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The Problem with the Groups Engine for WordPress Plugin

Recently I downloaded and installed the plugin Groups Engine for WordPress Plugin into our church website. We had just launched a new Small Groups Ministry and needed something better than just a list of groups on the website.

Groups Engine for WordPress seemed to be the perfect solution. The video on the site looked like it was going to be a very simple install and that the plugin would be easy to use. The reality is that it is simple to install and very easy to use.

BUT, there are a couple of issues that make you have to think of workarounds that may be potential things you will want to think through to make it work for your church.

The good part is that, for the most part, these are easy fixes and you can get around them. Here are the issues we faced and how to make it work.

Groups Engine for WordPress Plugin

3 Problems with the Groups Engine for WordPress Plugin and how to FIX them.

1 – Groups Engine makes you enter a Time and Location even if the group does not have a regular time, date or meeting place.

Some of the groups we had were not meeting at a regular place or time. There is currently no place to disable the times and location function unless you dig into the code. I am not willing to do that because that can mess you up when you update the plugin and it possibly wipes out your changes making you have to fix it again each time you update.

>> The Fix? I just put those groups with no regular meeting times, location or dates as meeting on Sundays during church times. Then, in the description, I instructed people to contact the group leader for times, dates and locations.

2 – I could not find an easy way to include E-Groups.

This is a similar problem to the first issue as E-Groups definitely do not have a time or location. We have a Men’s and Women’s texting group where the leader would use an app to communicate Scriptures, thoughts and study material to the group. But, the group was entirely through the texts with no meeting place.

>> The Fix? Instead of adding those to the Groups Engine for WordPress plugin I just added that info to a text section of the page above the groups engine area of the page. You could actually do that for all groups that do not have those specifications, but then it looks like you are featuring some groups over others. I was willing to single out texting groups however as they are a different type of group altogether.

3 – The Google Maps API feature did not work immediately after installation.

Even after creating what I thought was a Google API it still did not work. There was not really a clear explanation of why I was not creating the right kind of API.

The way I tried to do it was to login with my church Gmail then Google search “how to create a Google API” and follow the instructions. But it was not as simple as that.

>> The Fix? I was actually supposed to create a Javascript API through Google and found a simple tutorial that showed me how to find the right one.

Here is the link I found that will save you a lot of time and annoyance when you install Groups Engine for WordPress under the section “Detailed guide for users of the standard Google Maps JavaScript API”.

>> https://developers.google.com/maps/documentation/javascript/get-api-key

After we set up Groups Engine on our website we received immediate positive feedback. Even though there are a couple of issues with it that we had to work around, it really is an amazing plugin that has made connecting with groups very easy in our church. I would definitely recommend it.

Click below to get Groups Engine for WordPress for your Church. [my link]

Groups Engine for WordPress Plugin

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Is it a Challenge for New Visitors to Find Your Church?

Is it a Challenge for New Visitors to Find Your Church?


Our church is not located in a high traffic area. In fact, it is actually somewhat hidden on the far end of town tucked in off the main road. It is definitely not the most easily found church in town, but people have no problem finding our church.

The reason for this is that we have put simple steps in place to make sure we are easily found online. I am not talking about overly technical search engine strategies. These steps are easy to understand and simple to put in place whether you are using staff or volunteers or you have help from someone like FindingYourChurch.com

So what are those steps? Of course the list of things you can do is much longer than this, but here is what we have put in place at Journey Church to help us more easily get found online by potential new visitors.

Get MORE New Church Visitors

8 Steps to Increased Online Findability for Journey Church


1. Claim and Optimize the Church Google Business Page

The most helpful first step I believe you can do to improve your Church online visibility is to claim and optimize your Church Google Business page.

The main reason for this is because these pages show up ABOVE local Church search results in Google and are connected to Google Maps. If your information is incorrect or incomplete there it will make a difference. Your Church can even look completely CLOSED if you have not updated this in awhile.

