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Steeple Newsletter

A Good College Try: Adventures in Web Design

I had only been at First Church for a week, when I found myself surrounded by lists and questions. I was called to First Church to be your Minister of Faith Formation, which we at First Church interpret as a “connector” to help us move from silos into deeper connection with each other and God.

by The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph on May 20, 2020

The Full Steeple for May 20, 2020 is Available by Clicking Here. 

A Good College Try! 

I had only been at First Church for a week, when I found myself surrounded by lists and questions. I was called to First Church to be your Minister of Faith Formation, which we at First Church interpret as a “connector” to help us move from silos into deeper connection with each other and God.

The tools of the trade of connecting a large, diverse congregation are rooted in a reliable and consolidated database and the very best practices of systems management in what is now called a “C.M.S.” or Church Management Software. It also requires regular and reliable communication emails like The Steeple, and having both of these integrated and embedded in an accurate, simple website designed with the seeker and newcomer in mind. 
It was during my first week here when I showed one of our members, who has singlehandedly kept our website vital and working for the past several years, Chuck Ramsey, the list of 13 disparate databases and systems I had found around the church. 

What should I do? 
What can be done?
I don't know where to start! 

It was then that Chuck taught me a new phrase: I think you should give it a good college try! 
"A good college try," I thought, "how hard could that be?"

Turns out that, “a good college try,” means attempting something in which you are likely to fail and have little experience. I should have looked it up before accepting. Thank you, Chuck, for all of your work on the website over the years and essential help in making the new one a reality! We all owe you a great deal of gratitude.  
Regardless—we are now 2/3 of the way through this "college try" and making progress: 
First, in November with content supplied diligently by the rest of the staff and regular contributions from the congregation, I have put together a weekly email every Wednesday called The Steeple (click here for the archive of articles) to help us go deeper in faith and stay informed in real time about activities in the church and community. Amanda Patrick continues her ministry of Facebook, and we have a system of sharing content between Facebook and The Steeple established. We also have added active Instagram and Yelp Accounts. Thank you, Amanda. Caryne took to The Steeple idea and volunteered her weekly article on art history. Penelope writes a weekly worship preview and connects The Steeple with The Landmark information. Thank you, Penelope. Most recently, we have started a resource recommendation column called “First Church Reads!” Look for more exciting content soon! 
Second, as of this week, I finished my on-the-fly master course in web-design, and we launched a new website that integrates events, calendar, and social media content with a future CMS launch. Chuck Ramsey and Mags DePetris supplied incredible photography. The content was all sourced and updated from the previous site. The categories and approach are all in line with the very best practices and recommendations for Church Communications. If all else fails, I now have a back-up career as a church web-designer. In all seriousness, this has been a lot of fun to work on with a great team!  

Some regular questions: 
Where are the bulletins from Sundays? They are located on the sermons page and will be linked from the corresponding sermon starting this week. If you want to see a bulletin, click on the link for the sermon. The "Latest Sermon" is always featured on the home page. 
How can I find the online worship? The link at the top of the home page is updated every Sunday at 10:00 am as the email is sent. 
Where is the Online Directory? The link to the directory is now under “Get Connected” and “Member Login.” When we finish the new CMS in the coming months, we will roll out the new directory log-in. It will have more accurate information, groups, sign-up forms, and resources all available on your phone or desktop. 

Where is The Landmark? The most recent Landmark is always easily downloadable under “About us.” The Steeples are also available in the same area. 
Finally, over the past six months, we have been working on the final frontier—integrating all of the data systems into one. Two pieces of the website will come with finishing this part (not yet completed): We will have a new Giving Page that is interactive and easy to use and a new Member Portal/ Online Directory with group features with all of our teams, fellowships, and committees. Emailing, maintaining, and updating groups (even from your phone) will be so much easier for everyone. It should be a great gift for committee chairs and other group coordinators. This has been a huge undertaking. All of the thanks should go to Paul Kuehn and a small team of dedicated volunteers! Thank you, Paul! We are almost there… 
So, next time someone tells me to just, “give it a good college try,” I will say that have to pray about it first. Thank you to the many volunteers, especially Chuck Ramsey and Paul Kuehn, who have helped us get this far and make this possible. Thank you also to our Lead Minister, The Rev. Dr. Ginger Brasher-Cunningham, for trusting me with all of this and providing incredible, spiritually enriching content. By the grace of God and the work of many, we will find new ways to communicate and be together! This has never been as important as it is today. 
I have never been more excited to be a minister than right now. We live in unprecedented times, but why not trust God and give this community (even online) all we have… a good college try! It is worth remembering every day. Amen. 

The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph,
Minister of Faith Formation 

*Note that I am very bad at resolving IT issues about your home computers or phones. As Minister of Faith Formation, I am happy to help with macro-systems and Communications, but I am probably not the right person to ask about individual tech problems. I still am a person who would rather write a letter than send an email or a text if given the choice. 

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