I’m still searching for the perfect church Web site.
The perfect church Web site would have to have a lot of things going for it. It would allow committee chairs, staff, and others to directly add content to their pages on the Web site without going through the Webmaster; it would allow several levels of password protection including pages that can only be viewed by members; it would allow online payment of pledges, and online registration for events; it would support an online calendar of events; it would support a forum for congregational conversation; it would integrate staff blogs; it would allow easy posting of news; it would be inexpensive or free; it would be easy to navigate; it would be easy to maintain.
I spent today investigating Drupal, a free (and open-source) content management system. Drupal meets every single one of the criteria above — except the last two. It is not easy to maintain, and it’s easy to give it a bad navigation system. For example, it looks like it’s a pain in the neck to upgrade the software when security patches are released — and as for the navigation, you’ll have to invent it totally on your own. If you wanted your church administrator to maintain a Drupal-based site, you would have to send him or her to a substantial class in Drupal — and, outside of a few major metropolitan areas, where are you going to find such a class?
There’s a smaller subset of Drupal called Civic Space, which was developed in 2005 to support the Howard Dean presidential campaign. It’s now available for non-profits either as a free program, or a for-pay program with lots of technical support. However, it doesn’t look like it’s quite the right thing for a church Web site.
What I’d like to see is some Unitarian Universalist geeks commit themselves to maintaining a subset of Drupal (or similar content management system) for use by Unitarian Universalist congregations. This group of dedicated geeks would volunteer to be on-call via email for technical support (just as I make myself available to support a couple of WordPress blogging sites), and they would also come up with a basic installation of Drupal preconfigured with permission levels, basic navigation, etc. I’d say I’d take this on myself, except that it looks like the Drupal learning curve is pretty steep and I’d need a year (and training in PHP and CSS) to get to the point where I could do this. But maybe there’s some geeks out there who already have the knowledge?…