Volunteer Church Webmasters Should Quit

June 7, 2005 by

Everyone’s talking about Michael Boyink’s post about how church webmasters should stop working for free, for good reason. Effective Web Ministry Notes tipped us off, and Heal Your Church Web Site adds to the discussion. The comments are rolling in on Boyink’s site, so I’d encourage you to check those out.

The basic idea is that churches who don’t pay for web work won’t appreciate the work. They’ll be willing to toss it aside at a moment’s notice because, well, it didn’t cost them anything.

It’s an interesting discussion and applies to for more than just church web sites. Any design, writing or other creative work that’s volunteered can easily be overlooked. I’d hate to say that no one should volunteer for their church, since little would get done then, but it is a wake up call that churches need to take these efforts more seriously. Just because it’s volunteer doesn’t mean it’s second rate, and it doesn’t mean you can ignore it.

Perhaps invoicing a church for your volunteer work, even if you have no intention of getting paid, would be a good way to show them the value of your work.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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55 Responses to “Volunteer Church Webmasters Should Quit”

  • aj
    June 7, 2005

    Very idealistic. I don’t know about your situation, but this could be incredibly dis-heartening for those who can’t pay their webmasters (like me). And lets not assume pay = quality work. Though it can, it doesn’t always. I would offer we need more webmasters with heart, not necessarily larger paychecks. The church, as you know, has done a stink-poor job creating “web-master-architects”. How can we do this. Not by throwing more money at the problem, but facing creating the need in our churches. If our churches refuse to realize that they are more and more irrelavant due to their lack of update, it doesn’t matter. I think it starts with the heart. Thoughts?

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  • Mean Dean
    June 7, 2005

    Y’know, I’m getting a bit tired of ” … lets not assume pay = quality work …”
    Let’s assume the opposite which in the case of church websites is the norm, let’s assume that no pay == quality work.
    But if we assumed that there’d be no need for websites such as “Church Marketing Sucks” now would there?

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  • luke
    June 7, 2005

    As a graphic designer I have really strong feelings on this subject. I always think it should cost something…free leads to abuse of someone’s time. Now I am very aware that most churches can’t afford a fully paid web-master, but i do believe they can pay something even if its just a gift certificate somewhere. I would even go as far as to say that God honors and blesses those who aren’t afraid to pay for services.
    As a design company we have normal rates and ministry rates and sometimes we will do work for free, but we always make it cost something. For example: I work with a dear friend of mine who is a pastor, all the design work we do doesn’t cost the church financially…but he is an amazing copy writer and always helps me out with writing and strategizing for my clients. win win! He blesses me and helps business grow, in turn I don’t feel overwhelmed by giving away some services. I’ve also done paying work for my church, but then given the money back in other ways.
    So get creative, it doesn’t have to necessarily be financial reward but it should cost something…don’t forget that the people asking for changes to the website are in most cases being paid.

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  • Michael
    June 7, 2005

    It is never a matter of whether or not a church can pay. Of course they can. They pay for electricity. Oh but that’s different some will say. Why? Because you have to have electricity or no one would come to church.
    It is a matter of priorities and perceived needs. churchmarketingsucks.com exists because many churches don’t see or understand the need.
    It’s as if being paid by the church for design work, web work, marketing, etc. is bad…why can someone live off their work for the church in one aspect (music pastor, children’s pastor, youth pastor, receptionist, janitor, architect, etc. etc.) but in others. Honestly, makes me feel second class and that my efforts aren’t worth it even though my efforts help support the others and draw the crowd they preach to and ultimately pass an offering basket to.

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  • Chris Mikesell
    June 7, 2005

    Personally, I look at my free webmastering as a ministry and not a service. Are the ushers or communion stewards paid at your church? The ladies at the welcome counter? Sunday school teachers? The guy in the sound booth or the PowerPoint computer guy? The back-up singers on the worship team? The person who signs for the hearing-impaired?

    Am I thanked as much as my ego desires? No. Am I stoked when word is passed along that someone came to church because of the website? Absolutely.

    Honoraria are nice, but unless it’s fairly large it winds up feeling like a backhanded compliment: You kept the website up and running all year, here’s a $20 gift card from Albertson’s. Sure, a month’s worth of Pringles is nice, but c’mon….

    A church where the website is a full-time job or where pastoral tweakage is high, yeah I could see disincentivising random changes. But updating the calendar weekly, changing photos occasionally, and now and then adding a page or two is not that big a deal.


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  • Mean Dean
    June 7, 2005

    Again, I don’t think its an issue of having one’s work recognized – but rather having the value of the work recognized – in terms of what it would have cost the church/ministry to outsource the job.
    And having once done so, they’d be less likely to ditch a design and more interested in maintaining compelling content. While I don’t speak for Boyink, I know for certain that’s what he’s driving at … and I agree with him.
    Churches just don’t understand the value of the web to their ministry, nor do they have in proper perspective what it costs to do it effectively and professionally.

