Creating a Church Website in WordPress

Creating a Church Website with WordPress

an article by Neil MacQueen, Sunday Software
Below is the ABBREVIATED VERSION of the article originally posted at www.sundaysoftware.com/wordpress.htm

This article will be updated at www.sundaysoftware.com/wordpress.htm

Why suggest WordPress as a way to create a church website? There are a lot very good reasons…

First, I’m a realist. I’ve created several websites and two blogs. I’ve worked in the church as a pastor and volunteer, and I’ve worked on several church websites. This article reflects real lessons learned. WordPress is a great answer to problems that afflict many church websites.

Second, you not only need to create a church website, you need to MAINTAIN one too. And there’s the rub. Most church websites are poorly maintained. Many start out looking great -and end up stale or abandoned. The person who did all the initial heavy lifting -leaves, or staffers change or lose interest. Or there’s no easy way for multiple people to contribute content. The ‘design’ person ends up having to post everything, and that gets frustrating -usually for the design person! They get tired of people NOT giving them fresh content.

Or they have a volunteer who is good at designing websites, but not that interested in collecting fresh content. Some churches resort to hiring out to get a nice “first” website, but soon learn that the design company must be continually fed money in order to keep the site fresh.

Building a site in WordPress ADDRESSES many of these real world issues. WordPress can be set up and maintained by ANY volunteer who has a modest amount of web skills.

It has a lot of automated processes, such as updating your menus each time you post something. And it allows for multiple contributors.

WordPress’ online tool can be easily learned by new volunteers. WordPress continues to develop and improve their tools. A WordPress account is incredibly easy to set up.

And WordPress is ridiculously inexpensive.

WordPress tools are all online. You sign up for a site, go to your site, sign in, and access the site’s dashboard control panel to post new announcements, photos, and make design changes. This means you you can manage your site from ANY computer in the world as long as you have the password to your account. No software to download or install. Slick.

You can count on some Web Techies turning up their noses at this WordPress/online solution. They’d naturally prefer to create a custom website of their own design using their own software. Many web developers I’ve met love the idea of creating a church site from scratch. They want to contribute to the church and show what they can do. And some actually do a great job long-term. But over time, most get discouraged and/or move on.

 

attractive-adCommercial Break:  Kids Love Computers!  That’s why I started Sunday Software, to attract kids to computers running Bible software. Learn more at www.sundaysoftware.com

 

 

 

Here’s what I suggest you do next:

1. Go to www.wordpress.com and sign up for a free website. Within minutes you’ll be designing yoursite.wordpress.com. Play with the tools, see what you can do.

2. After you have toured the tools, put together a good proto-type and show it to your church leaders. Show them how the tools work too. Then make a plan.

 

3. When you’re ready to go public with your site, click the UPDATE feature on your site’s “dashboard” –to move your prototype to it’s own full domain name so that members and visitors will visit yourwebsite.org instead of yourwebsite.wordpress.com.

It costs about $15 a year to do this, which is incredibly reasonable when you consider that this includes the annual HOSTING FEE as well as the annual Domain Name fee, plus all the tools to build your site.

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Here’s the most powerful feature of any church website: email subscriptions

Every time something new is posted to your site, you want your members to automatically get an email with the news. And Google’s free “Feedburner” is the answer. Feedburner is a free service that “scrapes” your blog/site every day to see if there’s anything new. If it finds something new, it sends an email containing the new posts to all your feedburner subscribers. Your subscribers sign up at your website by clicking a link and typing their email address. This gives your site and church a DE FACTO email newsletter… for free. Now you just need to get all your members to go to the site and click that link!
The steps to setting up a Feedburner may change as their service evolves, but this is the basic idea as of April 2009. The important thing to remember is that you have to create accounts, activate them, copy a few things and paste them in the right places. It’s not rocket science, but your fellow parishioners don’t need to know that!
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Neil’s Instructions for Setting Up a Feedburner acct to give your WordPress site an email newsletter feature:

(see these instructions in the full article over at www.sundaysoftware.com/wordpress.htm)

Sacrifices: Your site’s appearance is limited to the WordPress templates, and there are currently about 50 to choose from, of which I personally like about 6 for church use. They are customizable to a point, and if you know Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) you can make quite a lot of changes. Creative web people might feel like WordPress restricts their creativity… but considering the REAL WORLD experience many churches have suffered through regarding their sites, it’s not a bad thing to emphasize functionality and content over endless options, ease of use over complexity, collaboration over having to do it all yourself, and longevity over staleness.

You can install WordPress to your own web hosting account and some webhosts are very WordPress friendly, so investigate your host first. This will also allow you to add more complexity to your WordPress created site. But complexity can begin to create some of the problems that many church websites eventually suffer from, so be careful about over doing it. For the average church wishing to have a modest but good looking and functional website, starting out with a site hosted at WordPress.com is the way to go.

There is a learning curve. You need to spend time with WordPress to
figure out all its options.

But once you’ve got them figured out
-you’re set, and can easily teach others how to help build and post
content with you, …even your pastor 😉

 

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WordPress Tips & Suggestions:  …based on my own experience building MY church’s website with WordPress. (See my tips in the full article over at www.sundaysoftware.com/wordpress.htm
 
 

 

Copyright 2009. Neil MacQueen, www.sundaysoftware.com All rights reserved.

Neil MacQueen is a techie-minister writing about tech and ‘other’ subjects for the Church.

This entry was posted in Building a Better Church Website, Other Published Articles by Neil. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Creating a Church Website in WordPress

  1. Carol says:

    You can see a list of churches that have set up their websites using wordpress at: http://livingos.com/wp/churches/

  2. Neil says:

    Great suggestion Carol. Some good tips there. I would like to add that setting up WP on your OWN site will allow you some extra options, but too much customization and complexity can return you to the problems many church sites suffer with already. The fewer people who understand your site’s setup and custom background features, the more beholden the site is to its creator, and thus the eventual situation where the site becomes a white elephant when that person is no longer connected to the church or working on the site.

  3. Paul Cook says:

    Hi, we used wordpress to create our church website and it’s worked great! You can see it at http://www.cccworthing.com.

  4. Neil says:

    Nice job Paul. Tons of helpful info and sense of activity!

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