This post continues my pledge to help churches take some first steps, to live out the resolutions I listed in my post, “Five Communications Resolutions for 2018.” You can read about what inspired the post “The One Reason Nothing Comes Out of Those New Year’s Resolutions.”
Perhaps your church’s website isn’t just working out. Or, maybe someone left the church and took all the login information with them. (For help with that, check out this post.)
If you don’t care to read the whole post and just want to see my website provider spreadsheet on Google Docs, click here.
So, you have decided to start over. This is a big step. It takes a lot of work, or money to get started with a new website platform, so you need to choose wisely. In fact, you might want to begin by looking at my next post which covers essential website content. That way, you can be sure your new platform can handle it.
Here are some significant considerations when shopping for a new website provider.
Cost is always a big deal for churches. Even large, well-funded churches are watching every penny to get the most impact. I served in local churches for over 11 years, so I get that. However, your church website may be one of your most essential expenditures. If you are looking to reach more new people, this is not a place to cut costs. Even with that, I know some churches are truly limited, so I have included some inexpensive options in my review.
There are two costs to consider when reviewing the different options: upfront or startup costs and monthly fees.
2. Ease of Startup
Church websites come in roughly four flavors:
- Have someone else build it for you.
- Build it yourself with a pre-made church specific theme.
- Build it yourself. (There are pre-made themes, but not church specific.)
- Build it yourself. (Starting from scratch.)
How much work is done for you up front is usually directly related to the costs. Build it yourself sites tend to have no upfront costs and lower monthly fees. Some pre-made theme platforms have upfront costs; others have higher monthly fees. Usually, when you have someone build your site for you, there is an upfront cost.
3. Ease of Maintenance and Updates
Unless you are planning to pay for someone to build and maintain your site, you are going to need to take care of it. Some platforms make this easier than others.
It is important to make sure, up front, that your website platform can handle all the features you want. Online calendar? Online giving? Sermon videos? These features vary from platform to platform. It is important to note that sometimes these features, while not native to the platform, are easily embedded from third-party platforms. For instance, many sites don’t offer native video players but make it very easy to embed video from YouTube. Others might not offer a calendar but allow you to embed a Google calendar.
5. Is it Mobile Ready?
A site that dynamically renders to work well on mobile devices is essential. Soon, the majority of traffic reaching your site will come from mobile devices. Your site has to look and work well on these devices. In fact, Google will penalize your site in search rankings if it is not ready for mobile.
What if your website isn’t working? What if you can’t get something to look right? Look closely at the support offered to make sure you can talk to, chat with, or email someone and get a quick response.
7. Other Things to Think About
My website comparison spreadsheet (Google Docs) covers a multitude of other things to think about. If you are building for a small church, you may not worry about some of these. But, for some churches, there are important details to consider like page limits, storage limits, bandwidth limits, additional contributors, and CSS coding. There are some details that everyone should think about like built-in search optimization and SSL encryption.
I have created a Google Docs sheet with all the information I have compiled about some of the top providers for church websites. It is a living document and I will try to keep it updated and fill in any missing information as available.
Some notes on the information:
- The spreadsheet is designed to help you begin your decision-making process. Before making a decision, I highly recommend you visit these providers’ webpages, send an email, and/or make a phone call to clarify important details. Features and pricing can become quite complicated. Be sure that your platform will supply what you need at a cost you can afford.
- I have done my best but cannot guarantee the accuracy of every detail. These providers all provide different information in different ways. It is only through searching their websites, digging through their online forums, and occasionally emailing their helpdesk, that I come up with this information.
- I would love to hear your feedback. Did I get something wrong? Is there a major provider I missed? Is there an additional element or feature that should be included? Let me know.