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    Best Practices! - Entries tagged "Content"

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    TueTuesdayDecDecember11th2012 Church Website Statistics...the British Version The website British Religion in Numbers (BRIN) compiled a survey of church website usage that was conducted by Sara Batts, a student at Loughborough University. The study reviewed churches and new media use. Much like over here in America, the results were predictable for someone like me who looks at church websites day in and day out.

    In her research, there were two key questions that Sara asked:
    • Are English churches establishing their own individual web presence, and then using online tools?
    • Is this having any influence on, or being influenced by, traditional hierarchies within church organisations?
    The table below represents the percentage of churches within a specific denomination that have a website. According to the source, research is being reviewed that will show the statistics over a full five year period. Clearly, some denominations seem to be moving at a quicker pace than others. It's surprising that within the Anglican denomination just 58% of churches had websites in 2010. I'd be interested to see if there is any correlation with an online presence and the attendance within denominations.

       Anglican Baptist  Catholic  Methodist 
     March-June 2009  40% 57% 37%  28% 
     December 2009  46% 67%  41%  39% 
     July 2010  48% 72%  53%  59% 
     December 2010  58% 84%  63%  61% 

    It's also interesting to note that two-thirds of chuches had a website as of December 2011. According to her poll, this is up from two-fifths in 2009. Additional research shows the content was not optimal on surveyed church websites.

    Some not-so-surprising statistics:
    • 63% were non-current in terms of content
    • 12% of sites were more than three months out of date
    • 5% didn't provide service times
    • 22% failed to provide a location map of where they worship
    • 35% contained information on weddings
    • 30% contained information about baptisms
    • 14% contained information about funerals
    • 8% had blogs
    • 16% had a link to a social media service
    At iMinistries, we've done our own research confirming many of the content pieces above that aren't getting updated are items that get viewed when someone visits a church website. From our studies, the most clicked types of content pulled from 3,744,009 unique pageviews are:
    1. Ministries (449,812)
    2. Events (313,268)
    3. Staff Pages (253,608)
    4. Sermons/Blog (248,428)
    5. News (223,988)
    Church website users want to know what's available for them at a church, when it's available, who's in charge, and what's happened already. Content is much more important than the time it's typically given to administer. Gone are the days of "brochure" style websites. Site visitors clearly expect more.

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    MonMondayOctOctober15th2012 Missional Church Websites: An Interview with JR Rozko
    byDavid Pohlmeier Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    At iMinistries, we've worked with churches of all types, denominations, and sizes, and we take pride that our system works well for everyone. Over the years, we’ve acquired expertise along the way as to what makes for a healthy online presence. But we want to be able to walk side-by-side with every denomination by giving valuable input and advice to help create a great website.

    Recently, missional churches (or missional communities) have been a hot topic in the Christian world. There is no doubt that their teachings and ethos could benefit any church, no matter the denomination. After talking with a few missional churches, we found the need to be better educated on this topic. We didn’t know what advice to give and don’t have experience to work from.

    So, an idea was hatched to interview pastors, authors, students, educators, and anyone we could find who has something to say about missional communities and how that community should represent itself online.

    (Please look at this as a resource and a tool to help improve your website. Not as a statement of what iMinistries believes or thinks a church should be.)

    Our first interview: JR Rozko

    JR has made a name for himself as a leader in the missional movement. Along with some time spent as a pastor, he is currently conducting doctoral research as a part of a cohort focused on Anabaptist Perspectives in Missional Ecclesiology through Fuller Theological Seminary’s D.Miss. program. He also serves as Director of Operations & Advancement for the Missio Alliance, an initiative that aims to provide a place for theological dialogue, training, and the creation of resources to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate present and future missional challenges. JR is part of the missional community Life on the Vine.


    iMin: What are some of the unique features of "missional churches" and how does this translate into the development and presentation of a website?

    JR: To my mind, what makes a church "missional" is three-fold.

    • First, and of primary importance, understanding God as, himself, a missionary. That is, that far from being a static being to relate to, God is a "fount of sending love."
    • This theological vision holds implications for a second mark of missional churches, a missionary understanding of the gospel. In other words, the Good News, for missional churches, isn't so much about facts to be believed, but about faithful participation in God's mission in the world.
    • These two characteristics result in a third unique characteristic of missional churches, an intense focus on equipping congregations for mission—discipleship in the truest sense of the word.

