I try not to do denomination specific posts on this site, but fair warning: If you’re not part of an ELCA congregation, this post is probably not relevant to you. Although other denominations may have similar tools, the update procedure is going to be different. I suggest reading this post instead.
You’re probably familiar with the “Find a Congregation” tool on ELCA.org. Perhaps you’ve used it when you’re on vacation, or when moving to a new city. When I moved to Dubuque for seminary, I used it several times to find congregations to visit. And yes, I actually read the Form A reports before I visited.
Basically, it’s a search engine that shows all ELCA congregations (or schools, etc) with a geographical range on a map. Every congregation has a profile page with membership data, a website link, and contact information.
For congregations that don’t have websites (which is its own issue!), this tool might be the only way visitors looking for a Lutheran church can find them. Even if your congregation has a website, visitors looking specifically for an ELCA church might well find this profile before your website.
Recently, the good people at church-wide added pictures to the church profiles. However, unlike the other information, which is more or less added automatically, each congregation is responsible for getting a picture onto the site. If you haven’t upload a picture to display on your congregational profile page, the site displays a default grey outline of a church building (which is a huge improvement over the previous version, which showed an actual church picture…the same picture for every congregation!).
Take a second and look up your congregation. Here’s the link. If you don’t see the picture at first, give it a couple of seconds. Sometimes for me it takes about 5 seconds for the picture to load.
If your church page is showing the default picture (above), you need to update it. Choose a good outside picture of the church building as it looks from the street, so people coming to visit know what they’re looking for. If you don’t have a good picture readily available, do what I did – walk outside to the street and take one.
To upload a photo, the dimensions need to be exactly 600 pixels by 200 pixels at 72dpi, and it needs to be saved as a jpg. That looks a little squished when it shows up on the bottom right of another church’s listing as one of the “Nearby ELCA Congregations,” but it looks right on the actual profile page.
For resizing our church photo, I used Acorn, but Preview on a Mac would also work, as would Adobe Photoshop. For something quick and simple, try Canva.com, a fantastic, easy to use online design site. On Canva, just click the “Use Custom Dimensions” link when making a new design and upload your picture.
Now that you have a photo to upload, go to the Update Congregation tool. You can go directly there, or if you prefer, get to it through the Find a Congregation page by clicking the button on the right that says “UPDATE MY CONGREGATION.”
On this page, fill in all the information (everything except congregation ID number is required), and click upload a photo. Select the photo you’ve resized. While you’re there, also be sure to double-check your congregation’s website address. Through my research, I’ve found many churches that have changed their web addresses, so make sure this link is correct.
Once you have the picture selected and have verified that everything else is correct, go ahead and click the “Submit” button.
You’re done! All updates are manually reviewed, but when I submitted a photo of my church, it only took a couple of days for it to be updated on the site.
Now, for your next website project, go make sure you have these three vital elements on your church’s website.