Church Websites

Ok, I had no idea where to post this So If you are a mod reading this, feel free to drag and drop me into another category (or in the garbage if you want)

I assume that being on SI I am talking to a fairly "tech savvy" audience so hopefully you all can be of some positive input.

People have talked about how we need a website off and on for several years but no one ever wanted to spend the money to make it happen (from my legwork a good website will run b/t $1200-$2500) Finally I got roped into taking charge and I got the ok to spend $1,000. Well, as I mentioned you don't get a lot for that and you have to think about site maintenance. Well, I decided to to it myself. Now, I don't know a lick about HTML or CSS or any of that stuff but I did figure out how to build a site using Wordpress so that is being done now but I feel like getting the content is like pulling teeth and I worry that people won't utilize this resource.

I would like to know if any of you have designed a church website, how you did it, what the church response was, how you got people on board, and how you incorporate it into the ministry of the church.

Our site is www.slaterbaptistchurch.org and I would love any input you could give.

Thanks,
Will

6773 reads
Daniel's picture

You know there was a thread about 1/2 a year ago about church websites and why some get used and some don't.
First, my personal opinion on church websites is to first define your purpose.(really any site) Without this, you are going to have the thoughts you do: how do I fill it with content. You probably need to ask yourself, who is going to be using the site and for what purpose? When you answer that, make that information easily accessibly.
Second, don't feel the need to have lots of stuff. Don't get grand ideas about the site. More than likely, your site will not be a http://www.desiringgod.org/ or a http://www.gty.org/. (not a slam on you or your church, it's just they have professionals who do it for them)
Finally, don't give up. If nothing else you will leave having learned something. I hope your site works for you guys.

A few thoughts about the site though. The things on the right don't make sense there, plus they are pretty big compared to the rest of the site. I would get rid of the search as your site probably will not be that big. If word press offers it, space your letters out in the heading, or change the font and make them a tad bit bigger.

You can PM if you want. I can help anywhere you need.

Here is a site that has helped me immensely. They offer technique and some code. http://www.alistapart.com/. Not sure how much it will help when dealing with word press though. I have never used WP, so I don't know.

Oh, don't be afraid to just scrap it and start over. Sometimes, that is the easiest. I am working on a site for a friend and am on revision 5. And there will probably be a few more till it gets done.

Will Mitchell's picture

Thanks for your advice, I've never done anything like this before. we are not set on the look yet. Some of the issues you mentioned are inherant in the theme. The one nice thing about Wordpress though is that we can change the theme (look) any time (if anyone has a theme suggestion I'm open). We know it won't be anything amazing but we have a few achievable (I think) goals we are setting out to accomplish.

1. Available online sermons- Our missionaries, several of our home-bound saints, and a handful of our other members have been asking for this for a long time. Pragmatically, since we currently offer the recordings free of charge, it will cut down on the CD's and Cassette tape expense (yes for some reason we still offer tapes)

2. Increased Exposure- The internet is a great tool when searching for a church, what people find will often determine where they visit. We plan to put the website address on the sign, vans, bus cards, etc. We are one of the few churches in town without a website and we broadcast on the local cable channel which could push additional traffic to the site.

3. Evangelistic Opportunities- For the reasons above.

4. Information- We are working on syncing the church calendar and will be posting pictures of church events, functions, etc.

So now how do you get the word out then motivate people to take ownership, contribute to and use the site? I have several key people that are dragging their fee. That is my biggest frustration right now.

Will Mitchell's picture

BTW, do you know if I could find that old thread somewhere? I would be interested in reading previous input.

Jamie Hart's picture

Ok...the title is JOKE, in case anyone gets nervous!
I built our church http://www.honoringhim.com ]website using FrontPage. Very easy...and I must admit I "borrowed" (with permission) the design from another site. But as far as use goes, we have found it to be very helpful. First of all, we regularly get visitors who found us online. By "regularly" I mean AT LEAST two or three a month. In addition, our folks regularly use the sermon audio links. The site was being utilized so much, we branched off and did a blog as well (though that content is on http://www.honoringhim.blogspot.com ]another site . We didn't want to "bog down" our home page.) This is a collaborative effort with other church members. To get them onboard, I made it really easy. I do every other week and rotate the "off" weeks between three people. We need to do better...but all in all it's going OK.

Looking at your page, I think you have a great start! My only caution is the calendar. If you are going to put this up, be sure you ready to update it on a regular basis. If someone logs onto your site and your calendar is 2 years behind...doesn't look so good!