    In light of this, websites have value, but probably won't be a major locus of financial resources for missional churches. Development and presentation of missional church websites is often simple and minimalistic. The point isn't to present a compelling or overwhelming presence, but a clear and concise one.

    iMin: We agree with your assessment that there shouldn’t be an “overwhelming presence, but a clear and concise one.” This is excellent advice for all churches. Too often, church websites overwhelm the site visitor with unnecessary and too much content.

    iMin: What is the basic purpose of a "missional church" having a website? Why even have one?

    JR: First, inasmuch as missional churches assume a context in which people have no immediate resonance with Christianity or the Church, they place little stock in vying for the attention of people because of compelling advertising and programs. Their "evangelism strategy" is a community of disciples on mission together, not marketing or advertising, however creative. Thus, their websites exist to provide a point of reference, but not necessarily as a point of attraction. Second, missional churches seek to develop websites that will be helpful to their congregations or the sake of connecting and resources.

    iMin: You mention the site being helpful to the congregation and providing resources. What about the visitor who isn’t yet a part of the community? What sort of focus should the website take for communicating with those individuals? We study a lot of statistics and see that with most websites, 50% of the visitors are unique and 50% are returning. The assumption can be made that many of the unique visitors are individuals who are considering attending your church or being a part of the community.

    JR: For those who are “just checking the church out,” I think websites need to give a clear picture of what the Church is all about, but I mean this more in terms of how the community functions together than just their doctrinal statement or something of that sort. Those things are scrutinized by Christian “church-shoppers,” but unintelligible to those who lack a history or vocabulary for that sort of thing. It’s this second category of people that missional churches are mainly interested in.

    iMin: Are there some characteristics of mainstream church websites that you think work against a missional ethos?

    JR: Yes. Many mainstream churches continue to suppose that they inhabit a context in which Church involvement is a given or at least an important cultural good. In light of this, their websites take shape around a vision of being the "best in the business." They therefore come across as little more than vendors of religious goods and services as opposed to communities of missionary disciples.

    In addition, mainstream church websites often give much more space and attention to who the paid professionals are than the community itself. Again, this betrays a lingering allegiance to ways of operating that assume working in a Christian (as opposed to missionary) context.

    iMin: Many of the churches who use our system might take some offense to the statement that they are “vendors of religious goods and services.” Can you clarify what sort of content you see that depicts this?

    JR: In league with Jesus on this issue of who we (as the Church) orient ourselves toward and how we steward our resources. I’m OK with offending some people here or at least provoking a discussion. The issue isn’t content, the issue is mission. [Web]sites that posture themselves as being the best church around are targeting Christians plain and simple.

    “Going to church” is a concept that makes complete sense to those with Christian sentiments and no sense to those who don’t. Missional church websites may want to peak the curiosity of those who are not Christians with the use of content and media, but their driving assumption is that this is mainly a cross-cultural affair necessitating relational translation.

    To draw a fine point on what I am saying here, missional churches simply put little to no stock in the “marketing power” of websites for the purposes of reaching those who are far from Christ.

    iMin: As a resource to participants in a missional community, what should the website provide?

    JR: In this case, the things that are most important are:

    1. Opportunities for people to connect and collaborate
    2. Access to a calendar of events
    3. In-house resources that can contribute to spiritual growth and opportunities for ministry and mission.

    iMin: With the exception of #2, these resources seem to be more focused on individuals who are already “believers.” This seems like a very internalized approach to an idea that is, at its core, very external in nature. Do you have any comments on that?

    JR: Along with what I said above, while missional churches will want their website to provide some helpful information to those who may visit (who don’t have a Christian background), they acknowledge that advertising their programs and content just won’t mean that much. In fact, it may be more intimidating than anything else.

    Thus, I’d suggest that the usefulness of websites for missional churches is mainly an internal affair. To circle back around, missional churches are far more concerned about making relational connections with those who are far from Christ than they are with attracting those who get the Church/Christian thing. In other words, missional churches aren’t interested in outsourcing making connections with non-believers to a website.

    iMin: What are your thoughts on "missional churches" using social media/networking?

