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Google Apps for Non-Profits: All Churches REJECTED

After a little research, I am disappointed to discover that Google changed their policy on allowing churches to use their apps for non-profits program.  Churches were previously allowed to register for the services Google were offering which included free or discounted use of Google apps, free adword advertising, a premium youtube channel, and various other powerful tools.  For churches that have been using these services, they have saved thousands of dollars since many do not have the staff or the technical know how to manage the Microsoft alternatives to these free tools (such as Exchange Server etc.)  Reading through Google’s updated policy makes it clear that churches will no longer be accepted into their program:

Restrictions

The following organizations are not eligible for Google for Nonprofits:

Places or institutions of worship (e.g., churches, ministries, temples, synagogues)

Religious content or proselytizing on website as well as organizations that use religion or sexual orientation as factor in hiring or populations served.

Source: http://www.google.com/nonprofits/eligibility.html

There is also the possibility that churches who opted into the program before this policy was changed will be evaluated by Google and booted out.  This is more than just a little disappointing especially since Google’s Tagline on the Google for Nonprofits page is:

You’re changing the world. We want to help.

I can’t think of any organization that is changing the world more than the local / global church!  Hopefully Google will reconsider their position on this!

Website Redesign: Christ Followers For Change

I love being asked to help improve a church or ministry’s web presence.   It’s what I’m passionate about!  I am currently involved in a number of redesign projects and wanted to share my progress with one in particular – the Christ Followers for Change site. Christ Followers for Change is an organization based in Kalamazoo, Michigan made up of more than twenty local churches and organizations. Each year, these churches set aside the third Sunday in November to take up a special offering for the purpose of meeting two external needs. One global and one local. Last year they raised over $200,000!  Around 70% was given to various projects in Africa, and around 30% was used to purchase beds for people in need within Kalamazoo.  The stories of impact that these funds have had both at home and abroad are incredible and will be featured in a video shortly.

I was asked by the board to take over and redesign their website.  Whenever I design or redesign a new website, I break up the process into numerous steps involving a team of specialized individuals.  I will be publishing another blog post about the process I have developed for designing and redesigning web sites shortly.

Here is a snap shot of what the current  Christ Followers for Change homepage looks like:

Christ Followers For Change site

Current snapshot of the Christ Followers For Change Website

And here are a couple of snapshots of what the site will look like when I’m finished:

Redesigned Homepage for Christ Followers For Change

Redesigned Inner Page for Christ Followers For Change

Credit goes to Design Guru Ryan who I “met” through the Godbit Project for the awesome graphic artistry of these design compositions.

I am really excited to convert these compositions into full fledged websites and to measure the difference in traffic once the new website is live.  Stay tuned for news of it’s launch and the new 2011 goals in the coming weeks.

Go ahead and leave a comment to let me know what you think of the new designs!

Process for Redesigning a Website

1) Study the current site.  List it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses.  Pay particular attention to the navigation and flow of information – the User Experience.

2) Research other websites of other similar organizations.

3) Organize research and create a project outline

4) Contact a Graphic Artist to produce a homepage and inner page creative layout based on the project outline.

5) Evaluate creative layouts and send feedback for revisions if necessary.

6) Create the basic site structure.  I have a template I’ve developed that consists of folders called: CSS, Assets, Scripts, Images, Includes, Fonts, and Files.  I have base level CSS files that include Reset styles and the 960 grid system CSS.  I also usually include jQuery in my scripts file and then attach the CSS and scripts into a base level HTML file.  This saves me time as these are the items I include in most of my projects.

7) Hand draw (I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, I still use good old paper and pencil) a sketch of the composition with the divs and classes I plan to define.

8) Get to work breaking up the composition and constructing all the CSS and HTML.

9) Implement any scripts necessary

10) Test (usually involves numerous other people) and then launch.

There are plenty of other things I do during this process that are too many to document but this is a general idea.

Free Google Adwords for Churches – Amazing Opportunity!

Google for Nonprofits - Amazing opportunity for churches!

