Creating the best church website and getting it up and running can feel overwhelming even if you have plenty of time (and you probably don’t have plenty of time).
There are so many options and so much jargon that it can feel like climbing a mountain without a rope. On top of that, it can feel challenging to get help because all available information feels like it is wrapped up in a sales pitch. In this post, I outline the elements of what it takes to create the best church website and explain your options in understandable terms.
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4 Steps to Building Your Church Website
1. Domain Name
Your domain name is your address on the internet. When someone types in www(dot)churchname(dot)com, they are typing your domain name. Domain names are generally cheap (($10-15/yr), and you can get them in many places.
The price for a special ending to your domain name (called a Top Level Domain or TLD) can be higher. The additional cost is generally insignificant, but you must decide if ending your site with “.church” is worth the price.
I do recommend paying for privacy when you buy your domain. This prevents people from being able to send you annoying marketing promotions designed to trick you into switching domain registrars (They look like bills and many people fall prey to these scams).
Some popular places to get domain names are Google Domains, Name Cheap, and GoDaddy. Using a popular company is helpful because you are more likely to find a tutorial that uses your specific registrar when you are ready to point your domain to your host.
Now that you have a domain, you’ll need hosting. Your domain points to a location on the internet where your site is hosted. The internet isn’t a place, so hosting puts your website on a server somewhere (usually many “somewheres”), and people access that server using the internet.
There is a variety of hosting types. Your basic options are Shared Hosting, VPS Hosting, Cloud Hosting, and Dedicated Server Hosting. Let’s talk about each one.
Shared Hosting means you share your server location with various other sites. Your server resources aren’t dedicated, so another’s heavy traffic or unwise behavior can affect your site’s performance. In addition, Shared Hosting is often very inexpensive.
VPS Hosting stands for virtual private server hosting. This type of hosting gives you dedicated resources and creates a container for your site to live. Therefore, it is better than shared hosting and often more secure, the actions of other sites on the server generally won’t affect your site, and you get the resources for which you paid.
Shared Hosting and VPS hosting are held at a physical server location, meaning there is a physical space that your website lives on. This is not so with cloud hosting. Cloud hosting distributes copies of your “container” across multiple servers. This means that you are rarely affected by outages or server challenges. Cloud Hosting can be confusing, but Cloudways has built an excellent Cloud Hosting Platform.
Dedicated Server Hosting
Dedicated Server Hosting is what it sounds like. Your site is hosted in a dedicated server or servers somewhere. You have control over everything about your hosting environment, including configuration. Your church site likely doesn’t need a dedicated server.
3. Content Management Systems
A content management system is software that makes it easy to get your website content online and edit it over time. Put another way, it allows you to create a website without writing code for all website elements. You can also write no code, but this will limit you to whatever the default options are for that CMS.
There are several CMSs out there, with the most popular being WordPress. In the church world, you will find products like Nucleus by ProChurchTools and the customized version of WordPress used by The Church Co. When choosing a CMS, there are a few things to look for.
Ease of Use
This may seem simple, but a good CMS is easy to update and use, It should make sense to you, and you should know how to do what you want. With any tool, you will come up against issues you don’t know how to correct. This is where a popular CMS has advantages over a more niche CMS. A simple google search of “How to _________ on WordPress” will yield results, whereas less popular CMS options may limit you to the in-house support teams of those companies. These are often paid services, so the customer service should be quick and exemplary.
Some CMSs are made for ease of use but may be limited in terms of the available customization. This may not be important at all for you right now. However, it is worth asking if you would rather set up on a platform that allows you to do things in the future so that you don’t have an enormous migration task in front of you when you decide to move.
As Uncle Ben reminded us in one of the Spider-Man Movies, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The ability to customize your site comes with the ability to break your site. Nucleus sites may look similar to each other, but you also can’t make them look terrible. This is a worthwhile consideration when planning out your website.
If you choose WordPress, your website will have a theme. This means that you will select a set of files that dictates your website’s look, feel, and functionality. WordPress offers thousands of themes in the repository, and there are many great paid themes like Divi by Elegant Themes, Elementor Pro (there is a free version), and many others. Your theme sets the tone for your site, so be sure to look around and find one that fits you. A good rule of thumb is to choose a popular theme that gets updated regularly by the theme authors.
Build The Best Church Website With Confidence
I understand that this can feel confusing but fear not. You can get all of these individual elements of the best church website from the same provider. A company like The Church Co will bundle hosting, CMS, and theme for you. The same is true of Nucleus. If you decide to work with a WordPress developer, there is a decent chance they will provide hosting and have a preferred theme. This article is meant to help you understand each component so that you understand what you are buying. If you feel overwhelmed or confused, drop a comment below, and I will reply as quickly as possible.
Want more tips for the best church website? Check out Why UI / UX Matter for Your Church Website