How to Create a Free Church Website (Seriously.)

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.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Lauren, it’s great to see another church media person blogging! This is great advice for churches who have a staff member or volunteer who is fairly tech savvy. The downside is Dreamhost is not going to help you if you have problems with WordPress or you’d like a custom template for your church site or you need help optimizing your site for search engines so people in your community can find your church’s website. Churches have to decide whether they want a solution like this where they’re essentially on their own or they want to partner with a website services company that will be there for them as they grow and run into issues.

    • Hey Paul! One of the brilliant things about WordPress is the vast community supporting it, but I certainly agree. There has to be a little compromise for this to work, but it’s an option that’s out there that’s not as costly as some of the other options on the market. As far as custom templating goes, while that is something DreamHost doesn’t offer, the literature on the Internet about custom templates is definitely sufficient, and there are options available to churches to assist with things such as that!

      But yes, I don’t believe that anyone should take step 1 lightly, because of the impact the web has on today’s media-driven society, and these are questions that have to be asked before proceeding!

  2. This is indeed a great and valuable information to me as a church member who strive to create a site and did something with googlesites and more to do still and actually waiting for someone to help me out, and recently we purchased a domain of ourown and still with some hiccups it still pending and here i got few more info to go forward, looking for your further help in creating a wonderful site for our Assembly here is the link of our assembly which i created in sites,Google.com
    https://sites.google.com/site/christianassemblypicketap/
    will come again to read more from here
    Thanks again for the timely read
    Best regards
    Philip

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