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  • wulf
    June 8, 2005

    Everybody who’s doing something in church has a ‘secular’ equivalent who’s getting paid. Do you pay your musicians? Possibly, although that’s certainly not the norm over here in the UK. Do you pay your Sunday School teachers? I’ve never come across that, even though teaching is a recognised profession. Do you pay the people going out and evangelising? I know it’s not an exact match but salespeople expect some sort of return.
    Pay the web designer (I’m one – both professionally and for my church, my band and myself) and there’s going to be a long queue of other people with equally justifiable claims.
    Paying people works in business where you’re dealing with consumers; the more people who get the message, the greater your income. However, in Christ’s kingdom, people who get the message become participants and, if even half of them are doing work worthy of pay, where is the money going to come from?

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  • Mean Dean
    June 8, 2005

    Wulf … yes, I think everyone should charge for everything.
    I’ve seen the talents of professional musicians squandered, why? Because the church staff was clueless as to what it takes to train-up to that quality/caliber of performance.
    I think its time the Church understand that just as it is the mission of the individual member to serve one another — so it is the mission of the church to properly serve, enable and equip those who offer their gifts and talents. The first step is to understand there is a value in whats being received.

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  • Teevio
    June 8, 2005

    This is definitely a touchy subject, one that can easily step on toes. I think the biggest concern that is raised is the issue of wishy washy people, and how to keep them from running the web-developer or the web designer around.
    I think the proposal for paying someone for their time is an effective solution, because then more time/revisions means more money, and people are motivated by how little money they can spend. This means that people would be less likely to change stuff because if they do more money will be spent.
    Unfortunately, even in the professional world, people will still be wishy washy, change their mind 10 times and have to pay for their indecision. The only difference is the web-developer actually has some kind of incentive to redo the same thing over and over.
    I think that these issues need to be raised in a church setting, boundaries need to be applied, and consequences need to be executed. I would never turn down somone who wanted to do something for free, as long as they do a quality job. But limits and boundaries need to be set to keep people from running that person around, and if paying them is the best solution, then so be it.

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  • kevin
    June 8, 2005

    Wow, not even 12 hours have gone by and we’ve racked up this many comments. You guys are awesome! I love seeing the conversations here. Thanks.
    This is a really interesting discussion and I don’t think there’s going to be any right answer. It’s true, most churches can’t afford to pay their webmaster, or their Sunday school teachers or ushers or anybody else. And at some level, part of what’s cool about church is that people volunteer to serve. I don’t think every volunteer at church should get paid. That’s why we call them volunteers.
    At the same time, the overall point here is that churches (or any institution) have a tendency to overlook what’s handed to them. They take it for granted, not realizing what they’re getting for free. Thus they let volunteers do stuff they wouldn’t let happen if they were paying for it. Thus they don’t properly plan or use what’s being given to them.
    I think Luke made a good point that churches should pay something. Our youth group has a scholarship fund to help kids out who can’t afford to go to expensive events–but we require any kid using the scholarship to pay something, even if it is only $20 of a $300 week at camp. Perhaps volunteers should get something–and I don’t think it needs to be a backhanded compliment.
    As volunteer youth group leaders this past year my wife and I were surprised to receive a hefty gift certificate to a fancy restaurant in town, along with gift certificates to the movies–with enough room to buy popcorn, soda and gummy bears. Was its monetary worth anywhere near the time we put in? No way. But did it make us feel overwhelmingly appreciated. Yes!

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  • Teevio
    June 8, 2005

    Yeah, my church gave everyone who volunteered within the last year a pass to go to Great Escape (similar to Six Flags). As trite as it might sound, it really let me know that they appreciate everyone who volunteered.

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  • Mean Dean
    June 8, 2005

    Teevio – that’s great – but what I’d want in a perfect world is not personal recognition, but rather avoiding the temptation to scrap everything old and start everything new when the ‘everything old’ offers several points of effectiveness.
    That’s what Boyink is talking about as well. The church website he doesn’t name needs some facelift work, but the layout and the structure are just fine. Why scrap it all and go new … probably because maintenance programming sucks as much as church marketing.

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  • Michael
    June 8, 2005

    It’s certainly a valid point that we don’t pay everyone for everything they do. If it takes an hour or two a week then that certainly falls within the volunteer realm. It’s when it falls within many hours a week/month that it takes it outside of the volunteer world. In order to be effective a website must be constantly updated with fresh content, in order to be effective a postcard has to draw attention, etc. I’m talking more about the realm of media and communications in church; at some point a church should reach the point to pay for communicating and marketing, to have someone lead that effort. We don’t pay the Sunday School teacher, but we pay the Children’s pastor. Just because I’m not Pastor Michael doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be paid. If I were paid, which I am sometimes, it would allow me more time to develop the communications of the church which would result in greater outcomes.

