Before pursuing any of these options, you need a church e-mail address. You can get one for free at Google, Yahoo, Outlook or other sites. At least three people should have the user name and password for the e-mail, and it should be checked regularly. Be sure to send the e-mail address to the main Church of the Brethren office.
Set up a website
There are a number of free options, such as https://wordpress.com/ or http://www.weebly.com/ or http://www.wix.com/ It simply takes someone with a few computer skills (not a trained technical person) to create a site with these services.
If you use these sites, your URL (web address) would have the site name in it, such as churchname.wordpress.com. If you want to have your own URL without the site name (something like churchname.org), you need to get a “domain name.” The cost varies, but averages around $15/year, with discounts for purchasing multiple years. The registration must be renewed at the end of the time or you lose it. You do not have to buy a domain name to have a website—but your own web address might be simpler for people to remember. The web site would be the same in either case; only the address would be different.
Create a Facebook page
Facebook automatically generates a page for any business or organization it finds. Find yours by searching within Facebook. Someone can go in and edit this profile, adding photos, service information and so forth. You can use this as your web page if you like. However, you do not have complete control since the page is “owned” by Facebook.
A better bet is to create your own church Facebook page. Go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/create and follow instructions from there. Before doing this, decide on a page name since you can only change it once.
Once you have a church Facebook page, you can click the “duplicate page” on Facebook’s automated listing so that the new one will replace their auto-generated one.
You may want to have both a public page for people to find you and a private group (for group members only) to share prayer requests within the congregation. That is up to you!
Here are some tips for using Facebook: http://network.crcna.org/church-web/6-simple-ways-your-church-can-use-facebook-better
Claim your Google listing
Another free way to have a better web presence is to claim your Google listing. Google makes a listing for all businesses it finds. Search for your church, then click “Manage this page.” You can upload photos, service times and so forth. This shows right away for anyone searching via Google. You will have to sign in to Google to manage it. (Use a church or generic e-mail address, not someone’s personal e-mail address for this).
It’s a great idea for all churches to do this so that your service times and other crucial facts show. However, it’s better not to do it if your schedule varies and no one will remember to update the Google listing!
Three essential points
- Consider what are the best things about your church, then put them on the home page or feature them in photos on Google or Facebook. We often say our people are the best thing, then we display pictures of an empty building. Why not offer photos of community service activities, popular church events, or some of that great food we’re known for? It may still be a good idea to include photos of the church building alongside the directions or address so that people know what to look for when they visit.
Photo note: Be sure to ask permission before using photos of people – and don’t list names or identifying details when displaying photos of children.
- Make sure at least 3 people have access to the site and can make updates. Create the site using a church or generic e-mail address rather than someone’s personal e-mail (what if they move?)
- Don’t offer features you will not be able to keep up. For instance, it’s better not to have a “News” page than to have “news” that is several years old. Remember that it’s easy to start things, but hard to maintain them.
Be sure to send your updated contact information to the main Church of the Brethren office. The Find a Church page sees heavy use!
How has your church used technology? Do you have tips to share with others?