Google is constantly changing the format of this. So you may have updated and claimed this in the past, but it could look incomplete or different now because of recent changes.

Even if you think you have this under control, you still may want to update it and at least take a look to see what you can do to improve it.

If you have never done anything with your Church Google Business page you definitely need to claim yours and make sure all of your information is correct to make your Church easier to find.

2. Claim and Optimize Bing Local and as many of the Top 50 Local Business Directories as possible as completely as possible.

After you get your Google Business page under control, Bing and other local business directories should be next on your list. The reason for this is that Google treats your Church like a business so you need to do the same things local businesses do to increase local online visibility.

Other than Google and Bing you most likely will not get very many direct New Church Visitors from other local business directories like Manta, Merchant Circle, Kudzu or CitySquares. But direct traffic and visitors is not the purpose of claiming and optimizing these local business directories.

The purpose behind correcting and optimizing these directories is to cooperate with how Google chooses to rank and put trust in local businesses.

When as many of these listings as possible are AS IDENTICAL AS POSSIBLE it raises Google’s trust that your Church is OPEN. The reason for this is that when these are corrected Google knows it was not an accident and that real people are managing the business or church online. This gives Google confidence to raise both your Google Business page AND your Church Website in local search.

The key to this is having your Church Name, Address and Phone Number as exact as possible across as many of these listings as possible and exact on your Church Website.

3. Claim and Optimize Church Directory Listings

In addition to local business directories there are also a few local Church directories that you can claim and optimize that will help prove to Google that you are open. The main three I have found are ChurchFinder, FaithStreet and ChurchAngel.

An added benefit to claiming and optimizing these is that there may be real people searching these sites for a local Church. ChurchFinder has especially been very good at having a page very high in local search nearly everywhere. Most likely if you search for churches in your city you will find a ChurchFinder page on the front page of the results.

4. Get Positive Reviews on our Church Google Business page

In addition to the consistency of your Church Name, Address and Phone Number across local directories, Google Business page reviews are also used by Google when deciding to promote your Google page and Church Website.

The more Positive Reviews you have on the page the better. You want to at least get five 5 Star Positive Reviews on your Google page as it gives you a 5 Star Rating.

5. Post Content to your Church Google+ Page that is connected to your Google Business page.

Awhile back I had to get on Google Support to ask a question about why a Google page was not appearing in search results. They said one of the main things you can do to help your Google page increase in search rankings is to post content to your Church Google+ page.

Whether real people in your congregation view that page or not, it triggers Google to come back and crawl your Google page again which can help it increase when you make changes to it.

Choose some evergreen church content like blog posts and videos to share on the page. It will help you increase in visibility.

6. Converted the Website to a Mobile Responsive design.

One thing you have to have now if you want to move ahead in local search rankings is a mobile responsive website design. Google has made it clear that they are not going to promote websites that do not look great and function well on mobile devices.

There are online tests you can do, but just look at your site on a couple of different mobile phones and tablets. Does it resize correctly for each screen size? If not, it is time for an update not just for Google but for the good of the people who find and use your website.

7. Created our own Local Business Directory leading back to our Church Website

One idea that may not be for everyone is to create a local business directory on your website. The pages on this site are designed to help the church have a page in local search results for when people search for schools, restaurants, hotels, gyms and whatever else you can think of in your city.

This takes a lot of work to setup, but when you have it in place it can help your Church become found online by people who are NOT searching for Churches. This is not your typical outreach strategy, but you can literally have your Church in front of non-churched searchers 24 hours a day with this on your site.

Here is what we created at Journey Church. We put it under our “Ministries” tab in navigation.
Journey Church Local Business Directory

8. Created a Church Blog to communicate inside and outside the Church.

Finally, most Churches already have a blog feature enabled and in use on their website. But you can also use this to create specific posts on your site to get found for specific terms in your local community instead of just blogging randomly about church related topics.

