Help for Church Webmasters
Information, or the lack
I recently received the following email:
I would like to make a suggestion for a
non-technical topic, how to effectively get information from the church members
for the website. Our site has been up since April and so far nobody, not even
the pastor, has given me information to put up on it.
In my best
Far East accent, “Well Grasshopper, getting information onto a website is like
rolling snow into a snowball.” With all apologies to Kung Fu fans and actors, I wish I had a simple and profound
answer that would provide enlightenment, but my analogy isn’t that far from the
truth. More on that at the end of this article.
I would love to be able to sit at my computer and just get a steady stream of
phone calls and emails informing me of current information for the website.
Unfortunately, this isn’t reality for most (all?) webmasters. It seems like we
pour our hearts into the site as a labor of love (especially for us volunteer
types) and then we can’t even get information from the people we are trying to
help. It is very frustrating.
There are a
lot of reasons for this. Let’s quickly look at some of them and some
suggestions for handling the situations.
- Other people
don’t realize what the website can do for the organization. They see it as something else they have to do, not something
that can benefit the organization. Many times they do not realize the
website can be a tool to reach the unchurched as well. It’s just another
thing to do, they have to email the webmaster and ask for something to be
added to the website. And that goofy J webmaster might ask them to do something else, so they’ll
just skip the whole thing.
Possible solution: Make
submitting information as easy as possible. Make sure people have your email
and phone number. Don’t ask for a lot of stuff when they submit
information. Say thanks and go with it. Also make sure they can submit
information to the church office and have the church secretary forward it
- It’s hard to
create something from nothing. When a church is just establishing a website, the webmaster
naturally wants to get information from all the ministry leaders to put on
the site. However, it’s kind of difficult to for the ministry leaders to
grasp what you are looking for. Lots of details? A brief overview? Or
what? So it’s just easier to skip the whole thing.
Possible solution: It’s much
easier to edit something than it is to create something. So write up what
you think the page should say about their ministry and give it to them for
editing. They may make minor changes, they may re-do the whole thing, but
it doesn’t really matter, you got what you wanted--information.
- They mean
well, but they forget. We all have a lot to do, and sometimes we just forget.
Possible solution: Gentle,
friendly, positive reminders do wonders. It takes a while to get people to
start thinking about the website and getting information on it. Part of
the process of getting people to think about the website is reminding
people about putting information on the website. Don’t remind people that
they forgot (that’s too negative), just kindly asking them to send you the
information so you can get it out there. Always try to use a positive
tense instead of a negative tense (avoid don’t, never, no, etc…). Eventually,
the website will be part of the process of getting announcements out.
information out there, I just can’t seem to get it. You know there is stuff happening in the church. After all
there are announcements in the bulletin and newsletter, but can’t seem to
get the information on the website.
Possible solution: Part of
being a webmaster is being an information hound and finding the info. Tap
into other resources (see the second bullet below), take the announcements
home from the bulletin, be proactive and call people, etc. Yes, it’s work,
but usually that’s what it takes.
some other miscellaneous suggestions that might be helpful.
- Be wary of
items that require lots of edits to keep current. Some items on the website are just more hassle than they are
worth. If something requires weekly updates and you can’t get the
information, then don’t mess with. Maybe just post the office phone number
where they can get more information. One example can be the church
bulletin. It can be a major effort to put that online each week (depending
on how you are doing it) and if you can’t get the information before you
get to church for services, it just might be more hassle than it’s worth.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Develop a
good relationship with the secretary and newsletter editor. Try to develop a good working relationship with the church
secretary and newsletter editor and get information from them. Remember
that they have a lot on their plates too (see the next bullet), so try not
to nag, but help them remember to send appropriate information on to you.
Never tell them they are sending you stuff you don’t need (unless it’s
lots of work for them), it is better to just hit the delete key and keep
the information coming.
- Scratch my
back… Maybe you could help
the secretary and newsletter editor with something. By offering to help
them with something, maybe they will remember you and website next time
something comes across their desk. Certainly, you would like to put the
newsletter and appropriate announcements from the bulletin on the website
and if you can get the stuff prior to it being published, it’s that much
better for you.
- Develop an
email list. Develop an email list
for your website (opt-in only!!!!) and use it to send monthly message
about the website. This will start to develop traffic and awareness to
your site as well.
Back to our
analogy, building a website is like rolling snow into a snowball. It starts
slowly and you don’t make much progress. It’s easy to get discouraged. But then
it starts to grow and grow and pretty soon you’ve got a monster on your hands.
Then you will be recruiting for help on the site cause you can’t do it all
yourself – and that’s a good thing!
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