Newsletter January 23, 2016 Special Edition VOLUME 3, ISSUE 21
Website

It may be old news to many of you that New Hope UMC has launched a website. It is found at http://www.newhoperowesville.org. The site is currently viewable wherever you have online access. The site is mobile-friendly meaning it adapts to the particular device be it laptop computer, tablet or smart phone. For phones, the menus may look different because of the limited space available. The procedure to gain access is the same as for any other website. After you have typed in the address (starting with www) once, your computer, tablet or smart phone will probably remember it the next time.


Tour Continues

Menus with direct links.The two menu items on the right go to specific pages. Contact Us goes to a contact form. On this form are fields for your name, email address and the message. There is a drop down list of recipients which include Sandra, me and the Webmaster (also me). You can send a copy to yourself if you like. There is not an attachment option, so you would need to use your regular email for that.

The last menu is Books which shows a few books in a grid pattern that have been read and reviewed. Clicking on the book cover will take you to the detailed review. Eventually, we hope to add a library room in the fellowship hall and will have a separate section for that.

News flashes. Immediately below the menus is a group of rotating news items which scroll across the page. This is called a carousel and is only one way to do this. This particular method utilizes a series of graphic image files. I may experiment with other methods but wanted to show the basic idea of a rotating news feature - to call attention to the latest news in sort of a headline or flash approach. Currently this is showing on every page. This can also be limited to selected pages as it may become a little distracting. This carousel can also be moved to another part of the home page, say just above the footer.

To leave a menu, click on the back arrow or just click another menu. To go back to the homepage, click on "Home". This menu structure is very flexible. Menu items can be added or deleted or changed. There is virtually no limit except the need to keep it from becoming overly busy.

Welcome article and news articles. The welcome section utilizes an image rotator with a brief statement of the purpose of the site. These images can be changed out or added to easily. The statement text will also change as we get further along.

News articles. These are in a 3-column presentation and contain the featured items. Other articles can be placed in a menu or below the featured items. This lineup changes as more articles become current. Old articles can be archived or placed beneath the featured articles in a thumbnail fashion. These articles form the heartbeat of a website. There are numerous possibilities for presentation and making this part interesting to the viewer is a prime development objective.
Status

The website is already in the public space and has been for a couple of months. We have not put the word out and won't until we are further along. There is much work to be done as you will see as you go through it. What we have is a design concept, a menu structure and a few news articles. Some of the design features are still evolving and will be for a time. There is a Contact form (Contact Us menu item) that is available for comments or suggestions. It is ready to use now. By all means, please let us have your thoughts. If you have something you would like to see added, let me know and we will respond. What we have now works but it is basically a shell that needs a lot of filling out. But it's a start.


Broadband

You may have heard by now that the church is getting broadband. So what is it? Broadband is the technology that permits access to the Internet. Also known as wi-fi, it provides high speed access needed to support a website that includes graphics, photos and text; or maybe a bunch of sites being viewed at the same time. If you have an internet connection at home, you have broadband. The connection could be fiber optic, cable, DSL or satellite. If you go to a restaurant that offers wireless, you will also have broadband access. Your smart phone utilizes a slightly different technology and may not require broadband for internet access.

Broadband at the church (or actually in the fellowship hall) is not a factor in the New Hope website being available. What it does is to make development easier for us. To see the website from the church, we need broadband at the church. With it, we can view the site as a group. We have purchased a projector so that we can see it together on a screen (or whiteboard). We will be able to use broadband for other applications as well. For example, our Bible study course has an internet discussion forum that we can look at together. The projector can also be used for PowerPoint presentations for church business, etc.



How You Can Help

This newsletter is sent to our email list of subscribers so "the inner circle" if you will. You are the members and friends who have a special interest in New Hope and also happen to have an email address. This website is of course available to the general public but it is mostly for our members and friends, particularly in the early stages as we are building it together.

You may wish to begin by going through the website. Use the contact form to offer suggestions and comments. If you encounter broken links, be sure to report those.

Look at other sites. This could include any sites, of course, but it might be good to focus on church sites. Maybe your church has a good site. You can look at sites in the SC Conference by clicking here. In the Website column, there are links to churches with websites.
You will see some great ones and some poor ones. You will also get some errors where sites have been discontinued. We don't want to be a casualty. I looked at many of these as part of my homework. My two favorites are http://www.advent-umc.org/ and http://aumcsc.org/. Both are large churches with lots of stuff going on and have nice websites.

As you review, think about how this site can best serve a small church like ours. How it can help us with our Christian missions and discipleship. You wouldn't think of starting a business these days without a website. Remember we are still in our New Beginnings phase, basically starting over. So we are similar in ways to being a new church.

Through the efforts of Sandra and others we have evolved into a church with a homecoming activity of sorts. Old friends enjoy coming back to the place they grew up or one they have special feelings for. This has become something of a niche for New Hope. Our first book review, Unsolved, is by Beverly Spears, whose grandparents hail from Rowesville. She came back for several fellowship dinners. We need to celebrate our homecoming success and highlight it whenever possible.

We have established a relationship with Aldersgate and have developed a Food Bank program for the community. These are worthy and important missions that we have undertaken. These can grow for us over time. The website can help us stay focused and highlight our progress for everyone to see.


Church Websites


Websites for churches are commonplace nowadays especially larger ones. For small churches like ours, they are rare. That is not for lack of need as they can serve a useful purpose for any church, regardless of size. It is due mostly to a lack of in-house talent or a lack of resources or both. The expense is not so much in establishing web presence but more in the design, especially if you go outside to get it done. Designing a site is a daunting proposition with many decisions required and technology hoops to jump through. Ongoing maintenance is not particularly challenging. Updates and changes are usually made via a Content Management System and that function can be delegated and shared. We have a CMS in place and ready to go.

The main issue going forward is content - getting new content and keeping the site fresh. There are static sites and dynamic sites. Static sites give you basic information such as meeting times, church officers, etc, and don't change much day to day. They tend not to get many hits. Dynamic sites are changing daily or sometimes hourly and seem to always have fresh content: news, pictures, upcoming events even social networking. They get lots of traffic. This is the kind of site we should strive for. Getting the content published is not that big of a deal. Getting it ready in the first place is another matter entirely. That part is definitely a group effort.


A Quick Tour

Header. The very top of the site is called the header. It contains info to identify the church: a logo, the name and address and the next service. Clicking on the church address will link you to a Google map with directions to the church, even a nice picture of the church.

Main menu. Immediately below the header is the main menu, a horizontal grouping of tabs that link to other web pages. Menus are the basic means of navigating around a website. The first 5 menus are drop down. The last two menu items, Contact Us and Books, go directly to a form or page. The drop down menus contain other menus which may lead to a web page or even to another drop down menu. Going through these menus you can see that much of the content is incomplete. This will be a big part of our work going forward.


And Finally

Websites are mostly photos and text arranged in an attractive package, with an occasional link thrown in. Many sites fail to fulfill their initial purpose for various reasons. Often this is because they don't get enough involvement in producing the content, i.e., text and photos. Sometimes the site developer has to do most of the work and burns out. So we need all the help we can get. We don't have to become writers like Beverly but everyone has something to contribute in the way of news or inspiring words and thoughts.

We are a Christian church. Our mission is to serve God. Everything we do including this website should be directed to that purpose. One way we serve God is through being there for our members and our community. The website can help with that. A lot of Christian service depends on communication with each other. Staying in touch and staying focused. During our website development phase, let's think about and be aware of ways to do this better.

Thank you,
Art Whetstone