Every Church Web Coordinator Should Have These Qualities (part 2 of 2)

Posted at April 20, 2011

I recently came across a rather humorous résumé.  Apparently it was dropped off at a restaurant.  No word if the person was actually hired.  Let’s hope that if this résumé was dropped off at your church, you would be rapidly directing the nice young gentleman to your career counseling ministry! (Holla!)

Yesterday we talked about the essential qualities in a Web coordinator for your church.  As I mentioned, there were no technical or “hard skills” listed on that post, which was intentional.  It’s important to remember that technical skills are nice, but not as important as the overall Big Picture.

Today, we will satisfy your desire to get some nuts-and-bolts skillset recommendations.

Here, in no particular order, are some specific things we’d be looking for in the “ideal” church Web coordinator:

  • Design skills.  Print design experience is OK; Web design experience is much better.  And please, please, please don’t tolerate this statement: “sure, I can design. I know Photoshop.”  That’s like saying I can repair a dishwasher because I know how to hold a wrench.  Similarly, “I’m good with computers” or “I have a Mac” does not a Web designer make.  The best way to evaluate a person’s Web design skills? Ask to see a portfolio. 
  • Familiarity with HTML.  HTML is like golf.  It’s one of the most approachable, teachable markup languages ever created.  It’s fun to learn, if you are committed.  It is also frustrating (especially for a former print designer) because it carries strict limitations.  The more a person has worked with HTML, the more it will understand its quirks and be armed with tricks to surmount the challenging problems that are sure to arise.  Most front-end Web coders today use Dreamweaver, although there are many other programs that create HTML.  The tool isn’t important.
  • Familiarity with CSS.  Ask them to tell you about their toughest challenge getting something to display correctly across multiple Web browsers.  If they don’t have a story, they haven’t been doing CSS very long.
  • Familiarity with Content Management Systems.  Any reputable, dynamic Website today is running on a CMS.  This means that the content for the site resides in a database, and the server is marrying the content with a layout “shell” each time a page is requested.  Strong CMS platforms offer extensive tools for controlling who edits what, deciding when content should appear (and disappear), and managing revisions of various pages and objects on your site.  If a seasoned Web or HTML person has never worked on a CMS, however, they could get frustrated because they can’t “get their hands on the code.”  It’s just a different mindset to train.  Look for someone who has worked with systems such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, or my personal favorite, SiteOrganic.
  • Social networking maven.  Does this person have a Twitter account?  Do they have ideas on how your church might responsibly use social networking to serve people and expand its reach?  Anyone with a zeal for online ministry should certainly have a strong fascination with social networking.  (Bonus points if they look down at their smartphone to tweet during the job interview.)  If you run across someone who (gasp!) doesn’t even have a Facebook page, then maybe this isn’t what God is calling them to do…
  • The heart of a patient teacher.  Remember that no successful church Website is built by a single person. The role of your Web coordinator is just that–to coordinate.  They’ll be working with other people on your staff, and other volunteers.  This person’s job is largely to train others on how to do stuff, and then help them get un-stuck when they push the wrong buttons.  A lot of Web coordinators get asked for help on an issue and will answer, “no problem, I’ll just do it for you.”  This is a wonderful gesture in the short term, but it doesn’t help anyone in the long-term.  The Web coordinator shouldn’t want to make him/herself indispensable.  S/he should be looking for opportunities to equip others to do more of the Web updates on their own.  When this happens, everybody wins.

Then there is the “B” list of really-nice-to-haves.  In other words, you’ll likely not find these in the same person as the above list but it doesn’t hurt to ask:

  • Video editing skills
  • Understanding of video and audio compression and encoding
  • Familiarity with DNS protocols

If you find the above-gifted person who will work for your church, hire them! If you find a similar person willing to help your church on a volunteer basis, erect an altar on that very spot, for it is holy ground. You, my friend, are blessed indeed.

But what if we find a person with only one or two of the skills listed here?

If you could only choose one of the above skills, I’d vote in favor of HTML experience.  Even if you’re using a content management system like SiteOrganic or WordPress, where HTML isn’t required for normal edits, it’s still invaluable to have someone with a good understanding of what’s happening under the hood.  Furthermore, a person familiar with HTML is probably more prone to understand CSS, and almost certainly knows a thing or two about Facebook/Twitter, etc.

Many churches already have someone available to generate graphics for events, promos, ministries, etc.  This person is always in high demand, so don’t assume that they can or should take over all of your Web design duties either.  For the top spot on your Web team, design is nice but I’d opt for the person with a little more comfort with the code.  Design is simply easier to farm out.

There are many more skills and skill subsets we didn’t cover here.  What has been your church experience with finding a great Web coordinator?  Can you share advice that would help others?

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