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The New and Improved Pastors.com

Pastors.com

I love Pastors! And I love serving and connecting with Pastors through the greatest website in the web wide world for them – Pastors.com.

In January of 2010, I was taken aback by a phone call from David Chrzan, Chief of Staff at Saddleback Church in southern California. We talked for an hour about blogging, online publishing, pastoral ministry, WordPress, and many other related topics. Then he invited me to attend Radicalis, Saddleback’s leadership conference, and I gladly agreed.

That was the beginning of a pretty amazing and totally unexpected journey. We talked during Radicalis about what Pastors.com could become and how to get it there as an online community for church leaders. A few months later, Angie and I relocated to southern California and I joined the staff of Saddleback as a Pastor, and as the “Online Community Facilitator” for Pastors.com. It’s been a unique role comprised of editorial, technical, mentoring, and pastoral responsibilities. And I’ve loved it!!!

Though Angie and I have moved back to northwest Arkansas to plant Grace Hills Church, sponsored in part by Saddleback, we were grateful that the role I had enjoyed could continue from a distance. And rather than phasing out, we’re stepping things up even more. I’ve now assumed responsibility for the site’s technical and design side as well.

Within a month, we redesigned the site to run on WordPress using the Genesis theme framework from Studiopress. We moved it to a new LAMP server, and added over a dozen features that have already doubled its readership and tightened its community. I could not be more thrilled!

I’m proud to announce that the new and improved Pastors.com is finally live. Some of the features that made the site so indispensable a decade ago have been resurrected. Rick Warren’s Pastor’s Toolbox, the accompanying newsletter of Pastors.com, is more robust than ever, packed with content every week. We have a fantastic line-up of contributing bloggers, weekly insights from Pastor Rick Warren, downloadable sermon notes and ebooks, a ministry opportunity (job) board, and much, much more.

If you’d like to contribute, one time or repeatedly, please reach out to me. As I often tell Pastors, this is your community – help us to know how to best help you. Our goal always has been and will remain, healthy Pastors leading healthy churches.

The Relaunch of Church Tech Today

I’m a bit late in reporting this, but I’ve recently finished a project helping Lauren Hunter to relaunch ChurchTechToday.com. She broke the news over a month ago but I’ve been a bit busy with some unforeseen projects to write about it.

Church Tech Today Screenshot

[Read more…]

Communication Is What We DO

1939 Radio

This post is a bit of a rant, but not a mean one. I spend a LOT of time on the phone and on the internet connecting with church leaders. I’ve observed, in the wild, the communications strategies of hundreds of churches, and I keep noticing that the very basic principles of messaging and communication are often missed. Let me give you some examples of what I mean…

I see church websites that are poorly designed. It isn’t just aesthetics, which on the whole tend to be a decade behind modern web design trends. It’s also the communication strategy. Information is poorly arranged with no logical order. Events are out of date. Contact information is missing or old. Navigation and menu structures are often… shall we say discombobulated?

I see logos and identity design that reeks of “I paid $99 bucks for a box of templates and slapped our church name on one.” The vision, values, culture, and identity of the church is rarely captured in the imagery. Symbols are used that are only familiar to the deeply churched and never explained anywhere.

I see content published on websites and blogs that seems to target no one other than fellow ministry leaders, not people who have huge questions about God and spiritual things. When I search Google for answers about divine questions, I see that the cults are killing us on search engine optimization. In other words, we aren’t intercepting those questions. We’re allowing false teachers to catch the passes instead.

I so want to grab church leaders by the ears, albeit gently, and persuade them to do just a brief and cursory reading about how to use content to reach people, how to build a usable church website, and how to design great brand imagery to represent your church.

Does that mean every Pastor needs to become a communications expert and buy design and coding software? Absolutely not. Pastors need to be in the Word (unless, like me, tech stuff is just your thing). But every Pastor with a message worth spreading needs enough of a grasp on design and communication principles to either empower or hire the right person for the job and then inspect the work along the way.

If I could throw out some random tidbits of advice to church leaders about communication practices, here are a few of the things I’d say based on recent observations…

  • Make it as easy as possible for people to find you. Have a nice website optimized for search engines, especially for terms like “churches in Anytown.”
  • Make it as easy as possible for people to contact you. A contact form, a phone number, and an email address are all essential. Which of the three is best? It doesn’t matter. Publish them all to catch everyone.
  • Do things that are remarkable, like preaching the timeless gospel, without compromise, in the midst of an often crooked and perverse generation. People will talk about you, which is the goal.
  • Do more things that are remarkable, like getting outside the walls of your church and getting engaged with the problems of your community in the name of Jesus.
  • Make it easy for people to share stories of all the remarkable stuff you’re doing. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world, and you’d see it as an optimum mission field. So open your eyes and look on the fields…

I’m not looking to argue with anyone over whether we should “market” the gospel or not. I’d rather just use different words instead – words like “preach,” “proclaim,” and “publish.” It’s the same process with less controversy. God wants the world to hear about His Son, so communications really ought to be one of the church’s highest priorities. It’s what we (the church) DO.

Where does preaching, proclaiming, and publishing fit in your church’s priorities?

photo credit: x-ray delta one

Why Your Church Website Should Cost More than $100

Probably a lot more! You probably should know that this article is inspired by three different interactions. One, reading Niki Brown’s article, Why Logos Should Cost More Than $300. Two, reading Jacob Cass’ Why logo design does not cost $5. Third, a common question I hear from Pastors, “how do I convince my church to spend money on a website when they don’t see the need? [Read more…]