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Ten Internet 'best practices' for e-ministry

Today I got a call from a prospective guest that was looking at our website before her visit. She had some additional questions but before we talked she had spent a good deal of time looking at our website and kicking the tires of the church before she was ready to make her first visit.

The phone call was a good reminder of how important a good web presence is for the church. Of course the importance of our website goes well beyond just being for our guests. Our website and e-ministry is also essential in how we more effectively communicate and do ministry with those who are our staff, team leaders, members and regular attenders.

It is a no-brainer that the web and e-ministry is essential for churches in the 21st century. It is unavoidable. The issue really then becomes doing it well. (here are some samples of not-so-well) Therefore what are the "best practices" of e-ministry that distinguish between consistent success and constant failure? Here are the top 10 "best practices" for e-ministry by Terrell Sanders.

1. Think newspaper, not brochure.
Successful Web sites draw repeat traffic and provide ongoing communications to your members and visitors. If your Web site is just a static brochure, you're missing the greater value. Design your site to provide new, valuable information every week – every day is even better! Think of your site as a daily or weekly newspaper, not as a brochure that should be reviewed once per year.

2. Content is managed by the source.
A centralized Webmaster, who posts and maintains all content, sounds like an efficient way to manage a large Web site. In reality, it's usually a disaster. The Webmaster becomes overworked, doesn't always understand all the content he or she is responsible for, and rarely gets content posted fast enough for the program leaders. Truly effective Web sites allow each program area to be responsible for posting and maintaining content in their individual sections. This makes data more accurate, timelier, and generally reduces aggravation for all parties involved.

3. Print from the Web.
In the perfect Web-enabled organization nothing would be printed in the office. All handouts, announcements, lessons, news, and flyers would be posted directly to the Web site. A member who wants a printed newsletter could print one directly from the Web site. Office staff needing documents could print them from the Web. All "master" schedules and documents would be available on the Web.

4. Never "scoop" the Web site.
In the press corps, the term "scoop" refers to publishing a hot news story before a competitor does. In a Web-enabled organization, "scooping" the Web site means making information available through handouts or public announcements that are not already published on the Web site. Churches with a successful e-ministry train their audiences to go to the Web first for the most current information. Scooping the site teaches people that there is really nothing new on the site. For churches, this means try posting new content on Friday, not Monday.

5. The magic words are "details on the Web."
Following the strategy of number 3 and 4 on this list, the magic words on all printed handouts and public announcements are "details on the Web." Don't waste paper printing detailed handouts to be lost or trashed. Print minimal announcements on handouts and put all details on the Web. Those who need the details will be able to find them. Those who don't are saving you time and money.

6. Communicate more often, but with less content.
As you move to Web-based communications, you have to learn new habits. In the physical world you have considerable labor and material costs to print news. Therefore, you tend to publish in batches to minimize cost. For example, you may put together an eight-page newsletter once a month, rather than one article per day. With e-news you can publish with no hard costs. Successful Web-enabled organizations tend to publish news more often (keeping it current), but with less content. You might see a youth group publish e-news twice a week – but only with two or three items in each issue.

Here are the highlights of the last 4 best practices for e-ministry:
7. Replace processes, don't duplicate.
8. Have a "Plan P."
9. Do not have "under construction" pages.
10. Do your best, then post it.

Read the rest of the article HERE



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