Saturday, 23 June 2012

How To Build a Free Great Website

Every thing you need to know if you want to build a church website using free software. This is a step by step guide that not only will give you the logic and reasoning we used to create our Great Church Website, but also shows you how to create a church website of you own.

This tutorial can be used over and over again to walk through the steps. Everything from videos showing you how to install your wordpress platform to how to upload and configure your church website template.

Since no lens can cover EVERY step in the process, we have also included links to a SUPER PACK of 20 Wordpress instructional videos that you can download and use to build your church websites.

Why You Need A GREAT Website

How To Build Your Church Website - Why Your Church Needs A WebsiteIn today's modern society, it is important for a church to have a website.

If you're building a church website, you want the high quality of the site to be reflective of your church. After all, you want people visiting to get a good impression when they check out the site.

Your church website is likely one of the first places those who have an interest in your ministry, will likely look for more information. A quality church website makes it easier for these prospects to find information about you before making a decision to visit.

Additionally, a good church website will provide members, supporters, and friends with a effective communication tool. Those who are already a part of your church family can always find timely accurate information about your activities and plans so they can participate.

While having a website is important, it doesn't necessarily have to break the church's budget. Building a church website can be easy and free if you use the right resources.

Why You Are Able To Do It Yourself

Why You Can Do It Yourself - How To Build A Church WebsiteWhen I started online, createing a professional looking website (and they did not look THAT professional) required a programmer or webmaster who understood the HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) computer language.

Moreover, whenever your website needed to be updated you had to call that same high priced webmaster to do modifications like your church anouncements.

For that reason, many churches would have stale information on their websites that rarely changed. It was not uncommon to find last years revival still on the front page of the website almost a year later.

We are blessed that those days are completely gone. Today, professional looking websites can easily be created by people with NO EXPERIENCE whatsoever. That might be YOU! So relax, you can make it happen for your ministry.

Overview Of Website Options

Website Options HTML - How To Create A Church WebsiteFirst, offer more than a billboard. Many churches today put up websites that are much like a billboard, simply listing location, church times, and a few pertinent facts on one page. This is not a good church website design to go with.

A number of the websites online today, still use the old HTML coding language and each is hand designed. That type of website is fast going the way of the dinosaurs.

Recent innovations and changes in programming and browsers have made the need for STATIC FIXED CONTENT websites obsolete.

Todays modern websites are being constructed by Content Management Systems. Content Management Systems (aka CMS's) allow anyone with the ability to edit a microsoft word document to modify the content on a website.

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What Are Content Management Systems

Content Management Systems - How To Build A Church WebsiteContent Management Systems are a HUGE sea-change on the web design, implementation, and modification fronts. There are a number of different content management systems available on the market today.

Some are quite expensive and quite complex. These systems can vary in price from a few hundred to a tens of thousands of dollars. Most of your big online players and media outlets use CMS's to produce the websites we all have come to use and like.

Some of the companies using these high-end systems are Microsoft, Yahoo, New York Times, NBC, CNN, ABC, and many many more.

Others, are called content management systems are absolutely free and are installed on a far greater number of websites. You may have heard some of these systems also called blogging platforms. These free platforms are called Open-Source systems. That's right absolutely gratis.

Many of you may have heard of Wordpress, but there are many more. Some of the more popular ones are Drupal (No relation to Rhue Paul), PostNuke, Joomla, Xoops, and Moveable Type to name just a few. As I said, all of these systems are absolutely FREE but you must generally be able to install and maintain them yourself.


Why We Chose A Content Management System

Content Management System - How To Build A Church WebsiteThere are four major reasons why we recommend that ministries use a Content Management System when they are building a church website.

The first, and most important in my mind, is realiability and security. Because so many websites are created using the most popular CMS systems, they are battle tested to withstand almost any malicious attack from the outside.

Although you may not have credit card data and the like on your website, I believe the Names, Addresses, E-Mail Addresses, and Phone Numbers of your members and supporters need to be protected.

Additionally, since it is likely that more than one person from your ministry will be updating the various sections of your GREAT CHURCH WEBSITE, the ability to change and recover passwords easily becomes an important factor in limiting the damage that someone with malicious intent can impose on your budding web ministry.

The second reason is that content management systems can be modified easily by almost anyone with common office skills.

