Other Technology Resources for Congregations

ambulance8My own UU Kent congregation uses a variety of technology to facilitate communication. Below are a number of helpful links and instructions that we have put together for using these technologies.

Website

Our website uses WordPress in order to allow our minister, church employees, and lay volunteers to share information with others in the congregation.  The presentation below provides some of the basics on posting information.

Example of the Kent UU Website Login form
Example of the Kent UU Website Login form
You can log into the website in the bottom right corner of this and every other page of a site using the UU 2014 WordPress theme. I recommend creating a form on your website for people to apply for new accounts.  Using a plugin, you can also integrate your website with Google Apps as you can see on the Kent login form.

Mailing Lists / Google Groups

Our church uses Google Groups to provide mailing lists for the congregation.  It is not necessary to use the Google Groups website to send out communication since emailing the group address will send a message to every group member. However, the Google Groups website can be helpful if you want to review or search all previous posts for a group. Additionally, the website allows mailing list moderators to add and remove other people from a list. To log into the Google Groups website, you need to log in with a Google account. If your email address uses Google Mail then this is the same username and password you use to log into Google Mail. If you have a non-Google email account, you can create a Google account that is tied to your non-Google email address.

You can sign up for a Google account at this address:

  • https://accounts.google.com/SignUp
  • Click “I prefer to use my current email address” if you want to use an existing non-Google email address for the Google account. If you do not click this, Google will create a new Google Mail account for you. You will need to contact the webmaster or church office to have this account added to mailing lists as a list member or list moderator.

Here are some online help pages you should be aware of:

Google Apps provides the ability to create as many something@kentuu.org Google Groups as needed for different groups within a church.  Ministry teams, governance committees, and task groups should consider using Google groups because it makes it easier for new members to join a group and not be accidentally left off email threads.  The Google Groups’ websites also provide a collective history of past conversations that people can read to catch-up on what is going on with a group.

Google Apps

Google provides services that we use for email, calendars, documents, and mailing lists. To you use these services you need to have a “name@yourcongregation.org” account. Here are a sample of links to these services:

Google provides very good online help on how to use Google Apps – http://learn.googleapps.com/

Online Meetings and Teleconferences

In order to improve our inclusiveness for people who cannot always attend meetings in person, we have begun to use web conferencing and teleconferences for some of our meetings.  Web conferencing / teleconferences allow you to set up a meeting when you can’t get everyone together in person, and allows you to share your desktop, show PowerPoint presentations or videos, or see participants’ faces via webcams.  People can join and participate in the meeting using their computers, mobile devices, or with a regular telephone.

Google Hangouts with UberConference

Google Hangouts has recently improved a great deal and has become a good option for setting up online meetings and teleconferences.  They key change was that UberConference, a free teleconference provider, has provided a tightly integrated plugin that can be used within a Google Hangout to connect with a teleconference hosted by UberConference.  This allows less tech-savvy participants to dial into the UberConference teleconference using only a phone number.  Google Hangouts itself provides very high quality video conferencing for up to 10 people and can dial out to people by phone.  Until UberConference, there wasn’t an option to dial into a meeting.  Using the free version of UberConference you could have up to 18 people in your meeting (9 on Google Hangouts, 1 connection to UberConference, and 9 more people on UberConference).  If you don’t need a video conference or to share slides with participants, you can also have all of your participants simply dial into UberConference.  If you expect having more participants, I recommend using the next service, AnyMeeting.

AnyMeeting

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Information Technology Services endorses AnyMeeting for web conferences / teleconferences. This allows meetings and workshops to be conducted online, and allows people who can’t attend worship or congregational events in person to participate online. An online attendee needs only a computer with high speed Internet. Attendees can also join the same meeting using a telephone.

AnyMeeting Features

We opted to use the free accounts provided by AnyMeeting.  This does mean that we will see ads appearing on screen during the meeting. With the free service, up to 200 people can join a single conference. Up to six webcams can be visible at one time and people can raise their virtual hands. You may also like the ability to conduct quick polls and easily send follow-up emails to your attendees.

Account Setup Steps

Only meeting hosts need an AnyMeeting account; attendees do not. Here’s how to setup your free account.

