How to Blog 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Blogging Tutorial

Updated version of an earlier article.

I regularly get asked questions about how to start and maintain a successful blog. Here is my beginner’s blogging tutorial – How to Blog 101.


I recommend self-hosting your blog and using WordPress. It the most popular platform among Technorati’s top 100 blogs and among Church Relevance’s top church blogs. Tumblr is on a major growth trajectory and is especially popular with teens and 20-somethings.

Self-Hosted Blogging Software:

Blogging Services (hosting provided):

Other options include LiveJournal,, Weebly, and Wix (these last two are really websites with blog options).

#2 :: FIND A DOMAIN (if allowed)

As long as it is relevant, the shorter the domain is the better. A short domain is quick and easy to type, which will save you time in the long run and reduce the probability of you and your visitors mistyping it. Some of the tools


Being a web designer or hiring one is no longer necessity. WordPress has thousands of template designs for sale and for free that are not too complicated to implement. If you are just starting out with blogging, we typically recommend finding an inexpensive theme/template (under $50). If you are just starting out, but do have a design budget, we typically recommend spending it on branding (logo and brand usage guidelines) rather than development.

Free WordPress Themes

Note: Most website themes also have a blog-as-home option.

Premium WordPress Themes


WordPress is a great platform, but there are tools and plugins that can make it even better. I recommend at least using the following tools:

  • Google Analytics – free stats about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site
  • Akismet Plugin – tracks spammers and helps keep them off your blog
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.
  • WWW Redirect – Redirects variations of identical domain requests to a consistent uri (i.e. to )
  • Redirection – Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors
  • WordPress Database Backup Plugin – easily backup your core WordPress database

Other Tools:

  • ClickTale – provides movies and heatmaps of your visitors’ actual browsing sessions
  • Crazy Egg – supplement your analytics with stunning visuals and actionable data
  • Creative Commons – easily mark your work with copyright freedoms
  • Wufoo – Online form builder with cloud storage database.
  • PollDaddy – create free online surveys and polls for your blog


An aesthetically well-designed blog may entice visitors to linger for the first visit, but quality content is what will get those visitors to keep coming back. If you need topics, visit these resources:

  • Google Alerts – Emails from google containing the latest content on keywords of your choice
  • Reddit – users decide the top stories
  • Digg – discover and share content from anywhere on the web
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • StumbleUpon – discovers web sites based on your interests
  • Flipboard (iOS and Android)
  • Alltop – an “online magazine rack” of popular topics


If you want people to read your quality content, study the science of successful blogging and copywriting. Writing for a blog is different than writing for a book or magazine. My advice:

Unless you are blogging for personal reasons, focus on optimizing the reader experience. Offer only quality content. And make it scannable by using short paragraphs, bold text, and bullet points. Use as few words as possible without compromising quality (needless words waste readers’ time). And if possible, post consistently often.

Blogging Tips:


With blogging, two of your most powerful marketing opportunities are Search Engine Optimization and leveraging social media. Last year, 57% of’s traffic came from search engines. You should be using these resources:

  • Google Keyword Tool – discover which keywords and phrases are searched for the most. I use this often. In fact, three highly-searched keyphrases are in this post’s title.
  • Facebook – a popular social network likely used by many readers (follow me)
  • LinkedIn – a popular social network for professionals (follow me)
  • Twitter – stay hyperconnected to readers with this microblogging tool (follow me)
  • Google+ – the second largest social network which factors into Google’s search algorithms
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • Social Media Posting Guide – For regular people that do not have unlimited resources and time


Remember this is just the beginner’s blogging tutorial. But if you read all of these links, you will be on your way to becoming a blogging expert.

If you are already blogging, what would you add to this list?
What are your favorite tools?
What is your best advice?

Free Church Graphics and Resources Toolbox

This article is brought to you by Open Church:

Open Church - Free Church Resources

Great custom graphic design is ideal. But sometimes time, money, or skill limitations make it necessary to use pre-made graphics. And even when you have the time, money, and skills, there are still occasions when it is more efficient to not reinvent the wheel and to instead use and build upon a pre-made resource.

