Are you one of the thousands of ministries that still don’t have a website or has a site that was designed and set-up back in the 90’s (or gasp, before that?!) and hasn’t been touched since? Today, having a web presence with a basic level of aesthetics is a must-have for any ministry serious about attracting new visitors. Most people today will look-up your website well before making the decision to walk through the threshold of your building.
This week, I’ve asked Drew Key, of Calvary Baptist in AL, to provide a basic walkthrough of some options for a church that wants to get on the web on a budget. If you are interested in writing a guest post, check out my guidelines.
You don’t have to pay big bucks to get a decent website. There are a many low-cost options that can provide your church with the tools to build an interactive web presence that can carry your church’s message to the masses.
One such option is WordPress. It was originally billed as a blogging platform and while it is still used by bloggers all over the world, it has become more developed to the point that it is used to power everything from e-commerce sites, news websites like CNN.com, and corporate websites like Construction Partners, Inc.
Setting up a WordPress website is easy if you don’t mind having a domain name like crosswaybaptist.wordpress.com. Just head over to www.wordpress.com and get started.
But don’t think you have to be tied down to a wordpress.com domain name. If you would like to have a WordPress website that is set up with your own domain name, then you can do that too. However, it will require you purchasing a domain name at an online registrar like networksolutions.com and then a hosting account with a company like hostgator.com. (Read more about the difference between a domain name and a website host.)
An advantage of hosting your website with Hostgator is that they provide a “one-click” installer which automates the creation of the database and the installation of the software on the web server. After you have signed up for hostgator and have your domain name parked there, go to yourdomainname.com/cpanel and login.
After you have successfully logged in, scroll down and click on QuickInstall.
In QuickInstall, look for and select WordPress.
Then press the Continue button that comes up next.
On the next screen, complete the form following the example below. Most of the time you can leave the Application URL field alone and it will install the software where it needs to go. Be sure to use your real email address for Admin email. For Blog Title just enter the name of your church. Then enter your first and last name and click the “Install Now!” button. After WordPress finishes the installation process you will receive an email with instructions on how to log in to WordPress.
I’m not going to lie to you; WordPress is a very powerful website platform, but it does come with a learning curve. If you aren’t web-savvy, you may need to find someone at your church to give you a hand.
An easier solution is to go with Google’s Blogger platform. From a usability standpoint, it will be much easier to wrap your head around Blogger than it is WordPress. One of the best things about Blogger is that you can set it up to run on your own domain name (e.g. www.crosswaybaptist.com) by paying Google $10 per year. If you would be okay with a domain name like crosswaybaptist.blogger.com, then you can get things going for free.
To get started, just go over to www.blogger.com and click the Sign Up button at the top right to get started.
One option would be to rethink the idea of having a website entirely. Website platforms such as Blogger and WordPress are great for building websites, but why not go to where your congregation already is? Facebook allows for just about any organization to create what is known as a Fan Page. A Facebook Fan Page can be “Liked” by people in your congregation and in the community which allows them to see your Church’s status updates in their news feed. You can also use the Facebook platform to send out event notifications, post videos, photos, and more. Since you are probably already familiar with how to use Facebook, this should be an option to be considered if WordPress or Blogger are out of the question for the moment.
Don’t think that you have to promote your website as www.facebook.com/yourchurchname either. That can be too long for many people to remember. A better option is to buy a domain name that you will be happy with at NameCheap.com, and then redirect anyone who types in that domain name to your Facebook page. Check this article on how to set up domain name forwarding at NameCheap.
There are many alternatives to spending a great deal of money on a website. Don’t get me wrong, a professionally created website can pay for itself many times over if done correctly. But not all churches are going to have the money for a professional website. Hopefully these three options will give you something you can work with until the day comes when you can hire a professional and do it right.
Drew Key blogs for King Church Furniture, a manufacturer of church pews located in Dothan, Alabama. Drew also is a Technical Arts specialist at Calvary Baptist Church in Dothan, Alabama. He loves the web, graphic design, marketing and Apple computers and gadgets.