If you’re looking for a guide to help your favorite organization get Web savvy, try Mark Stephenson’s new book, Web-Empower Your Church. Stephenson is the Director of CyberMinistry and Technology at Ginghamsburg Church, a United Methodist church in Tipp City, Ohio. Ginghamsburg, an old church in the middle of corn country, has a 4000+ page website devoted to “harnessing the power of the internet for Jesus.” Ginghamsburg Church is a worldwide leader of Christian Evangelicals seeking to do just that. Consequently, Stephenson’s book contains many helpful suggestions for evangelical churches. However, religious communities of other persuasions, even non-Christian ones, may find his book quite helpful, provided that they adapt his suggestions to their respective beliefs and practices. And there are many reasons why small community organizations of many kinds will find his book useful, provided they sift what is helpful for their respective purposes.
Web-Empower Your Church shines in two respects:
- It explains in plain English the technological tools and techniques which your organization will need to master in order to use the Internet to its greatest advantage.
- It wisely observes that the chief challenges to designing and maintaining an excellent web site are not technological ones, but rather, organizational. In other words, the hardest task for your organization will be organizing and training the people who will not only edit your website, but most importantly, provide continuing fresh content. Stephenson’s book offers many tips about how to recruit and train Web teams for these tasks.
Web-Empower Your Church comes with a CD containing a free, open source website design and maintenance software package, Typo3. Typo3 is one choice among numerous CMS (content management system) tools, each of which have advantages and disadvantages. In terms of the learning required to use the software capably, Typo3 ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack. Developed in Denmark, it enjoys a large user base in Europe, mostly for commercial sites. Its adoption by churches has expanded that user base considerably. A large user base is an important factor when selecting a free CMS, because you want a product that will continue to be perfected; and also, the more users there are, the more readily you will find help online.
This author highly recommends Web-Empower Your Church as an Internet primer. It will stimulate your organization’s imagination and bolster its confidence to use the Web in ways it most likely had never before considered.