Resource, Article

Salesforce, like Google Apps, is available to non-profits for free, so I truly am not selling anything. I am writing this article to tell you about how I've set up Salesforce for our church to track membership and our offerings. 

August 19, 2010 0 12 comments
Discussion Topic

I just heard about Wiggio (http://wiggio.com/), a program that allows you to connect with groups in a number of ways. It sounds helpful for ministry teams. Youth Leaders or Sunday School coordinators could use it to send text messages to teachers/leaders, poll them about possible dates for...

August 19, 2010 0 1 comments
Blog

Look up; at the top of the window. Up in the address bar is the URL of this website. Have you looked at the addresses that your website is using? Your church is probably using a system (CMS) that automatically creates the URL for a page based on a template. Usually the default is for ugly unusable URLs. However, with most of the popular CMSs there are options to change the way URLs are structured.

August 17, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Salesforce, like Google Apps, is available to non-profits for free. I am writing this article to tell you about how I've set up Salesforce for our church to track membership and our offerings.

August 10, 2010 0 6 comments
Blog

A month ago Blizzard (a video game developer) announced they were going to require users of their online forums to use their real names with a hope to reduce trolling, flame wars, and other non productive comments. This was a bold move by Blizzard which shows the severity of their problem. Immediately, many users complained, and Blizzard ended up cancelling this requirement.

August 2, 2010 0 6 comments
Discussion Topic

Yesterday we added the Facebook widget as a slide on the CRCNA home page. It still throws me for a loop when I see my friends on CRCNA.org (when I'm logged into Facebook, that is). But it's certainly attention-getting - and that was the point.

Most of the work was in getting the design...

July 27, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

The Christian Reformed Church wants to assist your smaller church in utilizing technology effectively and efficiently so that you can focus your energy on growing your church instead of figuring out how to operate equipment. To do this the Sustaining Congregational Excellence (SCE) program established two grants, the first provides up to $1,000 US for equipment in your church. The second provides up to $500 US for training on equipment in your church.

July 12, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Not only is there a sample bulletin announcement and other ideas on this page to spread the word about The Network, but there are two images that you can post on your church website. This not only showcases your support of The Network, but helps us get the word out so that we can add to the number of voices on the site and share the knowledge and wisdom for the many different roles in a church.

July 7, 2010 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic
I've been thinking a lot about utilizing social networking in ministry and church life. Things are at the point where virtually everyone is connected to some social network (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc). Are we adapting our communication to fit the trends? Businesses of all shapes and sizes...
July 7, 2010 0 6 comments
Blog

Recently I had an interesting experience on Twitter. While it's not revolutionary, it is simple and effective at finding people in your area that have similar interests, are looking for a new church, or just searching.

June 28, 2010 0 6 comments
Resource, Type Not Listed

To show your association with the Christian Reformed Church and its agencies, you can include these logos and graphics on your website.

June 22, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Endless solutions exists to make your church run better, faster, and more efficient. As with any solution, there's a trade off between using a new technology since it's faster or cheaper, and the usefulness of it. Dan Hotchkiss explores the difficulties associated with new technologies and the shift to digital in an article from The Alban Institute, titled When to Adopt New Technology

June 14, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Ever wonder what operating system other churches are running on their servers? What they use for email? What solution other churches use for their staff intranet? What their IT budget is? The Church IT Survey is a survey that provides responses for these questions and forty others from over 150 churches.

June 5, 2010 0 2 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

This white paper by Church Juice explains 7 key areas to consider when starting or revamping your website.

June 1, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Two aspects of the web that are driving innovation are collaboration and lowering costs, of which almost any new web service or site provides. Recently Microsoft started the
Technical Preview of Microsoft Office Web Apps
which includes both of these. Office Web Apps (OWA) enable the editing, sharing, and storing of Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote files online, through most browsers and any operating system.

May 25, 2010 0 5 comments
Resource, Website

This Flickr group is a pool of images for special events, sermon series and other items at churches. Browse the images for ideas to spice up your marketing material or website.

