Ideas for meetings that are creating a new website, assessing their current site, or migrating off the Quaker Cloud
In 2023, FGC staff conducted a detailed study to understand how meetings on the Quaker Cloud were using online platforms. This research showed a wide diversity of needs and abilities when it came to maintaining a website. Many Quaker Cloud users had broken hyperlinks listed online. Several meetings also had outdated contact information. This indicates that some meetings are stretched thin when it comes to maintaining a web presence. Other meetings, however, had elaborate pages to maintain.
After reviewing a series of Quaker websites, may we suggest five “tiers” as a way of understanding web involvement. The five tiers are:
These categories are not mutually exclusive. You may find that your meeting is between categories or overlapping among them. However, they can be a helpful framework when choosing next steps for your meeting.
Whatever option you choose, be sure to do two things:
- Update contact information for your meeting
- Center the newcomer, especially on your home page. Suggestions about this are at the end of this essay.
Whether you have a simple website or a complex one, prioritize accurate contact information for your meeting. Do a Google search of your meeting or community. Take note of the top six search results. Are the phone numbers and email addresses correct? Check contact information on Facebook. Look for listings through Friends Journal, FWCC, and your yearly meeting. Research by FGC staff uncovered many broken links in these venues. This can lead to lost opportunities, when someone is interested and wants to reach out.
Let’s take a look at how these five website tiers might look in real life.
#1: Minimalist Websites
As the Quaker Cloud closes, some meetings – often smaller communities – may choose a basic online presence. FGC still offers Quaker Finder, which is like a yellow pages listing for a Quaker Meeting. Quaker Finder pages include the meeting name, address, and can include several photos. If your meeting has limited resources, consider focusing only on your Quaker Finder page. Make sure that the contact information is updated. Schedule time yearly to review the email addresses listed. Make sure they are still relevant. If you do not have a current email listed, it may be difficult for a newcomer to reach you.
Quaker Finder includes an embedded Google Map to show your meeting’s address. It is possible to include 2-3 photos on your Quaker Finder page. To do so, email FGC Communications staff, who can help to set it up manually. A good example of a Quaker Finder page is Adelphi Meeting’s page. This page includes tags to show that it is LGBT friendly, wheelchair accessible, and has gender-neutral bathrooms. If these things are true of your meeting, they can be a helpful welcome to newcomers.
To update your meeting’s Quaker Finder, visit the page on Quaker Finder and then click “submit a correction.” FGC staff will review and approve updates manually. Depending on staff availability, you can expect that your page will be updated in 2-6 weeks.
#2: Static Website
A static website is deliberately lean. It does not have an Events page, so it remains relevant and attractive without much upkeep. This is a great option for a majority of meetings that want to have a web presence. The important thing is to make a plan for how your meeting will share internal documents, when it will review contact information and at least every couple of years, when it will review photos.
Currently, a static website is difficult to find among Quaker communities. For a good example in the secular world, see the website for Happy Valley Optical. This site has a very fresh feel to it, yet it includes no calendar of events. This is a low-maintenance website. It is also visually appealing.
Get some attractive photos. Show your potluck meals; show the changing seasons around your meeting grounds. Show people’s faces, if they give consent. You can also use free stock photos from online sources, such as Pexels or Unsplash.
Another close example is the home page from this Unitarian Universalist Church from Ohio. The home page has a large, beautiful photo and a paragraph about the group. (It also has links to a calendar and messages tab, which is not part of a static website.) At the bottom of the page, visitors see the physical address. Friends using this page as a model may want to add their email address to the banner at the bottom so that newcomers can find it easily.
If your meeting chooses this route, you might explore tools such as Dropbox or Google Drive to share meeting minutes internally. New attenders can use the weekly bulletin and email updates to find out about upcoming events.
#3. Dynamic Social Media
This option is for meetings that want to focus on photos and they have a volunteer who’s ready to update regularly. It is a good way to avoid the hassle of starting a new website. On the plus side, social media is easily updated and photo-rich. Photos of people’s faces convey the kind of community that you have. During the pandemic, the content watched most on social media was pictures of the faces of loved ones.
The downside: social media use varies greatly by generation. Facebook is most likely to appeal to Friends in Gen X and Millennial generations. Snapchat and TikTok are more likely to reach Gen Z and other younger Friends. Also, web workers who manage social media accounts need to be careful about honoring people’s privacy. Always ask permission before posting someone’s photo. At FGC, our policy is to avoid posting a person’s name with their photo on social media, except in special circumstances.
Photo from Chestnut Hill Meeting’s facebook page. The text says: “What initially brought you to Quakerism?” and includes the Friend’s response.
If you are considering this option, check out Schuylkill Friends Meeting and Chestnut Hill Meeting. Both are former Quaker Cloud users. Both use Facebook and have active pages. Schuylkill Meeting has a group photo that’s full of smiles. Chestnut Hill shared “member profiles” that focused on individual Friends. The photo captions tell some more about the person’s spiritual journey. What a great way to build community! As noted before, be sure to check with the Friends specifically and see what they are comfortable sharing.