In either case, here are over 30 of the best sites offering free church graphics and resources. And if you want to spend some cash, I have also included 8 sites that cost money but are worth considering for pre-made resources. Some of these may also have a handful of free resources as well.

Free Church Graphics and Resources

  • CCV Resources
    Sermon series graphics and resources from Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) in Peoria, AZ.
  • Church Media Design (Freebies)
    Sermon series and announcement graphics
  • Church Planting Solutions
    Free church resources ranging from checklists to launch plan strategy documents to a church planter assessment tool.
  • Church Visuals
    Church Visuals is a division of Church Flair that provides free graphics & resources to use in your church experience.
  • CreationSwap
    Offers free church graphics including logos, photos, vector art, projector slides, bulletins, sermon graphics, projector slides, templates, and more. The site also includes a social network for Christian artists.
  • Elevation Church
    Around 70 high-quality sermon series graphics (PSD and JPEG) and series invites (JPEG) created by Elevation Church (Charlotte, NC).
  • Open
    Offers free sermon series resources that include message outlines, sermon graphics, videos, and more creative materials created by (Edmond, OK).
  • Ministry To Children
    Free Bible lessons, craft ideas, coloring page, and  for Children
  • Muddy River Media
    Offers free illustrative videos, motion backgrounds, countdown timers, stock photographs, illustrations, small group resources, and more.
  • NewSpring Ministries
    Offers free sermon series resources (e.g., sermon graphics, audio, message outline, & service outline) as well as administrative forms and manuals created by NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC).
  • NLC Creative
    Free motion backgrounds and sermon series graphics. Is the creative arm of New Life Church (Arkansas).
  • Nside Admin
    Offers free administrative documents from North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA) on church government, human resources, accounting, facilities, IT, and Web.
  • Open Church
    A global Church library of free downloadable resources including graphics, video, training materials, ebooks, and more.
  • Open Resources
    Sermon audio, countdowns, promotional design graphics and opening videos from a wide variety of message series and churches.
  • Resource Well
    Offers free resources for children, youth, and adults such as lessons, teachers guides, workbooks, audio and video. Created by Northland Church (Longwood, FL).
  • Seeds
    Sermon series resources, artwork, video, and drama from Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK)
  • Stuff I Can Use (formerly Vine Resources)
    Offers free sermon series graphics, postcards, countdown videos, and message bumpers created by the college ministry of Southeast Christian Church (Louisville, KY).
  • Stuff You Can Use
    Free downloadable youth ministry resources as well as interviews, how-to’s, and case studies from the creators of the resources.
  • Vintage Church
    Free graphic resources for churches (sermon series graphics, announcement slides, graphic design artwork, and message outlines)

Other Free Graphics and Resources

  • Adobe Exchange
    Offers free downloads to use with Adobe software including brushes, styles, gradients, custom shapes, and patterns for Photoshop.
  • BittBox
    A blog that regularly highlights free Photoshop brushes, Flash components, vector graphics, and more.
  • Brusheezy
    Offers free Photoshop brushes.
  • Flasheezy
    Offers free Flash elements.
  • PS Brushes
    Offers free Photoshop brushes.
  • Smashing Magazine
    A blog that regularly highlights free graphics, fonts, and more.
  • Vecteezy
    A place for vector artists to create and exchange a variety of free vector graphics like icons, patters, flourishes, etc.
  • Stock.xchng
    The leading free stock photo websites. Over 400K stock photos from 30,000 photographers.

Sites with Both Paid & Free Church Resources

  • Graceway Media 
    Sells sermon stills, motion graphics, and worship loops for churches. They also offer a free membership option that gives access to a variety of free media.
  • Lightstock
    Royalty-free images starting as low as $5 as well as a featured download each week.
  • Ministry Matters
    Though they also offer limited free content, their paid content is far more vast. Their monthly subscription model provides preaching, teaching, and worship tools as well as other resources like Bible commentaries, dictionaries, and e-books.
    Sells children’s curriculum, resources, books, and music. Currently it appears as though most all of the content is from the nonprofit publisher, David C. Cook.

