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You Can Have a Free Website That's Easy AND Useful

This post is part of a series on Using Technology to Further Relationships in Youth Ministry.

There are plenty of reasons to have a website for your church youth ministry. But I'll sum it all up with one single reason: communication. This is something I'm always coming back around to; how can I better communicate to youth, parents, volunteers, average church members, those outside the church... If you've got a message that's worth telling, you need to say it in ways that can be heard (and the message of the church is definitely worth telling).

Just this past week I met a new family who visited the church and our youth Sunday school for the first time because they had gotten a taste of the ministry through the church website and the youth page. Often a website is the first impression for your ministry.

Let's face it; your ministry should have a website. And a blog is an ideal solution for your youth ministry.

Use A Blog!
First of all, a blog (short for "web log") is just a specific type of website that is a collection of individual articles that are usually stored and displayed chronologically, much like an online journal. Here's a short video explanation:

Here are some of the reasons a blog is an ideal web presence for most youth ministries:
  • It's easy. Blogs are simple to update and websites HAVE to be updated. (Side note: If I pull up a website that was last updated before the current president was in office, I'm probably gone pretty fast. If a website is updated consistently, at least once every two weeks or even once or twice a week, it creates trust. People feel they can trust that as a source of communication. And if people can't trust it, they'll tune it out.) If you can send an email, you can use Blogger. Click "New Post," type in your content, and click "Publish" or "Save". If a tool is easy to use, people are more likely to use it.
  • Comments The social aspect of blogs, through the comments, is a simple point of interaction. Create conversations to follow-up on group Bible studies, poll your students, brainstorm ideas, allow people to share stories from recent trips or events...
  • Subscriptions For years the Internet has been about "come to me." And, like almost any website, blogs are still set-up to meet that need, but they are also ideal if you want the information to go to the people. There are two simple ways to make this work for you:
    1. Setup email subscriptions through Feedburner or FeedBlitz or other service and each time the site is updated, people will receive an email of the updated content.
    2. Blogs are primed for RSS. Not everybody uses RSS, but it's such a help for people who do utilize it to keep up with websites they're interested in keeping up with. Here's the best three-and-a-half minute explanation I could give about RSS:
  • Share the Work You can give multiple people access to update the website. You don't have to shoulder the load alone if you've got a team of people (or even just one other person) who would help keep up the website.
  • Again, it's all about communication. A blog allows you to keep people informed and connected to so many aspects of your church's youth ministry. How?
    • Got an event coming up? Give the basic "Who, What, When, Where" info.
    • Just got back from a trip? Share the experience by posting some pictures or a short video.
    • Planning a new Bible study series or new teaching theme? Tease it with some of the artwork or a summary. Or follow up your lessons with some discussion questions to help parents reinforce the learning at home.
    • If you want to be super helpful, include a staff picture and basic contact information such as an email address or phone number. (Plus, we'll talk more about how to put a calendar on your website in a later post in this series.)

Getting Started
There are lots of blogging services out there, many of which are absolutely free. Some of the more popular ones seem to be Blogger, Wordpress, and Typepad. (I use Blogger.)

With Blogger it's easy to get started by following their simple 1-2-3 step process. It's easy to customize the look and feel of your blog. Blogger provides several free templates, plus there are tons of free templates floating around out there on the Internet. Not only that, but Blogger gives you complete control over the CSS & HTML for the site, so you can play around with the look and feel of the site if you know how to (or if you've got a volunteer who gets into that kind of thing).

Hopefully you recognize the importance of your youth ministry having a presence on the web. Maybe you've shied away from it before because of fear or confusion, thinking it's something that's too complicated or too much work or just didn't fit into your ministry budget. But now you can see that by using a blog, you can have a free website that's easy and useful.

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