    JR: Social media and networking provide excellent opportunities for missional churches to enhance their life together. They can augment existing relationships and provide on ramps to new ones. The trick is not believing that these avenues of connection can ever replace the embodied, face-to-face connection that marks truly missional communities.

    iMin: Most will agree that social media should never replace face-to-face connections. This is the first time you mention something as an on ramp to new relationships. This relates to the previous question: Isn’t it possible for a website to be an on ramp to a new relationship?

    JR: Of course, but here’s the deal ... in a consumer-driven culture such as ours, as soon as you introduce a way for something to get done that seems to alleviate someone of their responsibility for that thing, you can bank on it happening.

    The quickest way to undercut the spiritual life and growth of a community is to provide ways for them to avoid taking ownership and responsibility of key practices. Case in point, it’s not that Christians can’t study the Bible on their own, but few take up that responsibility because we have provided so many ways to have this provided for us. In many cases, the best way to form people for mission is to make sure that they have no recourse to rely on external means to accomplish it. This is what makes it so tricky.

    As a quick example (easy one for a new dad!), if I want my daughter to learn to walk, I have to stop carrying her everywhere. This doesn’t mean I never carry her again, but it does mean that I take this option away until it takes on a new sort of significance ... until it truly becomes a supplement to what is normal and natural as opposed to a replacement for it.

    iMin: In general, do you see an online presence enhancing the community or detracting from it?

    JR: If done well, it can enhance the life and formation of community. The trick is not creating or allowing the opportunity for an online presence to take the place of the sort of connection and work that can only happen in the flesh. Reconciliation is a life-on-life issue that can't be experienced in its truest or fullest sense in a merely electronic forum.

    iMin: We can say with confidence that every church that partners with iMinistries uses its website to build a bridge that connects the individual with the church. In what ways have you seen churches replace a real “in the flesh” connection?

    JR: An extreme example are some attempts to create completely online/virtual congregations. A less extreme, but still problematic, example would be those churches who, instead of really giving themselves to the identification, equipping, and mobilization of leaders, put more stock in video venues, hologram imaging, and online/virtual resources that introduce a technological space would be better filled by a human presence.

    iMin: What story should a healthy online presence tell?

    JR: It should tell the story, good and bad, of a people on mission together. The presence and work that they have in a given community is of primary importance.

    iMin: Can you give some examples or stories of people on mission together? It can be general examples.

    JR: Many missional communities will incorporate a blog into their website where congregation members have the opportunity to share stories of God at work in their common and personal lives. Many of these same churches will offer a brief overview of their own history—how they came to be, what kinds of challenges and opportunities they have faced, and what sort of common mission they are seeking to journey into together.

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    MonMondayOctOctober8th2012 9 Questions to Ask Your Content Before You Publish [CHECKLIST]
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    Is your content "all it can be"? Before your content goes live, put it through Content Boot Camp, and ask yourself these nine questions.

    1. Does this help me achieve my content goals?

    You wouldn't map a journey before you knew where you were going. So, before you start adding website content, it's important to understand what you're trying to accomplish. Developing content goals and mapping them to your church and organization's overall goals will give your content focus and purpose.

    2. Does my headline convince users to read?

    Headlines must entice potential readers from your home page, landing pages, social media, and main blog pages with a promise of insight that's irresistible. Eighty-percent of people will read your headlines, but only 20% will read the rest of your content. So a strong content title is the key to strong content.

    3. Is this content as search engine friendly as it can be?

    Including common search keywords and phrases is vital for search engines to find your content. For example, if you're a church in the Chicagoland area, you might want to include "Chicagoland church" in as much of your content as possible (without making your writing awkward) to help seekers find your content in search results.

    4. Did I link to other content?

    Cross-linking to pages and articles on your website can help users navigate to other information easily, and gives them a gateway to all the other great content they might not otherwise know exists. Also, it shows search engines that your website is filled with useful content, gaining you credibility in their eyes.

