Creating Local Church Websites (netAdventist)
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By Gerry Chudleigh
Not long ago, it was necessary for a person to know a special language, called HTML, to create or edit websites. But today, thanks to such website programs as netAdventist and Adventist Church Connect, anyone who can type with one or more fingers can create and maintain a great church website.
As a result, Adventist church websites are multiplying. Nearly every week someone joins a Seventh-day Adventist church as a result of finding the church on the internet, studying the church's beliefs on the internet, seeing what the local church is doing, and contacting or visiting the church.
Which Program to Use
Right now, if a church wants to use a website creation program that is both easy for novices and has new information flowing in every day from other church sources, there are two choices: netAdventist and Adventist Church Connect. Churches may choose either one, but you may wish to consult your local conference communication director to see how each fits into the conference website network.
The Pacific Union Conference recommends netAdventist for most churches, and has purchased a server which makes this program available at no cost (except support, which will be discussed later). Why does the union recommend netAdventist? Because the program is much newer and much easier to use. It also includes many features that are either not included in any other program, or can be added only at an extra cost and with considerable effort.
How to Sign Up
- Go to www.netadventist.org and click on "Click Here to Sign Up" in the left sidebar.
- Find Your Ministry. Select your type (church), division (North American), union (Pacific), conference (yours), and then, under Ministry, select the name of your church.
- Choose Your Language. Right now only English and Spanish are available, but by the summer or fall of 2007, nearly every language on earth will be available.
- Edit Ministry Name. This is very important, because this name will be shown at the top of every page on your website. It is best to avoid the initials "SDA." Type in the name you use on your weekly bulletin or the name on the sign in front of your church.
- Select your URL. The URL is the address people will type into their browser to go to your website. There are several option:
- Create a netAdventist URL. Most churches choose this option, but it may not be the best one for you. If you choose this option, simply type in the name you want to use. There can be no breaks between words. The name you type will automatically be followed by .netAdventist.org. For example, if you type in fresnochinese, your URL will be fresnochinese.netadventist.org. There is no need to include the word Adventist in your name, since it is included in the "netAdventist" that will be part of your URL.
- Use your Existing URL. If you already have a URL for your church, such as www.ourchurch.com, type that into to the appropriate box. If you URL points to an existing website, your old website will disappear and be replaced by the new one.
- Purchase a new URL. This option is not shown on the netAdventist signup page. If you would like to purchase a new URL, go to domains.tagnet.org before signing up for a netAdventist site. Your own URL will be shorter than the netAdventist URL and will be more easily found by search engines such as Google. It will probably cost less than $10 per year.
- Select your Level of Support
- No support -- Not recommended
- Email and chat support — At $10 a month, this is recommended, at least for the first year.
- Phone, email and chat support — At $25 a month, this is the best support, but more than most churches will need.
About a week after you complete the signup process you will be notified that your site is up and running. If you don't already have your login information, you will be given your user name and password, so you can log in and make changes and additions. When you get to your website, you will find your church name at the top, one or two sidebars filled with features and links, and news in the middle section. Making this into an attractive site that will attract people to your church will involve several steps, listed below.
- Review Other Sites. Go to netadventist.org and click on Client Sites. Look at all of them and make notes of the things you like on those sites.
- Download and install the free Mozilla Firefox browser. NetAdventist can be edited best when using this browser.
- Find a young person to help. A teen that uses the internet might be best, but even a tech-savvy 12 year old may give you valuable help. The pastor remains in charge of the content, but someone familiar with the web may create features you wouldn't think of doing.
A. Choose Your Theme
- Click on Dashboard in the left sidebar
- Click on Layout Control and Standard Themes
- Click on the theme you like, then Save
- Click on Dashboard in left sidebar
- Click on My Content, then on Static Content
- Open the "Welcome to Our Church" file
- Add a photo of your church or your pastor or of something else that represents your church. You can change this photo as often as you like. Steps:
- Click on the little icon that looks like a picture of a mountain with the sun over it,
- Browse to the picture you want (on your computer), and click "Open."
- Click "Send it to the server" (leave the picture size at 320 pixels), click OK
- When the picture shows in the Image Properties box, enter 10 for HSpace and 5 for Vspace. Align left. Enter 1 for the border size if you want a border around the picture. Click OK
- Add text. You can type it right on the page or create it in Word, then paste it to the Welcome page.