Church Resources that Cost Money

  • Church Looks
    Paid sermon series graphics and presentation slides.
  • Creative Pastors
    Sells sermon series resources that include sermon graphics, video, mind maps, outlines, audio, and more created by Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX).
  • North Point Resources
    Sells logos, DVDs, sermon messages, conference messages, and more created by North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA).
  • Outreach
    Sells church graphics that include postcards, banners, bulletins, door hangers, invitations, brochures, logos, signage, and more.
  • ShareFaith
    ShareFaith provides one of the largest databases of church geared graphics available (50,000+).
    Sells sermon series resources (e.g., outlines, graphics, videos, audio, & scripts) and administrative resources (e.g., forms, documents, & manuals) created by Granger Community Church (Granger, IN).
  • WorshipHouse Media
    Sells mini-movies, motions, stills, software, and editable resources for churches.

For Discussion:
– What are you favorite websites for church resources and why? Be sure to mention whether they are free or cost money.

This post was originally published in 2008. We’ve updated it for 2013.

Church Website Headers & Navigation Guide + 30 Examples

The backbone of a church website is its navigation. A poor navigation obscures the content and loses visitors, but a well-designed navigation will streamline the user experience by giving what they need when they need it.

Here are the latest trends in good church website navigation and headers.

Logo: Horizontal orientation. On the Left. Links to Home.

Most websites place their logo in the top left corner. The center (with navigation on either side) is also a viable option, such as in the case of Terra Nova. Tips include:

  • Link logo to home page: Even if you choose to have “Home” as a navigation element, the logo should still link to the home page. Users expect this functionality.
  • If you have both horizontal and stacked versions of your logo, you will want to use the horizontal version in most cases because it uses up less vertical page real-estate, which allows room for more site content before users have to scroll.
  • Stacked logos still can work if (1) you have a longer name (Celebration Church), (2) your navigation bar is higher than normal for another reason such as subtext (The Chapel), or (3) your logo is compact (City on a Hill).

Dropdowns: No Longer a Best Practice

Dropdowns are still popular, but user experience architects, designers, and SEO experts are increasingly discouraging their use. Reasons why include:

  • Studies have found that many people find dropdowns annoying.
  • By not having them you drive people to higher level pages first which give them a broader context before drilling down further.
  • You can still have subpages, just display them on the section page instead of in the website’s global navigation.
  • Dropdowns dilute rather than focus the “link juice” from the home page. If not coded properly, Google may struggle to understand them at all.
  • Dropdowns tend to encourage the creation of too many pages (I’ve been guilty of this in the past). Not having them encourages clarity and brevity through combining of the most important information up front.

Creative alternatives to the dropdown menu include:

  • Longer home page with the subnav included in each section (see Hillsong London). University of Colorado Denver (where I’m attending grad school) takes this a step further and adds a floating nav bar which jumps you up and down the page.
  • Provide the user with the context of an entire page simply through hovering over the navigation. For an example, hover over the main navigation on Gateway Scottsdale’s website.

Secondary Navigation: Use to Cut Down on Main Sections

The secondary navigation is used as way to cut down on primary navigation sections by moving a few frequently sought after pages into a smaller secondary nav bar. Common examples are Give, Contact, Login, Search, Calendar/Events. Tips include:

  • Use smaller text
  • Try to limit to 3 (not including Search)
  • Also a common place to find a locations dropdown or campuses button/link.

Social Icons: Move out of Header

Though a number of sites still displayed social icons in the headers, more and more of them seem to be moving them to the footer, a sidebar, or beneath the slider.

Navigation Subtext: Use Only When Truly Helpful

Subtext is an option, but it runs the risk of making things unnecessarily cluttered. Tips include:

  • Only use it if additional context is truly needed.
  • Avoid using if you have more than 5 sections.

Good Navigation Subtext

GOOD USAGE: The subtext is helpful and allows for the condensing of sections without loss of understanding.

  • JESUS It’s all about Jesus
  • VISIT Locations : About
  • CONNECT Groups : Ministries
  • SERMONS Training : Music
  • GIVE Donate : Serve

Poor Navigation Subtext

POOR USAGE: The subtext provides no real additional value and makes things unnecessarily busy.