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  • Ryan Dickinson
    June 8, 2005

    For The Rock at Church Ranch (125 weekly attendance), I have set up the website on a Content Management platform – and all changes are required to go through the submission portion of the system – this prevents alot of “oh, what if we did this?…” type of changes.
    It puts the initial effort on those who want the changes (Pastors, Elders, Ministry Leaders, etc.) to come up with the copy, images, etc that they would like to see. You would be amazed at how much this weeds out the whimsical…yet still contributes to a well updated, fresh, focused website.
    This reduces our time, which we contribute for free (I’m a partner in a marketing firm and in leadership for the church), while still keeping the goal of the project in focus – which is to bring people in the door. We see about 2 new families a week show up because of the website, which is extremely rewarding in and of itself.
    It’s a matter of working smarter – which makes it much easier to be a “cheerful giver” of your time.

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  • Tim Bednar
    June 8, 2005

    Wow, Mike certainly struck a nerve. Here are some thoughts,
    1. Volunteer vs. vendor. We pay carpenter’s and plumbers to fix the church building. In contend that a web site is more a piece of property than it is a church program. Thus, designers are vendors more than “teachers”. Mega churchs pay lots of “volunteers”–namely all the jobs no one volunteers for anymore (i.e. nursery).
    If churches/pastors/leaders stops thinking of the congregation as volunteers to be recruited to execute some grand vision of theirs and instead saw the congregation as co-creators/co-visionaries, this distinction would be mute.
    It does not cease to be a “ministry” just because I get paid. Furthermore, paying me will result in a great site. Like this one I just finished (if I may say so),
    Okay, that’s great.
    But there are ripple effects. Now, I am a reliable resource for their ministry, a long term consultant.
    Also, because I got paid, I am in a better position to replicate this success more. I have an incentive to “evangelize” good web design, to stay current on best practices and build a network of other folks doing the same thing. So, over time, as more and more churches invest in my–it accumulates in better and better designs.
    Great church sites do not stand alone–they become part of the organic, informal “cyberchurch”, the networked, virtual, Christian conversation.
    2. Not all churches need “great” looking web sites with fancy content management systems. Most just need about 5 well written pages that look nice. Not expensive even if you pay for it–I think that most churches would be better off paying someone like Kevin (plug, plug–I’ve used him, he’s great) to write good copy for their site than a fancy designer like me.
    3. Compare ROI on a web site to the old skool monthly newsletter (virtually part of every church) or making a vinyl sign at Kinkos. Even for small churches this can run into the $1000s in the budget (printing press and mailing costs can not be volunteered). Paying for a great web site has a much better ROI. Just make a change in this line item and problem the money problem is solved…
    4. Also, building a great church web site is not rocket science. It is pretty simple, it’s rarely done.
    Very long, sorry.

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  • Betsy
    June 8, 2005

    I think the bottom line is CONTENT. Putting a new face on a dead site doesn’t make it new. Putting new content in a old site refreshes it and often leads to minor redesigns that really enhance the existing format.

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  • Mean Dean
    June 8, 2005

    That was beautiful Betsy … mind if I steal … er I mean borrow … ummm I mean quote you on that?

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  • Cryptblade
    June 8, 2005

    Interesting idea. Don’t necessarily agree with it. And I think a lot of people are bogged down in fleshliness in the comments (“pay != quality work”, etc.)
    How about approaching the website as a ministry? How many churches approach the website as a separate ministry, designed to be projected voice of the church ministry – outside of the walls and immediate community of the church?
    If churches don’t approach it as a ministry, then certainly you can have problems of apathy for the work. Yes, even that approach has problems – but it’s a gage of the types of people recruited into the ministry.
    My church has a separate website ministry. We meet regularly, we pray before meetings, we understand that there is a vision of excellence in the ministry and that the work we do projects the excellence of the ministry outside of the church walls and outside of the immediate community.
    But that also goes with what is the church doing? Someone wrote not all churches need a great looking site. I agree. Does a small community church with a few hundred members need a big flashy site? Probably not – cause to what end?
    But still, I think even big churches that can afford paid management should not have webmasters quit. Ministry volunteers ideally have a passion for the church.
    But still…at some point, some elements of the website should be outsourced.

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  • Mean Dean
    June 8, 2005

    Cryptblade – what makes you think many of us haven’t already tried the ministry approach?
    Moreover and once again, you, like others here, keep focusing on the web developer when Boyink’s point was about tossing away previous developed resources with flashy design vs. working hard to make compelling content with what you’ve got.

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  • Nathan Smith
    June 8, 2005

    I have to agree, that when a church gets something for free, they take it for granted. I’ve designed my church’s site using the Textpattern CMS so that they can write their own content and keep it up to date. I even had a staff training session so that they would know how to use it.
    And yet, other than the content I put on there, it sits there unused. It’s like the old saying goes – I’ve led the horse to water. Any tips on how to get it to drink? :)

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  • Wes Childers
    June 8, 2005

    If the money is available I definitely say pay/charge. Everyone benefits in this situation in my opinion. The church/ministry is more likely to get priority, quality work and the designer/developer doesn’t feel unappreciated or taken advantage of. I also understand viewing the work as a ministry… I view my work in this light and it’s encouraging to me to do work that “matters” after the 9-5 work that is often less-than-satisfying.
    All that aside… I’m a part of a young church plant and do our website as an in-kind donation… the church benefits by getting “free” work (there is no money exchanging hands)… and I get the benefit of a tax break.

