Web Thinking

Posting has been light due to the usual excuses—too many commitments, too little time. One of the current commitments is my appointment to the Communications Committee of our parish. The first order of business is quite clear: build an effective web page and get our Facebook presence to where it ought to be!

As a result, I’ve been thinking a bit about church websites. I find myself in what I believe to be a fairly typical situation. I’m a volunteer with some good technical knowledge but with a limited amount of time, no budget, and the clear sense that someone other than me (or perhaps in addition to me) will be needed to enter material into the site. Furthermore, related to cost constraints, the site is being hosted by the diocese. Inquiries to the web guy at the diocese concerning the space we’re allowed and whether there is any MySQL support have not been answered. So here’s where we are:

  • There is a space for us on a server (bonus!).
  • It’s safest to assume no MySQL support (bummer). This means that the usual content management systems (CMS) apps like Drupal or Joomla are not an option.
  • Since the server is running at least PHP5, there is native SQLite support which means that I can use a light-weight database (bonus!). I don’t think I’ll try a custom CMS just based on time and possible server demands, but if there are some basic dbase uses, I can leverage it.
  • Diocesan support seems limited: I asked about a set of recommendations or best-practices from the guy at the offices and, again, no response (bummer).
  • I know some great folks who’ve been through this exercise before (bonus!)—if the diocese can’t come up with or circulate a set of best practices, maybe we can.

Anybody have some thoughts they want to kick out, sites to link to or other suggestions?


5 thoughts on “Web Thinking

  1. Nick Knisely

    For what it’s worth Derek, I’d beg for the money to get a server that could support Drupal or Joomla. It’s been eye-opening to me here at the Cathedral to see how much better engaged the staff is with the site now that they all have editing privileges, and how useful it is to have access to the large library of plug-ins that comes with using a popular CMS. Free is not always the best option. I know this from hard won experience.

    If you’re thinking of making it a site that’s regularly updated, go that route. If you’re planning on a brochure site, you can probably get away with a dozen or so static pages.

  2. Vicki McGrath


    A question about the parish’s Facebook page: How have you set it up? currently the one here is a page off my profile, which works reasonably well, but there doesn’t seem to be any way for me (as administrator) to share a FB link to it. The link will show up on my personla FB profile, but not the parish FB page. ay suggestions?


    Vicki McGrath

  3. Derek Olsen


    I didn’t set ours up and I haven’t had a chance to explore it yet so I couldn’t say… The functionality that I like is the ability to invite people to events; one of our area parishes uses that to great effect in publicizing its Holy Day services and I’d like to do that for our events as well.


    Thanks for the advice. I gave a call to the folks at the diocese and once I made contact, the official web person was very helpful. We *do* have a database instance and they’ve just loaded on Typo3. I’ve never used it, but I imagine it’s similar to the other CMSs.

  4. Michelle

    I maintain both our webpage and facebook page. I use wordpress to build our site. Its free and has plenty of flexibility. I use a static page as my home on the wordpress site. The blog function is used as a sidebar for news etc. It gets weekly updates. I have a link to our facebook page where I store most of our pictures. What kind of database do you want? I have an archive of news bulletins and files and I build an index of newsletters by hand (with very little effort).

    You can authorize multiple administrators and authors for both wordpress and facebook. Set up your facebook site as a page, not a group. That is important. Pages will post updates to the walls of all those who “like” it, while groups will not.

    Btw, what is your goal for getting it where it “ought to be”?

    Our site is http://stgeorges.wordpress.com .

    What is the url of your current site?

  5. Catharine

    Derek, I find myself in a very similar situation. I took on “Communications” as my parish brief this year and spent most of the year trying to re-establish the intra-office network and get it so the staff could print and share a calendar. Only now am I tackling the website and blogs, etc. that have been left untended for a while.

    Right now we’re maintaining saint-peters.org using WordPress, but I’m dubious about it. I agree with Nick that free is not always cost-effective, especially if you have a latently web-savvy congregation and/or staff. In a few weeks I’m off to a diocesan “Faith, Technology, and Communications” conference whose utility is so far unknown, but I’ll share what I learn….

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