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So I’m going to the Echo Conference in Dallas, TX (USA) next week. It’s for leaders that use media, the internet, and other forms of technology as a tool for the church. I get paid to go to conferences like this for my work and I’ve participated in these kinds of conferences or trade shows (yes they have trade shows for churches too).
There are a lot of conferences and training events out there that compete for the attention of the church staff. There are denominational events, those put on by the church’s affiliation or events surrounding a subject like worship or leadership in church. And the staff person must decide which events are most valuable while remaining a good steward of the church’s budget.
We are called to come together and meet as Christians and we also understand that iron sharpens iron. And when thousands of people commit to coming to these events year after year, it also becomes a place of commerce for many vendors. Is that ok? I happen to work for a vendor like this but I also know my own heart and I pray often about my motivations. At what point are these vendors and event organizers trying to create revenue rather than equipping leaders? My answer is: the vendors wouldn’t come if there wasn’t money to be made. My bosses wouldn’t let me attend or buy booth space if the end goal was to spread love.
It’s obvious that the makers of technology like projectors, video cameras, and computers are interested in sales. It wouldn’t make sense for them to give their products away, would it? And before technology was heavily involved in the church did we have the same scrutiny of stain glass makers and the people who make wooden pews? We are called to be IN the world not OF the world. So even though we participate in events that are consumer related and we’re treated like businesses by vendors we are still the church.
What are your experiences and what is your feedback?
Previously I looked at how to add simple maps to your church website, but for a wordpress site this was complicated, because of the artificiall nature of the directory structure if the site is using re-written URLs. Basically a plugin was required.
Now Google has provided another mechanism for including maps that can be inserted simply by embedding them in pages. All that is needed is to copy some HTML code and paste into your church’s webpage.
You need to login to your account on Google and click on ‘Maps’, then ‘My Maps’ to get started. When you are happy with the map, you can click the ‘emded this in a webpage link’ on the right hand side. If your map is of a church in the UK, then I recommend signing into Google from Google UK, as I had problems otherwise.
You can add other features easily to the map, such as other important points nearby to the church. For example, car parks and travel facilities (trains, buses etc.). This become clickable, and can contain other helpful information.
You can see it in action on my church’s website.
A WordPress plugin has been released to bring bible verses in blog posts to life, by linking them to eBible.com and also showing the verse as a ‘tooltip’ via the title tag.
There is a demo blog which shows the plugin in action.
Like other plugins, you drop it into the wordpress plugin folder, but before it works you need to complete the options screen. Most importantly is the eBible.com API key that you need. You can get a free one here.
For church websites, the main reason they want to use flash is for impact. It can look really professional. However as mentioned before the main downside is accessibility.
But if all you want is fancy rotating graphics, perhaps a bit of AJAX can help?
Tim Hyde has modified one of his wordpress themes and incorporated JonDesign’s SmoothGallery. It looks fantastic and mimics the flash clickable gallery seen on many large church websites. But best of all it is fully accessible, with changing title, alt, etc. attributes for the elements.
A guest post on Church Marketing Sucks briefly discusses using RSS or other feeds to provide information to church members. For instance different types of news and announcements. If your church runs their church website on wordpress then this makes it easy to do as each category has its own feed, so that as long as you post different types of news to different categories subscribers can follow them independently.
For instance on this website we have the category ‘church humour’, which is located here:
And the RSS feed is located here;
It is found simply by adding /feed/ to the end of the URL. Fancy an atom feed? Just append /feed/atom/ to the end. If you do this to a post rather that to a category post list (as above) you will have the RSS feed (or atom feed) for the comments to that post. (And by default these comment feeds come prefixed with ‘Comments on:’, in the feed title so that in a feed reader it is clear it is a comment feed. For example:
But there is a problem, and it is to do with privacy. The CMS post suggests prayer requests, but many of these with be of a confidential nature. They cannot just be posted on a public website for all to see. Even if you do not tell ‘outsiders’ what the feed URL is, you cannot keep it private for ever, as your church members will use bloglines or another feed reader to subscribe or google will find it.
One solution is to use the wordpress password-protected post feature, setting a password. These posts appear in the feed, but without the content. Church members can then go to the website and type in an agreed password.
The only thing to consider is that it makes the church look uninviting and closed to outsiders if when they visit the church website to see many password protected posts. The best option here would be to stop entries in this category appearing on the front page loop.
Feeds are very powerful and with wordpress as your content management system for the church website, management of them is made easy.
In an effort to ‘clean-up’ in the search market and push specialised business search engines, like yell.com, to the sidelines, Google has beefed up its business listings. Like many directory services, Google sees churches as just one type of business so make sure your church is listed.
Importantly, this is applicable to the UK and UK churches and not just US churches (and it is free). Try and see if it available for your own country’s version of Google.
You have been able to add detail to the listing of your church for some time, but Google has increased the range of information you can now add, for instance 10 photographs and custom attributes. You enter a few details, and then a letter will be received in the post for security reasons before the listing is created.