Web 2.0 has literally brought a brand new twist to the meaning of what it means to use the Internet, and with hefty stats encouraging the use of the Internet in ministry, it’s hard for churches to ignore it. There are a plethora of options on the web offering easy solutions, but if you haven’t noticed already, you pay generously for it.
This was an issue we dealt with in our church back in October, an with lackluster results from ACS’ Extend, we felt that there was definitely a better way to achieve our web ministry and with the right research skills, it happened. Our website is now in full swing and gaining almost 3 times the amount of traffic that it once did. Guess how much we pay/paid for ours? Not a single penny.
Here’s a real solution for your church, and I promise, there’s no upfront cost, there’s no monthly cost, and the only thing you need is a competent person to enter text (which should be anyone in your office, seeing as everything is now digital):
1. First, develop your web strategy. Monk Development has some fantastic ideas on the basic structure of a web strategy and if you’ve never heard of Drew Goodmanson, it’s probably a good time to Google him (I even did all the hard work for you). This is an incredibly crucial step in creating an effective website, and thankfully for me, when I was brought on board, the majority of this leg work had already been done, so my only effort on this step was refining the strategy and making sure it was implemented correctly.
2. Find your web hosting company. This is as well important, but again, this is some research you probably don’t have to look too far into, because part of the reason I’m posting this is to help churches get their websites free. Totally. That being said, DreamHost is who we’ve decided to use, and the reason? They offer FREE HOSTING for non-profits (which means churches. All of ’em.) When you are filling out your registration, and it gets to the payment part, stop. Fax them your 501(c) non-profit proof, and they’ll get your hosting all set up ASAP. It’s free. Forever.
3. Download WordPress. Yeah, some web gurus will shy away from this, but for churches, especially churches that lack a solid web designer/manager, WordPress has a very, very minimal learning curve, natural SEO and is therefore one of the best solutions. It’s a WYSIWYG(What You See Is What You Get), and the back-end is pretty straightforward. DreamHost even offers a 1-click install, and takes about 10 minutes total to get you set up and ready to go.
4. Pick your theme. You’ve pretty much got free reign on this, there are plenty of free themes you could use, and if you’ve got a competent PHP-savvy member who’s willing to offer their time and efforts to code you up something, that’s a plus. Most churches choose to invest around $40-$50 on a premium theme at this point, but you don’t have to.
5. Import all of your content. This is really important. Without content on your pages, it’d be pretty pointless to have a website. Remember: your website is the face and voice of your church, and most people look at your web presence before considering looking at your physical presence.
This takes time, especially step 1. But you will reap the benefits. During our Ash Wednesday service, someone mentioned on their welcome card that they appreciated our web information and chose to come here out of the many other churches because of our website, so people notice, they care. If you don’t believe me, get Google Analytics. I love looking at the stats and seeing our loyalty, map overlay, and mobile stats. It shows there’s a pulse in this ministry, and it aids other ministries in ways unthinkable.