BTW, tell Jeremy that Jamie Hart said "Hi." I went to school Faith with his brother Will.

Will Mitchell's picture

Thanks Jaime. Our Calendar is still a work in progress but Currently the church produces a print calendar every month. We are working on using an embeded calendar in the website so the secretary can just update her calendar and it will show Up to date automatically. The one thing I don't want is a out of date website.

We (myself, pastors, and a few deacons) are definitely excited about future possibilities for the site (like a blog) but we want to start simple.

I'll tell Jeremy you said hello.

Diane Heeney's picture

Will Mitchell wrote:
Thanks for your advice, I've never done anything like this before. we are not set on the look yet. Some of the issues you mentioned are inherant in the theme. The one nice thing about Wordpress though is that we can change the theme (look) any time (if anyone has a theme suggestion I'm open). We know it won't be anything amazing but we have a few achievable (I think) goals we are setting out to accomplish.

1. Available online sermons- Our missionaries, several of our home-bound saints, and a handful of our other members have been asking for this for a long time. Pragmatically, since we currently offer the recordings free of charge, it will cut down on the CD's and Cassette tape expense (yes for some reason we still offer tapes)

2. Increased Exposure- The internet is a great tool when searching for a church, what people find will often determine where they visit. We plan to put the website address on the sign, vans, bus cards, etc. We are one of the few churches in town without a website and we broadcast on the local cable channel which could push additional traffic to the site.

3. Evangelistic Opportunities- For the reasons above.

4. Information- We are working on syncing the church calendar and will be posting pictures of church events, functions, etc.

So now how do you get the word out then motivate people to take ownership, contribute to and use the site? I have several key people that are dragging their fee. That is my biggest frustration right now.


Bro Will,
I am webmaster for our church web site, using wordpress. You can look at it here: http://mvbclander.com . I use an external calendar. Each week's sermon is posted online. We get external hits (non church folks) thru churchangel and the chamber of commerce (folks looking to move into the area) as well as through various tags I put on the sermon posts which draw some traffic. I am not majorly techno-savvy, but I try. i have learned some new things while working on this one that I did not know in doing my personal blog. If you have a question, and I understand what you are asking Wink , I'll try and answer it.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Timothy Decker's picture

I set up out church web-site with GoDaddy.com, using their Website Tonight (R) program, and it costs approximately $10 per year, including domain registration. I am limited to five pages and it also uses their banner at the top of the page. That said, I have set up Sermon Audio and a Twitter "Events" feed. We have had several downloads of sermon audio, but no takers on Twitter yet.
If you are interested, our site is www.daytoncenter.org.

Pastor Decker

markbgomez's picture

I'll throw my hat in for Joomla content management system. I have a little side business building websites primarily for schools and churches (www.markgomezdesign.com). I built our church website (www.rrm.org) and our school website (www.sspatriots.org) using Joomla with customized templates from Rockettheme. I rarely ever charge more than $1000 per website so if you're interested . . . . If you decide to go it alone, I'd really recommend Rockettheme. They've got a fantastic user forum that is very helpful. And I'd be glad to give you pointers along the way.
Another thing to think about as you're developing a website is email. Since you have a domain registered, you can set up email with that domain. Check out Google Apps to use Gmail and Google Docs and Calendar on your domain. It makes organization and collaboration very easy. And you can't beat Gmail for a web interface.
Again, if you have any other questions, please feel free to ask. In this day and age, a church website is one of the first things a person will look at when they think about joining your church. We've had several people join recently because they found us online.

Jay's picture

Timothy Decker wrote:
I set up out church web-site with GoDaddy.com, using their Website Tonight (R) program, and it costs approximately $10 per year, including domain registration. I am limited to five pages and it also uses their banner at the top of the page. That said, I have set up Sermon Audio and a Twitter "Events" feed. We have had several downloads of sermon audio, but no takers on Twitter yet.
If you are interested, our site is www.daytoncenter.org.

Pastor Decker


Timothy -

Did the advertising come as a mandatory part of using their services or could you opt out by paying more for GoDaddy?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

markbgomez's picture

Will Mitchell wrote:
1. Available online sermons- Our missionaries, several of our home-bound saints, and a handful of our other members have been asking for this for a long time. Pragmatically, since we currently offer the recordings free of charge, it will cut down on the CD's and Cassette tape expense (yes for some reason we still offer tapes)

2. Increased Exposure- The internet is a great tool when searching for a church, what people find will often determine where they visit. We plan to put the website address on the sign, vans, bus cards, etc. We are one of the few churches in town without a website and we broadcast on the local cable channel which could push additional traffic to the site.