This is a tremendous advantage to churches from large to small. This is a benefit in more ways than simply cost. Some churches allow their teen ministry to keep the church website up to date with current announcements and activities.

Having the teens perform these tasks gives them real world experience, as well as, gives them a ownership stake in the ministry. No longer is it daddy's and mother's ministry. They now have a responsibility to God for how things are taken care of.

Thirdly, content management systems have a wide array of pre-designed formats that can be changed at a moments notice with the need to modify the content that has been created over months and years.

Finally, there are a number of add-on modules that can give the website a broad amount of flexibility. Some are as simple as calendar systems. Others, improve the ability of the search engines to index your website and show your church websites in the search results. There are even some that allow your church to podcast your services or distribute your Bible study notes.

Why We Chose A CMS - Continued

Why We Chose Self Hosted Wordpress

Self Hosted Wordpress - How To Create A Church WebsiteIf determining that a content management system would be the best use of a church's resources, determining which content management system to use was equally as straight forward.

The most well known, widely used, most thouroghly tested, and the CMS with the greatest numbers of extentions was of course Wordpress. Installed on over xxxxxxxxxxxx websites, this system is head and shoulders above the others for the vast majority of churches.

Yes, some larger churches, with 2000+ members, may be better served with Joomla's multi-tiered security, the vast majority would find the more robust systems confusing.

We concluded that the best solution was a Wordpress site.

WordPress has two choices to offer: hosted or self-hosted WordPress. is the public platform that runs the software that anyone can download from and install on their own web-hosting domain.

While, the self-hosted service take a manual approach, requiring set-up while keeping and managing the WordPress software, the hosted WordPress is limited on a number of fronts and does not provide the versatility that we can have from the self-hosted flavor.

An example of how would limit a ministry is that doesn't allow you to install your own themes or plugins.

So to simplify things we choose Self-hosted Wordpress to create our Church Website.

Hosting Free or Paid

How To Build A Church Website - Web Hosting With the economy the way it is right now, ministries and churches are looking for ways to save money. Many pastors and church councils thing that they want FREE web hosting but they really don't understand the cost to their ministry by doing this.

Professional Appearance of Business

When you use free web hosting, your URL (the web link for you website) will usually look something like this:

In the example above is the company providing the free hosting.

Since this is your Church's website, it doesn't give the appearance that you are serious about your appearance or ministry quality.

For a more professional image of your business, it would be prudent of you to invest in a domain name and some professional hosting.

Free Isn't Free

How do you suppose a company that offers free web hosting makes any money to run their operation? Answer: Through advertising.

Free web hosting companies need to make money somehow. They do this by inserting advertising onto your page. You have no control over what advertising is shown.

I had the experience (YEARS AGO) of having Yahoo display an ad on my email list with a flying witch for October 31st. I received feedback telling me that I should know better than to display symbols of witchcraft.

I had NOTHING to do with it but I got JUST WHAT I PAID FOR!

So for the few dollars per month, you would spend, we recommend that you be sure to get some quality web hosting.

We recommend Linux based hosting which uses CPANEL to control hosting services. cPanel is the most widely recognized hosting panel available. We chose it for its flexibility and security.

Although we recommend you purchase your domain from we DO NOT recommend that your use their web-hosting. There are a number of valid reasons why but rather than go into that detail here, trust me and use someone else for your Church website hosting company.

Here are a few companies that we use and recommend.

Web Hosting Companies We Recommend

Click any of the links below and you cannot go wrong on your hosting for your church website. We use these companies ourselves.
Host Gator
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How To Install Your Self Hosted Wordpress Platform

If you followed our recommendation, and signed up with any of the companies we recommended, your next step will be a breeze!

One of the many benefits of web hosting with the cPanel control panel, is the ability to use a program called fantastico to install a huge number of open-source programs with just a few clicks.

With Fantastico you don't need to understand programming, you don't need to create configuration files, you don't even need to understand what an SQL database is. You just tell the program where you want Wordpress to be installed and Wham Bam it gets done in SECONDS.

Here is a video showing how it gets done.
How To Install Install Wordpress - How To Create A Church Website
by bishopifeelgod | video info

0 ratings | 20 views
curated content from YouTube

Installing & Customizing Your Template

Choose a visual theme. Any great church website must have a professional look. It also should match the vision of your church. If you need inspiration, there are thousands of good templates to choose from, and many are available for free.

