12 - Implementing the Church Weblog Backend

Weblogs can be a great communication vehicle for churches - allowing the church to keep a steady flow of news and updates to the site.  The weblog can also be a place where the pastor can minister to the church members during the week.  In this chapter of the Building a Church Site Series I’ll cover implementing the backend components necessary for the weblog section of the church site I’m building on ExpressionEngine.


First - a few words about my approach here.  I haven’t been very successful at getting churches to be good bloggers.  On the one hand churches tend to have really good communicators in them - it’s what they’re about, really.  Pastors tend to be deep and critical thinkers and are often excellent writers and orators.  It seems like blogging would be a natural fit - another outlet for communicating and spreading the Gospel. 

However my experience has been that churches often are designed (or have evolved to be) really efficient at only one thing—prepping for and delivering the weekend worship experience.  Between deciding on a message topic and figuring out the music, lighting and stage elements needing to support the message, added to the day to day tasks of running a church, it’s hard to carve out a couple hours a week to feed the blog with anything deep or insightful.

So what I do these days is start simple.  I still like the idea of weblogs for churches - but would rather see them start with basic functionality and outgrow it before investing a lot of time into a really slick blog implementation.

So how many templates will be needed?

<Boyink Voice>I can Implement that weblog in….TWO templates!</Boyink Voice>
<Announcer Voice>OK Boyink—Implement that Weblog!</Announcer Voice>

Yes - two templates, but all the basic blog functionality will be there.  Using a combination of weblog/index and weblog/comments templates, the blog can have the typical newest-post-at-the-top index view with summaries linked to single entry pages where visitors can leave comments.  Using some built-in ExpressionEngine functionality I can re-use the index template for date archives and category views - and then down the road if the amount of content justifies a more useful archiving approach I can implement it then.

Knowing the frontend requirements I can now move forward with the backend components necessary for the weblog, which are:

  • A New Weblog
  • A New Field Group
  • Adding New Fields
  • A New Category Group
  • Adding New Categories
  • Connecting the Field Group and Category Group to the Weblog
  • Content Entry

New Weblog
I covered the steps to create a new weblog in Chapter 11, so won’t repeat them here - just follow those steps again but name the new weblog with a Full name of “Weblog” and a short name of “weblog”. 

New Field Group
Chapter 11 also had the steps for creating a new field group—so follow those with a field group name of “weblog”.

Adding New Fields
I’m going to go a bit outside the traditional “summary/body/extended” structure and just use two fields: teaser and full_post.

Create a new field with the following properties:

  • Field Name: teaser
  • Field Label: Teaser
  • Field Instructions: “This is the content that will show on the weblog index page - so write a short pithy intro that will get readers to click through to the full post.”
  • Field Type: Textarea
  • 3 Textarea Rows
  • Default Text Formatting for This Field - XHTML
  • Is this a required field?  Yes
  • Is field searchable? Yes

Leave the other settings to default and save the new field.

Create another new field with the following properties:

  • Field Name: full_post
  • Field Label: Full Post
  • Field Instructions: “This is where your complete blog post goes.”
  • Field Type: Textarea
  • 20 Textarea Rows
  • Default Text Formatting for This Field - XHTML
  • Is this a required field?  Yes
  • Is field searchable? Yes

Leave the other settings to default and save the new field.

New Category Group
This is new ground - creating a category group in ExpressionEngine.  If you are new to categories you should probably review the documentation for the category management interface.  I’ll cover the front-end usage of categories in the next post in this series.

To create a new category group:

  • Select the Admin Tab, then Weblog Administration then Category Groups
  • Click the Create New Category Group button
  • Enter a name of “weblog”
  • Don’t worry about group rights for editing - we’ll hit that in a future chapter
  • Submit the new group

Adding New Categories

  • From within the Category Management Page
  • Select Add/Edit Categories
  • Click the Create a New Category button
  • Fill in the the Category Name and Category Description
  • Don’t choose a parent as we’ll only use one level of categories
  • Click Submit

My categories are Church News, From the Pastor, and God Sightings.

Connecting the Field Group and Category Group to the Weblog
I now have all the elements I need to hold weblog content - the weblog, the field group and fields, and the category group and categories.  But they are not all connected to each other, so do that now:

  • Select the Admin tab, then Weblog Administration, then Weblog Management
  • Select the Edit Groups link for the Weblog
  • Choose the weblog category group
  • Choose the weblog field group
  • Click update

Content Entry
The last piece of the puzzle for this post is to get some content posted into the weblog so that once I get to coding the templates, I’ll know when things are working.  You should know the drill here - click the Publish tab, choose the Weblog, and fill in the fields.

I’m not feeling creative today, so I’m going to use a greeking generator.  I’m posting six entries - remember to assign the post to a category.  With six entries I’ll have two entries in each category.

Next up?  Creating the template group and templates necessary to pull the weblog content to the site.

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Previous Comments

Mike Boyink

by Mike Boyink (Author)

Date: Monday, June 2nd, 2008
Comment: #1

Hi Andrew - Thanks for the comments.

Yes, I’ll be doing both an event calendar and a photo gallery as part of this series.

Picture of Ryan Battles

by Ryan Battles

Date: Saturday, December 6th, 2008
Comment: #2

I know I’ve mentioned this to you before Mike, but to the other readers, I highly recommend the “dummy lipsum” plugin for Firefox. 

All you do is right click in a field and select “Insert Dummy Lipsum” and it will automatically dump in some greeking. 

As I was following this tutorial this morning, I realized that the plugin will automatically determine how much text to dump in based off of the number of rows in your publish template.  In essence, it gave a few sentences for the “teaser”, and a couple paragraphs for the full story. 

I posted three sample posts in about 30sec total.  Great time saver!

Picture of Manoel Filho

by Manoel Filho

Date: Monday, February 15th, 2010
Comment: #3

I have months I looked to a so good content how much its concerning EE. Here in Brazil is difficult to find material of reference of EE. Congratulations for the work. Very very good!

Picture of Callum Baillie

by Callum Baillie

Date: Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Comment: #4

I may be doing something stupid but why dont i see the weblog administration in the admin tab?

Picture of Boyink

by Boyink

Date: Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Comment: #5

Probably because you’re using EE2 and this tutorial is written for EE1?

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