May 15, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

There are many functions and workflows that traditionally done by hand were teadious or cumbersome. There are many ways that these are easier and more efficient online or in the 'cloud'. How has your church benefited from transitioning a function into the 'cloud'?

May 11, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Over the last couple of years it seems just about everyone is either a social media consultant or offering seminars. To help you separate the wheat from the chaff, I wanted to pass along one that I have heard good things about. This next Friday WiredChurches.com is offering a one day workshop on Social Media & Web. The workshop will focus providing valuable content on your site, the best way to present it, and how to use social media for marketing. If you check out their site, look at the other events they offer and you might just come across another one that interests you.

May 10, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Part of living in community is sharing needs, and abilities. As part of a church community, you probably share these needs and abilities through bulletin announcements, or someone tracking and matching up people to help. While this can be effective for some churches, it can limit the potential of helping each other by limiting it to only dire needs. 

May 2, 2010 0 3 comments
Discussion Topic

We're starting to make plans for Synod and wanted some input regarding the Synod webcast. Specifically:

Should we allow real-time chat? We did last year and it was used a bit.Should we stream it as a Facebook live event (i.e. it would appear on the CRCNA Facebook page)? Anyone with experience...
April 20, 2010 0 3 comments
Resource, Article

Location, location, location. Everyone knows that choosing a great location is crucial when buying real estate. The same is true in the digital world: choosing a domain name is an important choice for a church's online presence. If your church is just starting a website, this is one of the first...

April 12, 2010 0 3 comments
Resource, Type Not Listed

The CRC maintains a list of its social media presence and blogs on this page so that you can easily follow or friend them on platforms like Twitter, or Facebook. Also, you can read the blogs written by different ministries.

March 29, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

A couple of weeks ago I read an article on the NY Times blog section of their website written by one of their columnists. I was shocked to find the post rife with spelling mistakes. Not only was this distracting, but immediately led me to question the writer’s credibility.

March 29, 2010 0 4 comments
Blog

The privacy concerns that accompanied the announcement of Google Buzz illustrate the importance of scrutinizing every option, feature, and aspect with a rollout on your website. Even though your church won't announce anything that will be as widely used or talked about as Google Buzz, there is a lesson to be learned.

March 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic
One way we at 12th ave. use the internet, is to use skype to communicate with our Missionaries around the world. It is free and easy to use, supports fairly descent video and it is 2 way communications. Use it as a teleconference tool. We did this for the first time tonight we one of our...
March 7, 2010 0 7 comments

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Thanks for pointing that out - I certainly didn't mean to repeat topics. I obviously didn't look hard enough before posting. :-)

There are several articles and discussions about social media on the network. If you click on the "Social Media" tab you'll see a list.

I think this is a great idea and I would love to hear more about it. I think by sharing ideas and plans in our own communities, we could encourage others to use our ideas and share their own in our celebration of Christ and our church

Dave, I get these Twitter adds all the time from crazy fly-by-night companies that search for a word that's in my tweet and from people locally that want me to buy something from them. (ie, North Dakota tourism started following me when I ripped the North Dakota tourism commercial....I mean, come on, North Dakota?) I get similar adds on MySpace Music, etc. from bands I don't like.

Any how, I find them more annoying than helpful....like the Twitter version of spam or junkmail. Don't we run the risk of becoming a simple nuisance or looking like the desperate kid in high school who asked out all the girls hoping to get one date?

Totally, what Nick said.
And Tim should tweet about this on behalf of the CRC especially Nick's comments about how excellent a tweeter he is. :-)

I agree with everything Nick said. In fact, it's such a good comment I think I'll tweet about it
:-)

I agree! That combination of discipline, good writing, and the right choice of subject matter would be so important. Another reason we haven't started tweeting yet!

Having the church send tweets does indeed have a lot of potential, especially when it comes to making connections and keeping the church a presence in people's lives throughout the week. But institutional tweeting also requires a lot of care. I would venture to say that the most important task in institutional tweeting is choosing the right "tweeter."

