Church Website Overview

How To Develop It From The Scratch

In this series of articles I am going to show you how to develop a church website from scratch. My plan is to post a new article every week until completed.

Even if you are updating an existing website, much of this content will still be very relevant to your situation.

Clearly, there are many ways to do this as there a many option out there that will work. I am going to show you what I have actually done to setup a church website and where appropriate some alternate options for you.

Finally, these articles are designed for the non-developer. So even if you don’t know any code, you should get some benefit without any issues.

Steps We Will Cover

What’s Your Why

Why are you building your website? Does it fit with your organization’s mission? This is the most important part and the part that is skipped the most because people want to start building but don’t want a solid plan first. You need to come up with a solid reason you are doing this project beyond everyone else is so we should too. Once you have a good why write a detailed plan that addresses purpose, definitions, specificaitons, deliverables, schedule, budget, maintenance and payment.

Get a Domain

It all start with a domain. A domain is you address on the internet (yourdomain.com). But a domain is more than your organization’s internet address. It helps to establish your brand. To get a domain you need to go through a registrar and point your domian to the servers of your host using something called DNS. You should also consider using email@yourdomain.com as I explan here.

Hosting

Trying to have a website without hosting is like trying to drive a car without an engine. It just won’t work. Hosting is the process of putting your website on the internet. There are a range of hosting options including shared, VPS, and dedicated all of which have different pricing depending upon the host. You should also consider support and the technology they offer when you pick which host to use. Always buy as much hosting speed as you can afford as this is critical to your website’s performance.

WordPress

WordPress is the most popular CMS on the internet and powers approximatly 25% or the entire internet. However, there are many options to get your installation just right. The primary benefit of WordPress is its popularity so it is supported by virtually every host, tons of developers, and many companies develop excellent themes and plugins (we’ll discuss those next). However there are two versions of WordPress and the one that you want is the self hosted variety found at WordPress.org. Did I mention its completely free?

Select A Theme

A theme is a part of WordPress that gives your webiste it’s basic design and essential functionality. Themes are one of the reasons WordPress is so popular because they are so easy to change. Like many things there are a range of features that come with various themes. For this tutorial I am recommending any theme from churchthemes.com because their themese are really easy to use and packed with features we need.

Add Plugins

Plugins are another part of WordPress that you will love. A plugin adds advanced functionality to your website. Plugins power everything from contact forms to ecommerce. Installing a plugin is a simple process and once done your website will have new features. Some plugins are free, some are not and they are called premium. But many of the premium plugins are a great value and totally worth the money.

Media

Distributing media is a great way to build your brand recognition. As a church you are going to create at lease one sermon a week. You should be recording these and at a minimum posting them to your website. Ideally, you would also turn them into a Podcast that you distribute through iTunes. You should also consider streaming your services. I prefer using YouTube Live.

Email Signup

Want to connect with your audience? Use email. If you build an email list you have direct access to your audience that is interested in what you are doing. Email services are really simple to use and will provide the code for you. Put this code where you want it on your website and let people signup to your list easily.

Security

No one is going to use your webiste if they feel that thier information is going to get stolen. There are two things that are essential to securing your site. The first is loading pages over https. The second is to obtain an SSL certificate that encrypts the connection between your website and confirms that the website is who it says it is to the user. You can setup https in you WordPress settings and you get an SSL certificate from your host.

Analytics & Launch

Now that you are ready to launch you need to add analytics so you can actually track your traffic. While there are multuple options available I prefer Google analytics. You should also signup with Google and other search engines’ webmaster tools so you can have your site indexed. This will help your site show up on search results better. Once you do these things, it is time to launch.