You could feature a local sports team and have a targeted post for each team in your city. You could talk about your relationship with the city you are in and how you are helping local charities. You can link to content from your local TV stations and newspapers as individual posts.

When you focus each individual post on a local search term in your community those posts have the possibility of getting found by people in your city who are NOT looking for churches.

These steps are what we have done to get found at Journey Church. What are your best ideas for local online outreach?

FindingYourChurch.com can help your Church GET FOUND.


Do you want your Church to get found, but do not have to time, staff or volunteers to get it done? FindingYourChurch can help.

I am currently offering to help you claim and optimize your church Google Business page for ONLY $25. Not only will you receive my help with your Google page, but you will also receive one month FREE of the full version of The Finder Resource.

This service is listed on my website at $75, but at least for a limited time I want to offer it to you here for only $25.

My main reasoning for offering this at such a low price is because…

#1 – I want to help churches. It is that simple. I know that fixing this ONE ISSUE is critical to helping churches get found online by new visitors.

#2 – I want you to also try out the full version of The Finder Resource Membership for FREE. Inside the members area I walk you step by step through a process that your staff or even volunteers can do to drastically increase the online visibility of your church.

This membership is $25 per month, but you will receive one month access completely FREE when you allow me to help your church Google Business page for that same price. You will not be charged after that free month unless you choose to join the membership.

So the question is this. Would you like me to help your church Google page?

The first step is easy.

Simply click on the PayPal link and pay the small $25 to get started. I will send you an email requesting the information I need to claim and optimize your church Google Business page and you will also begin your one month FREE Finder Resource Membership Access immediately.

Click the “Pay with PayPal” button below to pay the $25 and begin your 30 day free trial of The Finder Resource Membership.

Pay Now

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Your Church Google Business Page needs HELP

Your Church Google Business Page needs HELP


Whether you know it or not… your Church Google Business Page is one of THE most important factors that you need to look at and fix to help your church get found online by potential New Visitors.

In this post I am going to let you know what you can do about fixing issues with your page on your own, and let you know how Finding Your Church can help you with this for just $25 if you do not want to deal with this yourself.

The #1 reason this is so important is that, unless your church is extremely new or you meet in a school or movie theater, Google has already created this page for you.

By the way, even if your church meets in a school or theater there IS a potential way to get a Google Business page. This can be a challenge since you do not have complete control of your address, but there is a way.

Google uses these local business pages to determine how much confidence it can have in a local business or church.

When your church contact and profile information is correct on the page and complete with pictures and a logo, Google has more confidence that your church is OPEN and being managed online by real people.

When Google has this confidence it is much more likely to raise your church website and Google page in local church-related search terms.

The only way to make this happen for your church is to get control of it by claiming and optimizing your listing.

Most Pastors are either not aware that a Google Business Page exists for their church, or they have not looked at it or thought about it in a very long time.

The problem with not paying attention to this page is that..

  • Most likely if your church has been around for any length of time at all a page does already exist.
  • Most likely there is INCORRECT INFO on the page from people who have added info in the past.
  • Most likely Google has changed the format of how Google Business pages look since you last viewed it. These changes can result in incomplete listings or listings that have had their profile images changed or removed.
  • Most likely, whether you know if or not, potentially unhappy people are leaving positive or negative reviews on your church Google page similar to people leave a restaurant review.

Your Church Google Business Page needs HELP

Your FIRST Solution to Fix your Church Google Business Page


Your first solution to fixing issues with your Google Business page is to claim and optimize it yourself. To claim and optimize your listing, you will go to Google Business and claim your address while using a church Gmail account.

You will have to verify that you own your location and your Google listing either by phone or postcard PIN number, then you should be able to fix errors and your information even before you get verified. However, your listing information will not appear updated on Google until verification is complete.

Once you have control and can change content, you will want to correct the wrong information and replace outdated logos and pictures.

Many of these pictures may have even been pulled in automatically from Google itself based on whatever it could find online about your church. That is why it is so important to check every aspect of your church Google Business page.

