Making a Church Website using Google’s Blogspot

You probably didn’t know this, but CNN, MLB, NOKIA, AT&T and many more corporate websites are actually built using “blog” software. It makes sense. Today’s blog software has so many great features. In fact, blog software like WordPress and now Blogger, are great choices for making your church’s website. I wrote about using WordPress two years ago…. how to create a very inexpensive, power-featured church website using WordPress.com that allows you to have multiple contributors. See my own church’s $15 a year website, www.stcroixreformed.org for a great example. (Yep, $15!)

And now along comes GOOGLE. For many years Google has been developing a free blog site called “Blogger” (aka “Blogspot”). I’ve been using it for the past four years to maintain my family’s blog, and I recently built a website for a friend’s business using blogspot.com (www.mayanwindpower.blogspot.com).  Until now, I have not recommended Blogspot for church websites because some of their features were weak. Not any more.

Google’s Blogger/Blogspot is ready for church websites.

In fact, if I were re-developing my church’s wordpress-built website, or this SundayResources site, I might now do it in Google’s Blogspot instead of WordPress. Both are good choices and very inexpensive. Depends on your needs.

But check this out…. Blogspot’s interface and templates have a slightly more updated feel, and Blogspot now gives you more control over the look of your pages, fonts, backgrounds and color schemes. They’re both good.

 

Key Reasons to Consider using Blogger (or WordPress) for your church’s website:

  • Blogger/Blogspot is free to start (so is WordPress), and the tools are all online meaning you can work on your site from any computer, even your smartphone, and have people help you from their own computers. You do pay for upgrades, but they are much cheaper than ‘site creation’ companies charge.
  • It’s extremely easy to use.
  • Free professional looking templates that give your site instant credibility.
  • Navigation at your site is automatically updated site-wide every time you create a new page or post.
  • Photos and videos are easy to upload and manage. They are automatically formatted for webs viewing for you. Blogspot creates a Picassa photo gallery for you, with online graphic and photo editing tools.
  • You can create a test site, and if you like it, follow the instructions to have your church’s domain name (web address) start pointing to your new Blogspot site, instead of the site you have now.
  • Blogger/Blogspot is Google, meaning, it will continue to be improved and be no or low-cost.
  • Blogger/Blogspot offers a free email newsletter service (see note below).
  • Smartphone visitors to your site will automatically be given a Mobile format for viewing.

Here are some of my tips on using Blogger to create a typical church website.

1. Create a free account and make a test site. Your church probably already owns a domain name (i.e. yourchurchname.org) and when you’re ready to switch to your newly created blogspot site, just follow Google’s instructions and Google will point your domain name to your new blogspot website. (It’s called “domain mapping”)

2. You need to understand how blogs are organized. In a blog there are “static pages” such as your “Home” page, or your “About Us” page. And then there are your announcements. In blog language, announcements are called “posts” and they are listed under “Categories” you create and visitors can search.  In fact, one of your main navigational items will be a list of your categories and posts. For example, you could have the category of “Mission News” and create a posting once a month. It is that posting which Feedburner will email to all your site’s subscribers. Feedburner does not email copies of your ‘pages.’

Unfortunately, Blogger currently puts your last post as your “Home Page”, i.e., at the top of your Main page, whereas, you’d like to have a static homepage that acts like a main menu. But unlike WordPress.com, Blogger sortof does not let you create a static home page. Why? Because blogs are all about your latest musings. But we are using blog software to create a website, so here’s how I worked around that:

Blogger will show your newest post as your Home page, so I created a post called “Home” page, and gave it a date far in the future to fool Blogger into thinking it was always my latest, and thus, it always puts that post on the top of my main page. This might seem confusing, but when you play with the interface, it will be obvious. I also choose not to display the date of my “home” post so people don’t ask “why does that post say it was made in 2019?” 😉     Note: Google is always improving Blogger and I suspect they’ll eventually give us a “make this page my static home page” option. Watch for it.

3. If you’re working with a cool background image for your site that you don’t want your posts to completely obscure, open up the advanced Template control panel and play with the percentage of ‘transparency’ for each post’s fill. This allows your background image to be visible behind your posts which have a solid background …until you adjust the transparency control. For example, at my buddy’s www.mayanwindpower.blogspot.com website, you can see I made the box behind each post slightly transparent.

4. Keep your Categories to a minimum. You don’t need one for every ministry, and if people don’t keep your site updated with new posts, all those categories with old posts will look dead. Instead, create ‘catch-all’ categories like:  “Announcements”.  For more ‘static’ information, i.e. info that doesn’t often change, create “pages”. These pages will appear as ‘tabs’ at the top of your site. (Lots of options to play with like this.)

5. Keep the Doo-dads to a minimum. Don’t make your church site look like it was designed by a 12 year old web-wannabe.  Keep it clean, uncluttered, fresh. And don’t make new posts too often. People don’t like to have their inbox spammed.

6. Invite others to help you maintain the blog, er…., church website. It’s easy to set up additional ‘authors’ who can come in and help you. And because the control panels are all online, there’s no special software to download.

A Great Feature:
In a previous post here, I described how to set up a free church email newsletter on your website using Google’s “Feedburner” service. I’m happy to report that Feedburner is an option you can now activate with a click on your Blogger dashboard (aka “control panel”), –and it gets automatically set up behind the scenes. Very impressive. The point is that Feedburner sends an email copy of every new post you make at your website to everyone who has provided their email address to your Feedburner subscription page. Powerful, simple, free.

Note: Google also offers a “Google Sites” application, but inexplicably, it is ridiculously clunky. Wouldn’t surprise me someday if they merged Blogger with their ‘Sites’ app some day. For church purposes, Blogger (or WordPress) is all you need.

<>< Neil MacQueen
www.SundayResources.net and www.sundaysoftware.com

This is an awesome piece of software I designed for Sunday School. Click the pic to check it out.

 

 

 

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