    5. Does it use my voice?

    Your writing voice is not unlike your speaking voice in that it can greatly effect how another person feels and views you--if you are welcoming, friendly, personable, interesting ... or the opposite. So know your audience, and speak directly to them.

    6. Did I check for grammar and spelling errors?

    Don't just rely on Spellchecker to be your editor. Find one among your staff. Another pair of eyes will often catch things the writer overlooked.

    7. Is this content readable?

    You can make content easier to read and scan by utilizing sub-headlines, bullet points, boldface, and other text styles. "Chunk" your content into short paragraphs and sentences to make it less initially overwhelming.

    8. Did I include an image?

    Adding a visual dimension to your content will help your readers better connect with and digest what you're saying. People love images, especially photographs of other people.

    9. Is there a call to action?

    It's not enough just to write an article or post a blog entry--the whole purpose of church websites is that they are catalysts for action, inspiring readers to take the next step and be included in what you are doing. Include a specific call to action in each piece of website content to get your website visitors involved.

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    MonMondaySepSeptember24th2012 4 Megachurch Trends and How They Impact Church Websites
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    Online news magazine, The Christian Post, recently released a list of the latest trends for megachurches in America. Many of these trends affect the way these megachurches communicate—to potential attendees, to its own congregation, to its leaders, to the Lost—and ultimately what they need their church websites to do for them.

    Even if your church is not "mega", there are still lessons to be learned from these trends. Below are four megachurch trends and how they impact church websites (both for megachurches and non-megachurches).

    More Megachurches, More Attendees

    It should be no surprise that the number of megachurches has exploded in recent years (see chart). So has the consolidation of church attendance. According the The Christian Post, 10% of church goers attend a megachurch, even though they comprise less than one-half of one percent of all churches in America.


    If you're a Megachurch
    You tend to have more resources at your disposal—money, people, time. You should utilize these resources to produce amazing content. Like thought-provoking blog articles, powerful videos, and photos depicting church events. Your website should be a window to what's going on at your church. For non-members, who may be potential attendees, and members, who may be encouraged to participate in new ways.

    If you're not a Megachurch
    You tend to have less resources at your disposal—money, people, time. So you should concentrate on creating relevant content that you can sustain. This may simply be a pastor's blog or notes on this week's sermon or a up-to-date events calendar. Play to your strengths, do less, and do it well.

    More Youthful Church Leaders

    Churches are not as attached to denominations or the "pay your dues" mentality as they used to be, allowing for younger pastors to have more opportunities at leading their own church. There are 25 megachurch pastors between 30-37 years old, and many megachurches have young staff members in various ministries.


    If you're a Megachurch
    Your church probably has many young, tech savvy attendees, taking notes on their iPads or using Bible apps during sermons. You should get your pastor to engage your congregation through social media and his own, regularly updated blog. Maybe even try incorporating real-time social media interaction (like Instagram or Twitter) or texting during your services.

    If you're not a Megachurch
    If your church doesn't have many young, tech savvy attendees, you probably shouldn't devote resources to extensive social media engagement. Concentrate on keeping your website up-to-date with useful content.

    More Multi-Venue, Multi-Campus Churches

    Many megachurches meet in more than just one location. Even though they may share one vision, lead pastor, and central staff, these churches have multiple campuses (or venues), each with it's own unique congregation and characteristics.


    If you're a Megachurch
    You'll want to represent all your campuses on your website. Each one probably has its own demographics (young and urban vs. suburban families) and unique qualities—present these clearly to your potential visitors. Use calendars and ministry sections to highlight what's going on at each campus and speak directly to each audience.

    If you're not a Megachurch
    Good news, you only have to concentrate on one location. Make sure future visitors know where that is. Create a page that spells out where you are, how to get there, and ways to contact you.

    More Interest in Groups

    The Christian Post states, "As the church grows larger, it must intentionally move smaller as well." This can be seen in the popularity of small groups (life groups, home groups, Sunday School, etc.) as a way of personally connecting with a large congregation.


    If you're a Megachurch
    Your website can also be a place for sharing information to small groups. Curriculum, upcoming events, open group times and locations, these all can be housed on your website or shared through e-newsletters.