You will also want to do everything possible to focus your listing information and pictures on churches in your city. You will even want to name the file names of your pictures to have more opportunity to become found for those church-related search terms in your area.

Once your listing has been created you will want to post content and YouTube videos from your church on your page to encourage Google to crawl it giving you more potential of rising in local search.

There are issues that can come up when claiming your listings that you may have to deal with.


One issue is that someone who claimed your listing in the past may still have control of your listing. You will have to request for them to release control of it before you will be able to get access to change and correct your information.

Another issue is what I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

If you do not have complete control of your meeting location address because of meeting in a school or theater, you can have issues creating a Google page for your church.

A solution to this is to create a Suite # for your church. This creates a separate location within that address similar to buildings that have multiple businesses in them but are actually at the same address. This is simple to do as long as you have permission from the place where you are meeting.

An additional problem that can come up is if you no longer have access to the phone number or address [to receive the PIN postcard in the mail] that is connected to the existing listing information. If that is the case, you may struggle to verify your listing and receive a PIN number.

These are issues that are best discovered by jumping into the process and getting starting with the claiming and optimization process.

If you do not want to do it yourself however, I have a solution for you…

Your SECOND Solution to Fix your Church Google Page


I am currently offering to help you claim and optimize your church Google Business page for ONLY $25. Not only will you receive my help with your Google page, but you will also receive one month FREE of the full version of The Finder Resource.

This service is listed on my website at $75, but at least for a limited time I want to offer it to you here for only $25.

My main reasoning for offering this at such a low price is because…

#1 – I want to help churches. It is that simple. I know that fixing this ONE ISSUE is critical to helping churches get found online by new visitors.

#2 – I want you to also try out the full version of The Finder Resource Membership for FREE. Inside the members area I walk you step by step through a process that your staff or even volunteers can do to drastically increase the online visibility of your church.

This membership is $25 per month, but you will receive one month access completely FREE when you allow me to help your church Google Business page for that same price. You will not be charged after that free month unless you choose to join the membership.

So the question is this. Would you like me to help your church Google page?

The first step is easy.

Simply click on the PayPal link and pay the small $25 to get started. I will send you an email requesting the information I need to claim and optimize your church Google Business page and you will also begin your one month FREE Finder Resource Membership Access immediately.

Click the “Pay with PayPal” button below to pay the $25 and begin your 30 day free trial of The Finder Resource Membership.

Pay Now

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How To Setup the Premium Podcasting Plugin

How To Setup the Premium Podcasting Plugin


Series Engine - Best Sermon Podcasting Plugin for WordPress

The Series Engine Premium Podcasting Plugin has many more features than the free Blubrry Podcast Plugin.

In addition to the ability to feed your Sermons the the Podcast Directories, it also sets you up with an easy to use Sermon Podcast Player that you can place anywhere on your website. You can even group your sermons by Series, Speaker and Topic adding in keywords to every message making it easier for people to find the messages they most want to connect with.

You can also add code to nearly any part of your site that will add a Single Sermon, a Series or the entire Player. You have much more control of how and where you present your Podcast on your site with this Plugin.

Follow the steps below to install, configure and use Series Engine for your Podcast.

Step #1: Install and Activate the Plugin


After you purchase the Plugin you will receive a download link to download a .zip file. Download this file and put it in a location on your computer that you will be able to easily find.

Login to your WordPress Dashboard and find the “Plugins” Section then click “Add New”.

Then click the “Upload Plugin” button and then the “Choose File” button to find and upload your plugin .zip files from your computer. Select the Series Engine Plugin .zip file and click the “Install Now” button.

After the files have finished uploading click “Activate Plugin”.

