One thing will always be true for every pastor who pours himself/herself into ministry – there is never enough time to do it all. Maybe I am biased, but I think this is especially true of small church pastors who find themselves doing more than they probably should. One thing I’ve come to value as a pastor is simplicity. The more things you can simplify, the better – even important things can be made simpler. By now, most of us know how valuable a website is for your ministry as it has become the first-stop people make when exploring your ministry. But being important does not mean that a website also has to be complex. Here are my strategies for keeping our church website from becoming a time-management monster.
- Guard the essentials. Make sure that you protect the integrity of the essential content on your website – that means you have to prioritize what is essential. If you have more than 5 things you think are essential, then re-think it – you have too many “essentials.” I’ve previously written about what I consider to be essential content for church websites. These essentials are also going to get high-priority when work needs to be done on the site. Everything else can wait or just not get done – and be content with that.
- Be intentional about what features you add to your site. There are so many cool things we can add to our websites. But honestly, a lot of these things can be better handled elsewhere. For instance, instead of embedding Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ content on your site, just add icons for these services and let your users interact with you directly at these services’ websites. Another example could be small groups databases – they are nice to have – but they are also time consuming to maintain. Instead, create a small groups display at your church, where each small group can leave fliers and announcements. Incidentally, limiting site features translates to fewer things that could be left undone per item #1 above.
- Reduce time-sensitive content. The goal here is to reduce the content which forces deadlines upon you. For instance, instead of posting pages for every sermon, you could use categories, or some other method of grouping sermons that do not require writing a new page for every sermon upload. If you preach in series, you can do one page for the whole series, although you need to keep up when you change series (something I am guilty of not doing very well). Another example could be events pages. Consider not handling these items on your website – or consider handling events per item #4 below.
- Use an online shared calendar service. Another example of time-sensitive content is the church calendar. Instead of updating a page to keep your events updated, consider embedding an online shared calendar, like Google Calendars. Make sure you give all event coordinators the ability to edit that calendar so you aren’t left doing it yourself. At our church, we use Google Calendars exclusively, so everyone is updating the same calendars.
- Use a good CMS system. There are tons of ways to do church websites. You can hard-code everything or you can use a CMS. I’ve mentioned several times why I think you should use WordPress for your church website, so I won’t go into that here. But, the idea here is that a CMS handles the formatting, allowing you to concentrate on content.
- Get some help. (OK so this makes my list 6 items long instead of 5 – be honest, who caught it?) While this isn’t directly related to the level of complexity of your website, it does help with the level if complexity that you, as the site administrator, perceive to be there. Even a relatively minor task (like changing a service time) can seem daunting when it is one more thing added to a long to-do list. Getting someone to help you manage the site can go a long way to keeping the site up to date. Now, let me go heed my own advice here!
I hope these items help you get your website management under control and at the same time help you keep your site up to date. In fact, as I was writing I was thinking about how my church’s website could use some of this advice. Do you have other suggestions? If so, leave a comment!