Updating Our Website

by Joel Osborn, Milton, WI

As Communication Director of the Milton Seventh Day Baptist, I was given the task of updating our web site. The current web site was created more than a decade ago — so it was dated and built on an older web platform that made it somewhere between difficult and

impossible to update. The site had been created by a local company and we felt we were getting little support. They would recover our site if it got hacked, but that would be an additional charge. We couldn’t change much of the structure or design of the website without an additional charge. We wanted to avoid those issues.

I had heard that the SDB Tract and Communication Council was giving help to local churches with their websites. So I contacted Jeremiah Owen, Director of Communication for the Conference, and we started to plan. Jeremiah strongly urged that we go with WordPress as our platform. It is a well-established platform that is easy to use and can be modified. There is a wealth of knowledge about WordPress out there; so, if we should need to get some support beyond what Jeremiah or I could provide, we should have no trouble finding someone to help out. The WordPress modules are self-patching and would not need to be monitored for security fixes.

Jeremiah was able to point us to more affordable hosting options and he pointed us to WordPress template vendors that allowed us to buy a template as a starting point for the look and feel of the new website. We were looking for a “responsive” template: that is a template that will adapt the way a web page is displayed depending on what device you are using. If you bring up our website on a phone, it looks different than if you bring it up on a laptop. But the content is readable on both. The conference also made available an online WordPress training class, which was very helpful in learning the ropes.

Since all our URLs were currently in use, Jeremiah set up a temporary site. He installed WordPress and the template we had purchased and we started building content based on our current website, but with the new look that our template provided. Jeremiah and I went through several iterations of how to put sermons and to display our Google calendars on the website. Our church uses three Google calendars: the main church, Awana, and Collision (our youth group). We wanted to show them all overlaid, but also be able to show them separately.

We picked October 1 as our cutover date. On September 23, I changed the DNS entry for theconnecting.church (our new main URL) to point to our new site and Jeremiah put up a “Under Construction” landing page for anyone not signed in as a WordPress user with a link to let them go to the old site, miltonsdb.org. And he started copying our content from the test site to the production site. At 2:30 AM, October 1, I took down the “Under Construction” page, opening our new website to everyone. I changed our other URLs, miltonsdb.org, theconnectingchurch.org and miltonsdb.church, to forward to theconnecting.church so anyone using those URLs will get to our new site. We only missed our target day by 2.5 hours!

As with any good website, we’re not done yet and never will be. We are very happy with the new site and WordPress as a platform. We were very pleased to partner with the Tract and Communication Council and Jeremiah Owen. Without that partnership, this project would have been a lot more expensive and had a lot higher learning curve.

You can view the result here at http://theconnecting.church

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