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  • Noah Fallis
    June 9, 2005

    Setting limits to what you can do for free is key. Establishing and agreement that says “I’ll create a design but you have to update the site”. Scope creep is something in my earlier days as a web designer was a cause of great stress. If you get the pastor to sign a piece of paper that states the terms, your time as a designer is commodified and suddenly you get far less emails about niggly things that are content related.

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  • James Higginbotham
    June 9, 2005

    Nathan wrote:

    “And yet, other than the content I put on there, it sits there unused. It’s like the old saying goes – I’ve led the horse to water. Any tips on how to get it to drink? :)”

    And thus, is the proof that you need to have the church pay for web design. I was a “webmaster” (aka IT ministry leader, as we needed more infrastructure) and I had no response from anyone in the church until we selected and paid for a company to produce a nice design that met with the vision of our pastor and staff.

    Now, they are very anxious to utilize what has been paid for, and the volunteers can spend the time pushing content out by pulling it from the ministry leaders, rather than messing with web design and HTML/Javascript/Flash. And those servants aren’t “webmasters” professionally – they are electricians, building contractors, and lawyers. No joke!

    Most importantly, I was able to create an environment that was easy to work in, easy to fill in roles/needs as they grow/shrink the task list, and hand the entire ministry off to another leader (the electrician) for God’s next calling in my life (and of the lives of those currently serving when the time comes).

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  • Anthony
    June 9, 2005

    I think that it depends on the over all culture of the church. In our church, we have approx 18 volunteer team ministries. Everyone is valued and no one and no effort is minimalized. Our Pastors are great leaders and regularly meet with all of the team leaders (Coaches) to impress upon them their appreciation for the work that they and their team accomplish. Our church could not function without our volunteers, and our volunteers could not “function” without our church. I feel PLANTED “by the rivers of living water” and work in at least 4 different ministries that require various amounts of time. I could not imagine “requiring” pay for what I do. Would I jump at the chance to be a member of the paid staff? Yes! It would be an honor to be asked. But for now, I look at my efforts as giving my talents back to the Lord — seed that will come to a bountiful and ongoing Harvest.

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  • Michael
    June 10, 2005

    Anthony, with 18 volunteers who leads all of them?
    Our Music Pastor made an interesting statement the other day at practice. He was talking about the honor of leading praise and worship and said, “I don’t get paid for playing the organ or even for leading worship on Sunday morning, that is my ministry and an honor, I get paid for what I do during the week.” It was a point of view I had never looked at before.
    I think it’s great that the body works together and volunteers to make the church what it is. I do think though that at some point someone must lead the volunteers on a consistent basis and spend the time to put everything in place during the week.

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  • Bill Sanderson
    June 10, 2005

    The same thing applies for accountants. I volunteer because I want to, but some organizations will try to get you to do things they should pay for. I am not a bookkeeper, although I can do a creditable job of it when I’m paying attention.
    If the church would pay for it anyway, and you want to volunteer to save them some cash, send an invoice for your time along with a cheque for the same amount. You get a tax receipt, they get (hopefully) a professional job and the confusion between your job and your donation is lessened.
    As a leader in non-profit organizations, I never ask someone to donate the service that they make money providing. As a result, I expect that when doing accounting for someone, I will get paid; when I cater a function for them, it’s a labour of love.

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  • Mitch Myers
    June 11, 2005

    Very interesting comments. I have been doing this for about 7 years. I developed our first website about 5 years ago and since that V2 has replaced it.
    I have never accepted any pay for my church. God gave me some very unique gifts. I would imagine he gave many of us in this those very unique gifts also.
    The key to providing a great website is finding people who are passionate about what they do. If there is no passion to give back to God in the area they are serving, then the results will not be awesome. I consider it a privilege and quite inspiring to contribute with people who are not paid for their technical contributions but continue to do it as a way of giving back to God. Contribution can be a challenge but clearly well worth it. God has blessed me so much from it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We are building a third version of a church management system http://www.3cms.org all so far based on what people give of their time, resources and knowledge. This is a great example of what can be done when the vision is cast, God keeps his hand upon us and blesses us indeed.
    It can work just needs the passionate people who dont’ consider it work but consider it fun.
    Mitch Myers
    Elder, Community Christian Church
    Project Manager http://www.3cms.org
    IT Project Manager, McKinsey & Company

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  • Robertson
    July 25, 2005

    Like Mitch, I’ve done a web site for Riviera Presbyterian Church for about 2 years.
    There’s an interesting viewpoint presented in the recent book “Freakonomics” (www.freakonomics.com) in which people often contribute more for free than when paid to do the same thing. Look at blood donors – people donate blood out of a feeling of civic duty during crisis, but if they’re paid $10 or $50 to do so, dontions actually fall because the equation is changed to one in which it’s about money not civic duty.
    Perhaps the webmasters of the church community would actually contribute less if paid, than what they would do out of love for their community.
    Money isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

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  • Jason VanDorsten
    August 24, 2005