The job requires ruthless consistency. My personal tweeting is very inconsistent: sometimes multiple times a day, sometimes once every few weeks, sometimes about important things, sometimes about trivial matters, sometimes specifically personal, sometimes very impersonal and general.

It seems that if someone is going to tweet on behalf of the church, such irregularity should be avoided. We want the church to be consistent in the integrity of preaching, and so we require trained preachers. We want the church to be consistent in the administration of pastoral care, and so we often divide the congregation into households under the care of specific elders. We want the church to be consistent in the presentation of the church's life in the bulletin announcements, and so we usually appoint one qualified person to be the final editor and printer of the bulletins. Similarly, we should aim for consistency by appointing someone who is careful and "professional" about their tweeting on behalf of the church.

In this regard, the CRC has found an excellent institutional tweeter (is it Tim Postuma?). Very consistent, professional, and impersonal/formal, but still warm and friendly. The inconsistent and overly personal tweeting by some tweeters for other organizations (I'll refrain from naming names) in my eyes damages the credibility of the institution. (I've seen institutional tweets directed at specific individuals who are friends of the tweeter and tweets that seem to be based on the tweeter's individual interests and opinions, rather than the institution's interests and official positions.)

All that is to say, if you do have your church start tweeting, appoint the tweeter carefully!

Good thoughts, Dave. I like the idea of twittering for my church, but I already have a kind of hard time figuring out what to put on the church's Facebook status, let alone what to tweet. Do you tweet on behalf of your church, or just personally, and it includes churches?

Hey, Dave, you beat Mashable to the punch! Some good points made in their article and comment stream:
http://mashable.com/2010/06/09/microsoft-office-web-apps/

This is cool. I'm not involved enough in our church's IT to be able to fill it out but the data is interesting. And it's a great example of 'open' data collection/sharing.

Hmmm....maybe we can use this approach to collect and share other info across the CRC. There's already a lot of sharing going on in these Network forums (e.g. curriculum used, membership software) but open surveys/polls like this lend to more structured responses so users can tabulate, etc

Thanks for letting us know about this.

posted in: Church IT Survey

Fellowship CRC rents space from king's university College.
All Administrative work is done in member's homes. Almost each home has internet access.
All church work is done on member's own computers.

I keep e-mail addresses of each member.

Minutes are sent to each member's homes and the secretary of each committee is responsible to keep them somewhere.

Fellowship uses a gmail e-mail address. All policies, mandates of committees are posted on our web site.

Secure web site houses schedules, directory information and e-mail lists.

We do own a computer to use powerpoint for our services.

Our IT budget is $0.00

posted in: Church IT Survey

Another competitor to Microsoft Office is Open Office which is free and compatible. Third world countries love such software!

I have found that any company which sells you something designs it so that everyone 'needs' to purchase similar items every three years.

I do not trust Microsoft, nor Google web based or not. It is likely that in three years most of what you have now will be incompatible with what comes next.

Who has a strategy that avoids such costs?

Nick, Good point about Google having some serious competition. Competition will speed up Google and Microsoft's development of their products and will only benefit us, the users.

Tim, I'm eager to see the integration with Office and the Web app. I hope they make it easy, but I'm leery because this is Microsoft.

This is very good news. It will be great to have some serious competition to Google docs.

From my perspective in a rural church, it seems like moving the assemblies and committees of the church fully into the cloud is still several years away. It isn't worth moving agendas and minutes into the cloud if there will be a noticeable portion of the committee that won't use the new medium. I've noticed this even with email. At this point, I'm not even sure it is worth me emailing all of the council members the agenda because a noticeable number of them don't rely on email and don't check it daily. They would much prefer a paper agenda.

I'm eager to use the cloud for agendas and minutes because it would make the work of committees so much easier. But it would only do so if everybody is on board. For that reason, I'm glad Microsoft is going to be pushing Office users in that direction. The sooner the better!

We've used Skype a couple times during a service to communicate with Gil & Joyce Suh from Cambodia. We support their family's work. Here's a photo (not the best photo but the image looks all right in the church): http://sjcrc.smugmug.com/People/our-missionaries/IMG0780/883201663_2zh3g....

