Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

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May 14, 2014

What is the process to set up a Church Plant Media website?

As mentioned in a previous post, Church Plant Media builds websites for a wide spectrum of gospel ministry endeavors. We have worked hard to make our setup process as simple as possible. The following steps are all it takes to get up and running with a Church Plant Media website.

  1. Affirm the Gospel & kick-start our gospel partnership.
  2. Select the Design & serve your unique ministry needs.
  3. Create the Content & use our system to build your site.
  4. Reach the World & see how others are doing the same.

Call to see how we can serve your website ministry needs: (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

April 30, 2014

Does Church Plant Media build websites for both churches and ministries?

Yes, with “plant” as our middle name, we are happy to help you “grow” your online ministry. We have been building great websites for gospel ministry since 1998 and we welcome any gospel-loving group that is defined by the words “Church & Mission” including, but not limited to…

  • church planters
  • brand new churches
  • established churches
  • multi-campus churches
  • church networks
  • missionaries
  • non-profit ministries
  • Christian camps
  • Christian schools
  • Bible colleges

Call to see how we can serve your website ministry needs: (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

April 16, 2014

TOP 5 FEATURES OF A HELPFUL CHURCH WEBSITE

Happy Easter from your friends at Church Plant Media! As your team prepares for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services, we wanted to encourage you to take a fresh look at your church website. According to LifeWay Research and the 1,000 Protestant pastors they polled in 2012, Easter Sunday has the highest attendance every year. With this in mind, will your website serve all of those new visitors?

Over the past few months we have shared some thoughts on Tim’s blog about the 5 primary features that every church website should have. As we unpacked these features we repeated the phrase: a church website = an online building. Our hope is that this brief phrase will help you think more strategically about the Internet. To learn more about these 5 features follow the links below to the blog posts that explain our thinking in detail.

  1. The CORNERSTONE proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. The FOUNDATION utilizes a Content Management System.
  3. The FLOORPLAN organizes pages, sermons, events, etc.
  4. The EXTERIOR shows your design style & code structure.
  5. The ENTRANCE answers questions: who, what, when, why.

You may also be interested in the Church Plant Media ~ A La Carte post we did a number of months ago. In that post we collected links to a few of our other entries about website costs and various content strategies. Although every church is different, we believe every church can have a truly great website for gospel ministry.

If you are an avid reader of Tim’s blog, you may notice that our upcoming sponsored posts will have a different flavor as we answer some Frequently Asked Questions. With that said, if you have a website question that can not wait, feel free to call us at the number below.

Easter Blessings from your friends @ Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

March 26, 2014

THEENTRANCEOF A CHURCH WEBSITE

Hello again from your friends over at Church Plant Media. We are back with the last post in our series exploring the idea that A Church Website = an Online Building. In this series we have been sharing how the form and function of a church website can be compared to these 5 items: Cornerstone, Foundation, Floorplan, Exterior, and Entrance. Today, we are going to consider the Entrance.

Here is how we defined the Entrance of a church website:

The entrance is the first impression of the building. Whether you call it a lobby, foyer, or narthex, this is the room that people experience when they first walk through the front door. Many churches will have people stationed at the entrance with bulletins and a welcome hand shake near a welcome center for new visitors. The home page of the website should function very similarly to your church entryway. Its purpose is to help answer the main questions of who, what, when, where, and how. Just as you think about greeting new visitors and introducing them to your church, you should also give thought to your website visitors.

Depending on the design structure of your website, you may have different places for text or images on your home page. Some website designs have more text then images and others have more images then text. There really is no right or wrong way to design a home page as long as the code is clean. Websites with descriptive text at the top or bottom of the home page tend to do a little better with search engines, but Google really cares more about the keyword content within the website then the actual design of the home page. However, your website visitors need you to answer these 5 questions.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you believe?
  3. What can I expect?
  4. When and where do you meet?
  5. Why should I come?

1. WHO ARE YOU?

This should be more than just your logo and can usually fit into a brief phrase or paragraph. Many churches like to feature their mission statement or a few words about the church. This should be a 30,000 foot view of who you are in a few simple and compelling words.

2. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?

Before visiting a church, most people want to know what the church teaches before they visit. With this in mind you should have either a text or image link on your home page that will get them to that information quickly. Let your light shine and don’t hide it.

3. WHAT CAN I EXPECT?

Some churches like to feature a small photo gallery of the meeting space right on the home page, while others like to prominently feature a “Before You Visit” or “New Here?” button towards the top of the page. Either way, make sure this info is easily accessible.

4. WHEN AND WHERE DO YOU MEET?

You would be surprised how many churches do not have this information clearly marked on their website. Be sure to feature your service times, your address, and a link to a page with an embedded Google Map along with directions from the north, south, east, and west.