    I would never downplay the importance of volunteers within the church. Anyone who has spent any time in vocational ministry should understand with great clarity their importance.
    HOWEVER, if a certain position (webmaster or IT Director) warrants the emphasis that most of us believe it does, I would go with a paid staffperson all the way. Two reasons for this. Firstly, regardless of how passionate volunteers may be (and they should be passionate!!), volunteers will come and go. Their job moves, families expand, situations change – available time and effort must be redirected to other (more important) things. The potential lack of consistancy, in my opinion, warrants a paid staffer.
    Secondly, there is what I call the “Cost-Value Principal”. Simply put, the more something costs you, the more you value it. Conversely, the more you value something, the greater the cost you are willing to pay. This point in the article is well taken – “The basic idea is that churches who don’t pay for web work won’t appreciate the work. They’ll be willing to toss it aside at a moment’s notice because, well, it didn’t cost them anything.” I’ve seen it happen to our own website and media efforts.
    Again, this BY NO MEANS DOWNPLAYING THE IMPORTANCE OF UNPAID, PASSIONATE VOLUNTEERS USING THEIR GIFTS TO THE GLORY OF CHRIST. There are simply some areas that I believe work better with a staffed overseer if possible.

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  • thoughts
    August 30, 2005

    2005 Summer Blogging Review

    With the summer winding down and me blogging like a mad man all over the place (except maybe here), I thought it’d be a good idea to take a page from the Jason Kottke book and do a summer blog…

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  • georgeous
    December 9, 2005

    Sometimes church websites are very ‘static’ and merely repeat information that is available elsewhere. This is ok -but when churches do go on-line I think it is more important to be INTERACTIVE and use the web for communication.
    Now there are some low maintainance ways of being interactive that doesn’t involve a lot of technological know how… eg the BLOG! Any teenager could set one up and have a discussion that fleshed out all the main issues before some church meeting.. I consider that far more useful than just putting up the service times!
    Of course discussion forums (list phpbulliten board) are better in some ways since anyone can initiate a post .. but that does require some one to set them up and maintain them… but it is oworth thinking about where efforts are being put and why!

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  • tbone
    January 13, 2006

    if you’re looking for appreciation or respect for your work, you shouldn’t be doing ANYTHING for your church. Your motivation should be to facilitate bringing others to Christ with your God-given gift! I own a design and marketing firm. The only thing I have charged my church for were hard costs. I had the priviledge of watching this church triple in size in 4 years. That’s reward and appreciation enough for me. I also feel the same about musicians getting paid to play at church (yes, i’m a musician too).
    Makes me wonder if those “fishermen” were grumbling about being paid?

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  • Jeff
    October 5, 2006

    here is the rule of thumb, not just for webmasters but for sound techs, worship leaders, custodians, anything. Churches really need to understand this.
    You want 3 things when you are looking for a person.
    You want him cheap
    You want him to be available
    You want him to be good
    That’s what we all want. Suppose the sewer backs up into your bathtub on a weekend. You have to call a plumber, right? You want him to be cheap, you want him over right now, and you want him to know what he’s doing.
    Here’s the catch – you get to pick any 2 of those 3. You can have him cheap and always available, but then there’s probably a reason he’s so cheap and available. You can have him cheap and good, but he’s not going to get to your sewer problem until next Thursday. Or you can have him good and available, and you will pay through the nose for his services.
    Well that’s the same way with using volunteers at a church. They are cheap. Now – you get to pick one other quality, either good or available. If you insist on not paying for the webmaster service, and you insist on that person being always available to you, well… you’r really rolling the dice on whether the work is any good or not.

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  • Lily Chen
    December 8, 2006

    Sorry to be beating a dead horse, but I recently have encountered this situation. I am a graphic designer/art director by trade. I normally don’t charge for my design services to my church. At the advice of a church leader I started charging a nominal fee several years ago for major events that require more design effort and management. No one questioned it until this year, AFTER they asked me and I rendered my services and got everything done, then they informed me that the policy has changed and that ALL church assignments are expected to be on a volunteer basis, meaning I cannot charge for my labor, but only out of pocket costs like printing, supplies, or copy jobs at Kinko’s.
    Now I’m trying to see it from their point of view. Sure, we don’t pay Suynday School teachers and ushers and people who move tables and chairs and take out the garbage after the service, but they don’t do this for a living. Suppose the church wants an architect to “volunteer” his services to redesign the building, or a contractor to “volunteer” putting in a new roof. I don’t see why the volunteer would be obligated NOT to charge a fair and reasonable or even a nominal rate, if this is what he does for a living. It should be the volition of the volunteer to decide whether or not to charge or accept the unpaid “assignment.” I guess my beef is that either way, it should be discussed upfront.
    Now I blame myself for not asking upfront to learn about this policy change. In this case I just told them forget my invoice and chalk it up as a “voluntary” donation onmy part. I won’t charge in the future either (if I ever decide to take any more “assignments” again), but I get the feeling that my design services are just taken for granted. I volunteer in plenty other capacity as well and I do them gladly, within the best of my abilities. I’m not trying to “skim off the top” or take advantage of the church. Even my rate was on the low side of what I normally would charge a regular client. I can’t help but wonder if my church would approach anyone outside and ask for free work. Last I checked, my church paid a lawyer for his services, paid the electric bill, paid the contractor for remodeling the building, and paid the rent for the facilities. I wonder if I had hired another designer to do the work, would they pay him for it? If so, then what makes my services less worthy or less valuable?
    I am sure there’s a lot of abuse by chuches when it comes to creative professions, perhaps because we don’t have the cachet as someone in medicine, law or other “more professional” fields. In a world where anyone can buy Photoshop and Microsoft Publisher and call themselves a “designer,” I guess we really can’t blame other people, much less the church, for not understanding and appreciating the value of good design.
    Just want to get this off my chest.

