Four Steps for Creating a Catechist Website
by Laura Long 2018
In this hectic world where people are getting busier, catechists want smarter and quicker ways to prepare for weekly classes. My goal was to develop a Catechist website, which allows for quick searches for chapter ideas, the upcoming weekend’s Gospel and simpler ways to teach the children a theological concept. The steps needed are permission, content, navigation of website and backend of website, which includes hosting, Content Management System (CMS) and cost.
First, I approached the Director of Religious Education for K-5 at St. Anne Parish, Oswego, IL, Cathy. Knowing someone in the parish can certainly help with the permission step and the overall process. When you have credibility with someone, they will help push the idea with the Pastor. The permission step involved general brainstorming between the DRE and I for ideas regarding what the Catechist website would be specifically used for and the ideal content. Once completed, Cathy explained to the Pastor so he knew what would be happening with the website and to see if our ideas aligned with his for the website. After this step, the specific content of the website was discussed further.
The Second step, content, was discussed with many conversations and brainstorming about what the catechists would need to find easily as they prepare for class. We wanted ways to assist the catechist if they were home and needed ideas while they were preparing for class. We felt they would want access to the book used in class and helpful hints to teach concepts, the weekly gospels, handouts for the students for certain topics and assistance in class with student behavior. We decided to also add encouragement from the DRE by a letter from her, possibly monthly. Our other conversation regarding permission entailed copyright permission and legal issues. I wanted the site to be password protected to make sure only catechists had access because in the future I wanted it to be used as a blog among catechists to discuss students, with no names. We discussed a nondisclosure form the catechist would have to sign before they received the passcode to ensure no private student information would be leaked throughout the parish.
The third step of the navigation of the website was assisted by the research done regarding the catechists in the program. We knew that 80% were comfortable being online using websites, so this helped with the navigation of the website. I created a basic layout of the content and scaffolded what each page would reveal at the click of the mouse. The original intent was to upload handouts for the catechists and when selected would send a form to the religious education office to print out copies for the class. The color scheme chosen was blue and green, purposely trying to be soothing because sometimes catechists will come to the website frantic regarding what to teach and how to teach it. Blue is also a regular color associated with this parish, as it is on the parish website. It was also decided to use the ‘Customfy’ template and Elementor and SmartSlider plug-ins. With the website’s basic layout completed, we moved to website development.
The final pieces needed are the domain choice, hosting site and (CMS). The DRE and I decided on a domain name that would be easy for our catechists to remember. This is our parish private website to serve our parish catechists. And when you click on the link…this is what happens…
The web host is “Blue Host” chosen because it was inexpensive and seemed popular. The cost of Blue Host was $80 for a year and the domain name was $10 for a year. An important piece was the price because the RE program did not have a budget for this and it ended up a part of the regular budget. WordPress is the CMS, which was chosen because I was familiar with it. When creating/developing something for the first time, the more you utilize what and who you are familiar with, the better the outcome.
Each step is important and should be handled individually, utilizing what you know and contacts you have met in your life. Developing a website can be daunting to start, but with practice, perseverance and spending the time learning about the plug-ins page by page, one can learn how to best create and develop a website for your purpose.