    If you're not a Megachurch
    Even though you aren't considered a megachurch, you may still utilize smaller groups for deeper congregational learning and growth. You may choose to use your church website to post teaching materials, schedules, and meeting times, as well, but only do so if you can keep it updated. Nothing looks more depressing on a church website than outdated content.

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    MonMondaySepSeptember17th2012 Using Content Strategy to Foster Collaboration
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    Churches are made up of many ministries with needs as diverse as the people they serve—and these needs extend to the church website. So how can these different ministries, with different needs, expect to work together on website content development? Content Strategy can go a long way in fostering an environment for collaboration. Here are three steps that can help you establish this collaborative environment.

    Content Strategy: What Are Your Content Goals?

    The process of determining your website's content goals can be collaborative in itself. Getting your ministry stakeholders working together early will ensure that your church website meets everyone's needs. Additionally, it will begin a foundation for future web collaboration.

    Get your ministries' representatives together and ask some questions to help decide these goals.

    • What do you want website visitors know about your ministry?
    • What actions do you want them to take after visiting your website?
    • What will make web visitors keep coming back?

    Some ministries within your church may answer these questions differently and have different content goals. Others may find common ground. Whatever the case, everyone will appreciate having their voice heard and will be open to future collaborative projects.

    Tactics: How Will You Achieve Your Goals?

    Now that you have established your content goals, you must decide how you'll accomplish them. Together, choose which strategies you'll employ to make your content successful.

    • How will you present your ministries to your users—audience-focused navigation and/or a landing page list [like this one]?
    • What types of media will you use to show your ministry at work—blogs, videos, news articles?
    • How will your home page introduce your ministries—links, banners, ads?

    Resources: Can You Share or Combine?

    Setting goals and determining tactics are great steps. But how will this content get created? Who will produce and maintain it? A blog is no use if it's no one is able to keep it updated. A monthly video series is unrealistic if staff or volunteers are not in supply.

    To help you create sustainable content, you'll need to assess your resources. Using those same web stakeholders, build a list of all possible content sources between you.

    Does Children's Ministry have a volunteer who works as a videographer? See if he's interested in creating videos for other ministries.

    Skills and Gifts
    Is your Women's Ministry leader passionate about writing? Maybe she can help your men's pastor create a blog and give him ideas for entries.

    Existing Content/Workflows
    Do your ministries create announcements for your weekly bulletin? Repurpose this content for your website.

    Anytime your ministries can share resources or work together, good things can happen—in ministry and with web content.

    How do You Foster Collaboration?

    Have you joined forces with other ministries to launch an exciting project? Hold a special service? Create awesome web content? Leave your stories in the comments.

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    MonMondayJulJuly30th2012 Summer Reading List for People Who Make Church Websites

    Summer is winding down, but it's not too late to add a few books to your reading list. If you build, maintain, or just plain love church websites, crack open these three books while you're on the beach, and use your vacation to fill up your inspiration-o-meter.

    Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

    Subtitled "A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability," Krug sheds light on how website visitors think (or don't think) and how you can help them navigate your site without getting lost or frustrated. This book is one of our favorites and has inspired us to re-think how our websites, home pages, and online forms should look and work.

    The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

    In this page-turner, Duhigg helps explain why people "Do What we Do In Life and in Business" by looking at the process of habit formulation. By understanding this process, marketers and website builders have learned how get people to buy their products and design intuitive navigation for their websites. If you've ever wanted to break a bad habit, start a new one, or help others do the same, this book is fascinating.


    Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content
    by Colleen Jones

    We've been reading Jones's excellent content-focus blog, Content Science, for some time now, so we've added her latest book to our summer reading list. In this book, Jones explains "the key principles of influence and how to apply them to web content ... that attracts people and engages them for the long haul." We can't wait to dig into this one.

    What About Your Reading List?

    What are your favorite books from this summer? Leave them in the comments.

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    MonMondayJulJuly16th2012 5 Steps to Crafting an "I'm New" Page on Your Church Website
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    “Faithful, gospel-shaped, loving” -- @ScotMcknight responding to "What's the most important thing a website should say about its church?"

