This is a 30-minute webinar led by Andrew and Michael going over tools to help with online ministry.
*Note that the Remote Ministry section previously found in the Learning Center is now here on Zendesk Guide.
For this moment that we're living into, this moment where out of an abundance of caution medical professionals, our leaders are encouraging us to limit social gatherings in the hopes that we can decrease the spread of the Coronavirus to those most vulnerable in our communities. For the coming weeks and months, most of us will need to begin to flex some new technical muscles. Our plan is to offer some recommendations today on changes you might want to consider making on your church or organization's website homepage, we're going to be lifting up a collection of unique features, plugins that we've created specifically for websites that are on the Worship Times network that you can easily integrate, live streaming features, and online giving. But we also welcome all guests that are joining us today and hope that this conversation and these tips are helpful during this unique time in the life of the church, and really the world.
I'm going to start with some recommendations on how you might consider optimizing just the layout of your homepage. And after I'm done with this moment, I'll be handing the presentation off to Michael Gyura, who's our president and founder, to feature some of the unique tools and plugins that we think you might want to take advantage of.
The first thing that I really recommend on your homepage is to give a brief description of what's happening. That sounds so simplistic, but we cannot assume that when someone lands on your website, that they know what the plan is, what's happening. And so give a brief description of what's happening. This could be a short synopsis pulled from possibly a letter your pastors have sent out, or your elder or deacon board. Don't assume that members or guests that visit your website have really any idea of what the plan is. They may not be on your mailing list. They may not check their email more than once a month. And so it's important that you offer just that brief description of what's currently happening in the church. What's the plan and how are we responding?
The second tip is to provide what the plan really is, provide a basic plan of what you're sticking to in the coming days and weeks. Obviously these moments are fluid. Things are changing, but this space can really be a dedicated location where through email, through social media, on the phone, you encourage folks to visit for whatever the current plan is. That way it becomes something they expect, they depend on, and they know where to go to get that information.
The next tip is contact information. Roles are changing. What people's responsibilities might have been two weeks ago could be dramatically different now. And so it's important for you to really highlight and outline who do they need to reach out to for what. There might be a particular pastor or elder or someone from the deacon board that's take on a leading role with pastoral care concerns. There might be someone who's now kind of coordinating the kind of worship planning, since worship planning has taken on a whole new meaning. Educational opportunities. You might now have a new team that's kind of formed around thinking through what are going to be the different ways that we offer opportunities for Bible study, book studies through digital forums. And so you're going to want to clearly list if somebody wants to help out has questions about those offerings, who do they need to reach out to?
The next element is to cross-link critical tools and resources. A lot of wonderful information that you're still wanting participants to engage with is possibly buried at deeper levels of your website. It's time to bring all of that to the surface. I'm not saying add unique links to every single tool, but possibly have top level links that you can direct folks to. So you might have a area called worship and under worship is where folks can access sermon audio video. You might want to add direct links to those options at the very top of the homepage so folks can easily find them.
Another item is access to real-time updates. Every church, every organization is going to have their own plan as to where do they put kind of the latest updates announcements. And it could be blog posts that you use. It could be social media. Whatever those tools are, you're going to want to highlight and feature those right on the homepage. So it's the first thing people see. If your plan is to primarily use your Facebook page to post updates, to stream whatever events you might be offering, live worship services, you're going to want to feature that right on the homepage. If it's email, if that's going to be the primary way that you're going to be communicating what's happening in the life of the church, have a way that folks can subscribe to your mailing list on the homepage. A lot of tools like Constant Contact and MailChimp allow you to feature archives of recent e-blasts you've sent out. We want to get that onto the homepage, any of that information, which is so critical in these moments. If you have a text messaging system that you utilize, offer instructions about how folks can sign up for those updates on the homepage.
It's all about creating kind of a one-stop shop where folks can easily and quickly find out about what's happening. What's the plan, who can I reach out to if I have questions or concerns. And there's a lot of information, wonderful information, that was really relevant two or three weeks ago, that in this moment is not. Driving directions to your church, the cute little Google maps tool that helps you click in and get directions. That's not as relevant right now. And so that can be hidden temporarily. It can be pushed down. So those are the types of things that you really want to consider and think about as you're making adjustments to using your website in the best way as possible.