- Click Save Static Content
- Click EXIT in the right corner of the netAdventist window near the upper right corner of the screen (but not the X in the far upper right corner. That will close your browser and you will have to start over.) Now you can see how your page looks. Go back to the same file if you want to make changes.
Look at your front page and click on everything, to see what is there. Decide which things you would like to remove, which things you have seen on other sites that you would like to add, and which things you would like in a different place. Now, let's go do it.
- Click on Dashboard, then Layout Control. Now you see little boxes that represent everything on your page.
- Click on the little white X in the red box to remove an item from your page. You can easily bring it back, so go ahead and play around. You can't hurt anything.
- To move a feature to a different location, just hold down the left button on your mouse over the grey area of the box, and drag it to where you want it.
- To add an available item, click on the Add Plugin box near the top of the screen, find what you would like to add, and select it. It will instantly appear among the boxes in the lower screen. Drag it to where you want it.
- Click Save -- this is easy to forget on this page.
- Click on EXIT to see how you like what you have done.
- Click Dashboard. Near the center of the screen you see Add News. Click on Go.
- Enter a Title for the story or announcement.
- Paste or type the story into the big editing box.
- Copy the first line or two of the story into the small box that says Abstract. Do not put the whole story in the abstract box or leave the large lower box empty.
- Add an Abstract Photo, if you have one and want one. It is not wrong to add no photo. The photo that you add in this Abstract Photo box will appear very small on your front page, with the headline and the first line or two that you added. But there is a HAZARD here you should avoid. (Don't worry, all hazards on your website are fixable.) The abstract photo will also appear in your full news story, and it will be 320 pixels wide. If the abstact photo you inserted is less than 320 pixels wide it will look fine on your front page but will look fuzzy or just plain terrible in the story. Solution: don't use an abstract photo smaller than 320 pixels wide.
- Select the Publish and Kill dates — the date you want the story to appear and the date you want it to disappear.
- Select to share or not share with other churches. This is very important. Other churches may choose to have your news appear on their websites. If you select Share for every little announcement that pertains only to your church, the other churches will turn your news feed off. So select Share only when you have a guest speaker or special project or other news story you think other churches will want on their websites.
- Select to show or not show to non-members. Almost every news story or announcement should be visible to any visitor to the site. Even if only a few care that the board is meeting half an hour early this Tuesday, there are two advantages to showing that announcent to everyone: it lets everyone, including first time visitors to the site, know that something is happening at your church, and many of your board members will look at the site without logging in. They won't see the announcement unless it is visible to everyone. Only things you don't want anyone but members to see should be marked, No.
- Click Publish News. The story and photos will show up immediately on your site, and will show up about an hour or two later on other sites that have chosen to show your news.
This is where you become a real webmaster, but it is not difficult. We will work through one example, a Pathfinder page, then you can use the same steps for other church programs.
- Click Dashboard, My Content and Static Content
- Click Add Static Content, near the bottom of the screen
- Add a Title. This will not appear on the page. It is the file name that you will click when you want to edit the page in the future.
- Enter, in the large editing box, the title you want to appear on the page.
- Highlight the title you just entered, then select Heading 1 in of the the boxes just above the editing box. (In netAdventist Version 2, look in the Style box; in V. 1, look in the Format box.) (HAZARD: If you find that you cannot format the title without making the whole page look like the title, or have other formatting problems, it is because you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer instead of Mozilla Firefox.)
- Enter content — information, pictures, links to other sites, etc.
- Click Save Static Content. You have now finished creating the Pathfinder page, but it will not yet show up on your website. Our next steps will make it visible.
- Click on Layout Control and Menu Manager
- Select the menu where you want the Pathfinder link to appear. Let's create a new menu called "Church Programs." Click Add at the bottom of the list of menus. Enter the word Pathfinders as the menu name, and save. Now the new menu called Pathfinders shows up in the list. Click on the word Pathfinders or on the Edit box to the right of that name.
- Add Plugin. Click on the box that says Click to Choose Plugin
- Scroll down to Static Content, find Pathfinders (the page you created), and click on it.
- Exit the dashboard and see how you like your webpage now.
- Repeat process for each church ministry you would like to display on your page.