    Many churches have reception areas for guests. They give newcomers gift bags or packets of information. Your church website should provide a section for potential new visitors, too. But instead of new Bibles and gospel tracts, your I'm New page should focus on converting your digital visitor into a physical one. Here are five steps to creating a page directed at possible guests.

    1. Welcome Your Guest

    "@iMinistries I have seen it on other church websites also - the personal video from the pastor is great. Other staffers would be nice too." -- Cindy Brown ‏@hiyacynthia responding to "What makes a great I'm New page?"

    The process of deciding on visiting a church (or making a new church your home) can largely be based on how it makes you feel. Your visitors should feel welcome and comfortable as they start discovering you on your website, long before they set foot in your building.

    A personal greeting from your senior pastor or other staff lets your new guests know you care about them. Videos are more impactful than written greetings.

    2. Introduce Yourself

    What do you believe? What do you value? What is your mission? Potential guests will want to know if your thinking aligns with theirs before they visit. Summarize your main values clearly and without compromise (one example is Harvest Bible Chapel's Four Pillars), and link to more detailed explanations of your doctrine and history to give users a picture of who you are.

    You'll also want to let people know when and where your services take place. Service times, a location address, map, and directions should be front-and-center so a user can visit you in person. A general explanation or brief list of your ministries can also be beneficial to guests.

    3. Set Expectations

    In a recent blog post, LifeWay CEO and former church consultant Tom Ranier explained what visitors look for the first time they visit a new church. Not surprisingly, most of these things are related to not knowing what to expect from a typical weekend service experience. Set the stage for your potential visitors by explaining what a Sunday at your church looks like.

    Start by answering these questions:

    • Where do I park? Are there special areas for guests, the disabled, elderly, or expectant mothers?
    • What do I do with my kids?
    • How should I dress?
    • Is worship contemporary or traditional?
    • Where should I sit in the worship center?

    4. Don't Over-Do It: Link to Your Church Website's Useful Information

    I’d include all the next steps kinds of stuff (services, contact info, links to beliefs, learn more, etc.) -- @ITCDave

    Don't overwhelm your users by trying to explain everything about your church on one page. Group your information in clearly defined sections. Summarize the most important information, then link to their respective pages for those who are interested in learning more. Not all users have the same priorities or needs, so let them select what they care to investigate further.

    5. Allow for Inquiries

    It's not always possible to preemptively address every question a visitor may have. And some people would rather talk to a real person than read text on a website. Your phone number and e-mail address should be visible so that anyone can easily contact you.

    Did we miss anything?

    What do you think makes a useful "I'm New" page? Leave your responses in the comments.

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    MonMondayJulJuly2nd2012 Seth Godin's Advice For Creating Church Website Content
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    Marketing guru and author Seth Godin has tons of insight into leadership, spreading ideas, and innovation. So what does he have to say about your church website content?

    Know Your Audience ... And Direct Your Content to Them

    In modern publishing, most authors pitch and write books to an audience of publishers and booksellers, not to the readers who consume them. Frustrated by this system, Godin started The Domino Project to give the power back to readers. He now helps produce books that talk about things readers are interested in.

    In the same way, your church website content should meet your visitors' needs, and without much effort on their part.

    Start with these three areas:

    1. Home Page: Prominently display links to the most important visitor information (Location, Directions, Contact, Beliefs).
    2. Navigation: Base your menu structure on how a visitor would think, not how your ministry is organized.
    3. User Testing and Analytics: Find out what people want and give it to them and in formats they prefer.

    Make Your Content Interactive and Sharable

    On his popular, ground-breaking blog, Godin rarely writes novel-length entries. Instead, he shares an idea in a few short paragraphs, often ending with a thought-provoking question to his readers. Many people pass along his blog entries to their friends or co-workers through Facebook and Twitter, extending his idea and adding their own to it.

    On your church website, your content should also inspire others to spread your message. Videos can be posted to Facebook. Important news can be tweeted. Controversial blog entries can be commented on and forwarded in e-mails. Creating content people want to talk about and respond to can make your ministry visible to people beyond your usual audience scope.

    What do you think?

    What content have you created that has expanded your reach? What kinds of content can you create in the future that will help you achieve this goal?

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