Just Asking

I’ve had a number of inquiries lately about churches using blogs, and I’ve answered as best I could — but you may be able to help me further. There’s a lot I don’t know well, since I’ve been principally a remote-hosted Moveable Type guy for years, now.

Question One involved which software/system to use. I suggested starting out with Blogger/BlogSpot, to see whether it suits; someone bridled at the terms of service, and we wondered about advertisements (whether a parishioner might be dissatisfied about ads that Blogger associated with their parish). I pointed to TypePad, noting that it isn’t very expensive for an experiment, but “a little expense” is still a lot for some churches. I commended Blogware, but I don’t know anything about the particular ISPs that offer Blogware service. And I mentioned Textdrive, too. WordPress and (soon) WordForm are open-source, but don’t necessarily come pre-packaged with hosting (yes, WordPress is available on TextDrive).

You’d think that a quick entrepreneur would launch an ISP oriented toward churches, with a free six-week trial period or something — but these are my quick answers.

Question Two involved congregations that presently use a blog as a main web communication channel. I thought of Holy Innocents and Reconciler right away, and tracked down a few more.

If you have thoughts on congregations making particularly effective use of a blog, or on the relative benefits of various software packages, or of particular ISPs or services that make a congregational blog practical and inexpensive, please leave a comment!

12 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you for the mention! I’m lucky to have an in-house geek who runs the webserver AND handles the arcanery of installation, troubleshooting, and upgrading of the Moveable Type software for the Holy Innocents website and for my own personal blog. Without my husband’s help and advice, I’m not sure that we’d even have a website.

    He is a WordPress blogger, and finds it easy to work with – but again, he’s my geek, so he would.

    There are various free/ad supported options. I’ve actually seen good results with some Tripod blogs, but they have a pretty basic look.

    I have some plans coming up for the church blog – something vague to do with prayer requests and sanctuary candle dedications – but have to work out what I want it to accomplish and check with Fr. Ted. Thank you again for the nod.

  2. There’s been a lot of talk about using CivicSpace for church sites lately.

    For example, check out this thread I started a few weeks ago. Since then, a friend of mine has started to develop a CivicSpace site for her church, and there are already quite a few churches using Drupal/CivicSpace for their sites mentioned in that thread.

  3. I’m not quite sure how to say this charitably, but … the barrier to entry (of congregations into the Web space) consists mostly of the mis-match between the technical competence of congregational communicators and the skills required to maintain a web site, even a blog.

    I suspect this may be changing, especially as kids who have always had PCs around grow up into adults who want to do things for their churches. Over the past ten years, though, I’ve seen quite a few attempts to provide hosting for congregational sites come and go, and they’ve all foundered on the high level of hand-holding support demanded of them.

    For a congregation that has a communicator who can make her way around a blog, though, the range of options is becoming good. I’ll second the mention of TextDrive, with whom I personally have been most happy.

  4. Hey… You forgot that I sent you a notice about this some months ago via email… but I know you get lots of stuff. I’ve learned a few things thanks to Maggi Dawn and AKMA… Flickr has been something peole in the congregation seem to respond to, i.e., pictures.

    St. John, Stockport

    I don’t like certain features like the personal information… it would be nice to link to a map to locate us. Other features would be nice, but this is free and I haven’t the time to put into a lot of learning or experimenting.

    I’m not sure I get a lot of hits from the parish since most members are over fifty… should I say sixty… I’m not sure about hits at all, in fact, but, the pictures at least do draw some members to the site. I just have to keep adding them… and flickr does allow others to join and do that… so that is where we will be going in the short term

  5. I have been involved in the support of Episcopal Church web sites for some time now through Episcopal Church Web Hosting (http://www.ecwh.org). We are just beginning an experiment with Mambo, an open source tool which has some very appealing features, supporting blogs, static content and a variety of other formats. I would be curious if anyone out there has had any experience with Mambo.

    My particular interest in blogging software and other content management systems is in allowing a parish church to maintain a web site without a lot of local web expertise in house. I have seen parish sites go unmaintained, presumably because they lost the only person who knew how to do the job.

  6. Blogger.

    It is free.

    That is the best answer to the first question. If a congregation is only interested in blogging and does not want some fancy flash heavy page, then Blogger is just great.

    Here are two more you may want to check out. Wicker Park Grace has one. So does Apostles’ Church in Seattle. The thinf that may be more interesting is what they are being used for. Reconciler uses the blog to post news and sermons. The three pastors have their personal blogs. In any case, the blog shines some light into the theological identity of the congregation. But as the blogosphere is, well, a less physical a space, it is harder to convey the Spirit of a congregation on a blog. You still have to get people to visit you.

  7. I’m in the process of migrating the website of the parish where I work to TypePad, which I chose because of its ease of use for those with minimal technical skills and minimal interest in learning more. Right now, I’m pretty much the only person who does much to maintain the site, and if the parish lost me, the site would be hopelessly out of date within weeks (among other things, the rectors have just left, and the interim isn’t there yet, so the site wouldn’t even have the current clergy listed). TypePad’s ease of including lots of authors with privileges to post only to particular pages and to modify or delete only what they’ve posted themselves was also a factor. $150/year (which is what TypePad Pro costs) may sound like a lot, but when you consider how hard it is to get volunteers who know HTML, I’d say it’s a bargain.

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