We are the newDAY Church Marketing Agency
In the "before times", way back in 2019, I was asked to "help" our local church with their website and emails since the "guy who did it all" had left. It actually turned out to be way more than fix a thing here and add a thing there - what they actually needed was a "newDAY Church Marketing Agency". Which of course is exactly what I do - since forever - like way way before anyone could spell "that virus which shall not be named".
The newDAY Church website had a host of problems, not just technical but also from a user experience perspective. One of the most glaring technical issues was that not a thing was done about SEO. It seemed like the site was built purely as a "business card in the sky" - you know, like they used to do in the old testament days when the "information highway" was a novel concept. So, no SEO, no real-world usefulness, other than a telephone number and an address.
And a logo.
Identifying what the "usefulness" of a church website looks like
Ironically, it was the lockdowns of 2020 that highlighted just how inadequate the church website really was, not just locally but worldwide. Although I had already identified that a church website needs to have an events or calendar functionality, the lockdowns informed my decision to purchase a premium version as opposed to a vanilla option. The most important thing about church during the lockdown period was the necessity to book for church due to restrictions on crowds. The ability to book, and on some occasions pay for a ticket, is a premium option. Expensive, but completely necessary and very useful.
The ticketing system we implemented to control the numbers (only 50 were allowed according to the government mandate) has a QR code system that allows tickets to be scanned via a downloadable app at the door. But this system quickly showed its Achilles Heel - inadequate high speed internet and Wi-Fi coverage. It was a dead duck. It also became necessary to find a way to supply the details of the people who booked to attend church on Sunday mornings to the staff who manned the doors. Suddenly the website needed to be more than just a business card in the sky. It had to be useful in sophisticated ways and supply a lot of information to a number of people in leadership positions in an automated way.
A Big ask.
But we did it.
Choosing the right eventing plugin for the church
A church is a busy hub of community events and fellowship gatherings. So choosing the right events plugin is almost the central decision when building a church website. It is the dog that wags the tail. I set out to search for the one plugin that would supply the following functionality:
- booking system
- payment system that works with WooCommerce
- extensive form builder
- customisable notice system
- customisable front-end calendars
- extensive support
Everything works great! Now What? Who is going to keep the calendar of events up to date, and coordinate all the frequent updating of times and places in the offline world and transfer it to the online world? That is a GREAT question. At first we thought we'd give access to the backend so that various people can update as needed. Well that quickly showed its Achilles Heel - experience with websites and most glaringly obvious, a single "system" of operations. This reality of a busy church quickly became the focus of our attention: how to "shepherd" very different people (not always on staff either) in a cohesive systemised way that is seamless and coordinated.
What we needed was a system of briefing the communication needs of all without receiving loads of emails, text messages and phone calls. And many meetings.
And while we're at it, perhaps that system should be designed to be duplicatable so that other newDAY sites (or indeed other churches) in other locations could be coordinated in the same way. A system that can run slickly even if we were not involved.
Why the church has an ad agency system for the website
Since we have Advertising Agency experience, it seemed prudent to organise the communication needs of the church along the same principles. So, in order to avoid the phone ringing off the hook from any number of people day or night, we implemented an online briefing form. This then feeds directly to Trello which we have access to as well as two overseers from the church - one from the church office, and another tasked with overseeing Communications and Brand.
This system is proving to be fantastic for everybody - when it is used.
What exactly do we do for the church?
As with any large organisation, expectations and outcomes were not immediately clear from the start. Especially in the aftermath of key personnel leaving without a proper handover. After a few weeks at the rock face, we established our role as follows:
- website maintenance
- marshalling requests for events added to website (design briefing system)
- design all visual assets (static images, video, posters, teaching manuals, other collateral)
- design logos where needed and redraw logos when not supplied
- social media communication
- pay licenses for plugins, software, images and music used for church communications
- feed information about bookings/attendance back to relevant people regarding their events (including ticket sales and payment methods) via spreadsheet
- Maintain a library of sermons embedded in to the website via Vimeo and Soundcloud
Every church needs a database that is easy to maintain - and relatively inexpensive compared to the eye-wateringly expensive options currently available. We decided to come up with a solution that costs very little in comparison, and can be used by staff to update on the fly using their mobile phones.
Yes. We do that too.