My Web Guy Just Quit. Help!

Posted at August 17, 2011

Great online ministry is normally a team effort. The vast majority of churches who are serious about making “digital disciples” will have multiple people managing various aspects of their online portfolio. These could be split into ministry/departmental web coordinators, or along functional lines (the online sermon person, the calendar master, the keeper of the home page, a social media coodinator, the graphics person, etc.

The Indispensable Lone Ranger

Every once in a while, a church is “blessed” to have a single person who can fulfill all of the roles of a burgeoning online ministry coordinator, with technical knowledge and communications acumen bundled in a single individual. This model is more common as you look at smaller churches.

But then, in true keeping with the 3 laws of a successful web volunteer, this amazing person finishes his or her season and moves on to something else. In a phrase, the church’s online ministry is suddenly up a creek.

The Stages of Grieving

“We’ll figure out how to maintain the Website without him.”

“Maybe he’ll be able to help us part-time after he moves.”

“I wish I had spent more time learning this stuff while he was still around.”

“God will bring us another gifted person. Someday.”  (In the meantime, the Website grows more stale and outdated by the day.)

“We can’t possibly spend money for a Website; after all we’ve been getting help for free all this time.”

“Maybe we don’t need a Website after all.”

What to do when you’re facing this dilemma?

Short-term Damage Control
Assuming that your Website is (has been) a hub for your communications efforts, you don’t want to let it languish despite the loss of your Webmaster. Before the person leaves, be sure you get the following critical information:

- Where is our domain name registered? How do we update our administrative contact information? What is the password for our account? When is the domain name up for renewal?
- Where is our Website hosted? What is the account password, and how do we update our administrative contact information?
- What tool(s) are required for editing our site? Is there any documentation and/or training available to help us bring in an interim person to do the maintenance?

Without the above information, you will have serious problems keeping your site updated. And without the domain information, you are facing a ticking alarm clock that, if allowed to expire, will cause you to lose your online front door entirely.

Armed with basic information on how to update the site, and what tools are required, you can often delegate the work to someone on your administrative staff. Most churches spend at least 2-4 hours per week updating the Website, although this can swell to much more time during busy seasons of event promotions, missions programs, etc.  Moderate computer skills, graphic design talents, and/or gifts in communications are all great traits for this person to possess.

Cast out the nets, look for a new web coordinator
Your church is accustomed to running the entire Website with one person. Whether you plan to continue this approach or perhaps discuss a new strategy, you’ll still ultimately need a single person who oversees the effort. Unless you intend to make this a paid staff position, you will want to begin promoting the need for a volunteer to do this for you.

Check out our What to Look for in a Web Coordinator posts for ideas on key qualifications.

Reconsider (and recommit to) your vision for online ministry
God brought on this crisis for a reason. And in the wise words of Pete Wilson (and other politicians before him) who spoke earlier this year at the Whiteboard Sessions, “never waste a good crisis.” Perhaps this is a time to pull back briefly and consider whether all of your communications efforts–online and offline–are aligned to your singular vision for ministry. Is your Website working for you, or against you? If you’re hoping to reach young professionals, do you have an active social networking component to your ministry? If you have a large block of seniors or military or transient travelers in your congregation, do you have vital video and streaming resources available to them on your site?

Make it part of your DNA
The fact that you had all of your online communications running through a single person doesn’t communicate that online ministry is a key piece of your vision. If not, then you can at least acknowledge that fact. Don’t worry, not every church in the world should have a bustling online presence. It may not make sense for the people you’re trying to reach. But chances are very good that if you’re somewhere in America, or any developed nation, and you want to improve the reach of the Gospel in your area, the Web and mobile devices will be necessary arrows in your quiver.

Better start thinking like (and even spending time with) those who use these tools all day, every day.

Consider a more permanent strategy
If you recruit a new Website superstar, you’ve probably only applied a temporary fix to the real issue.

“No problem,” many organizations will say. “Instead of having one person holding all the keys to our Website, we’ll spread it out. Decentralize it. No single person is in charge; we’ll give each department its own access to maintain its own section of the main Website, or maybe even just let our departments go out and get their own sites.”

This de-centralization strategy creates more problems than it solves. Yes, you’ll have less exposure to losing any one person. But in exchange for that peace of mind, you’ll have to grapple with:

- lack of consistency in writing and design styles
- branding violations
- renegade departments/ministries who set up their own online fiefdoms (and are subsequently very hard to rein back in later)
- Large gaps in quality and depth of information from one department to the next
- Uncertainty and chaos for your end users–after all, this is all for them, right?

We think that instead of either extreme, a mixed approach works best for a church.  That is, have a single person overseeing everything (and training/enforcing standards) but allow departments and ministries the freedom to maintain their own content. In fact, you might even make this a requirement of every department in the organization. In this way, the org structure for your Web team retains a central point of control, but also has more spokes and dotted lines to help counteract the danger of losing any one person.


Has your church dealt with this “just lost our web guy” crisis? What did you learn from it?



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