I just submitted a “Google for Non-Profits” application for one of the churches where I work as the Web Designer, Lake Center Bible Church.  This is a fantastic opportunity for churches everywhere to take advantage of some of the free resources Google are now offering non-profits.  Here is snapshot of what Google is currently offering:

  • Free or discounted version of Google Apps for your organization
  • Free Adwords advertising
  • Premium branding and increased uploads on YouTube
  • Free licensing for Google Earth, SketchUp, and Maps API

The one I am most interested in is the Free Google Adwords advertising.  I have been doing a little research on some keywords that are frequently searched on in our geographical location and believe there are some AMAZING opportunities for our church to reach out to people using targeted ads.  As my pastor likes to say from the pulpit, we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups!  Many people turn to Google as the first place they look for help.  Often times they are directed to forums, articles, blogs, webmd, etc but it’s my belief that they are looking for more than information.  They are looking for freedom.  This is where the local church comes in.

What if someone in our local community does a google search like this: “lonely, get help”.  Does any church show up in the search results?  No.

Taking this a step further, what if they type into google the word “porn”.  Do you think any church websites pop up?  Absolutely not.  But they should!  What if the church were to intercept those types of searches and lead people who are searching for one thing into a very different direction.  It could be powerful.  In the last 30 days, the word “porn” was searched in the US over 83 million times.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if an ad for a local church appeared in the search results of someone in a specific location, looking to fulfill an addiction but instead of going to the porn site, they click on a link to a church website, are met with a message right where they are, and make the decision to visit the church that provided them with a glimpse of light in a moment of darkness!

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.

http://bible.us/Isa9.2.NASB

Now the word “porn” is obviously one of the most sought after adwords in the world so unless a church has a very large budget, its probably unlikely that they could secure ads for that word but there is GREAT potential for the church to launch campaigns of this nature or relating to other issues that people struggle with.  I believe this is a powerful way for the church to embrace technology, by being a light in a place of great darkness.

Any help the church can get from Google is worth taking advantage of!  They are offering non-profits some amazing tools to use for FREE.  The application process was fairly simple.  Here are a couple of screen shots:

Applying for Google for Nonprofits

 

Application takes a few minutes. Very much worth the time!

If you would like to sign up your church, click here.

Creating a Jewish Themed Blog Step by Step

A local pastor asked me to create a blog for him to use while on his 5 week trip to Israel. He wanted to share his location specific insights with his congregation while he was gone and provide a way to post photos etc. I loved the idea of this and so got to work. I was quite pleased with the end result so wanted to share the steps I took for the purpose of helping any other church webmaster out there who may be asked to do something similar!

First of all I had to select a blogging platform. The obvious choice for this project was WordPress. It has a great community, endless plugins, beautiful themes and I’ve worked with it numerous times before – decision made!  After following their famous 5-minute install, the blog looked like this:

Wordpress Default Theme

Not a bad look right out of the box, but definitely didn’t have the Jewish flair I was imaging!  The next step was to select a better base theme from which to build on. This too was an easy choice – I selected the Standard Theme by 8bit. My own blog is built on it, I customized the blog on this site: becomingmore.com based on it and I absolutely love how well organized the code is and the graphical user interface is really nice too! It provided me with a clean and nicely laid out blog template from which to build on.

After uploading the “best coded wordpress theme ever” into my themes directory, the blog now looked like this:

Fresh Install Example of the Standard Theme

Continue Reading…

Church Assimilation using Attributes in Fellowship One

In 2010, I went to the Dynamic Church Conference held by Fellowship One at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.  I went to a session called “Sticky Church” presented by Matt McMaster and Chris Risen.  The information I gleaned from this session was priceless and completely changed my understanding of attributes and statuses and how to use them most effectively.  I immediately went back to our staff and we implemented some changes in our database that had a big impact on how we use Fellowship One!

We were using the “status” field as one of the most important fields in our database.  We were overly organized in how many statuses we had and it was getting confusing.  Every time a person would change into a different status category, we would lose the history of where they came from.  This was key assimilation data and we couldn’t afford to be losing it.  Also, the reports and queries were so difficult for our staff to understand because of our overly granular status system.