Lastly, pay attention to contact information. (Do you see a theme here??) Take time to verify that your meeting’s information is accurate and visible. To do this, look under the “Intro” section on the Facebook page. Be sure that the current email listed goes to an inbox that somebody is checking.
#4: Intermediate Website
This is a catch-all category that is somewhere between “static” and “complex.” Redwood Forest Friends Meeting and Live Oak Friends Meeting are great examples of this intermediate space. Both groups are former Quaker Cloud users. An intermediate website may have a calendar, and it might share resources about Quaker ways of doing things. This website may have a few tabs, but the meeting has chosen to keep content simple and fairly well-contained.
Redwood Forest Friends Meeting includes clear guidance about what to expect at worship. So useful! Put this on your website! This is a great way to center newcomers. Redwood Meeting highlights three QuakerSpeak videos, all of which are great for newcomers. This information does not fade with time; it is likely to be helpful in the next 5-10 years.
Photo Clipping from Redwood Forest Friends Meeting
Live Oak Friends Meeting includes a home page and a calendar. The calendar shows rental groups’ usage of the meetinghouse. These details require more upkeep, but they can be useful for current attenders.
Lastly, photos. If you want to include photos on your web page, think about which photos will look outdated first. People’s faces change over time. If you are not willing to update photos every 2-3 years, the consider using:
- Photos of people’s hands doing a project
- Photos of a potluck
- The meetinghouse with an open door and someone walking out of it
These kinds of photos are unlikely to require upkeep in the future.
Photo from Johanna Jackson
In choosing a way forward, keep in mind your meeting’s limits. Can you commit to updating news and events every 2-4 weeks? If newcomers visit your site and the last event is from 2015, it may look like your meeting has closed its doors. Be realistic about your capacity. Does your web manager change from year to year? If your human resources are scarce, then prioritize accurate contact information over an all-inclusive website. It is better to stay simple, and stay within your capacity, than to overextend.
#5: Complex Website
Some meetings, especially those that have more resources, may want to create an extensive website. This kind of site includes plenty of content for current members, attenders, and visitors. Gold stars! Useful for everyone! Just be sure not to overextend.
Here are three examples of complex websites. All are former Quaker Cloud users.
Unami Monthly Meeting has wonderful information about its programs. There are seven tabs across the top, each with a dropdown menu. The meeting also decodes Quaker jargon. It describes youth programs as “First Day (Sunday) School Program for Children.” The home page includes visually-appealing links. These links share information about the quarter, yearly meeting, and QuakerSpeak videos.
Photo from Unami Monthly Meeting.
Durham Friends Meeting is another great website to check out. It invites its viewers to “Ask…Engage…Connect.” Focusing on actions and spiritual needs is a great way to welcome people into your community. The “Engage” tab lists specific ways to offer service to the meeting. (Do you want to host a Meeting for Worship? Do you need someone to hold you in the Light?) The home page includes a simple form to submit prayer requests. What a clever way to integrate faith and technology!
Photo from Durham Friends website.
Lastly, Exeter Friends is another website to survey. Like Durham Friends and Unami Meeting, Exeter Friends were Quaker Cloud users. They use their homepage to define who they are and how they worship. “We are living our beliefs by honoring that of God in everyone.” “We are worshiping together in expectant waiting.” The site includes plenty of photos of people active at the meeting. The banner at the top can be distracting while scrolling, but the content and photography are top-notch.
Quakers are good at making things complicated, so the “complex website” section may not need more than a few good examples.
Center the Newcomer
If you are tasked with making a website, think about your community from the perspective of a newcomer. If you walk into a new community, you may wonder: How do I get in the building? What should I bring with me? How can I be a respectful visitor? Are there times to talk or not talk? What am I signing up for? If I feel uncomfortable, when is a good time to leave? Is there food?
South Jersey Quakers have a page for newcomers that meets people in this wondering, liminal space. Their page for newcomers says: “We know it’s common to feel a little antsy in a new group, unsure of what to expect or what will be expected of you. Let us put your mind at ease.” Friends then share QuakerSpeak videos that tell about what to expect.
Fort Myers Meeting shares guidance on how Quakers worship. The web page includes advice to “be present, listen, and give thanks.” What advice would you give someone who is centering down for the first time? Worcester Meeting has a home page that is elegant and simple. They say simply: “We start from stillness.” On their Ministries Page, Worcester Meeting sums up the work of the meeting in clear, simple language. Rather than rely on committee titles, they focus on the work of the committees in a user-friendly way.
Photo from Worcester Friends Meeting’s website
Who are you, as a community? What is at the heart of your group? What do you hold sacred? Where is their flexibility? Getting clarity on these questions may take some hefty discernment. Sitting down together as a community to uncover what you do and why may not be easy — but it brings clarity to the spiritual life of the meeting. It brings clarity to the stories you tell.
For more resources, watch FGC’s video on Choosing a Web Host.