A New Website for St. Joseph Faith Formation
By Carlo Zeffiro
Last July I became the Faith Formation Director at St. Joseph Church in Addison, Illinois after serving as a catechist for many years. My focus changed from just what I did in my classroom to what is happening in the entire program and the larger parish community. I believed my new responsibilities would involve mostly teaching catechists and students in addition to administering the program. I soon realized that a large part of my job is advertising and communications. I was writing bulletin articles, mass announcements and take home reminders. A note sent home to parents involved my hope that a student did not make a paper airplane out of it and sent it across the parking lot, that it actually arrived at home and that somehow a parent would look for the note and then actually read it. Bulletin articles and mass announcements require a parent to go to mass to read or hear this information. Sadly, many of our parents do not attend mass on a regular basis. Also many people do not read the bulletin to be informed of the mission of our church. I went to our parish website and discovered that the information on the Faith Formation page had not been updated since 2012 and outside of the current bulletin being posted, the entire website was static with no new information.
I knew that I was going to have to work on communications. If I needed to communicate with someone I talked to them in person, called them on the telephone or emailed them. I did not post, tweet, chat, text, pin, like or Skype. I did not have a smart phone and I was not on Facebook. I learned the technology I needed to do the job at hand. This was not going to work if I was going to be successful in growing our program. I needed to learn this stuff and use it to connect with catechists, parents, students and anyone else I could find, so I could continue to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. I understood that my mission as a Catholic catechist has not changed. The delivery of that message has changed and if I want to continue to be influential as an evangelist I had to change. It was Providential that Digital Discipleship Boot Camp was placed before me and I signed up for the class. I had never taken an online class and never needed a microphone for the computer. I realized that I had stepped out of my comfort zone, but I knew it was what I needed to do If I was going to fix the website problem and a couple of other issues along the way. The class expanded my knowledge of what is possible beyond what I originally wanted to accomplish.
The technical aspects of creating a website are not as difficult as one might believe. I chose to use Wix to help me create my website. They have many templates in which you can move and add features. The real challenge is creating content for the site. I understood that the reason I revisit sites is they have new content. I would have to create content in addition to using links to other websites. Half our families are Spanish speaking so content should be bilingual whenever possible. I had to define my audience which is parents and students of grade school and youth ministry programs, catechists, RCIA and other adult education programs and the parish at large. I had to determine what each of these groups would come back for at least once a month if not once a week. I then knew I had to be back once a week to update content and links. I went around the church and school taking pictures which I could use without worrying about copyrights. I then created a site map. A site map lays out what is on each page and how you get from one page to the next.
Once all this was gathered I went to the Wix.com website and created a free website. The free website includes Wix ads on your website. For a little money you can purchase a web address without the ads. I found a website template that I could use. I started with the main page by changing background colors. They have an assortment of photos and art that you can use without worrying about copyright acknowledgment. I added my pictures. I changed the titles of the pages in the navigation bar. When you click on these titles you will be taken to that content page. I added text boxes with news I created and others that included descriptions of other content with links to other websites. I then went to each page of the navigation bar and repeated the process. For the parents I included downloadable registration forms and we have forms for volunteer catechist also. The last page includes our address with a map of how to find us, our office hours, links to our Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ pages and a section where you can send us an email with a comment or a question. We will then be able to email a response. This does not solve all of our challenges, but it does give answers to questions when the office is not open. I hope it will help fill the spiritual needs of our families as well.
This is just the start. I plan to start a blog soon. Again, new content will give visitors a reason to come back, and maybe see us in person. I will be able to share photos and video of our events, which will give parents and students a reason to visit the site to see themselves. I could possibly do online registration and payments in the future. This is just one piece of the communications puzzle. We just began using Flocknote to deliver text or email reminders and other messages to our parents and catechists. We may have to create an app. I believe the greater the communication we have between ourselves the stronger our community will be.
Please visit my website, St. Joseph Faith Formation.