What I would offer as a final thought is consistency. Come up with one plan for how you're going to communicate these opportunities and stick with it. So sending out multiple things in multiple places really just causes more confusion and having one dedicated location and plan for how you're going to communicate the opportunities to still engage in community is critical.
I'm going to hand things off to Michael and he's going to offer some more detail around some of the tools we have for Worship Times users.
These tools are available to all Worship Times customers now. What I'm going to do is just kind of walk through some of the new integrations that we've had, and give you places to go to learn. What we're doing is every day we're building new tools to integrate with different ways to communicate with your people remotely, and then we're going to be putting the training resources in the Remote Ministry section. Also feel free to reach out to us via your support ticketing system.
Most of what you're going to do with these live streaming and online donations is going to require that you create a new page. A lot of times, if you try to embed this on your homepage, it may not work as well. What we have been recommending people do is, on your homepage, put your message and then put a link to whatever it is you want to do there. Then you can create landing pages where you send people directly to that individual page.
For all of these tools, you're going to find them under the Add Media button located on any editing screen that has a text editor. We've got tools here for Tithe.ly; Vanco; PayPal; sermon.net; [Zoom is no longer possible]; Ustream /IBM; YouTube; Facebook Live; and Vimeo.
I've tried repeatedly to add Facebook Live to the homepage without any luck. What am I doing wrong?
For Facebook Live, what I would do is create a separate page. I would call it live streaming worship or worship in real time or whatever unique name you want to give it and put your live feed there. And then on your homepage, you can create a button or a link or a navigation menu item. Actually, I would probably do both. I would do a unique new navigation top level menu, and then have a little text block with a little blurb of what Andrew was talking about and then links there and where people can get to different resources.
Any plans to do something similar for Google Hangout meetings?
We haven't, but I will definitely put that on the list. Yeah. I'm curious about how that would work, but I bet your Google Hangout meetings would be fairly easy to integrate with. That's not on my radar, but I will definitely throw it over to the devs and see what we can do with that.
I've been trying to post a message about the Coronavirus on our homepage. Where would I post it without deleting our main message?
Every situation's unique, but this is really kind of front and center and what people are looking for. I mean, a lot of people now, I mean, we're all aware of what's going on. So when they're coming to your website, I would say, it's okay to kind of push your normal messages down. I wouldn't necessarily delete them, but I would put your special message above the fold as the first thing that people see. So rather than getting rid of your main message, I would just add to it and maybe put a paragraph above that.
I tried to add a video widget to the homepage. And it wouldn't process when I pushed the button to add it.
For individual questions like this, I'd say, let's definitely reach out to us via your support ticketing system. I guess there's a few things that could be going on that we'd want to take a look at, but wouldn't be able to do right now.
What if we don't have all the options to Add Media on our site? I see a lot of other choices, but not YouTube or Facebook.
If you're not seeing those options, they should be pushed to your site, go ahead and submit a support ticket. So we can take a look at that, but everything should be there right now. I guess my only thought was that browser cache just needs to be cleared because it's not pulling in, but we can take a look at that individually.
We just learned yesterday that YouTube won't let you use mobile devices unless you have a thousand followers.
Well, that is just unfortunate. I had no idea about that. Okay, well, that maybe puts Facebook back in the running. Thank you for letting us know about that. I was unaware that you had a thousand followers to do mobile and that actually brings up a good case or good point. I wouldn't necessarily use an iPhone or a mobile phone to live stream. There's a lot of processing power that needs to happen with these feeds and the quality on a phone is, I mean, it's pretty impressive what they can do, but for something like this, I would want the best quality that I could have. So what I would do is use a laptop or a desktop, if possible, hardwired in, because I mean, that's a lot of data being transferred. And Wifi, depending upon what your structure is like inside your church, could get kind of grainy, but I would get just order a nice little webcam on Amazon, they're not too expensive. You could probably get one for under a hundred bucks, and do it that way, because a computer again, depending upon what your computer is. But if it's fairly new and fairly powerful, it's going to do a much better job of processing that live video then a mobile phone would.
In order to stream Facebook Live, do people have to have a Facebook account or like their Facebook account?