3. Evangelistic Opportunities- For the reasons above.

4. Information- We are working on syncing the church calendar and will be posting pictures of church events, functions, etc.

I think you're on the right track, setting some goals for your website. Here's a few ideas to help meet those goals.

1. I would recommend SermonAudio (www.sermonaudio.com). Having said that, I really don't like the interface of SermonAudio's site. Its too cluttered. But they offer 10 free sermons per month, an RSS feed, iTunes publishing, and an XML feed which means you could post your sermons on SermonAudio and have people access them from your site without really knowing they are on SermonAudio. Plus, you have a high traffic site like sermonaudio.com linking to your church which will help with #2.

2. Use the tools available from Google. Google Analytics and Local Business are must haves to start with. If you're able to, create a sitemap to submit to Google and other major search engines. With our Joomla sites, we have components plugged in that automatically index our site and submit the info to 5 major search engines.

3. Its fairly easy to add a page with a gospel presentation and even include contact forms for people to be able to respond.

4. Depending on what calendaring system you use, you may be able to embed it right in the website. Google Calendar has this capability. If you're using Outlook with Exchange, it would be much more difficult. This is one of the reasons I really recommend smaller ministries to go with Google Apps. Also, if your church puts out info in a bulletin, you can just copy and paste some of that into the website or post the bulletin itself on the website. Just don't make people download it. There are ways to embed a print file (scribd.com, docstoc.com to name a few). And be careful with a blog. If you're not updating it once a week its probably not worth it for a ministry.

Will Mitchell's picture

Tim: I think you build a good site w/what you have, however, I would seriously consider upgrading your package to get rid of the ad... It would look much more professional and would not cost that much. We now own 3 domain names w/no adds, email accounts and a large amount of storage for $60/yr through 1and1.com I would also think about putting the work into redoing your site through Joomla or Wordpress. I started w/something similar to what you have and found that things were very limited in terms of expansion and available add ons

Question about Joomla: I didn't know about this service when I started building with Wordpress but I like the sites I seen built with it. Are there a good assortment of Plugins like you find for Wordpress?

For Wordpress I have found, A great Sermon plugin called "Sermon Browser" you can subscribe to it as a podcast, play online, or download. You can also upload any corresponding powerpoints, notes, etc as attachments to the sermon. the final goodie is that it will display the passage while you are listening if you listen online.
If your church uses wordpress, I would highly recommend it!

We have decided to go w/Google calendar and have embeded it into the page. However, the current theme is too narrow for it to display well. Is there a way we can have the calendar open in a New window that is not formatted to the theme and would be printer friendly? If you can help w/this please PM me.

Finally, I am not familiar with Google Analytics and Local Business. Please Explain their function if you could. Thanks!

markbgomez's picture

Joomla has a huge developer base. You can see the plugins at extensions.joomla.org. Rockettheme templates come with a lot of great add-ons by default (like image rotators, etc.).

I like the Sermon Browser you have there. I may have to take a look at that and see if I can make it work with some of my Joomla sites. Joomla has a SermonSpeaker component that I've used that is fairly similar, but I like having the flash players so people can listen right away like you have.

As far as the Google Calendar goes, I'm sure there's a way to do it, even if you have to create a blank html page with the calendar and open it in a new window. The print button on the embedded calendar will format it for printing. I'm moving tomorrow, but once we get settled I'll try to PM you with some ideas for embedding.

Google Analytics tracks statistical info about your website. How many visits, where they come from, how they found your site. Its very useful to see what's working and what's not. Local Business allows you to register as a local business with Google so when someone searches for your category, your site can come up higher. It also includes google map integration so when someone finds your church through Google, they see where it is automatically and they can see a lot of information, especially contact information, right from Google. It helps make you look more legitimate. Here's what ours looks like for our school: Silver State Christian School.

Will Mitchell's picture

I have to check zoomla out. I really like the look of Rockettheme's products. I'm thinking about building a personal website so if I do I might use it just to experiment. Thanks for all the great help. I would eventually like to learn to write my own themes for Wordpress but I don't have anywhere near the time for that right now so that's a "back shelf" project for now!

If you are reading this and your church doesn't have a website, Please seriously consider making the investment (mostly of time) and doing it right because we are already finding it can be a great tool!

Timothy Decker's picture

markbgomez wrote:
I'll answer for Timothy by saying you can pay more and be ad-free.

Exactly. Our website is hosted with the banner for the cost of annual registration of the domain.
If we paid a monthly fee, would would get more flexibility and no advertising banner.
As the saying goes, "You get what you pay for."

