A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Archive for October, 2012

WeGather

Tool: WeGather

Answer this question: What is the #1 goal of any church? Answer: To build community. To help in this mission, there are many wonderful tools available through the Internet to share information and socialize. But perhaps with all those different tools, you feel a bit overwhelmed. One ministry group communicates on Facebook, another on Google Plus, and yet another through Yahoo! Groups. For some people, it can get very confusing trying to remember which group is where, especially if you are the organizer of many ministry teams and events. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a tool that allowed you to organize your entire parish’s social groups and ministries, sent email from centralized lists, shared a single calendar that filters events based on group, and allowed your parishioners to socialize online in a safe and secure environment? Wouldn’t it be even better if it were free? Guess what? There is such a tool! It’s called WeGather.

WeGather

WeGather was developed by Liturgical Publications, Inc. (LPi), who are well known for their production and distribution of church bulletins. Over the last few years, LPi has developed web tools specifically for parishes including website templates and online giving. WeGather is their answer to social networking that meets the needs and concerns of a church community.

Liturgical Publications, Inc.

Here are the main features:

  • Provides a safe, secure environment – A church administrator approves all membership requests so only authorized people have access to the site. Secondary administrators can be given access to maintain particular groups and ministries.
  • Centralizes email lists for easy updating and distributing information.
  • Organizes ministries and committees by “groups.” Only members of each group can see information specifically for them but can be shared publicly (any authorized site member) if desired.
  • Provides a centralized calendar of events. Information shown on the calendar can either be group specific or shared publicly.
  • Allows members to easily post and share documents, photos, and videos specific to each group or publicly.
  • Provides members the ability to create their profiles and control which information is available to fellow parishioners.

Again, the core system of WeGather is free but does offer some optional “modules” available on a monthly subscription basis:

  • Online giving via WeShare, LPi’s online giving and event registration program. WeShare can easily be integrated with WeGather.
  • Service Opportunities-promote your volunteer needs where members can easily sign up for volunteer opportunities of interest
  • Additional Storage for documents and media

So, why use WeGather over other online tools?

  • A clean, professional look that is easy to navigate for the casual computer user.
  • A web based tool specifically designed for churches.
  • The privacy of each parish and its members is strictly maintained. No information is sold or given to third parties of any kind.
  • LPi working to build additional modules to plug into WeGather.

WeGather is a very powerful –and absolutely free –communication tool for any church and its members. If you are part of a parish that is looking to organize all of its online ministry outreach and communication in one place, check out WeGather and feel free to leave a comment on how it works for your church.

Advertisements

HootSuite

HootSuite (http://hootsuite.com/)  is a social media management tool. Although it was developed with businesses in mind, it certainly can be adapted to fit the needs of churches as well. If you are one of the pioneers in social media in your church and you are finding it just a little bit daunting to keep track of the Tweets, posts, blogs, shared photos and YouTube videos associated with your parish or congregation, HootSuite can help. I noticed that many prolific social media contributors were inserting links to a URL shortener with “ow.ly” in it, or the post itself came from @HootSuite. Curious, I investigated and spent last summer playing around with HootSuite, just getting used to the features. I have to say, it seems to be a great tool for ministry. In a single window, a free HootSuite account allows you to display up to five social network accounts (Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc.). In addition, you can have twenty tabs (a tab sorts your streams by content), and each tab can have up to ten streams (a stream can be a mention or a direct message, for example)  for content as it is updated. Hey, I just wrote this and I’m already confused, so let me make this simple. Instead of logging in and out of your various social networks, they are all organized in your HootSuite account  in one window, sorted by tabs. The beauty is that you can create one post and tell it to go to all or some of your social networks!  For example, I created tabs for my personal Facebook account, my parish Facebook account, my personal Twitter account and a Facebook group for technology in ministry that I belong to. I can send out one post to all of those sites at once. I can also click through my tabs to read the latest content for all those social networks as it arrives without the bother of having to sign in and out of those different accounts.

HootSuite is powerful and a bit complex, so give yourself time to learn the features and take advantage of its extensive help and tutorial menus. Some of the useful features I discovered include the ability to block or follow others,  features for teams working in a HootSuite account, ow.ly, the built-in  HootSuite URL shortener, and the Hootlet application, which allows you to post a link to any web site you happen to be visiting directly to your HootSuite network. The Hootlet applet can simply be dragged to your browser bookmark toolbar for easy access as you browse the web. HootSuite itself will save you time in your social networking ministry, and the Hootlet will amplify that savings!

I would be interested in hearing what you think about HootSuite and how you think it compares to other social networking management tools. Leave a comment if you wish to share!