So, the one thing you have to know about Facebook Live is that the feed needs to be open to everybody. You can't just have it restricted to your page. I mean you can, but it won't allow you to embed it on your website. So, when you open up your feed, you need to make sure that it's publicly available to everybody. So if you're trying to do something in a closed group or you have it set to just your followers, it's not going to be able to stream on your website. You do need to create a Facebook account to stream from Facebook. You don't need a Facebook account to watch a stream.
So it's public and it's on your website. Anybody can come to your site, whether they're signed into Facebook or not, or whether they have a Facebook account or not. So they don't need that. But to stream from Facebook, they are going to require that you have a Facebook account and a Facebook page for your church that you're streaming from.
For worship videos, is it best to embed on a post or a page or use the publications?
This is a really great question. Don't use the publications. Publications are great for videos that you want to have that are pre-recorded. If you're trying to embed a live feed, I would use a page because we want that page to become a landing space for people to find on Google directly, or that you can link to from your homepage.
The way posts work with WordPress is they're meant for things that are going to have a time limit to it. Because of the situation, we don't know how long we're going to be in this situation, I would use a page as opposed to a post. I'd love to say this is going to be all over next week and everything's going to be great, so go ahead and use a post because it's only going to matter for this Sunday, but unfortunately that's not the case. So just because there's an unknown amount of time that we're all going to have to be doing things remotely, I would make it a mainstay page linked to from the homepage.
I want to double-check on the reason you said why it's not a good idea to put your live streaming video on the homepage and a button instead?
Because 99% of the time that live feed is going to be dead, unless you're doing something like what the International Space Station is doing where they're live streaming 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You're only going to be streaming during your worship service. So for the other hours of the week, it's just going to be a black box or some sort of error message, not necessarily what you want to have right on your homepage. So if you do a link to a secondary page, you can treat that as a landing page. And even if you wanted to put some Google ad words behind it, you could really promote just that to get people from your community to join you remotely and get some individual traction on that. And then, two, just so you don't have a dead space on your homepage where it's not needed for other important information.
Does live video gets stored on your site, or is it better in a remote place such as Amazon S3?
That's a really great question.
When you're streaming from a service, and this is why we utilize services, your video lives on their service. If you're streaming from YouTube or Facebook, it's actually coming from Facebook or YouTube's servers. All the website is, is a portal. Think of it just like a window into whatever service you're using. It doesn't increase your storage amount. You don't have access to the file unless they give you the option to download it. And you're just basically giving a portal to that. If it's important to you to have that actual video file, make sure the service allows for downloading. I know like at Ustream, some of their accounts do, and then you can download it. And then definitely, yeah, with just large as that file is, you certainly don't want to put that downloaded file on your web server because that could slow things down, especially when you add a lot to it. I would put that on something like Amazon S3 or another third-party service for archiving that's meant for that purpose.
The live streamed video does not slow down your site browsing, again, because all the website is, is a portal for that. And so all of our other content that has been delivered from our servers and our content delivery networks load first and load independently of this one feed, and that feed then is pulling from whatever service you're using. So you shouldn't see any speed issues. Now, people with poor internet, or if you're streaming from a poor internet connection, that video feed can be laggy. But unfortunately there's nothing we can do about that on our end, because it's not our services. If you're seeing that your feed is glitchy and lagging, the first place to look is your hardware. You definitely want to make sure you're on a decent computer with good processing power and a decent web cam. And what's unique is generally when you look at internet services, you're focused on the download speed. In this case what's very important here is the upload speed. Even if you're pulling 300 MB download, but you've only got 2 upload, that's what your live feed is going to be based on, so you may want to look at temporarily increasing your internet speed. The other thing to look for is your hardware for your router and modem and networking. That's old equipment. That's certainly not going to be able to handle the bandwidth needed to upload a video.
When should we create a link on the homepage to another new page, which will contain Coronavirus information?
I would do that as soon as possible. even if the section on your homepage is just an acknowledgement of what's going on. What that does is it shows your visitor that you're on top of this, and this is a website that they can go to, that they can trust for information. If they go to your site right now, and there's absolutely nothing, you're still advertising past events or whatnot, it's going to show, okay, they're not utilizing online technologies right now, and they're going to probably go and look for a different offering. I think it's important to go ahead and get that information up as soon as possible. Even if you don't have all of the links, you can even just have a little text just saying, please check back here for more information, or, we'll be adding information here. We're doing the same with our website. We've created a secondary page where we're putting links to all of our resources. And as soon as we're done building those, we're going to put a little message and link on our homepage for that. But we really should have that done now. And we don't. So don't follow my example, just do as I say. But we're working on that. I think it's very important.