Greg Long's picture

I would also not care to use Go Daddy due to their advertising campaigns, but that's a personal choice.

We used Josh Byers at Red Letters Studio to design our church's web site.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

markbgomez's picture

@Will - If you subscribe to Rockettheme, one nice feature that really, really helps with the learning curve is their Rocketlauncher packages. It's basically each month's demo template zipped up in an installer package that you can install on your webhost and it is preconfigured exactly like their demo. This allows you to see how they put together that month's template. For Joomla to work, make sure you have MySQL and PHP available on your webhost. Some hosts are set up specially for Joomla. I'm actually moving my business over to a Virtual Private Server so I can configure the server to be ideal for Joomla.

@Greg Long - After the Super Bowl, I decided not to buy any more domains from GoDaddy (I don't like their hosting, but I've used their domain registration). I went looking for someone else to buy domains from, but I could not find anyone that really compared well. I'm thinking of opening a reseller account with eNom. It's hard to give up on GoDaddy though, because the stuff just works and works well for really cheap. For free hosting, I've seen other alternatives. I used Doteasy for a while and it was fine for a basic website. Once I started with content management systems, I needed a lot more features though.

Will Mitchell's picture

I have been very pleased w/1and1. They have MySQL and PHP Access and I have several friends who build w/them. we have been very pleased! their basic packages are dirt cheap too. they also offer Domain migration if you want to bring your domain from godaddy to 1and1. I completely agree with the association of Godaddy and if you are going to use them, would definitely want the banner off of my site, you never know what they will scroll or flash across there.

Daniel's picture

I agree with 1&1. They are competitively priced and have everything you need, but no ads. I have probably about 10 domains registered through them.

markbgomez's picture

I've been using Hostnine for my hosting needs and so far they've been cheap and reliable. I'm in the middle of building a site that could be a much higher-traffic site than most of the church and school sites I've been building so I'm planning to move over to a VPS at Servint which came highly recommended by some guys at Rockettheme.com. If you've got the money, then a VPS is the way to go. I can tweak the server settings to optimize it for Joomla and I don't worry about anyone else on the server messing things up. I can also resell hosting and manage invoices, etc. through their control panel.

Jay's picture

Mark, what's a VPS?

I'll second Will's comment - the ad on the church page is distracting.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Daniel's picture

Virtual Private Server
Essentially, one server box running multiple virtual instances of the server OS. These instances of the OS are seen as one server (just as if you were not running it virtually). So you have your own dedicated resources. Your instance can crash, etc, while not affecting other instances. You can shut it down without shutting down other instances. Some virtual servers (more for big companies) have the ability to transfer on the fly whole server instances to other hardware while not interrupting the use of the instance.

Of course, most VPS stuff is of little importance for the average person. The only thing that really has any impact, especially for a church site, is the ability to control your own virtual instance of the server.

markbgomez's picture

Yeah, Daniel pretty much nailed it. The difference between a VPS and the hosting you normally get for cheap, is that on shared (cheap) hosting, you all share the same resources on a server. With a VPS you have resources dedicated to you that no one else can mess up. You also have more control over settings. So I can optimize the settings for Joomla websites (phpsuexec, 755 permissions, etc.) without requiring those settings for everyone else on a shared server. You also tend to get greater speed on a VPS since you have those resources dedicated to you.

Jay's picture

Daniel wrote:
You know there was a thread about 1/2 a year ago about church websites and why some get used and some don't.

I think you are referring to http://20.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t=2646 ]this thread , right?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

dmicah's picture

if you are looking for a very simple platform that multiple people can edit with little or no website experience, check out http://www.cloversites.com/. it is templated, and in my opinion easier to use than most blog platforms. you can put up and take down pages in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes. They are in your budget, and you do not need to know code to produce a nice looking site. our church site is www.salemchapel.org.

Jay's picture

DMicah,

I really like Clover, but 1K to purchase a new site seems high and may be out of my church's budget [right now, I'm just gathering information for them to evaluate and consider ]. Are there any other sites you'd recommend?

Someone mentioned http://plasticmind.com/ Plasticmind - is anyone using them?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

budven's picture

I created our church web site using Microsoft Office Live. The best thing about it is that it is free. You can check our our church web site [URL=http://www.faithcommunitybaptist.net ]here[/URL ]. I think it has turned out pretty good for a free web site.

I do believe that new web sites have office live in their URL. I hope this may help some churches that can't afford to get a web site. It is very easy to create and manage the web site.