Updated February 2, 2016
This is not necessarily the best way to create a church website for every congregation. This is a method that worked for one location and the steps may be helpful for others.
Why is this important?
This is the 21st century. With this post originally written in 2012 and updated in 2016, more and more people are finding the information they seek online. Check out these stats from Ekklesia 360, an organization focused on helping churches create a digital presence:
- 17 million people who aren’t regular church-goers visit church websites each year.
- 59% of church donors over 66 gave online.
- 52% of your Sunday morning website viewers are first-time visitors to your site.
- 95% of your traffic source is NOT social media.
Note: There’s more to this. Find the full list, sources, and details here.
And design is important too. According to Pro Church Tools, if your church lacks savvy web design then your church is perceived to be less credible. (source)
A church website must be its central repository for information. If you use social media, GREAT! Post or tweet something catchy and link back to your website for more info. If you have a regular email to members or interested parties, GREAT! Be brief and catchy and link back to your website.
Are you limited on time and/or personnel to manage all this? Consider plugins for your CMS (see below) that will automatically post/tweet new content to your various social media outlets. This critical ministry is something that can be done with very few resources.
- Domain Name – This is an easy-to-remember web address for your website (like mychurch.org).
- Web Host – This is the physical computer (or group of computers) that actually “host” all of the information for your website. You will most likely never see this computer, but will instead interact with it over the Internet.
- CMS – This is a “Content Management System.” A CMS is a way to update websites in a way that usually doesn’t require in-depth computer programming knowledge. Some minimal maintenance can be done as well.
Getting a Domain Name
If your church does not already have a domain name, this is the first step. If you don’t get a domain name, people will have to remember some string of numbers (i.e. 192.168.247.581) to get to your website. You don’t want this! In selecting a domain name, be sure to pick something that people will remember. I personally am not a fan of acronyms unless it’s part of your current identity (or that you plan to present as your identity). Many domain names are already in use, so flexibility may be necessary.
Our domain name was registered directly through godaddy.com. At the time of this writing, a domain ending in .org cost $7 per year, .com cost $10 per year, and .net cost $10 per year. In an effort to reduce confusion, I bought all three for my domain. When I registered & filled out the required information, I set the domain to be “parked” (sort of like placeholding or reserving the domain name) for future use.
We chose this method for purchasing a domain name because of some advanced DNS features available through GoDaddy. Another way that may be easier is below in the Web Host section.
Getting a Web Host
While it seems as though websites are magically made available on our computer screens at a moment’s notice, the information on websites must be stored somewhere on a physical computer. That’s the job of a web host.
For our site, we selected hostgator.com for their features and pricing. The “Hatchling” plan is very inexpensive, has a number of unlimited features including email addresses, and is easy for our staff to use. The cost depends on your commitment. In other words, if you pay in advance for three years the per-month cost is cheaper. So at the time of this writing, 3 years of hosting would cost about $153, 2 years would cost about $114, one year would cost about $67, and paying month-to-month would cost $7.16 per month.
When signing up for HostGator we were asked if we already had a domain name or if we needed to purchase one. This is where churches may choose to purchase the domain name through HostGator instead of GoDaddy. Costs may or not be the same.
If churches purchase domain names through GoDaddy, the end of the HostGator registration process results in an email with information that must be provided to GoDaddy for websites to work. Generally, the steps for this can be found through either HostGator or GoDaddy (and probably both).
Additional note: A colleague told me a while back that another web host offers a free package for non-profits (including churches). The company is called dreamhost.com and detail can be found at http://wiki.dreamhost.com/Non-profit_Discount (as of this writing).