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FALL 2020
 Reinventing Our Online Presence
Our goal is to promote the website and social media as timely tools among many in helping us keep connected as a congregation and in engaging others to come and join us.
Lessons Learned
Along the Way
These are some of the lessons we have learned along the way. We hope they may be useful as you customize your journey:
1. Have a team that includes some-
one who knows the Internet, a strong administrative leader, someone who thinks quickly out- side the box;
2. If you don’t know where to start, talk to the PCC Communications Office (communications@pres- and look at resourc- es available on the PCC website;
3. First priority is to determine the primary audience for the end product—members, newcomers, outsiders, visitors? Before every decision, ask how it speaks to that audience;
4. Stay focused on the task at hand. Don’t try to cover every aspect of the digital world. Creating a good communication medium is more impor tant than complex digital wizardry;
5. Set firm limits on what will or will not be included;
6. Make the most of experts to build the site;
7. Take as long as it takes to pro- duce a well-designed site;
8. Remember that a website is a transient thing—what serves the purpose today will not work for- ever, nor should you expect it to;
9. Recruit a wide range of non-ex- per t testers: computer novices, children, parents, grandparents;
10. Build in an easy updating system right from the star t. Keeping the website current is essential to avoid staleness; and finally,
11. Put together a team to monitor different sections and to keep them updated. Don’t leave it all up to one person.
For more information, contact Charlene Beynon at
   By Steve Langham, John Malone, Andrew Reid and Charlene Beynon, New St. James Presbyterian Church in London, Ont.
Our journey was prompted by our of- fice administrator attending a work- shop on church websites, facilitated by Barb Summers, Associate Secretary of Communications at The Presbyterian Church in Canada national office.
Last updated in 2015, the web- site for New St. James Presbyterian Church in London, Ont., was in need of attention. An ad hoc website com- mittee of four volunteers was con- vened in July 2019. Our original goal was to hold three meetings, identify what was working well, address what needed updating along with what was missing, outline an action plan and move forward. Nine months later, after many meetings, emails and hours of work, and in the midst of a pandemic with worship and church activities suspended, we launched a redesigned website with an enhanced social me- dia presence. Please check us out at
Developing the Site
Committee members represented a diversity of skill sets, including tech- nological and website exper tise, fa- miliarity with the congregation and church culture, as well as admin- istrative and project management skills. Early on, we agreed that it was important to articulate the primary audience. We learned that, although the site can be a valuable resource for current members, we needed to focus on those looking for a church home and those new to the congre- gation. It is vital to confront the reality that a digital presence is increasingly impor tant for churches. Visitors are more likely to visit your website or social media before making a visit in person. Website visitors also want to get key information easily and quickly. For many of us, this is a very different way of communicating. Barb Sum- mers was instrumental in our start-up phase and has continued to be a val- ued expert and sounding board as we have moved forward.
We critiqued the current site for its strengths, limitations and gaps, and began to envision a new site. At this stage, it’s very tempting to expand the project’s scope and star t addressing
many possibilities. We purposefully decided to focus on the website and an enhanced social media presence.
With these ends in mind, we rec- ognized the impor tance of building momentum and engaging others. Session was updated through regular repor ts. Guidelines were developed for writing website text. Group leaders and committee leads were invited to update their sections and submit pho- tos to complement the text. We also identified gaps and invited others to profile new activities and oppor tuni- ties that had not been previously in- cluded. A committee member collated the submissions, ensured a consistent format, provided support with writing and editing, and ensured that the au- thors signed off on their submissions. Our pulpit supply minister prepared an engaging and welcoming video, and we updated the profiles and photos of our minister and staff, adding the clerk of Session and our interim moderator. This stage requires significant time when dealing with a large number of authors, ensuring expectations are clear, helping authors meet needed deadlines by sending out “friendly” re- minders, while also being flexible and helping where needed.
New Platform
In building our new site, it was im- portant to determine what type of website platform was needed. We wanted the platform to have capac- ity for future growth and to be easily updated in-house without having to rely on external vendors. One com- mittee member reviewed a number of platforms, including the services provided by the PCC, and prepared preferred options for the committee to review. Criteria included site portabil- ity, ease of use, social media capabil- ity, number of email accounts, domain name registration and hosting, etc. The Committee reviewed the sum- mary and identified Sharefaith as the preferred choice. This was included in a series of other recommendations that was approved by Session in No- vember 2019. One member served as the Web Administrator and assumed primary responsibility for designing and populating the site with input from committee members.
Pilot Testing and Launch
Aiming to pilot test the draft site by
early March 2020, 12 volunteers were recruited through the church bulletin and personal contact. The review- ers represented different ages, with varying computer expertise and time associated with New St. James. In addition, five individuals were invited to provide targeted reviews of specific sections. Surveys that could be sub- mitted online or in hard copy were de- veloped for those reviewing the entire site and for those providing targeted reviews. Three weeks were allowed to provide feedback, and a reminder was sent out at the beginning of the third week, which generated additional responses. In total, 11 of the 12 who volunteered to review the full site pro- vided feedback and all five who were invited to review specific sections provided targeted reviews—an amaz- ing response rate. To thank the volun- teers, we held a draw for a $50 gift certificate. The feedback was instru- mental in enhancing the site and was reviewed by the entire committee.
A concer ted effor t was made to launch the new site two weeks later on Easter weekend. It was agreed that the site was ready and that further adjustments could be made after the launch. With worship suspended due to COVID-19, Session members were notified and an announcement was included in our newsletter that was emailed/mailed to all congregants. Not the launch we had hoped for, yet still pretty exciting!
An Unexpected Challenge
Gmail addresses were set up for the website contacts so that personal email addresses would not be used. Setting up these email addresses has been a significant challenge for many and time consuming for the com- mittee. To address these issues, one email address was set up as a hel- pline, and a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) guide was developed. Ideally, these supports should be set up in advance, and more notice pro-
vided for what to anticipate. In differ- ent times, it would have been much easier to offer a group tutorial.
It’s Not Over Yet!
Developing the website has been a major investment of time and effort. It is important that infrastructures are in place to suppor t the ongoing develop- ment and maintenance of the site. It is essential that we as a congregation continue to “think website and social media” so that upcoming events are posted and the site continues to be current and engaging. Section leads have been identified to ensure that the website keeps current. A Facebook team has been convened to enhance our social media presence, and a Me- dia Advisory Committee (MAC) is be- ing formed. The MAC will ensure the coordination of our various forms of communication, including our news- letter, social media and website.
Promoting the website and social media is an impor tant challenge in times when services and activities have been suspended. To get the word out, we have added the web address to email signature lines; we have been using the church’s sign and newsletter; promotional magnets are being printed; and we are planning a special coffee time to celebrate as a congregation. We are very cognizant that not everyone has Internet access.
 Free websites for ministries and congregations of The Presbyterian Church in Canada
Thinking about creating or redesigning your church’s website? The PCC Communications team is available to help. Funded through gifts to Presbyterians Sharing, PCCWeb is a free web hosting and technical support service for congregations and ministries of The Presbyterian Church in
Canada. To learn more, visit

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