Troubleshooting Sermon Manager

Better Questions Get Better Answers

Every day, Sermon Manager users email us asking us to fix an apparent bug or need help changing something that sermon manager does. Are you ready for a little fun fact? The solution to most of these questions has nothing to do with Sermon Manager at all! How can that be, you ask? Since a WordPress website is made up of several elements all working together, any one of them can be the problem; not just the Sermon Manager plugin that you added to the mix.

In web development we have a quick and easy way to nab the bad guy: divide the site into isolated elements and test each one against the problem. Functionally speaking, your site has four independent elements: (1) the WordPress Core, (2) the active theme, (3) other active plugins, and (4) the Sermon Manager plugin. If you know which one of these is the problem, and can prove it, you make friends with support staff and those are good friends to have.

Below is how we isolate and test each of these four elements for Sermon Manager problems. Experience taught us that some factors are more problematic than others so this is the best order.

  1. Active Theme Test – switch your active theme to a tried and true theme like the standard Twenty Fifteen theme that came with your WP install. If the issue persists, then your theme is not the culprit.
  2. Other Active Plugins Test – You will be surprised how far-reaching other plugins can be in your site. Disable all of your plugins except Sermon Manager and check for the issue.
    • If the issue stopped, then identify the faulty plugin by reactivating the plugins one at at time, and testing after each, to see which one causes the conflict.
    • Since more than one plugin may be interfering, leave problematic ones disabled until you have tested all of the remaining plugins.
    • Deactivating and activating plugins does nothing to your data so don’t worry about losing anything doing this.
  3. Sermon Manager Plugin Test – If your issue is affecting the entire site (and not just sermons) disable only Sermon Manager to verify if it is responsible. Obviously this test doesn’t work if the issue is only related to sermon posts because you need Sermon Manager active for those.
  4. WordPress Core Test – Surprisingly, a lot of “issues” with Sermon Manager are just quirks in the Core that Sermon Manager brings to light. To perform this test find out if WordPress has a counterpart to the area of Sermon Manager you’re having issues with and try to replicate the problem there.
    • For example, we get complaints that Sermon Manager strips formatting and HTML out of the Series description fields. However, if you try formatting the Categories description (the equivalent taxonomy that comes built in) you will get the same result. Why? Because WordPress Core does that by design. You will need to install a plugin that disables the filter in the Core and there are several available that do that.
    • Another example: when a church’s podcast breaks or fails validation, users assume that Sermon Manager broke it. While that does sometimes happen, the feed itself or feed content is usually the problem. However, Sermon Manager leverages the automatic feed generator built into WordPress; If that is malfunctioning then so will the podcast. You can see what the feed generator is doing by simply adding “feed” to the end of any URL that has a post type (i.e. If your blog posts show up at www.yourchurch.com/news then the feed is www.yourchurch.com/news/feed). Compare what you see there with what you see on the sermons feed (by default it is www.yourchurch.com/sermons/feed)

So there you are. Now armed with the cold facts, you can submit a refreshingly detailed question to our support team or the community forum and expect a competent answer in return. Furthermore, you’re likely to have answered your question even before you got to ask it!

 
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