Getting Started #2 – Updating Your Church Website

The second resolution from my post “5 Church Communications Resolutions for 2018,” was “Get around to updating your website, or finally get one.” Updating your church’s website and starting from scratch are two very different things. However, you may find that, in the process of updating your site, you decide that it might be better to start over. Since there is a lot going on here, I am going to split this post into multiple parts. Let’s get started.

Why Is It So Hard to Get Started?

crushed-by-question_MJMFOhAuI know a lot of pastors, lay leaders, and volunteers who know their church’s website needs help. But often they are stuck and can’t seem to get started. It can be challenging to figure out that first step.

In the case of updating a church website, you may be able to skip some of these steps. Just skip the parts you don’t need and get started.

Step One – Decide

If you read this whole series, you will see that this step is repeated for every resolution. Until you decide to get at it, this will remain a thing on your list of things to get to.

Step Two – Get Access

The thing that keeps countless church websites looking outdated and abandoned is the fact that the people ready to update them can’t access them. There are some different ways this might happen. I can’t possibly cover every situation and every solution. I hope these might get you started.

Scenario 1

The person who used to care for the website has left for one reason or another and forgot to leave the password.

This scenario assumes you know some things about your website. Maybe you know that it was built with WordPress, Squarespace, Clover, ShareFaith, or one of many other providers. However, you don’t know the password or how even to log on.

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WordPress login page

Some things to try:

Many website platforms provide a login page that is accessible by adding /login to the end of your website address, like this:

www.mywebsite.com/login

Other times, you can log in from the provider’s website. Squarespace, Weebly, and others have a login button on their homepages.

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Logging into a site at Weebly.com
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Lost password option on WordPress

If you still have access to the email account of the person who held the password, you can usually just enter that email address, and the provider will send you a message with password reset instructions.

If you don’t have access to their email account, or you can’t find a login page, things are a little more difficult. It may be as simple as calling the user and asking their help. They can give you the password or forward you the password reset instruction email. If that doesn’t work, you can try contacting the provider via phone, email, or a contact form on their website. If none of this works, skip down to “I still can’t get access.”

Scenario 2

No one knows. During transitions, often things just get lost.

I have spoken with churches that have a website, and no one in the organization has any idea who created it or how to access it.

Some things to try:

Look for clues on the page – Often, somewhere on the website, the name or logo of the provider is shown. Sometimes you really have to look for it. Often, it is at the very bottom of the page. Sometimes the provider even has a link to their homepage.

YourChurch_United_Methodist_Church

 

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Accessing the source code using Chrome.

Look for clues in the code – If you haven’t spent much time dealing with websites, this may feel scary. I promise you, there is no way to break your website or anyone else’s doing this. You can usually discover some information about a website’s platform by viewing the HTML code of the site. Just go to your website and view the source code. In Google Chrome, it is accessible from the “View” dropdown. Just select “Developer” and then “View Source.”

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Clues in the HTML show this to be a SquareSpace website.

Scenario 3

The person who keeps the website updated has, for one reason or another, refused to update it and/or refuses to offer access.

Sometimes this person is upset about something. Sometimes they are too busy. Sometimes they are quite attached to the website in its current form and don’t want it to change.

This is the hardest scenario because it involves people, not tech. The best option here is difficult, and not always possible – just having a face to face conversation with the person can often resolve the issue. Sometimes these are difficult and painful conversations but difficult conversations are a part of our lives as disciples.

If that doesn’t work, you can try some of the options in scenarios one and two.

I Still Can’t Get Access

access-denied_GJow9BvOIf none of the options above worked, you are likely running out of luck. The bad news is, you are going to need a new website platform and provider. The good news is that there are some great options out there that aren’t expensive and allow you to get up and running fast. I will be discussing some options in an upcoming post. In case you can’t wait, my two favorites are SquareSpace and Weebly. (See my post: “Going All In on SquareSpace and Weebly.“)

Can I Keep My Website Address?

In some cases starting over means ditching your church’s current website address and finding a new one. However, that is not always the case. In most cases, the website and the domain registration are hosted by different companies. Even though you might not have access to the website, you may find that you can access your domain records. This will allow you to redirect traffic that comes to your web address to your shiny new website. If you have reached this point and need some help figuring this out, just reach out and let me know.

Next?

If you already have access to your site or, this post helped you get it, next you will need to figure out how your site works and how to update it. I will address that in the next post.

If this post didn’t quite cover your situation or you need more help, leave me a note in the comments.

This post continues my pledge to help churches take some first steps in living out the resolutions I listed in my post, “Five Communications Resolutions for 2018.” You can read about what inspired the post in “The One Reason Nothing Comes Out of Those New Year’s Resolutions.”

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