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  • Lily Chen
    December 8, 2006

    Just want to mention another thing…
    A fellow designer who used to work at my company (a worldwide non-profit Christian organization) “volunteers” for his church for free. They made him design everything from flyers, ads, monthly magazines, CD covers, etc. You name it. Now this fellow is so busy he ended up doing a lot of this “volunteer” work on company time, at the expense of getting his regular paid work done. So essentially he was subsidizing his church with company time and salary, using company software, hardware, and color printer to do his church work at the expense of our company. Now I’m sure he scored a lot of points with his church, but tell me, does this “volunteer” work honor God? Is this not literally “robbing Peter to pay Paul”? IMHO, it would have been better if his church had paid for all his work so he can do it on his own time.
    Of course, eventually we had to let this fellow go after years of putting up with this behavior.
    Before churches decide whether to pay or not pay for professional services, please consider carefully who is really “paying” for the work. A church should encourage volunteers and paid workers alike to do all work honestly and in a way that uplifts the Lord’s Name. If people cannot serve honestly, then it’s better off they don’t serve, even if they don’t get paid to do it.

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  • Gene Mason
    December 10, 2006

    By this reasoning, all servants of the church should be paid, right? Because that’s the only way we’ll guarantee the quality. Let’s pay the Sunday School teachers, the childcare workers, the folks who help in the parking lot. Heck, let’s pay those folks who go on mission all over the world–after all, we’re only getting what we pay for.
    Somebody please look up the definition of disciple, and then of disciple-making, and then tell me why we’re not moving toward equipping people for works of service versus segregating stuff that “must be paid” versus stuff that “volunteers can do.”
    Have we become so institutionalized as the American church that we just don’t get it anymore? Apparently…

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  • Lily Chen
    December 11, 2006

    It’s true many functions in the church can be performed by volunteers, but in my opinion, if the work demands highly specialized training or time and effort above and beyond what’s typical, normal, and that work impacts the person’s livelihood, then, I think it’s not unreasonable for a church to offer or negotiate some kind of compensation. The persons may choose to do the work for free or at a nominal cost, but that’s entirely up to them and the church to discuss and agree upon.
    If the church does not want to pay for quality services, they can always find volunteers to do it for free, though it can take some trial and error and the results may not be ideal. That’s their choice. But to make a policy to never pay for any type of service because it’s done by a member and it’s expected … that’s a different choice.
    We pay pastors/ministers, and financially support oversea missionaries for a reason. We also pay honorarium for outside speakers and guest preachers. Some churches even pay for music ministers and youth workers. Every church is different and their needs are different, but if some churches do have the need, do recognize the value of having a professional meet that need, then the professional need not feel ashamed to negotiate a fair rate to do it.

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  • Paul P
    January 20, 2007

    Part of the problem is that those who can- don’t and those who can’t- do. What I mean is that those who can design nice websites for thier church don’t because they might not get paid, while those who tinker with website creation volunteer because it would be fun. So you end up with inexperienced “webmasters” while the ones with skill seek a paycheck.

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  • Andrew
    May 19, 2007

    This problem persists regardless of the “client”. Churches and businesses alike have a difficult time perceiving value in website design/implementation.
    I had a hard time getting my price in the small business market as a website/ecommerce designer, programmer.
    But after years of working for a single company doing website design, database development, Internet based applications, we’ve both learned the huge value in terms of automation, business growth, and image.
    We’ve been able to conquer the marketplace and I can’t see that they would have been in the same place without my expertise – and vice-versa, of course, a nice design and intuitive applications without someone to use them is of little value to anyone.
    Anyway, the world is learning…

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  • Dennis
    May 23, 2007

    No matter what you do for the church, ultimately it is the Lord who you are serving, not the church staff. God gave you your talents, your abilities, your very breath. You’re just giving back a portion of what was given to you. It’s called a tithe or offering. You give back a small portion in gratitude for all that God has given you. You don’t give back expecting to receive again. Where is the logic in that? Egos need to be checked at the login prompt and replaced with a thankfulness for the opportunity to give. Don’t worry about how your efforts are perceived or appreciated by the church. You give your offering to God and let God deal with the church.

