How to be a Good Web Samaritan

Recently, I came in contact with a ministry our church supports and went to their website. What I discovered was a really old website in need of help. They do great stuff in rural Haiti but their website didn’t match the quality of work they do in the field.

So I decided to build them a new website.

I didn’t email them first. I didn’t ask permission. I did something a little unusual.

I just started. Here’s what I did:

Start with a Plan

The first thing I did was grab their logo from the old site and built a WordPress theme around it.

I’m not a great web designer, but after toying around for a weekend I was pretty happy with what I came up with. My plan was to create something I thought was a decent upgrade to their old site and then offer it to them no strings attached. I didn’t want to spend too much time, but I spent about 3-4 hours hammering out the theme and staged a proof-of-concept online.

So, I sent an email to the ministry’s President, Dan, explaining that he may-or-may-not be interested, but here is a link to a redesign of your website and I’d like to know your thoughts. Essentially I said:

If you like it, it’s yours!

Then I waited.

Have a Helping Hand

Dan’s reaction was one word in length:

Wow!

He went on to explain that he had personally designed their original site in Front Page several years ago and was responsible for maintaining its content. The cumbersome nature of Front Page had actually kept him from keeping the content up-to-date.

Dan then commented that a lot of people offer their services saying, “Whatever I can do, just let me know.” The net result – they don’t do anything. He really appreciated someone taking initiative, doing something and then offering it as a gift. I think we’ve lost sight of this.

Service itself is a gift, offering to serve isn’t.

He decided to move forward. I helped them get the site setup on their servers and copy content from the old site to the new. I spent about another 5-6 hours setting it all up, getting content moved over and making tweaks here and there. The cool thing is the relationship I now have with Dan is worth way more than the time I spent on the website!

Dan is much happier on the WordPress platform and has taken the opportunity to get into other social media. He set up up a Twitter account and Facebook Page which is linked to by a WordPress Widget on the website. That is a huge win and opens them up to a much larger potential audience.

You can see the end result at www.haiticheri.org.

Have the Right Questions

I’m not trying to toot my own horn and show what a great guy I am. I enjoyed tinkering with the website. I was hopeful they would like the end result. But, I had to keep in mind they may not like it or already have plans for an upgrade. My point is that most ministries lack technical expertise. Often they don’t even know what to ask for or who to ask.

But we do, and that’s valuable.

Those of us in the technology field have a lot to offer small ministries. What other tangible ways we can invest our time and technology talents up front to ministries who need it? God only knows what the impact will be for His kingdom and eternity.

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jsaddington@churchleaders.com'
John Saddington is a full time blogger (http://tentblogger.com), loves leading his creative team building web apps, and is a passionate enthusiast of WordPress. Follow him on Twittter @TentBlogger.