Christmas Letter 2019

Keeping up the tradition, here are all the things you may or may not have heard about already, on Facebook! 😀

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Christmas Letter 2018

I had this on my calendar to post on the 7th, and if I’d followed through, it would have been the same date as last year, again. Does anything ever change? Well, yes, yes it does! As you will see…

Christmas Letter 2018

 

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Christmas Letter 2017

Hot off the press! This year it seemed to come together quickly and easily, even with all three of us contributing this time. However, Sam was still the one to put it together, and “tie up the ends” (meaning, the start & ending). Thanks Sam!

Christmas Letter 2017

 

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Christmas Letter 2016

We left this one completely to Sam–great job!

Christmas Letter 2016

 

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Christmas Letter 2015

Sam does a great job, as usual! Here it is.

Christmas Letter 2015 pdf copy

 

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Christmas Letter 2014

Later this year, but very easy for me–since Sam did it! 🙂

Here is the pdf:

Christmas Letter.pages

Enjoy!

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Christmas Letter 2013

Ahahaha–can you BELIEVE that?!! If you’re on the Home page here, look at the post just below/before this one…. one. year. ago. EXACTLY!!

So if you want to see my Christmas decorations, learn about bitcoins, here’s the link: veridium.io its a new player on the crypto scene that everyone should know about. If you want to see our new truck, etc., AND you have 2 ten-minute slots available,

Christmas Letter 2013

This takes you to my Christmas Letter channel on Youtube, and you can scroll down to find the videos.

So sit back with your cup of tea, and take a break!

 

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Christmas Letter 2012

OH my–a bit loooong I’m afraid! We had to upload it in two parts… but that way you can take a break in between! :S

Christmas Letter 2012

You’ll see how Dustie didn’t appreciate my “great idea”…

(To see past Christmas Letters, click on CHRISTMAS LETTERS at the top here.)

 

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Building Modern Church Websites, Part 5: Thinking About Themes

Now that the basic settings for your website have been configured, it’s time to think about the look and feel of the website.

Before You Start

Before even starting to think about how the site should look, it’s a good idea to decide on the basic features of the website. Do you want to have a slideshow on the front page? Are you going to run poles? How many pages are you expecting to have? A basic idea about questions like this will help you decide on exactly what kind of website theme you want. Until you have at least a general idea of what needs to appear on the front page, you can’t decide on how it should look.

Choosing a Theme

In WordPress, a Theme is the part of the software that controls the look of the website WordPress creates. Themes can change everything from the fonts and colours, to the number of columns, to the images and icons. Picking a good looking theme goes a long way towards both making your website look good, and preventing it from looking like every other WordPress site on the planet.

At the time of writing, there are over 1500 themes available, directly from the WordPress theme directory. Those are just themes that people have made available for free download from WordPress. It doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is available on other, specialty sites. There are even sites that specialize in making themes for Churches! At first glance, all of this choice might seem like a blessing. The problem is: how do you choose?

Questions to Consider

  • How many columns does the theme offer? You want to make sure that you have enough space for all of the things you need to display on the front page, and yet ensure that the page won’t be busy and overcrowded.
  • What is the colour scheme? Does it match your church logos, and other banners that you may want to display? Does it look good on older computer screens? Will it make life difficult for those members of your church who are colour blind?
  • What browsers does the theme support? Not all themes will work in all the different web browsers on the market. Some only work in Firefox and Safari, but not Internet Explorer. Some work in only recent browsers, that older computers can’t run. You may find it surprising how many of the people who want to use your church website are running 14 year old computers, and can’t run the latest web browsers.
  • What fonts does the theme use? Are they easy to read? Is the text large enough for older readers, or those with low vision?
  • How will the theme look on small screens? What about mobile phones?
  • Is the layout easy to understand? Confusing visitors is the best way to make sure they will never come back.
  • Does the theme follow any web standards? A theme that follows standards is likely to work in more browsers, be ranked better in search engines, and work better for those who are blind, or have physical disabilities.

Making A Choice

No matter how hard and long you look, no theme will get a perfect score on every question. Unless you know enough HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP to design your own theme, you’ll have to settle with some imperfections, and work around them as best you can.

