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Creating a Church Website is So Much More Than That..

As I create this new website for my church, I see what I have always seen in the 12 years I’ve been a corporate management consultant– a re-energized organization ready for change.  Ready for growth.  Ready with new and powerful ideas.  Sure, the first reaction can often be one of heel digging or foot-dragging (exactly as it is in the corporate environment).  But that is completely natural.  Change equals risk- both to the organization (which we all love so dearly) and to each of us personally.  Each person, though their hearts are pure and their motives, clean, must wonder, “Are we changing because everyone thinks I’m incompetent?  Will this change marginalize me?  Will I still be needed?  Will this require more time & effort than I want to give?   Will this hurt me somehow?”  Being a church doesn’t negate the human dynamic concerning change!

Another interesting aspect of implementing a computer system (a website, in this case) for a church is that a church doesn’t seem to have knowledge about business process re-engineering.  While expected and quite standard in the corporate arena, it is a novel concept to churches- especially smaller ones.  Like small businesses everywhere, churches rarely have the financial means to hire management consultants and have grown out of  sheer passion & a willingness to get the job done.   Introducing the idea of business process re-engineering as a concurrent process with the creation of a website is not an easy task for the website designer/management consultant.  The pastor and the main staff must be introduced to the benefits of such a process.  The website designer needs to educate the staff on what business process re-engineering is and what its massive benefits can be.  This is a step that is normally not needed in the corporate world.  But it must be done if the website is to be truly beneficial to a church.

The key is to show how the change actually fulfills each person’s dreams & aspirations for their area of work.  Once people see the value of the change, people can experience a euphoric sense of freedom- a moment in time when they, alone, can powerfully affect the organization for years to come.  Ideas that have been rolling around in their minds & hearts will have their moment in the open air- full of hope & opportunity to become!

That, my friends, is when magical things happen.  When church people get together of like mind and desire to work together toward the same goal, well, you better watch out!  And all because a new website is being developed!

One might wonder what one thing has to do with the other.  How could building a website create such energy?  Catalyze such ideas & progress?  Any good management consultant can tell you that:  because a good computer system should reflect, not what you have always done, but what you DREAM of doing for your organization.  Why spend money, time & sweat to implement an old process that either didn’t work or that you never liked?  The very question any website designer must ask, “So, tell me what you do,” ignites the flame of imagination.  Many times, people can’t answer that question without a laugh, smile or sometimes, confusion- even if, no, I should say, because they have worked there so long!  They know exactly what is done well and what needs help!  And if these people care about what they do (and there is no one who cares more about their work than church volunteers!), they have a ton of ideas, frustrations- which lead to ideas- and opinions about how things should be done.  The dominoes of change have already begun to fall!

On top of this release of pent-up ideas, energy and excitement is the introduction of new technology.  Every time a new website or computer system is designed, one will find great new applications that can be used to support the kinds of processes every organization needs.  One example, for small organizations, is the advent of free web hosting services like WordPress.  Another is my very favorite movement in the world-  the advent of widgets:  lovely little bits of functionality that a person can just plug-in without any additional programming.  The interconnectedness of social media opens the doorways to better communication, easier logistics (comment in Facebook and automatically comment on Twitter & WordPress.) and ultimately, better revenue generation.   Technology adds combustible fuel to the fire already going!

While this every interconnectedness can lead the unwise into personal ruin, if used correctly, it can become the focal point for small organizations (like churches) to truly morph into a greater, more beautiful version of itself.  And the design process of that website, if done correctly, can lead to a re-engineered organization that will be ready to take on the challenges of the growth the new website will surely inspire.

It is a spiralling upward process- if done right!

If done wrong, it can lead to frustrated staff that will never want to undergo the process again.  The key is obtaining committed executive (in my case, pastoral) buy-in.  If the boss in not 100% jazzed and bought into the process behind the scenes of the new website design, don’t do it.  It will fail.  His or her leadership & vision is everything.

The second key is to have the correct people or person to do the web design.  They should have experience in business process re-engineering, website design and be project oriented.  This is a person who loves a short-term goal and will stop at nothing until it is completed.  They should also be able to work with any skill set of the staff.  The designer(s) need not be experts at the inner workings of the organization- they need to be experts in asking in right questions.  If you do not have a strong person or company  with these skill sets,  don’t do it!  It will fail.  Better to wait until you can afford someone.  There is nothing worse than disappointing the entire organization (especially a church!)  after they have put hours into the design process.

Personally,  I find that developing a new computer system for a church to be the most refreshing of experiences!  Here is a group of people who really care.  And guess what?  They truly hate friction between each other!  When the inevitable bumps come, they wish for peace.  They wish for the success of the church more than they care about themselves.  And how nice is that?  The best part:  they know they must answer for their actions to the Ultimate King.  What an incentive to do what is right!  Truly a unique situation for a management consultant.   The hope, goodwill and general desire to work together is something a corporate management consultant rarely sees in his/her work.  This consultant highly recommends the experience to consultants everywhere- go volunteer at your church and make a difference for once!

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