5. WHY SHOULD I COME?

People come to church to hear the good news about Jesus. The primary means that they hear is through your sermons. So it is always helpful to feature a graphic that displays what is being preached along with a link to a sermons page where they can listen to past sermons.

If your home page provides easy access to these 5 answers, your website visitors will be served. Feel free to give us a call if you would like a website with these features built-in.

Your friends at Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

March 19, 2014

THEEXTERIOROF A CHURCH WEBSITE

Grace and peace to you during this special season of Lent. Church Plant Media here again to unpack our thoughts about how it can be helpful to understand that A Church Website = an Online Building. In the blog post at that link we outlined how churches can think about their web presence using these 5 key terms: Cornerstone, Foundation, Floorplan, Exterior, and Entrance. Today we would like to consider the Exterior.

Here is how we defined the Exterior of a church website:

The exterior is the outer expression of the building. It is what people see before they walk through the front door. Some churches have steeples and siding, others have brick, mortar, and concrete, while others might have a renovated store front. The same concept applies to your website. In the same way the physical walls must be sturdy, a great website design must be more than just skin deep. Your church website should be built to address both search engine visibility and the design preferences within your church culture.

When you think about the exterior of your church building a few things may come to mind. Depending on your background you may have differing thoughts about the outside of the building. Some people only see the visible “style” of the building (wood, metal, or plastic siding; brick, stone, or concrete work). While others may think about the actual “structure” or framing that holds up the exterior (wood beams or structural steel). Both aspects (inside and out) are needed when planning both a public meeting space and a website.

Style — judging a book by its cover

Although my mother always taught me not to “judge a book by its cover” the reality is that every book has a cover because we all pass judgement on books based on their cover design. If you don’t believe that covers matter, just visit your local Barnes & Noble and walk through the aisles. In the same way that people judge a book by its cover and a building by the exterior, people will think differently about the church based on the design style of the church website whether we like it or not.

In the same way that you (or the church members before you) took time to consider your siding, you also need to take some time to consider your website design and how adequately it conveys your church. What is important to your church and how well does the website design convey who you are and what you are all about? What are your church colors and do they feature prominently in your website? What is your design aesthetic and how does the website reflect the look-and-feel of your church?

Structure — more than just skin deep

When talking about the book and its cover, my mother was trying to help me understand that true beauty is more than just skin deep. We can think about buildings and websites in the same way. Although the exterior matters a great deal, if it cannot stand up to the effects of severe weather, then it does not matter how pretty it looks when it is built. Similarly, even if a website looks great on the outside, it is relatively worthless if a search engine can not find it online.

Design matters to a visitor but code and content matters more to search engines. When a search engine displays a result, it could care less what the website looks like. Google and Bing are looking for websites that match a keyword search like “church in city, state”. Although your search rank is based on a number of factors related to your website content, if your website is not coded properly it may not matter what keywords you feature. It is like the old adage, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Or in Internet terms: if your website looks great but search engines can’t find it, do you really have a website?

If you would like to learn more about how to have a website that is both easy on the eyes and easy to find online, feel free to give us a call at the number below.

Your friends at Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

March 12, 2014

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I’m sure you’ve had the experience within the course of a normal conversation, when you stumble across something profound and unexpected. This happened to me as I was in the process of writing my first book United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. I was already underway in the writing process, so I clearly believed in the importance of diversity and had been moved by what I saw on the subject in God’s word. My wonderful friends at Moody Publishing had captured the vision as well and had blessed me with their partnership on the project, but here I was having a conversation halfway through the writing process that was refocusing for me the need for a biblically based theology of diversity.

UnitedI wasn’t experiencing vitriolic racism and injustice, it was…indifference. It was, in short, a life that had missed seeing the beauty of God’s creative, diverse children. A life that thought issues of integration and equality were a thing of the past and that diversity was best handled by adopting a well-intentioned “colorblind” mindset – ignore the differences, don’t see the beautiful shades and hues. And, tragically as a result, miss the amazing unique designs that God has built into the human race. Refocused, I wrote United for my friend, because I want him to see in color and be captured by how God has made us different but united together inside of His family.

United was written to cast a vision for diversity in the church, but also in all of life. I spend the first section sharing about my own journey and testimony. The second section highlights the benefits of diverse friendships through taking a closer look at my friendship with two young women and how the Lord used it in our lives. I also write about the theology of race and our adoption into one family, the church. Finally, I realize that the pursuit of diversity can be difficult, so I write about the hindrances and yet the hope we have in the gospel to unit all tribes and tongues and nations.

United does not dwell on negative or discouraging aspects of our culture; instead I share what it would look like practically if we pursued diversity. I do this mainly by focusing on a diverse friendship I experienced with two other women after opening with a few chapters explaining my personal perspective, struggles, and fears about diversity. My goal is not to leave readers defeated and condemned but, rather, encouraged by the vision of the family of God made up of all nations. What an amazing family this is!