  • ABOUT Who we are
  • CONNECT and get involved
  • NEXT STEPS for your journey
  • EVENTS to enjoy
  • GIVING back to the Lord
  • CONTACT Drop us a line

Church Website Navigation Examples

Fairhaven (Centerville, OH) – 4 sections

Fairhaven Navigation

Gateway Scottsdale (Scottsdale, AZ) – 4 sections
Note: Great use of subtext with fewer navigation options. Upon hovering over navigation a page-wide dropdown with a contextual large image and list of subpages appears. Feels like visiting a new page without having to click on anything.

Gateway Church Scottsdale

Grace Community Church (Simi Valley, CA) – 4 sections

Grace Community Church

Austin Stone Community Church (Austin, TX) – 5 sections
Note: Example of a “Show Campuses” link.

The Austin Stone Navigation

Brainerd Baptist Church (Chattanooga, TN) – 5 sections
Note: Though their sections built around vision/mission are creative, their meaning is less intuitive to the visitor.

Brainerd Baptist Church Navigation

City of Grace (Mesa, AZ) – 5 sections

City of Grace Navigation

Eagle Brook Church (Minneapolis, MN) – 5 sections
Note: The campus links in the upper left above main nav work well with this simple header. On a less simple header, you might want to use a single dropdown, link or button.

Eagle Brook Church Navigation

First Baptist Concord (Knoxville, TN) – 5 sections

First Baptist Concord Website

Rock Church (San Diego, CA) – 5 sections
Note: Another great use of subtext.

Rock Church Website

The Chapel (Chicago, IL) – 5 sections

The Chapel Navigation

Celebration Church (Jacksonville, FL) – 6 sections

Celebration Church Navigation

Central Christian Church (Mesa, AZ) – 6 sections

Central Christian Church Navigation

Christ’s Church of the Valley (Los Angeles, CA) – 6 sections

CCV Website

Christ Church of the Valley (Peoria, AZ) – 6 sections

Christ's Church of the Valley Navigation

Church of the Highlands (Birmingham, AL) – 6 sections

Church of the Highlands Navigation

City on a Hill (Melbourne, Australia) – 6 sections

City on a Hill Navigation

Elevation Church (Matthews, NC) – 6 sections

Elevation Church Website

Glide (San Francisco, CA) – 6 sections

Glide Navigation

Highpoint Church (Memphis, TN) – 6 sections

Highpoint Church

Imago Dei Community (Portland, OR) – 6 sections

Imago Dei Community Navigation (Oklahoma City, OK) – 6 sections Navigation

Potential Church (Fort Lauderdale, FL) – 6 sections

Potential Church

Terra Nova Church (Troy, NY) – 6 sections

Terra Nova Website

Central (Las Vegas, NV) – 7 sections

Central Navigation

Central Baptist Church (Jonesboro, AR) – 7 sections

Central Baptist Church Website

Christ Fellowship (Miami, FL) – 7 sections

Christ Fellowship Navigation

First Baptist Church (Woodstock, GA) – 7 sections

FBC Woodstock Website

Glad Tidings Church (Omaha, NE) – 7 sections

Glad Tidings Church Navigation

Scottsdale Bible (Scottsdale, AZ) – 7 sections

Scottsdale Bible Navigation

The City Church (Seattle, WA) – 7 sections

The City Church Navigation

For more church website inspiration, check out Church Relevance’s list of Great Church Websites.

Artists are a gift to the Kingdom…

Artists are a gift to the Kingdom, who woo awe from humanity with words, with song, and with what the eye sees. Sometimes it is beautiful. Sometimes it shocks and repulses. But at its heart, it creates awe for creation, which when at its best, leads mankind to awe and worship of God.

