[This is a guest post by Mark Ward, who received his Ph.D. in New Testament from Bob Jones University Seminary in 2012 and serves as part of the Bible Integration Team at BJU Press. Mark also has a ministry providing churches with beautiful and affordable websites.]
We live in an Internet world. If your church doesn’t have a website, it’s invisible. If it has a bad website, well, there’s something worse than invisible.
Even the smallest church needs some tech tools to make itself credibly visible to its community. At least in America, it’s a matter of your testimony for Christ. It’s that serious.
But a credible Internet presence requires a few more tools than just a website. Here is my short list of essential tech tools your small church needs, divided into four categories:
You need a WordPress website. Total cost: $500+. Honestly, you probably need a professional to work with you no matter what kind of website you choose. I can give you names of companies who are dirt cheap but do good work. (I own one of them, or I’d tell you the names.) If you positively refuse to consider hiring someone, Squarespace is my recommendation. If, on the other hand, you’re that rare small church with a sizable endowment from a wealthy former parishioner, I recommend Church Plant Media and Your Creative People. You get what you pay for with them: excellent work. And by the way, you need a logo, too—and only a professional can make a nice one. You might, however, get away with buying a stock logo.
You need a Nikon D3100 with the kit lens, a zoom lens, a camera bag, and a tripod. Total cost: $600 if you shop a little (try Craigslist). Every church should have a D3100 that is owned by the church and cared for by a designated photographer. But youth leaders and Bible club leaders should have access to it and should get a little bit of training on how to use it. And they should use it, and regularly. I have used mine to shoot weddings, church directory pics, Bible club shots—anything a church could want. I pretend to be a pro, and a lot of people believe me, but the truth is that I only ever shoot in auto mode. (I do post-processing like the pros, however—and if you have an artistic person in the church you might consider doing the same.) Make updating photos on your Facebook page and/or website an important ministry, one you would never neglect, like changing the messages on your church sign.
You need a Nikon D3100. Yes, a D3100 also does video. But only on a tripod and only with adequate lighting. And the microphone in the camera is not meant to do much (see “Audio” below). Doing good video is not easy, but with a little bit of Internet research you can set up a believable lighting system to at least do a talking-head interview like this one. That’s probably all the good video you’ll ever need. For videos of camp you don’t have to get fancy. The D3100 will do fine. You mainly want it for photos.
Adobe has also come out with a great iPad app that will allow you to make a promo video without shooting any actual footage. As always, use the people in the church who are gifted artistically to do this.
You probably need a projector; maybe not. This is the top-seller on Amazon right now.
You need a Zoom H2n. Cost: $160. I use the Zoom H2 (the previous version of the Zoom H2n) when taking video, and it sounds fantastic, very professional. Don’t ever try to take a serious video—like a welcome-I’m-the-pastor video—without one. It will sound terrible. And the Zoom H2n can take great sermon recordings. It puts them right onto an SD card, making it easy to upload sermons to your website or to a service like SermonAudio. An Apple iPad can actually take very passable audio recordings, too—unless the pastor wanders around the pulpit a great deal.
There is a very definite generation gap between pastors who value the Internet and those who don’t. I’m genuinely not sure that my (younger) generation is right to value it so highly, but I can tell you that potential visitors do. They will judge you by your website. As a web designer, I have heard more than once that a church’s website was the sole reason a family decided to visit. And the photography, video, and audio on that site are an integral part of your face—quite literally—the whole world. Use gifted people in your assembly and commit some money to it. It’s the world we live in now.