One of every organization's challenges is keeping everyone up-to-date on changes, and churches and ministries are no different. In fact, they may have a greater challenge because the group is dispersed for the majority of the week, only coming together for meetings and worship, whereas businesses gather daily for work. In the past, and still today, churches and ministries have employed a variety of techniques for getting the word out - personal visits, newsletters, announcements, phone calls and, more recently, emails. All these can vary in effectiveness if the distribution lists are not kept up-to-date.
Having a web site that is built around a feature-rich content management system (CMS) can simplify things dramatically. Using technologies like RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and a notification and email functions provided by the core CMS, you can publish changes on your web site and everyone can be updated in a matter of minutes. And, since the distribution list is centrally maintained in one location, there is only one version and it is easily updated, too.
Every module you can add to XOOPS or ImpressCMS will have notification options - global options for any change within the module, or specific options for changes to a particular item or topic.
Have a meeting that changed times or locations? Update the page that was originally posted with the time and place and everyone who subscribed to notifications for that page will get a private message about the change. If they set their notification method to email, even better! The notice will be sent to the email address in their profile and they will be updated without even having to visit your site.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS)
People are getting more savvy about some of the features available on the web and RSS is something more and more are using. Again, you're in luck if you are using any of the currently supported modules for XOOPS and ImpressCMS because most provide RSS feeds for the content they contain. When someone subscribes to a RSS feed, their RSS reader aggregates the updates provided and gives them a overview of new content, with a link to read the full post.
If you have a module you would like to add RSS to because it does not provide a feed natively, there are modules that will help you do this - RSSFit is one of them. It comes with several plugins (adapters, really) that will adds RSS feeds for several of the most popular modules. If a plugin doesn't exist for your module, a sample plugin is provided and someone with some programming skills and a knowledge of the module can create a new plugin.
Getting the Word Out
Now that you know about these features, how do you get the word out to your community?
Well, you will need to rely on the old methods, initially - add a small blurb in your newsletter (maybe even start a WWW feature to regularly highlight your web activities), put it in your announcements, talk about it with people and be sure to use it yourself!
- Update the email being sent out to new users after they have successfully registered to encourage them to use these features (register a new user and see the message yourself, if you haven't seen it in a while).
- Create an area of your site that gives people information about the features of the site. Provide tutorials for obtaining and using RSS, or at least link to tutorials elsewhere on the web
- Send emails to current users using the Mail Users feature found in the Administration area, under System Admin - Mail Users.
- Provide demonstrations during staff meetings and committee meetings
Read on for more details of each of these features...