Of Calendars and Church Finders

We had an excellent question from the Rev. Martha Gillette, priest-in-charge at Church of the Holy Apostles in Wauconda, in response to our last blog post. It concerned calendars. We’re building a few, and are interested in your advice. It is our sense that showing you everything that is going on across the diocese at a single glance isn’t possible. The list would be too cluttered. The information might all be there, but it would be extremely difficult to find the tree you were looking for in a forest of events. The solution that we are leaning toward is multiple calendars—all of which can be viewed individually, and some of which will feed into an extensive “events around the diocese” calendar.

We are imaging a calendar for:

  • Diocesan-sponsored events, be they programmatic or governmental
  • A “use of space” calendar for St. James Commons—that will include all events at St. James Cathedral, as well as those in diocesan offices
  • The aforementioned “events around the diocese” calendar

The events calendar will comprise sub-calendars for particular types of events. We are in hopes that congregations and church-related organizations from around the diocese can submit items to these calendars using an online form.  We are currently considering sub-calendars for:

  • Arts and music
  • Education and formation (lectures, panel discussions, etc.)
  • Special worship services

Keeping in mind that these calendars exist primarily for publicizing distinctive events that might be of interest to those outside of the parish (So it would not be appropriate to post your Sunday morning service times, or reminders for your vestry or altar guild) what other categories might be helpful?

Would it make sense to have a category called something like Advancing Good Causes in which we could list activism, advocacy and fundraising initiatives? Do parishes hold youth events that might be of interest beyond parochial borders? Should we have a Miscellaneous category for events that don’t fit easily into any particular category?

We could also use some advice regarding the Church Finder that is in the works. It will, in all likelihood be possible to search for churches using the name of the church, or the zip code in which you hope to find a church. (And, obviously, we will have a list of all diocesan congregations.) Are those two fields enough? Should we try to make it possible to search by the name of a town or neighborhood? If so, what kind of language should we use to help people find churches in the city of Chicago? Should we use geographic language? Neighborhood language? We’d appreciate your thoughts on this.

13 thoughts on “Of Calendars and Church Finders

  1. I’d suggest adding community names – town, neighborhood, etc. – in addition to zip codes and church names. One more way of finding us!

    • Thanks, Cynthia. The nut we are having the hardest time cracking is within the city. Does one just say: north, south, west, loop, downtown, etc. and be done with it, or does one try to name neighborhoods. And if the latter, is every church actually in an identifiable neighborhood? And would visitors to Chicago or newcomers actually know the names of those neighborhoods? Any thoughts?

  2. It would be helpful to have a separate tab for the sorts of things that are required trainings for some leaders or folks in the discernment process – i.e., Keeping God’s People Safe, Anti-Racism training, and Community Organizing.

    • I guess I imagine that one of my parishioners, perhaps someone who doesn’t know much about diocesan stuff, would be looking for the next available KGPS workshops in the midst of so many other events and get overwhelmed. But perhaps they’ll also be listed on their own web page, which would hopefully solve the problem?

      • Hi Heidi,

        The great challenge with calendars (and with web categorization in general) is that you can have too few calendars or (categories), which are therefore home to too much material, meaning that the events are hard to find because the calendar is crowded. Or you can have too many calendars with too few events, meaning that when you first look at calendars you are met with a list so long that you give up searching for the one that you need. We need to strike a balance. I think the best way to make sure people learn about trainings and other events sponsored by the diocese is to include them on the main diocesan calendar–that should contain all diocesan sponsored (and required) events. I don’t imagine that that calendar will be all that crowded.

        Keeping God’s People Safe and Anti-Racism will have their own web presences. I am not sure what I know about community organizing.

  3. For the church finder, I think you want more than zip code to search on, since people new to an area tend not to know all the zip codes. Within Chicago, I’d suggest using both neighborhoods and north/west/south types of categorizations, since people new to the area probably don’t know all the neighborhoods.

    For the calendar, could you use something like Google Calendar, which allows you to create multiple calendars? That would also open up the possibility of allowing churches to subscribe to individual diocese calendars for their websites — they could display some of the diocesan calendars on their own calendars.

  4. Thanks, Paul. We are having this same conversation on the diocesan Facebook page, where yesterday someone suggested using the categories North, River North, South Side, West Side and Downtown. Do you think that would do the trick? We are looking at Google calendars.

    • That seems like a good list, except maybe for River North. I’d say that falls more into the neighborhood category, although I don’t know if its boundaries are very well defined.

  5. I applaud promoting any parish event which may interest those beyond your own borders. I attend All Saints but had reason to check the Grace Church of Oak Park website. I learned of their upcoming Dec. 30 Yale U. a capella choir concert, then watched the entertaining Spizzwinks on YouTube. I recommended the concert to a friend in Oak Park. Three of us will attend. That sends a little money to Grace Church. I believe there are others like me who would attend events at neighboring Episcopal churches if it were easier to find out about them at one site.

  6. In addition to city names, I like the idea of being able to search on Chicago neighborhood names and any other community names that might be associated with churches. Is it also possible to put the churches on a google map so that if all I can remember is the street name, I could find the church that way too?

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