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  • Dave
    June 16, 2007

    You know it is sad that we as christians have lost what Jesus taught us with His sacrifice. The bible says that we should have the same attitude He had. That we should be more concern with blessing others instead of ourselves. With out vainglory or having to be thanked for everything we do. Yes it should be our desire to show appreciation for all that is done for us. However we shouldn’t freak out if someone doesn’t always show appreciation. People are quick to point fingers at the church and in doing so they are really pointing at the pastor. Well I happen to be a pastor and have been in the mimistry for almost 25 years. And if you want a thankless job there are none that goes without appreciation more. And if we forget that I do what I do because of what Jesus did for me I am a man most miserable. But when I think about how He changed my life and blessed me with a great family and the priviledge to be able to help others with my talents and abilities I am just blessed to be a blessing. You might say “yea but you get paid for what you do” Well if I got paid for all I and my family do to bless people we would me multi millionairs but we don’t. And if we get mad are offended because people don’t appreciate us than we are the ones miserable. But if we realize that what we have done for whoever is seed that has been sown into a life or ministry and that God is the one who will repay us for our labors we will be blessed. If not we will get into strife and division and then God’s kingdom suffers. But if our attitudes stay right our joy level stays high and we remain strong. Then the world can’t say “look at those christians slamming each other” Jesus said” by this shall all men know your my diciples because you have love for one another”. What are people saying about us by our actions? Think about it and remember God sees what you do and in that day when we see Him face to face He will repay us for what we have done.
    God Bless,

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  • Andy
    August 1, 2007

    Check this out for the ultimate church webmaster tool

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  • Paul
    August 13, 2007

    This is just another reason why serving God and serving money don’t mix. Everyone should be serving God without expectation of reward of any kind. It should be done out of love, not service. If you get paid for serving God, you have received your reward. Too many people use God to make their living and shut their flock out of receiving the same “reward” for serving the same God. How hypocritical it is to say one service is more qualified for money while another should be from the heart. They BOTH should be from the heart. If that means you stop getting paid, then get a job. We need real love, not lip service. And we don’t need one man out of 1000. We need the 1000. Empower them to understand their full potential, lead by example.

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  • Fargo ID Printer
    June 16, 2008

    Well that’s one aspect of it – but it may makes internet better.

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  • Pam
    July 7, 2008

    Ha ha ha! I enjoyed Chris M’s post. I designed and maintain our church’s website… AND I teach Sunday School… AND I’m one of the “PowerPoint computer guys”!
    For me, this (all of it) is a ministry. Maybe the people in my church are different, though, because I gotta tell you, they appreciate the site I designed — they value it — and they let me know. My web design skills are respected, and no one has tried to “ditch” anything I created.
    I can speak to the concept of paying musicians, too, since my husband is our worship team’s drummer. The musicians and singers in our church perform because they love God, and to take pay for that would, I think, be an insult. They offer their services as a small gift to God.
    Which is how I feel about the website I created for our church. I didn’t do it for me, and I didn’t do it for them. I did it for Christ.

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  • stefan
    July 8, 2008

    WOW this is getting very intrested. I think if the church just want an information site, and someone in the church can build it then they could to volenteer there services. However if you web site is a ministry tool that you use often and requires a lot of up keep then they should most likley pay for someone to keep it up to date. I personally oversee our website via a CMS. I do this for free I volenteer about 4 hours a week to do this. I’m not a professional however I do know what I’m doing. If your website volenteer is a professional or a very good amature and he want to be payed pay him. He or she deserves it because its a lot of work. I consider what I do a ministry and an oppertunity to serve my Lord an spread the word. That’s how I feel on the subject.

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  • Randall
    July 15, 2008

    Wow, I can’t believe how many people in this post that are missing the point of what really matters altogether. IF you volunteer to do web development for your church (as I do) you SHOULD do so as a SACRIFICE of your talents to God, not for some monetary reward or superficial pat on the back. If you’re expecting pay for the job then make that clear up front, otherwise don’t complain later. I’ve had my “free” work get scrapped too and I’ve had work that I got paid a lot of money to do get scrapped as well. Both are equally frustrating and I could choose to whine about it or accept the challenge, step up, and try to knock another one out of the park. If you’re looking for appreciation or compensation for your MINISTY…you’ve missed the point of Ministry. Ask your pastor…if he’s honest with you he’ll tell you he feels unappreciated most of the time.

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  • reflash
    January 7, 2009

    Just thought that I’d throw my two cents in… I agree with Randall on the Ministry aspects of church web design. I built my church’s website many years ago, and then rebuilt it again last year. I don’t charge the church a dime for it – it’s part of my ministry. Christ calls us all to take up our cross and follow Him. Imagine the what the state of Christianity would be today if Christ charged for His Ministry.

    On the rebuild of my church’s website, I made it database driven, and got volunteers (also unpaid) to do the upkeep. At this point, there are 3 people doing data entry for the website (and I do some of it, too). It takes about one hour a month for these people to take care of their part.

    Our church has had their website for about 5 years, and in that time, I’ve never been thanked or compensated in any way and only one visitor has said that they found us through the website. But that’s not why I did it. It’s a ministry.

    Christ said in Mat 6:2 “Therefore when you do your merciful deeds, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may have glory from men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.” I’ll take God’s eternal reward over man’s temporary one.