We connected our Pastor's Apple to our system in the sound booth, and used the built-in camera. We have DSL at the church and used the wireless in the sanctuary. It worked just fine.

I hardly ever use Microsoft Office anymore. Even though I've got it installed, I find Google Docs so much more convenient.

But I've also discovered that it's not easy to transition people to Docs. After using Office products for so many years, the whole concept of Google Docs and online collaboration in general is so strange. So there's the tendency to go back to the tried-and-true method of creating a Word document, attaching it to an email, track changes, and all the other stuff that now drives me nuts.

So I think Microsoft has a real opportunity to bridge that gap and help people move to web-based documents and collaboration...while keeping them in the Office family they know and love.

Any churches fully 'in the cloud' when it comes to meeting agendas, minutes, etc?

I agree that the privacy of individuals with regards to posting bulletin content is important. Currently we post the entire contents of the bulletin without any password protection. I have found through feedback that former members, and friends of members read the bulletin weekly to keep up to date with the activities of the congregation. They have even commented that we need to include notes about when issues are resolved otherwise the distant readers don't know the outcome.
Thinking about this, I would lean more towards leaving certain material out of the bulletin rather than restrict who can read it. Again the life of a congregation as relayed via the bulletin announcements helps web site visitors learn more about what kind of people that make up our congregation, including sharing our joys and sorrows. Figuring out what to leave in and what to leave out leads to me to think we'll have to kick this one around a bit.
Thanks for the topic!

I'd like to see a link where you can go and watch the proceedings while a chat window is on the side. I've been able to attend online conferences like that. On one I logged in via my Twitter account and another I had a special registration sign in. Nonetheless, we had some great discussion happening while the speakers were on ... something you can't do when you're at the event listening, but would sure like to.

After being spurred on by this discussion to be more careful with private information, we have been posting our order of worship as a publicly-viewable .pdf and the announcements as a password-protected Word document. The password is the same for every week. And it is something that is (hopefully) easy for members of the congregation to remember. Obviously the password-protected Word document (with an simple password) isn't the most secure way to protect private information, but it seems to strike a good balance between being private and being accessible to those who ought to have access. I also delete the documents after a month.

I found no solutions for having a "members only" portion of the site that were easy to deploy with our set-up.

You can see how we've done it here: East Palmyra CRC.

We cut private information out of the site including bulletins, sermons and any other format.

Our bulletin is in a member area which uses a simple username/password that everyone shares. We figure this level of access is the same as someone walking into the Church and grabbing a bulletin.

I've managed the technical side of our site for years and it has gone quite well.

Our church is contemplating the same issues of privacy and what information to include on the website. We are also interested in reducing our use of paper and in sending information electronically to our congregation. I am just learning to manage our site, so I don't know all of the legal or even technological risks involved. My questions are: Do most churches utilize a secure login for their member information area? Is there any reason a church would not want to utilize a feature like that?

Another approach: because we're familiar with Blip.tv, we've just begun uploading sermon audio files there using Blip's quick-and-easy iTunes link on our site--as well as individual MP3 download links. Blip offers straightforward download stats and the ability to upload files via its website, ftp, and a stand-alone app.

I forgot to mention also that if you're going to resize a photo to be displayed on your website make sure you make a copy and don't resize the original.

Ohh, and I love Flickr! Especially now that I have a gps and I am geotagging my photos.

Another great part about Picasa is that it is quite cheap to backup all your high-res photos online using Picasa Web Albums. You just sync your local version of Picasa with your online account. I love not having to mess with DVDs anymore for offsite backup.

I use a free program called Picasa. This allows you to download and share photos very easily when you install their software. It is available at Google.com, photos. When you upload photos they are lower resolution, but you can click on them and get higher resolution. We use this a lot for sharing family pics. Yahoo has a similar program called Flickr.

Someone's been looking at my code!
Thanks for the feedback. I'll take a look.

I would agree with others' comments in regards to this. We do not use Google Apps (Sites, Docs, etc.) as a public portal; it's our internal collaboration tool. It's working well for us and getting better as more people start using it.

