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17 March 2007

The Power of the Blog

Example blog: My Life Story

After blogging for a while I began to realize the power that exists behind not only blog technology, but the RSS technology that blogs harness.

At granger many of the staff blog. For some its a creative outlet, for others its giving back to the community and for still others it is a way to communicate with numerous people without emailing each one individually. (I think I fall into each of the three categories).

We have used blog technology a number of times at the church when nothing else made sense. We are quickly able to obtain a site, modify it to look the way we want it and then allow the technology to take over. Here are just a few reasons a simple blog might outweigh full-blown web development:
  • Simple to set up and modify (look/feel)
  • Allows for simple addition of content (administration panel)
  • Allows interactivity (commenting)
  • Automatically tracks content by date, time and categories/labels
  • Automatically archives content
  • Is RSS compliant which allows people to "subscribe" to it

I don't advocate that your entire website be a blog as this can be very distracting. But I have seen websites that employ blog technology on certain pages (for news, articles, stories, etc.) where some of the features become very useful.

Some blog sites are self contained where other ones allow you to take the code apart or actually publish the pages to your website. Its definitely a technology to get acquainted with and use when it makes sense.

02 March 2007

My Life is Here

I love attending a growing church.

I grew up in churches where the size of the church was directly proportional to the number of "sworn members" in that location. For example, if you had 300 people in your town that called themselves (insert denomination here) then you built a church that held 350 (so you didn't feel squished and the younger couples could have children...)

Completely different mentality at Granger. The expectation is growth. And the "sworn member" is actually not a member at all. In fact this person is often completely unaware that they will be attending our church. Call it "seeker sensitive," "reaching the lost (un-found)," "taking the message to the world (ever heard of the Great Commission?)" or simply, "making room for our friends."

However you stack it this church has an outward focus that I resonate with. I have been through 3 building campaigns in the past 10 years and I wouldn't have it any other way. Anyone who tells you that adding numbers to your church is a bad thing hasn't read the book of Acts in a while. In fact the only type of church I saw Jesus endorse on earth was the type that added numbers on a regular basis.

Am I allowed to say, "Church is less for the convinced and more for those that are searching?"

The current weekend series and building campaign has been called My Life. Its this whole idea that Her Life, His Life, Their Life and yes, My Life really matter to God.

So I thought I'd just give you a quick overview of the web strategy that accompanied the series/campaign:

  • 5 Week message series titled My Life with typical series page on the website for program, message notes, discussion guides, audio/video links
  • My Life landing page to serve as a one-stop shop for information on the campaign and launch site for other campaign specific content
  • My Life Postcards blog - A site where postcards from people describing their life experience are posted
  • My Life progress blog - A site where construction updates can be posted (future addition)

I think we're in for a great ride. Stop by and join us if you're in the area.

Experimenting with Integration

I have the opportunity to work with two great companies: Our web guru's (Aspire!One) and our church management specialists (Fellowship Technologies). The only problem is that for a long time, the two were anything but integrated. Our site was designed by Aspire. Our CMS was plugged into our website via WebLink - a component of the FellowshipOne (F1) software. However, this meant that every time we captured information from the web user, a button would pop-up a F1 window and require the user login to the F1 database before proceeding.

It worked...but we had ideas...

Enter Aspire!One.

Our friends at Aspire went out of their way to work with our friends at Fellowship Technologies in order to come up with a more integrated solution. They pushed the envelope as far as they could with limitations in the F1 system and I think it is a huge enhancement.

Here are some screen shots of the changes:

New login feature allows the user to login and remain logged in throughout visit (browser session). Login box drops when user clicks the "login" link or whenever they click a button that requires F1 login.

Once logged in, the header changes to welcome the specific user and swaps the "create account" link for the "my account" and "logout" links. The "my account" link goes to a page that allows basic account management. Now don't get carried away - we don't allow full access to demographic information even though much of it is possible. Due to accounts being tied to financial giving our business department would rather be in charge of changing the occasional address by hand...

For the people new to the church we encourage the creation of a account. This page was also created by Aspire and links directly to the F1 database.

All I can say is, "Good job guys!" Collaboration and integration is where its at.