    “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” Pro 23:5 KJV

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  • Laura
    February 25, 2009

    I just had a conversation with my pastor about this. I’m a freelance graphic designer and have been serving the church for over a year. Designing everything from ppt backgrounds, series images, web banners, print materials….etc. Recently the church has decided to hire a creative arts director. to put it bluntly, this put a bur under my saddle. I’ve been doing all of this work for free, and now they’re willing to pay someone to do it. When I was brutally honest with my pastor about how slighted I felt, he responded with,”if you call this church body home, then I absolutely expect you to serve with your gifts without seeking compensation.” Hmmm……food for thought and the bur has dug in deeper. Thoughts?

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  • Church Advertising
    March 25, 2009

    I do hate to say it but I have seen what it is like to help a church out with no pay. I always believed if you want to do something for God you should not get paid for it. Then God opened my eyes when I filled in for a church with no pastor for free.
    It really is true what they say about what you don’t pay for is not something you care about. Think of David offering to God a sacrifice. He said I will not give to God something that costs me nothing. Even God paid the priests in offerings.
    The sad truth is that when someone helps with no cost to another (except in saving a life) the work is really not worth much to anyone. But the real truth of the matter is that we should not be seeking someone to help at no cost to us in the first place. Our hearts desire should be to own no man anything. Even when someone says “I’ll do it for free.” You owe that person.

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  • Simon
    April 29, 2009

    If your church leader is willing to forego his salary then I am willing to forgo the payment for the work I do for the church. If no one gets paid fine, but as soon as you start paying one you need to value everyone’s work.
    There is no such thing a spiritual and secular. Personally, I believe that there is too much spiritual manipulation that goes on. Things like, “you’re my brother won’t you do it for free?”, or “this is for the Lord”, expecting me to do it for free. I’m a tent-making designer and believe that the Bible clearly teaches that God is no man’s debtor and that the worker is worthy of his higher. This means that anyone providing a service for the church should be treated fairly, and payment should be offered at an honest rate. If the person chooses not to accept it then fine, but they should not be manipulated to be made to feel guilty.
    Interestingly, no one has ever said that the church leader should work for free as it’s, “unto the Lord”!.

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  • susan
    March 30, 2011

    This whole topic is about the dumbest thing I have ever heard!! Sunday School teachers do not ge paid. Ushers and Greeters do not get paid. So cause you are high tech you arrogantly think you are SPECIAL and what you do is above what everone else does? Do you pay for the toilet paper you use when you go there? The Bibe say’s if you want to be great in His kingdom learn to be the servant of all… do we pop a quarter to the guy who opens the door for your wife? tip the person who wiped your babies bottom? It’s the least we can do is use our gifts for the body..whatever that gift is,as the word teaches! If you do not want to do it.. and you feel talked into it.. that’s your fault.. don’t do it then.. say no. Obligation is not a good reason to serve. Appreciation for our own salvation is. But don’t go around telling people what they should or should not do in service to the kingdom and the Lord. Whoever supports this entire theory is bitter and needs to re evaluate why they serve, who they are in Christ..ditch religion and get a real relationship with a God that you find a PRIVILEGE to serve… Cause He gav his ALL for each of us!!! I serve in many areas.. I have all my life.. and when I don’t have time or whatever.. I say no. simple as that! Someone may throw away you web work but if it was done unto the Lord, your reward is in heaven… I would rather have that than a twenty slapped in my hand!!! We are not hirlings…we are servants!

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  • Tammy
    August 9, 2011

    I approach my “job” as church webmaster as a ministry. I am paid, because the church leaders do recognize the importance of the website. They want to move our church into the 21st century. I don’t get paid a lot. I am paid for two hours of work a week, but what they don’t know is that I “work” a lot more than that, doing research and teaching myself how to create a good website. I do see myself as a marketer for our church as well. I can’t contribute financially to my church as I would like, I do so with my time.

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  • My wife and I have had several discussions about this, and she’s been opening my eyes to the importance of paying people who serve the church. Paul the apostle quotes the Mosaic law by saying, “‘Don’t muzzle an ox while it treads the grain’ and ‘A worker is worthy of his pay'” (1 Tim 5:18). How much is someone’s work worth? Some volunteering is to show up for an hour and do something. I’ve seen the ladies in our church put in hours and hours of shopping, prepping, cutting, serving and cleaning time. Isn’t their time worth something? How about volunteer Sunday school teachers? I know it is dificult for smaller churches to be able to pay everyone adequately, but even something helps. I’m beginning to believe that if churches invest in these different areas by paying key people, they will get a return on their investment.

    As far as our church website goes, I just stepped into the role as a volunteer. I’m just learning to do websites. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to have a website on the internet! For me to charge my church to me is like charging a professor for the homework I hand in. Hopefully I can get to the point of putting this to work and getting clients.

    Until then, if you have any comments or advice on our site, let me know. Or if you having to be in St. Catharines, or even the Niagara Region, stop by our church. Our info is at http://www.bethelstcatharines.com.

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  • Charlene Burick
    November 7, 2012

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