To customize your new church website we will need a graphics program. That means you will need to decide on an image editor. The industry standard is Adobe Photoshop, but it is also expensive and a tool meant for use by professionals. Photoshop Elements, also from Adobe, costs under $100 at the time of publication and is designed to be easy to use.

Since we are building our church website using free software we are going to suggest that your download and install a program called GIMP.

You will use your image editor to create the graphic content for your site. The most visible of these graphics is the header at the very top of almost every wordpress theme. A side bonus is that your Facebook Page Timeline also has a header graphic which is about the same size. If you use the same (or similar) you will build continuity across your church's web properties.
powered by Youtube

Installing Features You Need

As you are thinking of features you will need on your site, consider participation from your members, visitors, and church shoppers. Make sure that you offer opportunities for sharing on the church website. People like to be a part of something and you can keep visitors coming back when you allow them to share on the site too.

Many people who are seeking a new church want to know how it feels to experience a service, so show them with video or let them listen to sermons through audio. Audio files are a great way to also allow anyone who missed the service to enjoy the sermons at home while in bed sick, while working out, or even having to work. This is called Podcasting and you can easily add this feature to the Church Website you are building. Simply add one of a number of free plug-ins

Consider adding a forum or other options that give your visitors the ability to sign up and start sharing with others. You'll build a community on the site, which will help to build a community within your church as well.

Creating Content

Youth MinistryThe FIRST and most important rule to follow in creating and developing your content, is to SPEAK PLAINLY!

Use words and phrases your teen agers can easily understand. Don't assume everyone coming to your site will read a lot of verbage.

The Internet is a graphical medium and people will believe that your children enjoy youth ministry more by a picture of a smiling child than will believe your statement about it. Display images of your church on the website

Make sure that you actually feature members of your church on the site. Don't use stock photos that don't even look like people that go to your church. Consider using actual photos from your church, but make sure you get permission from those in the photos.

Placing your most current upcoming events on the front page will ensure that people come back to see which new events are coming soon. This gives many visitors exactly what they want as soon as they reach the website, and a happy visitor will be a return visitor.

Add information about worship times and Sunday school or Bible studies held at the church. Be sure to include contact information such as telephone numbers or an email address where visitors can forward their questions to. It also would be wise to add directions to your church for out-of-town visitors.

Create your own content. If someone in the church has a good camcorder, make exciting videos and post them on YouTube and embed them on a PAGE (different than a post) on the website. This will attract people to your website. Record sermons and choir presentations and make them available as MP3s.

When you have an outreach to the community, take lots of pictures and put them on pages explaining the work and activities your ministry is involved in.

Read more: How to Build a Great Church Website on a Shoestring Budget |

It's a good idea to post a photo of your church building, too. Make sure the pastor or pastors are listed.

Create an "About Us" page for your church, do not forget to explain the flow of the worship services . Explain the general chronology of the service, including prayers, psalms, sermons and even the youth congregation's role within the service. Also discuss if there are any other services available, such as Sunday School or Youth Group, seniors' assistance or day care.

As a part of the About Us page, don't forget to include a brief history of your congregation. Let visitors know if you are affiliated with a denomination or a organization.

Provide a Contact Us page with more detailed information, such as the names of the board executive committee, the music director and so on.

Securing Your Wordpress Website

Securing Your Wordpress Website - How To Create A Church Website Using Free SoftwareOne thing many people tend to forget to do, when running a self hosted Wordpress website for their church, is to constantly back-up their database & server in the case that something bad happens to their site.

I have had to deal with one of my own websites that I lost EVERYTHING because the doctor did not do what he prescribed for others. I have also had a Joomla site, that had a Christian theme, hacked by mohammedan extremists who added bloody pictures of disfigured babies. WOW that was a mess and a big pain to fix.

So, I take security seriously. So, for step one use the backup plugin to backup your website AT LEAST once per week in case something goes wrong.

More importantly you should also do the most you can to patch up any loop holes and vulnerabilities that you find out about, to avoid getting hacked into the first place. Prevention is always better. When running a CMS such as WordPress, hackers already know what vulnerabilities to search for on your site. Luckily so do you.

