Monday, February 26, 2007

Web Ministry (site start-up)

I pray that God puts an urgency in us to reach the lost for Jesus and put the message of His love out there; wherever we go. I believe that we can reach a great deal of people through the Internet. I cannot see it replacing that personal contact, but it can open us up for more contacts and get more people than would be reached by conventional methods. I must not be the only one with this feeling, we now have many churches with web sites and many www ministries out there now.

So, how do you get started on the www. First of all learn that www means world wide web. You will need to figure out a domain name to use that has not been taken, find a web hosting provider that meets your needs and your budget, and determine what you really feel lead to put onto the net.

Assuming you have access to the net yourself, (you really should); you should take the name you want to use and feed it into a whois field from godaddy or some other domain selling organization. Once you find the one you want that is not already taken, it is time to determine what your expectations vs cost are. If $$ = no problem, your in luck, there are a lot of folk out there that will do it all for you.
Pretty sites, lots of content and flash, and tricks to help your site be found in the sea of many fishes. However, if money is an issue or you feel the need to be a better steward; read on.

I had a recent encounter with a group that "specializes" in church ministries. Or so they say. I say they have just found a market niche to tap into. Watch out for your bottom line year to year cost and the value you get after all the initial work is done. How fancy does the site need to be. Content vs presentation. One of this sites flagship pages was what I call a Faberge Egg. Sparkling on the outside and empty on the inside. I have seen a lot of these and have thus coined the description for this kind of site. It is where you click on a link and there are pretty menus all around but no content at all. What I saw on this site as well was also saddening. The Pastors bio was there, but the picture was in black and white. The fonts on the page were all out of sort with the motif of the site. Basically, the menus were all expertly done and the design put down, but the designer leaves the content to be done by the church staff. This demonstrates that they bit off more than they can really chew as far as maintaining the site. It really takes you down a peg to see the unequal efforts and the overall harmony of the site is lost.

But. the real problem is the cost. They get you one way or another. As in my case; this group hits you for setup and initial design. You then spend $20 a month to keep the site up. Don't expect this amount to ever decrease. And with my current example, it also did not include e-mail and they put their logo on the bottom of every page. I was bothered(putting it mildly) about that issue alone. There are many places like godaddy, brinkster, network solutions that allow the average and below average user to get a site up and running, e-mail included for just $4 dollars a month plus $8-15 to register the domain. No setup fee and lots of free toys (blogs, picture galleries, forums,....). The downside is that you will need to take a few days to get it started and tailor it to your liking. It is very doable.

I have seen the ugly aftermath of a failed site. Using these designers, you lock yourself into their world. If you want out, you basically have to leave it all behind and start again somewhere else. You may even have a hard time recovering your domain unless they have some shred of decency.

For an example of what can be done for about $120 a year go look at

Please be sure to take some time and shop around for what suits your calling and your church. A web designer (any salesman) will make it sound like you have to start right away to get in on things. Approach them like a car salesman and you will probably have the right guards up.

Look out on the web and seek help/advice. There are a lot of helpful and friendly folk out here that are not just out to make a buck. While nothing other than the love of God is free, you have to pay for web service. You should not have to be bled to death either.


No comments: