church communications web design

Get Fresh Content Delivered Automatically to Your Church Website

Written by Eric Kruep

RSS ImageRecent statistics highlight just how critical the church website is becoming to church success:

Given its importance, you want to make your church website invites visits and engagement.

Of course, OurChurch.com provides lots of resources to help – many of them cataloged right HERE.

But let’s face it…

It takes a lot of hard work to develop and maintain an engaging church website.

Loading sermons, adding upcoming events to the church calendar, posting slider announcements for upcoming church events, posting pictures from the last church event, and updating the staff directory are just some of the many requirements for producing a great church website.

Needless to say, it can be exhausting!

At the same time, you can’t let up because you know you have a mandate in today’s online environment to keep content current and fresh. Not only will this boost the interest level in your site, it will also contribute to higher rankings on search engines.

But wouldn’t it be nice if you could find an easier way to add fresh daily content that invites engagement?

You can – by using content delivered automatically by RSS feeds.

I am going to show you how to leverage existing RSS feeds to add fresh daily content that invites more visits to and engagement with your church website… automatically.

 

Using RSS Feeds in a New Way

You probably already know that you can use RSS feeds to get content you like from the web automatically delivered.

But have you thought about using the same technique to get fresh content on your church website?

Producers of web content often package their content into RSS feeds as soon as they are published. The images, text, and links in an article are coded in XML document markup. This digital package makes their content widely distributable and available to any interested party.

In order to make that content human-readable again, you need an RSS Feed Reader or News Aggregator. The Reader / Aggregator converts the XML code back to HTML code that is rendered easily by any browser. The user of the Reader / Aggregator is the one who defines which web content they want delivered – their preferences.

So, in order to leverage this automated system for your own church website, you’ll want to mimic this process:

  1. Identify RSS feed content of interest for your church website
  2. Make your church website act like an RSS Feed Reader / News Aggregator

 

STEP #1: Identify RSS Feed Content of Interest

Of course, you’ll want to make sure anything you import from an external web source is compatible with your church doctrine, theology, and philosophy.

But more broadly, you want to add content that increases the level of engagement with your church website.

You already know that most visitors are either checking the service times, church location, or the church calendar for upcoming activities.

But what about resources that support intentional spiritual growth?

You could add things like daily devotionals, daily scripture passages, and daily prayers. Each of these types of elements invites regular engagement, supporting spiritual growth.

 

Devotionals

Let’s start with devotional content. Devotionals help people by providing a section of scripture to read each day. The commentary, application, and prayers that accompany devotionals help them get even more out of scripture.

Thankfully, there are tons of devotions out there and many of them now publish online.

For example, Scripture Union publishes Encounters with God quarterly. There are hard copies in hundreds of churches across the nation. They are available for sale for individuals and groups.

The amazing thing is that you can access the exact same devotional through an RSS feed automatically updated each day – at no cost.

Once you find a piece of content you’re interested in importing, there are several ways to get the RSS link (i.e., a URL) you actually need to put it to work on your site.

  1. If there is an RSS image available
    • Click the image / link
    • Verify that an XML code page comes up on your browser (i.e., starts with an XML tag – <?xml…>)
    • Copy the URL from the browser window displaying this XML code – this is the address you’ll need to access the content automatically
  2. If there is no RSS image link, here’s a little trick you can use to try to find it:
    • Try typing “feed” or “rss” at the end of the URL of the page displaying the content you are interested in
    • If an XML page comes up, you found it – simply copy this URL from the browser window
    • If you get a 404 error or have no XML code page that comes up, you’ll need to consider one of the following:
      • Contact the site’s webmaster to ask for the RSS feed address (if they have one)
      • Skip it and try a different website for similar content

Here is a list of 10 great daily devotional feeds:

Sponsor Feed
1 Scripture Union’s Encounter with God RSS Feed
2 Solid Joys Daily Devotional by John Piper RSS Feed
3 Tozer Devotional RSS Feed
4 Simpson Devotional RSS Feed
5 Daily Bible Devotional – Faith’s Checkbook by C.H. Spurgeon RSS Feed
6 Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotional RSS Feed
7 Heartlight Devotional RSS Feed
8 Plough’s Daily Prayer RSS Feed
9 WELS News Service RSS Feed
10 prayScripture.org RSS Feed

 

By the way, Crosswalk.com offers a ton of different devotionals. They are even organized across multiple categories including by favorite pastor, spiritual growth, family, women’s and men’s, etc.

 

Scripture

Pulling in daily scripture is another way to invite routine engagement from your church website visitors. They can be especially effective when you link them to social sharing buttons. Here are a 10 great RSS feeds that deliver scripture:

Sponsor Feed 
1 Daily Memory Verse from OnlinePrayerJournal.com RSS Feed
2 Bible Gateway Verse of the Day RSS Feed
3 Daily Bible Verse RSS Feed
4 Verse of the Day RSS Feed
5 ELCA – Daily Bible Reading RSS Feed
6 ELCA – Daily Bible Verse RSS Feed
7 KLOVE Bible Verses RSS Feed
8 Pray.com.au RSS Feed

 

Daily Prayers

Daily prayers can also be effective in spurring website engagement. Tweetable and shareable short prayers can be excellent ways for the church community to express themselves.

Here are a handful I have found that can deliver daily prayers via RSS feeds:

Sponsor Feed
1 Daily Short Prayer from OnlinePrayerJournal.com RSS Feed
2 Marriage Prayers RSS Feed
3 Company of Prayer – Daily Prayers RSS Feed

 

While I’ve highlighted devotionals, scripture, and prayer content, you can use the same approach for ANY content.

For example, you might want to have other Christian blogs or pastor’s writings delivered to your own church website. Or you may look for RSS feeds from the national leadership of your particular denomination.

Once you have identified the content you’d like to import, it’s time to move on to Step #2.

 

STEP #2: Make Our Church Website Act Like an RSS Feed Reader or News Aggregator

While Step #2 is a bit more technical than Step #1, it is often much more simple.

That’s because your church website is likely built on a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, or MODx.

As a result, these CMS’s already have plug-ins and extensions to do the technical work of interpreting your RSS feed URLs you identified in Step #1.

Here is a table of some great options:

Content Management System (CMS) Plug-in / Extension
WordPress Super RSS Reader

HungryFEED

Joomla Simple RSS Feed Reader
MODx getFeed

 

All you’ll need to do is install these packages and activate them the same way you install and activate other plug-ins and extensions you use on your website.

There are typically user interfaces included that allow you to tell the feed readers exactly what content you’d like to display and where on your church website. This is where you’ll enter the URLs you collected in Step #1.

If you get stuck, just check out the documentation for the packages.

If you aren’t using any of these CMS platforms on your church website, you’ll need to write your own plugin or extension to interpret the URLs in a way that pulls in their content on your pages.

Either way, once these two steps are complete, you’ll have fresh content delivered routinely to your church website… without lifting another finger!

 

Conclusion

You have plenty to do to keep your church website up to date and engaging.

Why not leverage the power and automation of RSS feeds to ramp up website engagement without any additional effort?

Snippets of content like daily devotionals, scripture readings, and prayers offer visitors reasons to keep coming back to your church website in support of their intentional spiritual growth.

This article shows you how easy it can be to identify great spiritual content and then import it into your church website.

Try it out and then let us know in the comments below what kind of feedback you get from your church membership!

About the author

Eric Kruep

Eric Kruep is cofounder of OnlinePrayerJournal.com where they provide mobile technology that makes it easy for busy people to build spiritual growth habits. He also cofounded CoderLifeline.com where they help coders save time and reduce frustration when they get stuck.

1 Comment

  • Eric, thanks for writing this guest post. I agree RSS feeds are a good way to add fresh content to a website. Thanks for providing all the useful feeds as well.

    For those organizations that build their websites with our NE1 Website Builder, we have an RSS feed reader module built in. Users just need to add the module to the page or sidebar where they want it and specify the URL of the feed and BAM… fresh content on their site that is regularly updated automatically!

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