More and more church websites are being made with WordPress.
WordPress powers more than 20% of all websites in the world. This figure is incredible but not surprising. There are many advantages to making a website with WordPress and churches are taking notice. Churches are saying no to expensive proprietary church website solutions and yes to WordPress, a flexible platform that’s easy for church staff and volunteers to use.
Steps to Making a Church Website With WordPress
These are the steps you’ll follow:
- Choose a church WordPress theme (the design for your site)
- Sign up for web hosting (where your website lives on the Internet)
- Install WordPress on your web hosting
- Install your WordPress theme
- Customize your website’s appearance
- Add your content
- Finish everything off
I’ll clue you in on how to do these things but first let’s look at the cost of making a church website with WordPress.
What Will Our Church Website Cost?
The cost of a church website made with a WordPress theme is usually between $100 and $300 per year, depending on the theme and web hosting provider you choose and whether or not you use any paid plugins (30,000 of them are free).
The biggest reason for the low cost of making a church website with WordPress is that WordPress itself is free. Nearly all church website solutions use their own closed-source Content Management System (CMS), which costs money to develop and maintain. WordPress on the other hand is an open-source project supported by a large community of experienced developers who donate their time.
A church WordPress theme costs less than $100 and that almost always includes support for one year. Renewing support and updates to the theme costs less than the initial purchase. This is not a requirement but is recommended.
A typical web hosting plan costs about $10 per month (I’ll tell you about one that hosts church websites for free) and your domain name (yourname.com) will cost about $15 to renew each year. Most church website solutions require you to host with them but they can’t provide hosting as cheap as those who specialize in hosting because they don’t exist on the same scale. This is another reason you save money on a church website made with WordPress.
Choosing a Church WordPress Theme
A WordPress theme controls how your website looks but don’t pick a theme based only on looks. There are other important factors to consider. Here is my criteria for choosing a church WordPress theme.
- Made specifically for churches
- Provider specializes in church WordPress themes
- Avoids the theme lock-in effect
- Support and documentation are included
- Supports the Theme Customizer (more on that below)
- Has a money back guarantee
- Provider has a sustainable business model
On that last point, what I mean is that the theme seller does not make unrealistic promises like lifetime support for unlimited sites. Imagine how they’ll struggle if an entire denomination or large website building company takes them up on that offer. You will want your theme provider to stay in business for the long run.
All of our themes at churchthemes.com are built with these things in mind.
Hosting for Your Church Website
Every website is stored on a server connected to the Internet. Think of hosting as where your website lives. To sign up, you will fill out an online form and choose or bring your own domain name (yourname.com).
WP Kube recommends BlueHost and HostGator for your WordPress website. We refer people to these hosts at churchthemes.com as well. WordPress.org recommends BlueHost and it turns out HostGator is owned by the same company. They both offer shared Linux-based hosting, which is the most common type and suitable for nearly all church websites. BlueHost bills annually to lower costs but pro-rates early cancelation. You can choose monthly billing at a similar price with HostGator.
Another host to look at is SiteGround. They cost a little more than BlueHost and HostGator but offer free hosting for qualifying US-based nonprofits. This offer can make the cost of WordPress-powered church websites even lower.
These hosts all have money back guarantees and one-click installation of WordPress, which helps you get started faster. You’ll find the one-click installer in the host’s control panel.
Installing Your Church WordPress Theme
Assuming you already signed up for hosting and installed WordPress with your host’s one-click installer, the next step is to log into WordPress at yourname.com/wp-admin/ to install the church WordPress theme you chose.
You would simply go to Appearance > Themes, click the button to add a new theme then upload the theme you purchased.
Many themes require a plugin (and they should in order to avoid the theme lock-in effect) and come with sample content. You can refer to the documentation included with your theme for specific instructions for these things.
Customizing Your Church Website’s Appearance
WordPress has a great featured called the Theme Customizer. A theme has to specifically support this feature in order for you to use it (many newer themes do).
Depending on what the theme allows, you can do things like change colors, background images, upload your logo, choose fonts and so on. You choose options on the left side of the Customizer and see real-time changes in the live preview on the right. It’s a lot of fun to play with a theme that supports this.
Here’s a video I produced a couple weeks ago to show how our church themes support WordPress’s Customizer feature.
Publishing Content With WordPress
WordPress really shines with content management.
There is a menu on the left-hand side. WordPress provides Pages and Posts. Pages are good for About, What to Expect, What We Believe and any other type of content. Posts are blog posts, should your church decide to have a blog (or news section). A church theme should have you install a plugin or two to add other post types such as Sermons, Events, Locations and Staff.
Managing existing content is just as simple. You would click an item in the list for a particular post type. Here’s how managing locations looks with the same plugin.
You may want multiple church staff members or volunteers to be able to manage content. WordPress lets you do that. An Administrator user can do anything in the WordPress admin area (including add other users), an Editor can manage content from all users, an Author can publish and edit their own content and a Contributor can submit content to be approved by an Editor or Administrator.
Finishing Your Church Website
You’ve made a church website with WordPress at this point! There are just a few more things to take care of.
- Make sure your church website include essential content (location, times, etc.)
- Use the Limit Login Attempts plugin to secure your login against brute-force attacks
- Setup a backup solution. BackUpWordPress (free), UpdraftPlus (free), VaultPress ($5/mo) and BackupBuddy are popular solutions. Your web host may also have a full site backup/restore solution.
- Be prepared to check your WordPress Dashboard for WordPress, theme and plugin updates (WP Updates Notifier is a plugin that can send you an email when updates are ready to apply).
- Review settings in your WordPress Settings area (tagline, timezone, etc.) and make sure Pretty Permalinks is enabled
- Take measures to prevent comment spam (it’s easy)
Now you can launch your new church website made with WordPress!
Help with Your Church Website and WordPress
You have the freedom to choose your providers when you go the WordPress route. As such, support will be available from multiple sources. This gives you specialized support.
- Your theme provider will help you with anything relating to the theme you purchase. Pick one with a good reputation for support and that has thorough documentation (videos are a big plus for us visual learners).
- Your web host will help you with anything relating to the service they provide.
- The WordPress Support Forum is available for general WordPress help and help with free plugins.
- If you use any paid plugins, you would go to the plugin provider for help.
- There is also a great wealth of WordPress tutorials that you can find on Google.
WordPress is all about freedom and flexibility.
It’s important that a church has a useful website that doesn’t cost more money than necessary.
People often look at a church’s website before deciding to visit the church. If the design is outdated or if information is missing, they’re not likely to step through the church’s doors.
There is little reason for churches to risk thousands of dollars on a church website, even if the budget is that large. I’ve seen churches spend thousands of dollars and end up paying compliments to a $50 WordPress theme. You see what you get before committing any money and with shops like churchthemes.com, you can get every dime back if you’re not satisfied.
Making your church website with WordPress is a solution worth considering.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts and experiences with WordPress and church websites in the comments below.