My prayer is that this project would be used to encourage pastors and their churches but the book is about the beauty of diversity in relationships and therefore it is for everyone. Ultimately, I pray this little book would magnify and glorify the Lord.

You can learn more about me and United by visiting my website at www.trillianewbell.com. You may also visit Shop Moody, Amazon, or your favorite retailer to purchase United.  I can’t express enough my thankfulness to Moody Publishers for allowing me to share with you about this project. I hope that it blesses and encourages you.

In Christ,

Trillia J Newbell

February 19, 2014

THEFLOORPLANOF A CHURCH WEBSITE

Greetings and salutations from your friends at Church Plant Media. As we’ve shared previously, we are taking some time to expand on the concepts that we outlined in our post; A Church Website = an Online Building. We have been encouraging churches to think about their websites using these 5 “building” concepts: Cornerstone, Foundation, Floorplan, Exterior, and Entrance. Today, we will be considering the Floorplan.

February 05, 2014

THEFOUNDATIONOF A CHURCH WEBSITE

Hello again from your friends at Church Plant Media. We are glad to be with you again to further unpack the thoughts that we shared in our post A Church Website = an Online Building. As previously mentioned, to understand the form and function of a church website, it is helpful to define these 5 items: Cornerstone, Foundation, Floorplan, Exterior, and Entrance. Today, we will discuss the Foundation.

Here is how we defined the Foundation of a church website:

The foundation needs to be big enough for the building. It needs to be solid, dependable, and functional. You can only build the building as big as the foundation will allow. The foundation of the website is the Content Management System (CMS). The CMS is the tool you use to build and maintain your website content. It is the backbone of the website that supports the online building. The CMS should allow you to grow your website no matter how big you get. If you have a faulty foundation, it can be difficult and costly to repair in the future. In the same way, be careful when you select a CMS to uphold and power your website.

When considering different CMS products you can usually compare and contrast most of them using the following three differentiators:

  1. Open Source vs. Custom Built
  2. Limited Pages vs. Unlimited Pages
  3. Business Centered vs. Church Centered

1. OPEN SOURCE VS. CUSTOM BUILT

An open source system is usually free to the general public, and is customizable by you or a developer that you hire. At first blush, “free” seems like a huge benefit but it usually comes at the price of your own time to maintain the database, versions, and plugins. You are typically responsible for adding any new features that you need. The only safety net that an open source product provides is the one you develop yourself.

In contrast, a custom built system is usually developed and maintained by a single company like Church Plant Media. With a custom built system, the company who built the CMS will continue to maintain, upgrade, and support the product for a monthly fee.

2. LIMITED PAGES VS. UNLIMITED PAGES

Not every CMS is created equal and all CMS companies do not share the same philosophy of business and service. Some companies will charge you more per month based on the number pages in your website. In this scenario, if you want to add more helpful content to serve your church, then you will need to pay more each month. Other CMS providers have a single monthly fee but they also have a cap on the number of pages that are able to be created within their system. That means the platform upon which your church website is built will not be able to grow and expand along with your church and its needs. By way of contrast, companies like ours offer churches unlimited pages for a single monthly fee. This allows your church website to grow as the church grows.

3. BUSINESS CENTERED VS. CHURCH CENTERED

The pool of potential website providers has been growing exponentially during the 15+ years that we have been in business. From one-man design firms to large corporations, it can be confusing to discern who will give you the best product and the best service. Many website companies serve both for-profit and non-profit organizations, regardless of the organization’s beliefs or convictions. This type of business philosophy is often focused on profit and growth rather than ministry. There are a few church website providers who have chosen to primarily focus on serving the body of Christ, and we are happy to say that Church Plant Media is one of these few. Our primary business is centered on your church, so your church can be centered on its mission.

We hope these three comparisons will help you select the right partner for your gospel ministry online. If you have any questions it would be our joy to serve you. Feel free to call us any time.

Your friends at Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

January 22, 2014

THE “CORNERSTONEOFCHURCH WEBSITE

Grace and peace to you from Church Plant Media. A few months ago we shared some thoughts here about how A Church Website = an Online Building. In that post we encouraged people to consider how certain aspects of a brick-and-mortar meeting space can help people understand the form and function of a church website. To illustrate our point we described 5 items that make up every building: Cornerstone, Foundation, Floorplan, Exterior, and Entrance.