So,  instead of leaning heavily on the status field, we decided to greatly simplify our status groups as three main statuses – Attendee, Member, Dropped.  Everyone who visits, even if they only ever come once, gets the status of Attendee.  This took some getting used to but to further classify, we went ahead and developed an Attribute group called “Assimilation Process”.  Within that group we have various individual attributes but the most important one we use is what we call “Active and on Mailing List”.  Every attendee or member in our database that we consider part of our active church body, gets this individual attribute.  It is manually added on an individual basis and it has to be.  It takes a little work but the pay off is HUGE.  Many of our reports, queries, and general day to day operations in Fellowship One now depend on our Assimilation Process attribute group and it makes basic tasks much easier than they were when we were trying to depend on the status field.

Continue Reading…

Using jQuery to Color Table Rows

One of the reasons I love technology is that it is designed to make life easier!  As the webmaster at Lake Center Bible Church, one of the things I do every week is upload the sermon to our website and to iTunes.  On our sermons page, we have a simple table that contains the sermon that is preached each week – pretty typical for any church.  I have the table set up to have alternating colors for the rows to make the content easier to see.  It looks like this:

 

Each row has a CSS class with the background color set as gray or blue.  Every week, when I upload the new sermon, I have to select the table row and then select the appropriate class.  Not a big deal, but it’s a few clicks / keystrokes.

Since I am learning javascript and jQuery, I decided to let it do the work for me instead!  By adding these lines of code I wrote, jQuery automatically colors the table for me:

</p>
<p><script><br />
$("document").ready(function(){<br />
$("tr:odd").css("background-color", "#E5E5E5");<br />
$("tr:even:gt(0)").css("background-color", "#c7d4e5");<br />
});<br />
</script></p>
<p>

All this is doing is taking every odd row and giving it the background color of gray (#E5E5E5).  It is then taking every even row that is greater than (gt) the index of 0 – everything past the first row, and coloring the background blue (#C7D4E5″).

Now, my table looks like this in Dreamweaver with all the classes stripped out:

 

And jQuery is coloring it in for me!  A VERY simple fix but anything that saves me time on something I do repeatedly is worth the effort.  Hope this helps someone!

Introduction to Fellowship One

Image of Fellowship One website

Fellowship One - Powerful Church Management Solution

I am primarily a web designer on staff with two local churches but my other main role with these churches is to manage their church database management system.  We use a system called  Fellowship One. I’ve been working with the database for 3 years now and know the ins and outs of it very well. I’ve also worked with the Development side of it which is called the API – short for Application Programming Interface.  The API allows you to securely access your data via a “backdoor” so to speak.  I used the API to allow our website users to login to our website using their Fellowship One username and password.  I will explain more about this in a future blog post!

However, my purpose here is to give an overview of the strengths of Fellowship One for anyone who may be considering a new Church Management System.

Continue Reading…

Video Emails via BombBomb

BombBomb - Video Email Marketing with a discount for churches!

The other day I was browsing my twitter feed and I saw a recommendation for a company called BombBomb. BombBomb is a video email marketing company.  At first I thought they probably just had you put an image of your video in an email, and when recipients click on it, it would take them to a video hosting site.  But that’s not what this company does.  They have a system which allows you to embed real videos that stream directly to the client computer.  The videos work consistently across multiple email clients and also on mobile platforms too!

After browsing their site and seeing they had a sweet ministry discount, I sent an email to some of our church staff and said perhaps we should consider sending out video emails.  I received this response from the Senior Pastor:

Continue Reading…

Should the Church Go Mobile?

You bet it should!  Take a look at this:

Mobile Web

The Case for the Mobile Web

Infographic compiled by ShoutEm.

The mobile web is in explosion!  With 5 billion apps downloaded in 2010 and predictions of 21 billion apps to be downloaded by 2013, the church must catch up and move it’s message to this platform or else be left behind.

As I build a new web presence for Lake Center Bible church, one of my primary objectives is going to be mobile compatibility. Continue Reading…

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