Our pastor and the worship leader have become very regular users of Google Docs, sharing a document for planning worship together. They even use Google Talk within that so they can chat as they work together.

Our deacons and elders are using it to share some documents. And I am the chair of our worship team and have shared a folder with the team so that as I create meeting notes or run across articles to share or whatever, all I have to do is put it in that folder and the team has access.

Gmail's been useful, too. I've created some groups such as Council, Deacons, Elders and some other teams, plus an "all church" group we use for important communication to everyone.

As someone else mentioned, the calendar is great and I have made that public and show it on our website. I also have all our various volunteer schedules on Google Docs, as public web pages (no last names, emails, phone #s or anything are used), with links to those from our church website. I've also got a link to the home page on the public website so everyone has just one thing to remember -- www.sjcrc.org -- to get to anything they need.

We use Squarespace for our website and it's been a great tool, easy to use and yet full of features and very customizable. You don't have to install any software, and their support is excellent.

Hope this helps!

Mavis

I would agree about Google Sites. I created our church's website (epcrc.com) with Microsoft Office Live which has significant limitations, but produced a somewhat attractive website easily and quickly. I've played a little bit with Google Sites, but it seems like more of a headache than its worth.

Google Calendar, however, is an excellent tool for a public calendar, I've found. And Google Docs are always useful when collaborating. (We're beginning to use a Google Docs spreadsheet for our worship schedule so that we all have the same up-to-date information about who is preaching, what the offering is for, etc.)

Both Google Docs and, more commonly, Google Sites allows you create 'public' pages. But I wouldn't use it as a public church website. It's not nearly as flexible as even the most basic blogging tool.

Having said that, we use it for our CRCNA intranet (for staff). Because, for that internal site, we wanted staff to have the most convenient access possible and Sites gives us that (once logged into email, they're automatically logged into our intranet - no need for another login).

In rare situations, we'll also make a Google Doc public and link to it from our main site (e.g. small audience, design not important, constant updates needed by staff who aren't trained in our CMS).

So, as a rule, I wouldn't use Google Sites or Docs as a 'real' website. But in very specific situations, it can fit the bill. Hope this helps.

I'm curious, if you're trying to steer your people to your web page, will google apps sub pages take a way from that?
I set up google apps pages for Student Senate stuff at Calvin Seminary the last year I was there, but we didn't have an extensive website like our church does.

[quote=dteitsma]I don't know about you but domains are addictive to buy. I'm up to my third personal domain now. I have several others that I want to secure, but I haven't convinced myself. What about you?[/quote]

Absolutely. I bought two this week actually. Most of them are usually for ideas I get for the next Twitter or something like that, and then I never actually do anything with them. I've gone through a couple "family" domains too. The hard part for us Dutch is that we've got all the tech-savvy Netherlands folk fighting for the same ones.

I'm not too familiar with the details of webcast licensing, but here's a helpful link:
http://www.christiancopyrightsolutions.com/dn2/pt/blog/default.aspx?id=8...

...from the people who sell WorshipCast. I couldn't find anything on CCLI's site about it, which seems strange.

I would be interested in what you find out about the copyright issue. Currently we record the entire service but cut out the sermon, for posting on the web. The only reason is because of copy right challenges. If anyone has more info in regards to this, I would love to hear about it.

We have just started streaming our services via Ustream. We are fortunate in that we have a Tricaster Pro into which we feed video from 3 cameras, PowerPoint slides from the projection computer and sound from the sound board. The Tricaster makes mixing all these inputs feasible. The Tricaster also uses Adobe Flash Media Encoder to stream live to Ustream.

Our experience with Ustream has been good so far. The stream has ads on the lower part of the screen occasionally but they haven't been too obtrusive.

Some of our shut-ins have quickly grown fond of the streaming feature of our web site and have asked us to please continue doing it.

One of our challenges is dealing with copyright issues. Special music often uses pre-recorded accompaniment. We are still researching ways to deal with that.

www.calvary-crc.org

Great input. I skipped my mind about how many churches do have the same name. This definitely makes having prominence in search results difficult.