For the next few installments of Web Stuff Wednesdays we would like to unpack these 5 items for you. Today, we take a look at the Cornerstone. Here is how we defined this important element:

The cornerstone determines the position of the building. Its location is mission critical because every part of the foundation is positioned in reference to the cornerstone. The cornerstone of every church website should be the gospel of Jesus. When you clearly articulate your belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the sinless substitute for sinners like us, you are positioning the cornerstone of your online ministry presence. If your website does not share the gospel, then that is where we suggest you start. When you get the gospel right, everything else will be able to line up accordingly.

We can never share the gospel too much, especially on a church website. The good news about Jesus needs to be the heartbeat that drives the lifeblood throughout your content. It is the North Star that will guide what you need to say and how you need to say it. In another post we explained How to Share the Gospel on Your Website. We exhorted churches to share both the problem (law) and the solution (gospel). This type of proclamation serves both the believer AND the unbeliever. Pastors need to be regularly reminding their congregation about the gospel through sermons, blogs, and social media. We all forget the gospel and we need to be reminded that our sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus.

Many churches see their website as an online billboard while other churches see it as an online tract. But we think it might be more helpful to see your church website as a vehicle for ongoing gospel conversation. Reflect on questions like these: What is happening in your life and how are you bringing the gospel to bear on your situation? What opportunities or challenges has the the Lord put before your church and how does the gospel inform your understanding of those things? In the same way that a compass is always pointing to true north no matter where you turn, your church website should always be pointing to the gospel no matter where you look. As Mark McCloskey has put it, “Tell It Often — Tell It Well”.

May these 480 year old words from Martin Luther kindle your content:

Here I must take counsel of the Gospel, I must hearken to the Gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do (for that is the proper office of the Law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that he suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The Gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the Gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.
(Martin Luther on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians)

Gospel blessings from Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

January 08, 2014

CHURCH PLANT MEDIA ~ A LA CARTE

Happy New Year from your friends at Church Plant Media! Now that we are several days into 2014, we wanted to take a brief look back at some posts from 2013. We also wanted to ask you, the readers of Challies Dot Com: how can we serve you in this New Year? What topics would you like us to cover in future “Web Stuff Wednesdays” posts and what questions do you have about websites for church & mission?

In our 1st post: Introduction to Church Plant Media we shared the following.

After 15 years of building websites for churches, we have learned a few things about the web and our hope is to serve you with what we have learned… But in order to do so, we need your help. We would love to hear what challenges you are facing with your church website and what hurdles you would like to overcome.

Thankfully a number of people posted their church website questions. The following links will take you to the sponsored posts that answer those questions. If you don’t have time to go read them, we did a brief synopsis of each post below. We would love to get your feedback on what you found helpful and what questions you still have. Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Counting the Cost of a Church Website
Carl asked about the advantages and disadvantages of sites you build and host yourself vs. sites that are built and hosted by a company. We explained that with any building project you usually “get what you pay for” and it just depends on how much you know or who you know. Usually if you do more of the work you will be paying less in dollars but you end up paying more in time and vice versa.

A Church Website = an Online Building
Joanna asked how to graciously but persuasively make a case to church leadership that a quality website is really important. We encouraged her to help her leaders think of the website as an online church building with a: Cornerstone (determines the position), Foundation (needs to be big enough), Floorplan (maps out every room), Exterior (the outer expression), Entrance (the first impression).

Whosoever Will May Read Your Content
Dan & Denise asked if church websites should target researchers, skimmers, visitors, or members. We answered yes and suggested the acronym D.R.O.I.D. as a handy content strategy: D = Disclose (who, what, when, where, why), R = Retrieve (get them in and out quickly), O = Organize (find it in 3 clicks or less), I = Increase (from simple to complex), and D = Disciple (shepherd the flock of Jesus).

How to Keep Church Website Content Fresh
Brett asked how to keep his content fresh with limited time, resources, and staff/volunteers. We understand this may be easier said then done, but we think you may be sitting on content you have not even thought about. We shared what we like to call the ABCs of fresh content: A = Ask and you shall receive some help, B = Batch and your burden will be light, C = Catch and it will not go to waste.

How to Share the Gospel on Your Website
We wanted to encourage churches to share the gospel online knowing that Christmas time is when people are the most likely to attend a church service and visit a church website. We recommended listening to a sermon from our friend, Dr. Voddie Baucham, and we encouraged churches to share a gospel that explains both the problem (how we broke God’s law) and the solution (how Jesus paid our fine).

Using the www for Winter Weather Warning
Tim asked us to help readers put together an inclement weather strategy. If you have wondered how to announce the news that the Grinch stole your winter gathering, we explained how the acronym S.N.O.W. is helpful: S = Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), N = News Channels (Radio, TV, & e-mail), O = Outdoor Signs (Signage “just in case”), and W = Web Homepage (Banner & blog post).

If you have a website question, please post it in the comments below. We want to continue bringing you helpful content, and we need your feedback to do so. Thanks for your help!

Blessings from your friends @ Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

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