Best Sources for Church Communications Technology Ideas?

Photo by RandomFactor on Flickr
Photo by RandomFactor (Flickr)

While discussing some of my favorite sources for information about church communications technology with Rex Hammock, I came up with this list based on my iGoogle church tech tab and Twitter feed. Thought I’d share it with you guys and then ask you what I should add to the list.

[Update: July 20, 2009 — looks like it’s going to turn into another great source. Check it out.]

[Update: October 3, 2009 — “is designed to give Catholics tools and ideas on how to optimize their time and money in order to focus on their life’s purpose: to worship God and help others.” Try out the site, get fired up and make a difference.]

I’d like to build out this list. What are your go-to sources for finding inspiration about churches using communications technology in bold ways?


7 Rules for Working With Church Creative Types

There's no "art" in WordArtDo you have any designers volunteering at your church? I unwittingly set one up for failure by not spelling out the only two approaches that can lead to success. Make sure whoever is working with your creative talent reads Seth Godin’sA Clean Sheet of Paper” post before the next assignment comes up (and follow these rules below). He totally nails the unfair situation that volunteer artists often find themselves in of trying to guess what the church leaders want without any real guidance.

If you don’t spell out a strategic vision for the assignment and offer some guidelines then Seth correctly states that “you have an obligation to use what you get, because your choice was hiring this person, not in judging the work you got when you didn’t have the insight to give them clear direction in the first place.”

The Set Up
I brought in a new volunteer who was a professional graphic designer for what seemed like the perfect first assignment: coming up with a logo for a series of new events that would take place over 10 months. No legacy issues, the design didn’t have to last forever and it was a quick turnaround. Just go to this meeting, find out what they want and crank out a great logo.

A few weeks later I received an email with the new logo. But it wasn’t a PSD, EPS or even a JPG. It was a Word document with an image consisting of WordArt text and a Microsoft drawing object.

Maybe it was just a draft I thought. No, the committee decided they didn’t like the professional’s first draft so they literally took matters into their own hands without getting back to her.

At this point I had one understandably upset designer and a low resolution graphic that wasn’t going to show up well on a website or on a sweatshirt. Fortunately, another friend who’s an artist reverse engineered the WordArt into something scalable. It wasn’t easy, but we did it and learned some lessons along the way.

Here are some guidelines to follow so this doesn’t happen to you.

Rules for Working with Church Creative Types

  1. Explain in writing the purpose of the design, how it fits into your church’s strategy, the goals for the project and what you hope to communicate.
  2. Figure out ahead of time what you want. Find examples from other churches or even other industries that catch your eye. Identify some that you hate. Provide these up front.
  3. Agree on the review and submission process up front. Are you getting three comps and two rounds of edits? Who has a say? This should be as small a group as possible. Their evaluation should be in light of the first two points.
  4. Be honest. Does the pastor have veto power? Don’t waste the designer’s time with the committee if the decision-making power doesn’t truly reside there.
  5. Agree on a timetable up front for deliverables and decisions.
  6. Keep the right perspective. Your logo is ultimately serving a higher purpose. It’s not an end in itself.
  7. Determine ahead of time who “owns” the final product, whether a creative commons license or copyright is appropriate, and how you’ll attribute credit.

You’ve probably run into these challenges. So what works at your church? Share your tips in the comments.

You’re Only As Good As Your Most Outdated Web Page

By PlayingWithPSP on Flickr
By PlayingWithBrushes via Flickr

Someone stopped me at my church’s Volunteer Fair today to ask, “Is the parish web site up to date? Are you having a hard time keeping it accurate?”

In my mind I checked off the many updates we recently completed, but quickly surmised that such a list would be devoid of relevance to the questioner. If you’re asked this question, know that the person is focused on a particular omission.

It didn’t matter that she hadn’t even visited the site herself. A fellow volunteer had complained to her—with justification—about finding outdated information regarding our elementary school’s Oktoberfest fundraiser. In her mind, the entire site’s reputation was shot based on this second-hand account.

Oh, I could have explained that the school hadn’t emailed me this year’s update, or that the information should actually reside on the school’s site instead of the church’s site, or that the site had 100 other features that were timely, or that my dog ate my server. Do you think such explanations are going to change your visitors’ opinions of your site? Nope. [Full disclosure: I don’t have a dog.]

Tomorrow I’ll track down the Oktoberfest organizer at day two of the Fair so that I can get the latest facts and begin to make amends.

I was fortunate to attend an unrelated event where I could receive this feedback. Will you have the same luck? Is there an old page out there that’s the weakest link for your site’s reputation?

Nominate Your Church for Site of The Year

Catholic webmasters — are you running a great website for your church? Nominate it for church site of the year through (St. Anthony Messenger Press and Franciscan Communications). You’re allowed, nay, exorted, to digg your own work so enter today. The deadline is September 1, 2007.

St. Anthony also reviews a site of the month, some of which have been reviewed here, and webmaster features for each liturgical season. Check out their new blog.