Park Community Church in Chicago launched a new web site in October of 2009. But what to do with the old site? It’s not a question that’s asked very often, but Park did. The “old” site was launched in June of 2008 on the Ekklesia360 content management system and had received rave reviews. Rather than just let the files collect digital dust, Park and Monk Development (creators of Ekklesia360) opted to give the site away along with a one-year membership to Ekklesia360. Tim Schraeder, Park’s director of communications, posted the giveaway on his blog.
We talked with Tim, who is also a regional network coordinator with the Center for Church Communication (CFCC, our nonprofit parent), and Drew Goodmanson, the CEO of Monk Development and a CFCC board member, to get the inside scoop on this unique giveaway.
Why did you decide to give away an old web site design?
Tim: We had a great website but we had outgrown it. It had garnered a few awards and was definitely a great site design that we didn’t want to see go to waste. In August of last year I visited with Drew and his team at Ekklesia360 and tossed around the idea of giving the design along with a free subscription to the Ekklesia360 content management system to a church that needed a solid web presence.
In thinking through how we would pick and who we would choose we decided to bless a start up church/church plant. Oftentimes so much energy and resource is spent in securing a location, staffing and preparing for the launch of a church, that one of the crucial components, a web presence, can be a challenge or a stretch on resources. Giving away a great site and any easy way to maintain it seemed like it would be a huge blessing to a church plant and one we were excited to partner with Ekklesia360 in making happen.
What kind of response did you get?
Tim: We had nearly 20 different church planters respond thanking us for the opportunity. We also got quite a few other churches thanking us for offering the opportunity and leading the way in sharing ideas and resources, even down to a web site.
Some people would argue that web sites are designed for specific clients with specific needs, and a used web site is going to be like used clothing that doesn’t quite fit. It speaks to a lack of originality and creativity. What do you say to that?
Tim: I agree completely, but the truth was our old site wasn’t custom tailored to our needs which is why we quickly outgrew it. Our old site was great but could have been a template for any church… and one church did actually “steal” it and make it their own simply by replacing the logo and changing some of the pictures. Our new site was custom-designed for us and is a much better fit for our communication needs. I think that there’s a lot to be said about being inspired by different designs and adapting them with your own flair or to meet the needs of your context. With our old site, it was sort of a “one size fits most” and I think it will fit the needs of the winning church as they figure out and determine what their web presence should look like in the future.
Drew: We felt it was an ideal situation for a church planter, our intended recipient. From my experience as a church planter (Kaleo Church) the initial idea of who you are often changes within the first couple years as you realize God’s plan was much different than your vision. This is why letting someone get out of the gate with a free option was optimal. The good news is Park Community’s design does most of its heavy lifting with images so a church can create on their own custom feel.
But even beyond church plants, we at Monk Development have worked on several cooperative projects where churches have come together to create a shared design framework. Recently we launched a Church Web Cooperative to significantly lower the cost of a full web strategy but allowed churches to deliver their own brand/identity. We feel like this is a kingdom-minded approach that also is a good stewardship decision for churches who don’t have the budget to do what they would like to.
Others would applaud the sharing. Do you think churches should do more sharing, especially when it comes to digital files that can be shared at no cost?
Tim: Absolutely. I know there are many arguments out there for and against sharing of digital files, ideas, etc., but I’d say at the end of the day, it’s all about building the church and the kingdom. Obviously, artists and people who design and create should be paid for their time, but in the end, all ideas are God’s ideas and churches should be more than willing to share with other churches. At Park, we’re not into resourcing and putting a price tag on what we’ve got, we’ll share what we have with anyone. That’s not a diss on churches that do, but they have their reasons for charging as much as we have reasons for not. It just comes down to the general philosophy and ours is to freely share what we’ve been blessed with.
Drew: I know Josh Boston, the designer at Kaleo Church, gives his sermon series graphics out freely. As much as possible, I think this is how the church should work, but a worker is worth their wage so there are people who do this for a living and need to charge for their service.
How did you pick the winner?
Tim: Drew and I had a tough time trying to pick a church to win because they all impressed us with their vision and the direction they were heading. In the end, we looked at where the churches were at in their development process and felt like 2 Pillars, with a launch date coming up in June 2010, could benefit the most from receiving a new web site. They were using a WordPress site as a web site, which is sometimes a great option for web presence, but we felt they could take it to another level with a fully functioning web site and content management system.
Drew: I agree with Tim on WordPress which is a great tool. We built Ekklesia 360 to be more than just a web site solution but to help churches do ministry online which includes integration with apps like Cobblestone Community Network and our Internet Presence Management system that leads to more people connecting to the church. In the end we’ve seen this lead to more people encountering Jesus which is part of our mission at Monk Development.