Using what you know about the members of your church, try and rank the above questions in order from most to least important. If your church is full of early adopters, you probably don’t care if the theme won’t work on old software. On the other hand, mobile support might be absolutely vital. But if your church is mostly composed of non-technical people, they might only have 10 year old computers, and no mobile phones at all.

Once you’ve got the questions ranked, go through the themes available from WordPress, and try and find one that has all of the features most important to you. Then, think about how you can work around any flaws in the theme. Can your logos and banners be redone to fit the theme? Can you offer training to your members on a layout that they may at first find confusing? Can you settle for fewer columns than you initially thought?

Once you’ve decided

Once you’ve made your choice, getting the theme on your website is easy. From the dashboard, click Appearance. Then click Install Themes, and search for the theme you decided on. Once you’ve found and installed your theme, it will show up in the list of installed themes. In order to apply it to your website, you can click Activate next to your new theme.

You can switch website themes at any time, without losing any of your work, just by installing another theme and activating it. If you have several themes that you think might work for you, it’s a good idea to install all of them, and try them out, to see how they’ll look in practice.

The theme I eventually decided on for Good Shepherd was RedLine 2.0.0. However, this theme does not work well on older browsers, and some extra work needs to be done to get it working on mobile phones. Just because it was right for my church doesn’t mean it’s right for yours.

Next Time

Next time, it will be time to look at the theme settings, and layout of your default widgets. Unfortunately, the last two weeks have featured a constant stream of…interesting…server and software problems on my end, that prevented WordPress from even publishing site updates for a while. I have some of them under control, and remain baffled by others. The next update will happen next week, or when I get everything running smoothly.

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Ports, DNS, Oh My!

This is an answer to a question I wrote for someone trying to get their web server configured. While this isn’t the next part in the Building Modern Church Websites series, it goes into a bit more detail on DNS, and might be useful to those trying to set up a web server for the first time:

I’ll start with the easy question, about ports and port forwarding. You know, I am assuming, that your computer has USB plugs, printer plugs, etc on it, right? You’ve probably also heard them called USB ports, com ports, printer ports, etc. A port is really just another term for a plug.

But what does this have to do with the internet? Well, every time someone wants a web page from your server, they need to connect to it somehow. So, every computer has 65535 internet ports. These are like virtual plugs that various programs connect to, over the internet. A web server, for example, expects your web browser to connect to it using port number 80. Before that can happen, of course, your router and any firewalls in front of your web server need to be configured to allow connections to the web server using port 80. If you’re using a web host like Linode, all of this should have been done for you already, and you don’t need to worry about it. Linode knows you’re running a server, so they allow computers to connect to any of the ports of your Linode. If you chose a Linux distribution like CentOS, or installed a Firewall, though, you will need to configure this somehow. But Linode with Ubuntu should be all ready to go. If you’re having problems connecting to your server, I don’t think port forwarding is the issue.

Note: the above is a simple summery of ports, that doesn’t get into TCPIP and UDP, the workings of packets, NAT, or how a firewall does what it does. If you actually do find yourself needing to configure a firewall, it would be helpful if you gave more details about how your network is configured, and what firewall you’re using, so we can give you more detailed information and instructions.

Now, DNS! This is a complicated topic, and books almost the length of the Bible have been written about it. But to simplify: DNS is a system for storing information about domain names. Each domain name can have many, many different DNS records associated with it, and each record stores a different bit of information about the domain. For example, MX Records store the address of the server that any email delivered to the domain should be sent to. So, if you send an Email to john@example.com, your computer checks DNS for the MX record for example.com, and connects to the server specified in that record to deliver the Email.

Now, when you type example.com into your web browser, it also uses DNS. But instead of asking for an MX record, it asks for an A-record. It expects the A-record to tell it the IP address it should connect to for example.com. So, to make your server accessible by your domain name, instead of just by IP, you need to set the A-record for your domain name to the IP address of your server. Depending on where you purchased your domain, and how you have it configured, the instructions for how to do this can be quite different.

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