Here are 10 tips to help you secure the Church Website you have built with WordPress from hackers and hopefully keep your website clean. If you need any extra info regarding any point, such as how to do it, you can do a quick search on Google .... Just Call or Email me. Visit for information. - I am sure you will find an answer.

10 WordPress Security Tips

Upgrade WordPress every time a update is released
Create a user account for yourself, DO NOT use the admin account
Rename the admin account - NEVER us admin
Use Complex passwords (8 Chars letters and numbers)
Change passwords 3 times a year
Create a blank index.thml in your plugins directory (should be there in newer WP versions)
Remove the WordPress version string from your header.hp file
Do not allow people to register as administrators by default
Keep spam comments out
Backup your database and server-side files regularly

How Will People Find Your Website

Just because your site is for a church does not mean you can build it and "they" will come.

Search engine optimization techniques will ensure that your website is visible to the largest audience possible, and targeted keywords will help people who truly want to find your site to get there.

Choose three key phrases which you believe someone looking for your church would use. For example, "St. Luke's Methodist Church" will bring up a million listings from around the world. A better choice would be "St. Luke's United Methodist Church Cleveland" or "St. Luke's United Methodist Church King Street", highlighting the location and giving a far more targeted search engine result.

Whats Next

Use Your Church Website to Reach Others

Craig L Olson While I was putting this lens together I came across this article by Craig L Olson I thought you would like it

In their Pew Internet and American Life Project, the Pew Research Center found that "Nearly two-thirds of online Americans use the Internet for faith-related reasons. The sixty-four percent of Internet users who perform spiritual and religious activities online represent nearly eighty-two million Americans."

Among the most popular and important spiritually-related online activities:

Thirty-eight percent of the nation's 128 million Internet users have sent and
received email with spiritual content.
   Thirty-five percent have sent or received online greeting cards related to religious holidays.
   Thirty-two percent have gone online to read news accounts of religious events and affairs.
   Twenty-one percent have sought information about how to celebrate religious holidays.
   Seventeen percent have looked for information about where they could attend
religious services.
   Seven percent have made or responded to online prayer requests.
   Seven percent have made donations to religious organizations or charities.

The potential for outreach on the Web is almost limitless.

Is your church capitalizing on this powerful tool? Take a few minutes to cruise the websites of America's mega-churches and you will see that the vast majority follow the template of a corporate website-who we are and what we do.

George Barna says, "The most common content includes scheduled activities at the church, background information about the church, and current church news...Most church websites are developed and maintained predominantly for the use of congregants, although pastors are most likely to say that the target audience was people from outside their church."

These sites simply take the church experience online, creating an environment that is only somewhat less alien than walking through the doors of a church into an unfamiliar crowd on a Sunday morning.

Church leadership needs to have just as much enthusiasm for connecting with people outside the church as they do once people begin attending church. The way to do this is to develop an online presence unrelated to the church experience using blogs, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Consider transforming your church website into an information portal that provides answers to life's most pressing questions. Create pages that bridge from some felt need to a gospel presentation like those listed in the back of this book. Power to Change by Campus Crusade and Channels on their website, Troubled With by Focus on the Family and the specialty sites on are great examples of bridge pages that lead the seeker from an awareness of a felt need to a deeper spiritual need.

Present your website as a place to come for answers about spirituality-topics like "Who am I?" "Where did I come from?" "What is my place in the world?" "What is the meaning of life?" "Who is Jesus Christ?" "What does He have to do with me?" "Where do I go when I die?" Incorporate some of the features most often sought by Internet users such as greeting cards, religious news, and information about the origins of Christian holidays.

Another way to bridge to a gospel presentation is to form a group of experts who are willing to provide answers to questions related to their professions. Doctors could answer questions about medical symptoms, lawyers about legal issues.

Questions about sexual dysfunction could lead to discussions about intimate relationships.

Queries about legal issues could lead to a discussion of moral and ethical values.

You could create a "Do it yourself" site where trades-people in your church contribute tips for home improvement projects. Even home repair and renovation can be related to biblical truths by way of analogy.

Incorporate a chat room so users can have a one-on-one discussion with one of your church members about an issue that is important to them. This could be a great way to make a personal contact without having to face throngs of unfamiliar people in a formal church setting.

Take a look inside the book The Casual Christian at: for more ideas.

Find more articles like this one, visit my blog at
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1 comment:

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