  1. Go to AnyMeeting for UUA Community Members.
  2. Click “Sign Up” for the Free Ad Supported version.
  3. Fill out the registration form. Your email address will be your account login name. You can choose the web address (“URL”) that your attendees will use to join your meetings. The URL and phone numbers assigned to your account will not change over time.
  4. Before you run your first meeting, test your computer to make sure it’s ready to go.
    1. Click on “Support” at the top of the page to go to the Support page.
    2. Click on the “System Test” button to run a series of automated tests.
    3. The test will tell you if any settings need to be changed, or if you need to update Java or Flash.
    4. After running the automated test, click to test your network connection (if any), your webcam and microphone (if you plan to use those), and your speakers.
  5. We suggest watching the Support page “Help Videos” called Quick Start and Screen Sharing. The Support page also features a knowledgebase, FAQ, troubleshooting wizards, and other resources.
A Note About Audio

Unless you’re particularly tech-savvy, we recommend using the conference call phone number provided by AnyMeeting, rather than using AnyMeeting’s support for your computer microphone and speakers.

Video Guide – AnyMeeting Overview

Video Guide – How to Schedule a Meeting

Featured News Sliders Without Gaps

To have Featured Articles Lite news sliders that do not have any space above and to the sides, use these settings:
  • Slider Theme
    • Base theme – Classic
    • Color Scheme – Light

    2014-09-21 16_35_00-FA Lite Sliders ‹ Unitarian Universalist WordPress Network — WordPress

  • Save Slider
    • Slider Name – Uncheck the box under the name next to “Display slider name”
    • Slider Width – Empty (Setting nothing causes it to use the entire width)
    • Slider Height – I use 300 but you can use any height

    2014-09-21 16_37_33-FA Lite Sliders ‹ Unitarian Universalist WordPress Network — WordPress

  • Automatic Placement Options
      • Display on Loop – 0
      • Click [select pages] and pick the page(s) you want the slider to appear on
      • If one of the pages is your homepage, check the box next to “Display on home page”

    2014-09-21 16_38_03-FA Lite Sliders ‹ Unitarian Universalist WordPress Network — WordPress

Adding Your Own Header Images

picture13While the UU2014 theme comes with a set of default images, you can add your own images by going to Appearance -> Header. The images bundled with the theme are 940 pixels by 198 pixels. The maximum suggested width of images is 1200 pixels and we strongly suggest that you use a consistent height. During the upload process you will have the option to crop the image. The theme will work with larger or smaller images if you wish.

If you upload multiple images you will then see a choice for “Random” which will cause the theme to randomly display one of your images when a page is viewed (including when a page is refreshed).

Release 1.3.1 – Accessibility-Ready

International Symbol of AccessibilityDownload Theme

Version 1.3.1

  • This release includes a lot of changes to make the theme accessible for users who need to use keyboard navigation or a screen reader to view sites. The theme has also gone through the independent review to have the accessibility-ready tag on WordPress.org. UU2014 is only the tenth WordPress theme to complete that process.

Release 1.2.2

Symbol_Reversed_solid_blackDownload Theme

Version 1.2.2

  • WordPress.org deployed this version promptly but made me take out the lines that required the GitHub Updater. I wasn’t too surprised with this requirement. The theme does still support GitHub Updater but you are not prompted to install it now if you don’t already have it. I have also switched the GitHub name from UU2014 to UU-2014 because WP.org has been putting a dash for the folder name in their own zip files. I believe this difference causes some unexpected behavior when updating using both WP.org and Github.

Version 1.2.1

  • Updated screenshot, optimized images and packaged for WordPress.org

Release 1.2.0

Symbol_Solid_colorDownload Theme

Going forward, I will publish updates here whenever an official WordPress.org release is out.  This release included the following changes:

Version 1.2.0

  • One of the more significant cosmetic changes since release. In response to a request I received, I’ve updated the theme to be a bit cleaner and less “rectangular”. Essentially, the background of the primary sidebar now is the same color as the main content dashboard. The background to the left and right of the header has also been converted into a semi-transparent gradient and the edge of the main content now appears to float above the page background.

Version 1.1.2

  • For the UUKent website, we transitioned from using Meteor Slides to Cyclone Slider for our header images. Instead of adding integration for Cyclone Slider, I have created a more flexible widget area for headers. If you add a widget for Meteor Slides, Cyclone Slider, or any other slider plugin to this area it will replace the WordPress header image with your widget. If you were using Meteor Slides, you should go into your Widgets control panel and add your slideshow to the Header Widget Area.