I don't know about you but domains are addictive to buy. I'm up to my third personal domain now. I have several others that I want to secure, but I haven't convinced myself. What about you?

Great article, David--can't really think of anything I'd add. My approach is to think of my mom and dad. For example, they don't understand the difference between .com, .org, etc. so even though we web people wish everyone followed the guidelines, to them it's not real relevant. If a domain name is good for the non-tech folk, that probably means it's just good.

And you're right about the memorability of a domain. Lots of churches aren't going to be easy to find in Google, especially considering how many duplicate church names there are. It's great if church members can actually pull the address of the site out of memory--not going to happen with first-c-r-c.net.

That said, I'd almost treat domains as if they don't cost anything. $10/year is a good benchmark and it's not hard to get them significantly cheaper than that. That's worth it if it will get even a few more people using your site. If you think people going to mistakenly enter your url a certain way, there's not much downside to registering the mistake and putting a redirect in place.

One more thing--telling the registrar to auto-renew the site can save lots of embarrassment.

[quote=dkklein]Our church web site has been up for a few years, and gone through a few changes. Most of the site was written and still maintained with a text editor (Notetab Light.) There are not too many folks within the congregation that have done much web work which means to pass along the upkeep means we need to do some training or consider outsourcing.
It has only been in the past year or two that guests have mentioned that that they found the church and decided to visit because they had found us on the web. Our idea is to provide information to the congregation about what is going on through postings of the bulletin and calendar, and information for the visitor such as our history, activities, and Mission and Vision.
One suggestion for anyone who wants to post calendar events is that you may want to consider Google calendars. We're able to create and post information fairly quickly, and integrate it into the web site easily.
http://www.sussexcrc.org/[/quote]

Duane,

One quick change you could make to improve readability would be to remove the bullets from the navigation menu on the left. This can be done by adding the following line to the file called "maincss.css" in the "css" folder on the web server:

div#left ul li {list-style-type: none;}

Not a big sweeping change to be sure, but quick and easy. If you're not able to make changes on the server yourself, it should be pretty straightforward for anyone who is.

Chris

I have to admit that a friend just emailed me with a spelling error in this post. I knew that I would have a mistake that I would glance over. I knew this would be a dangerous subject to write on because of the strong likelihood that I'd make a mistake.

It's now fixed.

Yes, You're is a common error also. I was hoping that in an article about spelling errors that I didn't make any myself. I think it's clean... :)

I read another article on the Chicago Sun Times and I was surprised there were errors in there too. I would think that newspaper articles still have editors right?

About a year ago, the CRCNA switched to Google Apps for all of our staff (in North America and around the world). It's been a great move!

The search committee here at East Palmyra used Skype to do the initial interviews with me and other potential pastors. From my end, it was a much better way to meet the committee than a simple phone call, and I know the search committee found it very helpful as well.

You could have also thrown "You're" in the title - that's one of my favourites (and no, that's not a second typo, I'm Canadian ;)
Our website has a similar mix of staff postings so I've tried to review the site every so often to see if I can spot any typos. We have a date stamp on pages so I'm hoping to use that to see who has updated things recently, once I've done a good sweep of the site. Thanks for the article.

Dave, your title is very clever! I like it.

Actually, I've updated it quite a bit now--it's better, but still needs work...., http://www.zioncrc.ca

Good recommendations. I'll add some of these to the resources on the Network.

posted in: Handy Web Resources

Great question! I know there's some sites like this, but I can't remember them at the moment. I'm going to have to do some digging to remember them.

I know there's some good video series that aim to do this but aren't online.

Good ideas. I was thinking along the same lines of featuring a new website each week and point out some interesting/intriguing features. I'll have to start planning this out.

Your second idea would be someone that benefit from collaboration all across the CRC. Maybe we could start another topic in the forum for this? Especially with Easter I'm sure people have a lot of media projects that they're preparing.

We decided to put our bulletin on our website protected by a username/password which members are aware of. We figure this level of security is the same as someone walking into our church and grabbing a bulletin.

http://www.inglewoodcrc.org

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