efforts and possibly use different channels to reach different audience segments.
  • Why are we considering this means of communicating? Outline your reasons for this initiative. Social media offers the possibility for collaborating with purpose. It can extend the community that gathers on Sunday morning into the rest of the week and integrate “church life” into daily life.
  • Where? When choosing a social media platform, the most cost effective and successful approach is usually to boldly go where your members are. Are your members active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc.? This may mean setting aside your personal preference for social media platform in favor of reaching your members where they are.
  • Public vs. Private space? Eventually you will probably need both: outposts where your members already are; home spaces for private groups. You can also build private spaces within public spaces (e.g. private Facebook groups). Start with where people are. If you outgrow that, consult with key users and get their buy-in before branching out.
  • Who will implement the strategy? Are you willing to shift your thinking about congregational communication, and shift your time from other tasks, to feed and monitor a social media presence? This work is a great opportunity for lay leadership, but staff oversight and some level of participation is needed. Your strategy needs to identify the human resources that will be applied to setting up and maintaining a social media presence.
  • How will the strategy be implemented? Transforming into a networked organization involves trust and getting more people involved. This is easier when you have a policy to empower staff and volunteers to communicate freely in a responsible way. Develop work flows for how information will be shared over time, and a schedule of who will monitor and support this virtual community on a regular basis.
  • How will the communication needs of all members continue to be met?  It is important to avoid creating a “technology gap” in your overall communication strategy, where members without the means or desire for digital connections are left out. Using online community to help mobilize volunteers to connect with the offline community can help fill this gap, as well as on-demand printing of some essential communications for those who indicate that preference.


Social Media and Congregations

Strategies, Guidelines, Best Practices and Resources

The nine tribes of the internet

Successful Church Websites Know Their Visitors

It is always a good idea to write the content of your church website for those who will be using your website. A lot of times the website is written for the theologian, the church staff or the pastor. Remember who will be reading your site and style your writing for them. So it is very important to style your writing for the various users of your church website.

  • Church members: This group is probably the easiest to write for. They are interested in events that are happening and the photo album because they might find their picture there and want family and friends to come and see. So the information needs to be accurate, up to date, and something they can show their friends and family.
  • The curious: They have very little experience with the church. Most of their knowledge is from what they see in movies, hear in the news and know from what others tell them. Here is an opportunity to share with them a little about who you are, what activities you are involved in and the fact that they may very well fit in. The website is their front door to easily find out more about you and may even encourage them to visit.
  • The New: I told my son that when someone is looking for a church because they just moved into the neighborhood the first thing they will do is check out the churches website. His comment was that is what he did. Since that is the case, what are they checking out? The first question to be answered: Is there a website to begin with?  The second: Is it up to date? The third question: Are they friendly toward kids? How the website answers these question says a lot to the newcomer and if he will even visit your church.

The church member, curious and newcomer have different expectations and needs. When you’re writing content and managing the website and your website incorporates the needs of these groups you will have a successful church website. Guess who is coming to church?


Here are a few suggestions that will go a long way.

1. Get a Facebook account and register your blog at Facebook’s Networked Blogs page. You can encourage other Facebook users to share your blog posts.

2. Use Google’s webmaster tools to ensure that Google will spider and list your blog.

3. Have Facebook, Twitter and other social networking options on your website.

4. Use tags and descriptive titles for your page header. Search engines love lots of dialogue.

5. Create a Facebook Fan Page for your blog. Then invite your Facebook friends to become fans. Be careful how you choose to classify it. When you have 25+ fans, you can go to to choose a shortened username for the fan page.

Some thoughts on Pastors who blog

Develop  Associations. A blog is basically an opportunity to exchange ideas and interact with those of similar interests. Blogging encourages feedback, questions, and discussions where everyone feels free to share. Pastors find blogs helpful, they begin to appreciate and comprehend what’s going on with those they’re trying to get in touch with.

Embracing the common. You don’t need a masterpiece. Blogs support posts about everyday experiences and help others to center on the important parts of everyday life.

Pastors are like the rest of us. Pastors have the opportunity to share their persona, wit, and passions. A pastor can be seen as someone who loves to help, write and visit.

Contact the lost. It often is very difficult to attract people to church; blogging is a different story. Many are in search of answers and are comfortable doing so blogging. The fact is: blogs are within society accepted.

Outside the stain glass. Blogs as available world-wide and a pastor can gain a following independent of the local congregation. While many members may subscribe to the blog there is an opportunity for new subscribers from beyond the church.

Many want help and advice. Confusion reigns, advertisements and untrustworthy sources are the norm of the day. Clergy are often in a situation where they can recommend literature, studies, counsel, and behaviors that will help others. Blogging is a wonderful way to exchange helpful recommendations.

A diversion. Blogging can provide an opportunity to decompress and a great way to release emotions and express feelings.

It is a process. Writing for a blog can help you organize your thoughts.  Without a time schedule blogging provides an opportunity to journal thoughts.

Virtual benefits. Blogging is concerned with substance and the interactive experience. Personal interaction can be distracted by appearance, first impressions and even mannerisms.