Hillsong’s Magazine-Style Church App

Hillsong's Magazine-Style Church App

Update: Stream the Hillsong Conference (July 2-8) for free via the app

  • View information about upcoming sessions
  • Add reminders for your favorite sessions and receive notifications when they are about to start
  • Keep in mind, Hillsong is in Australia, so you’ll probably need to use these reminders. Use the following calculations to correct for your local time.
    • Pacific + 17 hours (i.e. 16:30 Tuesday Sydney time = 23:30 Monday Pacific)
    • Mountain +16 hours (i.e. 16:30 Tuesday Sydney = 00:30 Tuesday Mountain)
    • Central + 15 hours (i.e. 16:30 Tuesday Sydney = 01:30 Tuesday Central)
    • Eastern + 14 hours (i.e. 16:30 Tuesday Sydney = 02:30 Tuesday Eastern)

Hillsong recently released a magazine-style church app (via iTunes) to aggregate all of their latest news and content from around the globe.

In case you didn’t know, Hillsong is more than just music. In fact, it is a global church with locations in Australia, Cape Town, London, Paris, Stockholm, Kiev, Amsterdam, Moscow, New York City, and more.

Rather than create an app focused around one single location, Hillsong wanted a way to share their story and encourage local churches globally. The finished product is the first magazine-style church app that I’ve come across. Acting a lot like Flipboard, it aggregates content from existing sources such as…

  • Hillsong’s key leadership team’s social streams
  • Hillsong TV (videos and messages)
  • Hillsong Music
  • The collective church blog, “Hillsong Collected”
  • Content centered around global issues of poverty and development
  • You can even stream their upcoming conference (July 2-8) via the app

Equally noteworthy are the things this particular magazine-style church app does NOT have

  • No direct links the Hillsong website
  • No contact information
  • No information about upcoming events
  • No links to donation options

Though they do include basic information about campuses (tap the globe in top left of home screen), Hillsong likely chose to excluded these other items to keep the focus on the global ministry’s brand, mission, and content. It makes complete sense in their context, but would it work well for a local church in a smaller context? Maybe… However, I’d personally consider ways to also provide easy access to some of the surprisingly absent content mentioned above. At a bare minimum, this could be a page with buttons linking to more information on the church’s website (as long as they make it clear that these will take users outside the app).

Not sure if a church app is right for your church? Check out 5 Reasons to Consider a Church App.

How to Build a Creative Arts Culture

Taylor Barriger, Whitney George, & Pace Hartfield at Seeds Conference

At Seeds Conference 2012, Taylor Barriger of Camino de Vida (Lima, Peru), Whitney George of Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK), and Pace Hartfield of Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX) discussed how to build a creative arts culture.

Re: Struggles with Multi-Site
Pace: Each campus is resourced differently. The main campus has more lights and action compared to other campuses. But what we try to create are environments that fit each campus.

Re: Excellence on Budget Issues
Taylor: Creativity thrives on limitations. I love Bobby Gruenewald’s quote that “Media is a money hole. You have all you need today to do what you need to do.” So we have kids run our cameras sometimes because they are the most skilled at it. So we took on a mindset of “No limitations.”

Re: Is your band paid staff?
Taylor: No, because we don’t have the budget, and it wasn’t a possibility. We’ve grown our talent. Good musicians are attracted to good music.
Pace: No, our musicians aren’t paid anymore, but they were 3 years ago. We transitioned because no other volunteer was paid.
Whit: We no longer pay our musicians either. We realized it was an honor to serve, and we didn’t want a culture where people expected money every time they served.

Re: How do you get people to be excited about what you do?
Whit: The people’s excitement level will never exceed that of the leader. The people in the audience will never be more excited than the people on the stage.

Re: How do you stay creative with an older creative pastor?
Whit: Your pastor doesn’t necessarily limit your creativity. He may just shift and direct your creativity to look a different way. Creativity doesn’t have to be lights and stage design.
Pace: If you are getting kick back from your pastor, try giving him 3 options instead of one.
Taylor: Sometimes older pastors might not know what is possible, so constantly share what is possible with them.

Re: What if you pastor has a buffet mentality but expects gourmet creativity results?
Whit: Sometimes pastors don’t know how much time and effort it takes to pull things off.
Pace: On the rare occasions when you do have more time, show the pastor what can be done.
Taylor: The leader of the creative team must fight to create buffer between the pastor and the designers.

Special thanks to Skylark Audio Video for covering my travel expenses so that I can live blog the conference for you. They love churches and are currently offering free AVL consulting.

Further Reading:
2012 Church Conference Calendar