Add New Plugin to WordPress Installation

Upload Series Engine Podcasting Plugin

Choose Series Engine zip File

Install Now Series Engine Plugin

Activate Series Engine Plugin

Step #2: Add Initial Settings and a Sermon to the Podcast and Player


When you first install the plugin there will be a demonstration entry inside each of the sections that we are going to change. If you need to use these demonstrations to get a better idea of how you should setup each section you can click on the demonstration to see the settings. If not, simply delete the demonstration entries.

The first thing you will need to do when entering a new sermon is to setup the main Series Type, Individual Series Title and the Speaker. All of these settings are located in their individual sections inside the Series Engine tab in the left sidebar of your WordPress Dashboard.

Series Engine Types - Series - Speakers

Go to each of those three sections first to setup the Series Type [which will most likely be Main Series], the Series Title for the current Series that you are going to upload files for, and the Speaker who delivered the message.

The Series Type will in most cases by the Main Series, or whatever you want to name it, that would cover any Sermon Series that happens in a regular weekend Service. In addition, you can also create other Series Types such as for a midweek service, single one weekend sermons, guest sermons, youth sermons or whatever you need AND you can even create additional Podcasts to separate out those other Series Types if you want.

Series Engine - Edit Main Series

Each time you begin a new Series you will need to go to the “Edit Series” Section and add a new Series. In addition to the Series Title, you can add a description and a 492px at 72dpi graphic that will appear in the Sermon Player when people play that Series.

Series Engine - Create a New Series

Series Engine - Add New Series Info

Every time you have a new Speaker you will need to go to the “Edit Speakers” Section and add that new Speaker. That way when you go to add the new audio or video file link the current Series and Speaker options will already be in the settings for you.

Series Engine - Add a New Speaker

Now that you have completed the initial changes for the first Sermon and Series that you are going to upload, you will need to add your first Podcast file to the feed and player.

Click on “Series Engine” inside the Series Engine tab in the sidebar of your WordPress Dashboard to add your first sermon file. Click the “Add New” button, and then add in details about the sermon as well as the Podcast file link. This includes the Date, Series, Speaker, Description and you can even add Topics that people can search for to find that message. You can also add a sermon specific graphic if this sermon needs a graphic that is different than the rest of the Series. You can do that in the “Advanced Settings” link area at the top.

To get the link for the Podcast file, follow the instructions in the “Determine Where To Store Your Podcast Files” Section.

You can also add more details and even upload sermon notes and files to attach inside the Podcast player for people to access in the “Podcast Details” and “Attach Links/Downloads” Section linked at the top.

Repeat this process for every sermon you add to your Podcast and Player.

Series Engine - Add a New Message 1

Series Engine - Add a New Message 2

Series Engine - Additional Podcast Details

Series Engine - Additional Sermon Notes and Files

Step #3: Embed your Player on your Website


Most likely if you have chosen this option over the free Blubrry option you are wanting a Podcast Player somewhere on your website. This is very simple to do using the Series Engine Plugin.

Before you embed your player you will want to make sure you have completed the steps above and have added at least a couple of sermons. If you do not do that the player will not show up on your site even if you have added it to the page, widget or post correctly. So make sure your sermon files are in place first.

After that, it is very simple to add the player by going to the “Get Embed Code” Section under the Series Engine tab in the sidebar of your WordPress Dashboard. Copy and paste the shortcode into any page, post or even a sidebar widget. It should be responsive as well and resize to fit both desktop and mobile screen sizes.

Once you have multiple Series Types, Series, Speaker and Topics inserted into your player people will be able to find messages based on those factors too.

Series Engine - Embed the Podcast Player

Series Engine - Custom Embed Player

Step #4: Create your Podcast Feed


After completing these initial steps you should now be ready to generate the feed and information need to submit your Podcast to the Podcast Directories.

Your feed was already created when you setup the Podcast Plugin and can be found by clicking on the “Generate Podcasts” link in the Series Engine section of your WordPress Dashboard.

Before submitting your Podcast feed to a directory you need to click on the “Default Podcast” link and edit the information in that section to reflect how you want your Podcast details to appear in the directories. The information you add to this section including your Podcast Cover Art is what the directories including iTunes are going to pull from to display your Podcast.