We are planning to pre-tape our worship then create a watch party for Sunday morning on Facebook. Is this a good idea?
Yeah, I think that's a great idea. The nice thing about a pre-tape is you kind of rule out those bugs ahead of time. I mean, there's something neat and raw and exciting about being a part of a live event, especially if you're allowing participants to interact. If you're using something like Zoom where people can post comments like this, or even if you unmute microphones and people can talk, there's something neat about that kind of connection. But if this is really just where it's a sit-in preview - worship, pray with us, participate on your own - then yeah, prerecording will certainly help eliminate any bugs. And then what I would even do with that is create a YouTube channel and then post it to that YouTube channel and then use the YouTube video integration to bring that in because YouTube is a huge place optimized for search engines, so that worship service will have a high probability of being ranked high on a Google search in your area, which then could lead to your website. You even have the potential to grab new members during this time of kind of uncertainty.
How do we create a link on the homepage to another new page, which will contain the coronavirus information and video links?
Lots of ways to do that. I would encourage you to go ahead and submit a support ticket so we can look at your individual site, and we can come up with the best plan of action for you.
If you use a YouTube channel, do you have to add each video link still? If you're embedding individual videos?
If you create a YouTube channel and you embed individual videos, I would do embeds for each individual video. YouTube also allows you, when you create a channel, to have a landing page on YouTube with a list of all of the videos that you have. So if it's something that you're updating very often, and you're constantly creating new videos and you really don't, frankly just don't want to update a link on your homepage every time you make a new video, or embed a new video, just put a link to your channel and then make sure it opens up in a new tab. And that way, then people can see what you've done without you having to update your homepage every time. For best use, I mean, it's really up to you. I can't say there's one way that would be better over the other, it just depends on your individual needs.
What is the best way to receive prayer requests during our live stream, so we can include them in our time of prayer?
That's a great question. What I would do is on that same page where you use the little short code generator to drop in whatever feed you're doing (with the exception of Zoom, because Zoom takes over the entire screen), I would put a form just right beneath it. If you already have a prayer request form, you can put that right beneath your video feed and just have people submit their prayer requests there. Again, if you need help creating that, by all means, reach out to us and we will most certainly help you get that on. The other thing that I've seen some people do is they can turn on comments on that page or post where the video is at. So you could just enable the comment section, and people can write comments that way. The nice thing about the prayer request though, is then you get an email copy of it, and there's a big archive in the entry section. These are great questions. Thank you so much for being interactive here.
How does YouTube compare with Vimeo?
What we use Vimeo in our business for is all of our learning center and anything that we put on our website. One, we use it because we can pay to have no ads. I don't want to have a business or a ministry where I am having a video of my worship service and then some completely irrelevant ad comes up. Like, I mean, lately I've been doing research on motorcycles, so every YouTube thing I look up, I've got Harley Davidson right across the bottom. And that's just very distracting. So I like to use Vimeo for stuff that I'm going to embed because I can pay to have no ads.
What's amazing about YouTube, though, is just the sheer amount of people that are on it and are looking through it. And the way Google loves to rank YouTube videos. What I would do is I would create both; I would have a YouTube account and a channel, and I would have a Vimeo account and a channel. And what I would do is, if I'm going to embed onto my website, I would use Vimeo. But then I would also put the video on YouTube just for search engine optimization, so people can find you and get to you.
If you're not a Worship Times member and you have some questions, go ahead and use our contact form on our website. Or if you have questions about joining our service, we're more than happy to do that.
Andrew, I am going to turn it back over to you.
Thank you all so much for being here today. I hope that these conversations help; I know a lot of these conversations have been happening. They've been happening in my own church, as we've been trying to think through how we can begin to continue to engage in new ways that still pay attention to the needs and the concerns of our community, but also look for ways to continue to grow together in these moments. And so I just hope that this was helpful. Michael outlined how these tools will be available. You can share this video with others on your team and just know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. And please let us know how we can continue to support your digital ministry in this moment, but also moving forward. Thank you so much and hope you all have a wonderful rest of the day. God bless.