Some time ago, I conducted a survey of church websites and recorded a number of observations - some were technical, but most related to the content and practices being followed by their publishers. Of the 36 sites included,
- 13 posted content that didn't mention any dates
- 5 had posted in the current week
- 8 had posted within the previous 2 - 4 weeks
- 5 had posted something in the past 1 - 3 months
- 2 had posted 3 - 6 months prior to the survey
- 1 had posted between 6 and 12 months prior
- 3 had not posted anything in over a year.
As an organization with events and news happening on a daily basis, keeping your church's website up-to-date with fresh content shouldn't be too difficult. Or, is it? Based on my findings, it appears to be quite difficult!
Establishing a new routine and creating a new habit usually means breaking an old one. It can also involve a change in the way you think. The process needs to be an extension of a current process - a new way of doing something familiar, instead of a completely foreign activity. To break a habit, break it down - start by examining and outlining your current routine
- Who is involved in creating, gathering, editing and producing the pieces you post?
- What are you publishing and updating?
- When are you publishing and updating?
- Where do you distribute your publications?
- Why do you duplicate effort to create any single piece?
- How many versions does a piece go through before the final publication? And, how many copies of the document are in various email inboxes?
Next, look at the content you are currently publising.
- How many times have you repeated yourself? Does a notice about an event get published in your announcements, in your newsletter and on your calendar? How often does a piece run multiple times in the same format (multiple inserts in the weekly announcements, for example)?
- Does the content have a limited shelf life?
- What is the appeal of the content? Is it of interest to more than 80% of your readers? Less than 80%? 20%
- How much content will have lasting value and can be used as a reference later on?
Finally, find your rhythm. Your life has rhythm - you wake up, get ready, commute, work, lunch, more work, commute home, dinner, entertainment, sleep. Your community also has its own rhythm. In fact, without rhythm, a community will slowly dissolve. Strengthen your community by reinforcing rhythm, by echoing its pulse.
'What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.' ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
With many sources of information, you need to decide and communicate which is the authoritative source - the "owner of record". That way, when things change, as they are likely to do, you know which source to concentrate on. When you tally the cost to produce, the time required to update and distribute, your website is the most logical and economical means to communicate a message. It is also the most accessbile form you can produce and it can be the source for your offline publications, too. So, why is your website the last thing to get updated?
What message can people carry with them through the week? What did those who were unable to attend services miss? What words of encouragement, challenges or prayers can you share?
Focus all your other publications on your website by making it the hub of life for your congregation and community. When you establish the habit of regular updates and guide people to the web as The Place for Updates, they establish their own habits. You give them the message in a way it is easy for them to share. And, people will notice when the site is down - that's a good thing!
Here's a challenge for you - spend the next 40 days looking at your publishing habits, both online and offline. Check your pulse. Think about how those habits might need to change and what you'll do next. I'd love to hear what new habits you've added and which old ones have been replaced - let us know in the comments below.