The beauty of this particular system is that it is free, accessible and manageable by even the most web-phobic person, and it can easily be integrated into any other website at a later date. (So, if your church eventually builds its own site, you could have this be a subsidiary of that site.)
Your ideal website will be easy to access via a unique URL (Unique Resource Locator - your own website address), easy to navigate (so users can quickly find what they need), and easy to maintain.
A BLOG fits this description perfectly. If you were to pay someone to create a site like the one I am going to describe below, you could easily spend $1500. But there are dozens of free services available to you right now.
A blog is easy to set up, as it allows you to choose from dozens of page designs, one of which will closely reflect your ministry's personality. In addition, your blog will provide the ability for you to post current and future information (while retaining a record of all past entries), in an easy-to-access format, as well to include details about particular ministries and staff profiles. All of this information iseasily searched using the built-in search tool, which is provided as part of the free hosting service.
By following these eight, easy steps, you can go from brand-new-idea to ready-to-post website, yet tonight.
1. Select Your Blog's Name. It is critical that both your blog title and your URL (Unique Reference Locator, or website address) match your group's name. For example, if your group is called "Women of the Word," you would search a site like DomainsBot for that name. However, you would subtract the spaces so it would read: womenoftheword. In a matter of seconds, you could know if the ".org" version of your name is available. If your name is not available, consider using an abbreviation or adding your city or church name at the beginning of the string. Select the easiest, yet most accurate, website address available to you.
2. Register your domain name. You could spend hours researching which domain registration company to use, or you could use the one I recommend: GoDaddy. They have GREAT customer service and the cost to register your website URL is under $10/year.
3. Open a blog account. Again, there are dozens of great options for free blog accounts, but I'll save you the time of doing all that research by recommending WordPress.
4. Create your blog. Your first task will be to choose from dozens of layout templates. Browse your options until you find one that "feels" about right for now. There is no need to select perfectly, because, thankfully, you are allowed to change templates anytime. Just pick one that you sort of like and keep working. You can always change it later.
5. Set up your categories. A category is like a file folder: It is an easy way for you to sort and search for particular types of information. Mercifully, blogs allow you to create categories and sub-categories. So, you might have a category called, "Calendar" with subcategories for each month of the year. Another category may be "About Us" including subcategories by the name of each ministry coordinator or volunteer. The sky is the limit, and, once again, the system is very forgiving: If you want to "re-categorize" a post later, or add a new category altogether, it is easy to do! Best of all, anytime you add a new blog post, you simply click check boxes to "put it into" as many categories as you wish, which makes searching for the information very easy for your users.
6. Point the URL to the blog. There is a wonderful feature called "URL forwarding" which causes an invisible redirection of any site to another. By using this opportunity, anyone who types in your URL will be taken, invisibly, to the main page of your WM blog. This is far superior to using the long and confusing address assigned to you by the blog hosting service. And, by purchasing your URL (in step 2 above) from GoDaddy or any other reputable source, you gained access to customer service support in case you need assistance while making this minor tweak to your account.
7. Enter the content currently on hand. You may be tempted to try to add all sorts of historical data and to have the blog site "perfect" before you go public, but I encourage you to add just one simple, welcome message, and then to build it from there.
There is a Biblical principal that applies here: Remember when God was speaking to Moses and said, "What's that you have in your hand?" Moses said, "It's just a staff."
Just now you have the ability to add a welcome message and to get this thing going. If you start with that, and add just one or two posts a week, your site will have 50-100 posts in less than a year. It adds up fast and is easy when you go with the flow and just use "what you have in your hand" at the time.
8. Update your email list. My own experience indicates that only a fraction of those interested in following your blog will actually "subscribe" to it via RSS feed. Most people do not have the internet savvy to understand, much less use, the subscription options. Assuming this, be sure to send out an email message to your entire group each time you add an important post to your site. Always use the blog post title as your "Subject" line and be sure to include the link to the website. Be careful not to send notices about every little tweak - just let them know about the bigger stuff.
A blog is truly an ideal "first" step for any group who wants a web presence but has little financial or web programming resources on hand: It can be free, customized, categorized, searched, and managed easily by even the most nontechnical user. It allows you to add text, photos and links, and provide a way for your guests to interact with you online via the comment boxes below each entry.
So, what are you waiting for? Go create your new Women's Ministry website tonight!
Marnie Swedberg is the mentor to thousands of Women's Ministry Leaders from around the world via her hub at http://www.marnie.com