One setting to be sure to update is the “How Many Messages?” setting. This will determine how many sermons show up in iTunes and the other directories that are available at one time for people to listen to or watch. When that number is maxed out the oldest message will be dropped out of the feed so the newest one can be added. You can choose how many sermons you want to include, but 100 is a good number to start with. This number does not affect how many are included on your site in your Podcast Player, but only the number that is pushed out to the Podcast feed.

You should now be ready to submit your Podcast feed to the directories. You can find step by step instructions for how to do that in the sidebar. To submit your feed to the Blubrry Podcast Directory CLICK HERE and add your feed in the “Add Your Podcast” area in the top right and follow the instructions.

Series Engine - Generate Podcast Feed

Series Engine - Edit Podcast 1

Series Engine - Edit Podcast 2

Series Engine - Edit Podcast 3

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Funny Church Stories – Confessions of Anonymous Pastors

Funny Church Stories – Confessions of Anonymous Pastors


As Pastors, Church Staff and Ministry Leaders you have some of the greatest funny church stories.

Unfortunately, most of the time you CANNOT share these stories publicly. These stories include amazingly funny things that have happened in church services, at events, on trips, in youth ministry, kids ministry, weddings, and yes even memorial services.

Some of the FUNNIEST stories are about things that have happened at memorial services right? You know I am telling the truth. Every Pastor I know has an awkward or amazingly humorous funeral story.

But again, sadly, you as the Pastor or Church Leader have very few people you can share these stories with. Obviously, these stories are about real people who may have even been going through real situations at the time.

But man, it was funny when the Pastor spent half of the sermon calling the person who had passed by the wrong name right?

Well, I want to help you. I want to give you the opportunity to tell your stories – anonymously.

I have heard many Pastors who have said that when they get out of ministry they want to write a book about all of these humorous, crazy and awkward situations.

Of course, we all know that book writing day is far away for most of you at least at the moment. Why? Because you are still in the ministry and people may not appreciate it as much as you do.

Share your story and I will share your story FOR YOU Anonymously


Not only will it be anonymous, but I will also place it in a section of the free area of The Finder Resource membership site to further protect your identity.

This free members only area is designed completely for Pastors and Church Leaders so the likelihood of an average saint in your story stumbling on it is pretty low.

Even though my entire site is about helping your church GET FOUND, these funny church stories are something that we want to keep under wraps for people inside the free membership only to keep you anonymous and protect the identities of the innocent in the stories. Of course in some stories these people may not be so innocent.

Of course, if you want me to add your name to it I will be happy to. But either way, this will be an opportunity for you to share your crazy, funny or awkward story with other Pastors and Church Leaders.

Currently, I am in the process of gathering the first few stories. But once it gets started who knows? You may even find a great sermon illustration from another member.

It is simple to share your story.


Option 1: Write it out and email it to me, Jeremy Phillips, at getfound@findingyourchurch.com

>> Be sure to change the names of everything and everyone involved that you do not want to identify including your name and the name of the church where it happened. The idea is to keep it anonymous but still be able to share your story.

>> Let me know if you want YOUR NAME added to the end or keep it ANONYMOUS.

Option 2: Record your audio story using something like the Rode recording app for the iPhone and email it to Jeremy Phillips at getfound@findingyourchurch.com

You can easily record and email from this app. I will then digitally disguise your voice and add the media version to your funny church stories allowing you to tell it yourself.

Once your story has been submitted I will format and post it inside the password protected Finder Resource Free Membership. I will email you when your audio or text has been posted so you can check it out and share it with whoever you would like.

Other Pastors and Church Leaders NEED to hear your humorous stories. I NEED to hear your humorous and awkward church stories.

I cannot wait to hear from you. I am looking forward to it.

Jeremy Phillips
getfound@findingyourchurch.com

Funny Church Stories - The Finder Resource

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