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Online Ministries Community Blog

Apr 10

Organizing the Management of Online Ministries

Posted by Bill Anderton

Few churches are blessed with an individual person who has all of the skills to create and manage a comprehensive online ministry and are also willing to devote that talent over a long period of time to the tasks required. In most cases, churches have to assemble teams of people, usually composed of both paid professionals and volunteers, to plan, build and perate an effective online ministry.

organizing_team_400w.jpgAny time multiple people have to work together, you need some sort of organizational framework to provide structure for the team.

To find a suitable structure as a model, you don't have to look further that of any magazine or newspaper; yes, "old media!" All of the components of a church’s Internet presence can be managed just like any newspaper or periodical; like any traditional paper-based publication.

In all actualities, church websites and social media presences are indeed electronic publications where the web servers merely replace the traditional paper printing press. Therefore, with a simple adjustment for the technologies employeed, the organization of traditional publications provides an organizational model that is an excellent analog for managing any church’s Internet presence.

Most old-media publications have four key departments that work together to produce their publications.

  • The publisher - The publisher provides the general strategic direction for the publication, its target goals and its financial support. Publishers are typically responsible for governance and oversight of the entire publication and its processes. Publishers ensure that the resulting publication supports the agreed-upon institutional vision and meets the established standards of excellence.
  • The editorial department - The editorial department execute the vision provided by the publisher by generating all of the creative content used in the publication such as the copy (text) and images used in the publication. This includes direct creation of the content itself or commissioning the creation of content produced by third parties. The editorial department is also responsible for setting the tenor and tone of the creative content and its quality standards. Editors also are responsible for the preparation of raw manuscripts and images in the editing process to prepare them for publication. The editorial process included the graphic design functions of how the content will look when published. The editors interpret the strategic directions provided by the publisher and are the first line of quality control for meeting the established standards of excellence.
  • The production department – The production department takes the edited and ready-for-publication content provided by the editorial department and prepares it technically for publication according to its graphic design guidelines also provided by the editorial department. Once executed and approved by the editorial department, the content is released for publication.
  • The circulation department – The circulation department builds the readership of the publication in the selected demographics targeted by the publisher. Building readership involves marketing the publication and its content to achieve the desired number of readers that will make the publication economically viable.

Each of these traditional departments is analogous to the functions of an online ministry team in a church:

  • The publisher is analogous to the Board of Directors of the church or a similar governance body depending on the polity of the church. Boards, often working with the Internet presence team, set the overall direction on all of the online assets of the church, as well as their policies and goals. The Board also provides the financial support for the venture. They provide oversight and governance but not management and never micro-management.
  • The editorial department is directly analogous to the webmastering process and is typically headed by a single individual with the title of "webmaster" and functions as the editor-in-chief of the website and the social media presences. In most cases although this person is called a “webmaster” their content duties range well beyond the web site itself and also covers all social media and streaming media. The webmaster plans the content of all aspects of the Internet presence and assigns the development of the planned content to third parties or develops it personally. Content development might be done by professionals, volunteers or some combination of both. In churches, webmasters often evaluate and recruit volunteer authors, photographers and artists to create content according to plan. The webmaster edits the resulting content and sees that everything from multiple sources works together according to established standards. The webmaster also oversees the graphic design of the whole website and the layout of pages that will contain the content.
  • The production department is analogous to the technical resources of the team. They take the edited content puts it into a suitable technical form to work with the technical components of the Internet. The production department is responsible for all coding and technical components necessary to execute the design of the webmaster. The production department also oversees all technical resources used by the team such as web servers, DNS, media servers, etc. The webmaster may have these skills and perform these tasks but it is not uncommon to have technical specialists perfrom these tasks and fulfill these duties.
  • The circulation department is analogous to the people on the online ministry team who build the viewership of all of the aspects of the entire presence such as getting more visitors to the website, getting more friends and followers in social media and achieving more downloads of church media. In well-executed plans, these tasks typically integrate all online efforts so all aspects of the Internet presence support each other synergistically (web supports social media, social media supports web, etc.) These tasks include search engine optimization building a large pool of back-links, blog and forum placements/mentions and other tasks that build the overall exposure of the church’s content. The circulation department also preforms analytics of the results and prepares reports for the whole team to form a feed-back loop for all stakeholders. The webmaster may have these skills and perform these tasks but it is not uncommon to have specialists perfrom these tasks and fulfill these duties.

It is not uncommon for the members of the Internet presence team to wear several hats; for the same person to have multi-disciplinary skills and perform more than one of these tasks. Many excellent Internet presences are done by a single person functioning as a generalist. Also, teams of specialists are also used. The approach available to your church will depend on the human resources available to you and your budgets.

There is no hard and fast rule about how you organize your online ministry team. You should do what works for you. However, this shouldn't be a license to be lackadaisical in your approach; organization of the team should require a lot of thought, some effort and enough rigor to get the job done. It is rare that a church will have one person who can do all of these tasks well. That means you need a team and that means using some sort of organizational model for the team to work within.

Traditional publications offer excellent analogs for any Internet presence team.

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