If your church is considering a new church website, you may be amazed at all the different options that pop up from a simple search. If you asked other CRC pastors or churches which companies or CMS (content management system) they used, you would still hear a variety of different opinions. Because of this, creating a new church website can sometimes seem overwhelming.
In this post, I will share three questions that I think are critical for you to ask before you start investigating church website companies. If you would like specific recommendations, you can click here to read an article I wrote on a different blog or watch this 20 minute YouTube / Google Hangout video that describes some of the types of options. Others can feel free to share their recommendations as well in the comment section.
What is your budget? More specifically, what do you want to spend initially and how much do you want to spend each year after that?
Whether we like it or not, our budget and the amount of money we have to spend on our website will determine which options you can pursue. I would suggest that you think of your budget in terms of two different categories.
- Initial Investment: I would suggest that you budget twice as much as your annual budget initially. Most church website companies have an initial set up fee. Even if you choose to create your own with WordPress, you should purchase a church theme and hosting.
- Yearly Website Cost. Most church website companies charge a monthly or yearly fee for their services. You will have to factor this into your decision.
The good news is that you can create a professional looking WordPress church website with an initial investment of $50-100 and minimal yearly costs. However, it will require a little bit more work on your part. If your budget is a little bit higher, there are a number of more expensive options that require less work. Many church website companies offer packages with an initial cost between $500-1000 and an annual fee between $300-600.
Words of advice: First, I think websites should have a 3-5 year shelf life. Web technology and design trends change. If your site is older that 5 years, it may appear as dated as the burnt orange 70's couch that was in my living room for many years. If you love vintage things, you may love it, but it may not be the first impression you want your website visitors to have of your church. Most people today will check your website before they visit your church and you want to give the best first impression you can. Some companies factor redesign into their overall package. They give you a theme or template (general look of the site) make over every couple of years. If your company doesn't do this, plan on repeating the process and spending a little bit more on your website at least every five years. Second, if you don't spend all your budget, I would suggest that you put that money towards Google ads or Facebook ads especially in the Fall, Christmas and Easter. These are the three times of the year when people tend to look for new churches. You never know how God could use a simple ad to impact the lives a person through your church.
What are the technical skills of the people who will be creating and maintaining your website?
This second question is equally important. You want to find a church website system that fits the level of expertise of the people who will use it. Some of the more expensive church website options do a lot of the initial set up work for you. You basically need to be able to do simple word processing to update it. If you do some of the more DIY options, you may need a few more technical skills to do the initial set up. (I have personally found WordPress to be really easy to use.)
You might be surprised at the skill sets that are present in your congregation. If you are creating a new website, I would suggest asking if there are any people in your church who are have done website design or have WordPress skills. Recruit them to be on a committee that decides which church website option is best for you. If they have the time, they might enjoy doing some of the initial design work for you.
Words of advice: First, it is important that you include the person who will be maintaining the site in on the decision making process. It is critical that you keep your website information up to date. Second, the technical skills of the person who is creating your site and the one maintaining it can be different. The person who does the initial set up may work for the company you hire. However, if both are a part of your congregation, make sure that you consider both skill sets when making your decision. Sometimes, churches can chose a website system because the person who does the initial set up knows it well. However, it is difficult for the person who maintains it so updates never gets done. Finally, think about finding a writer to help create your site. They don't have to do any of the web design work. They can help you create copy for each page and proofread your site before you launch it.
How much time do you want to spend creating your website?
This may seem like a funny question to ask, but I think it is an important one to consider when figuring out which is the best option for your church. No matter what option you choose, you should be able to keep your current website live while you work on your new one behind the scenes. However, you need to consider how much work you want to do initially. Some companies do all of the initial work for you. They not only create the look of your site, but they add all of the information and pictures on each page for you. Others companies just do the initial set up. They make the site have the color scheme you want, and maybe add your logo and the critical information you have on the top and bottom of each page. However, it your responsibility to add the actual website content. Of course, if you choose to create the site yourself, there will be more work involved.
Words of advice: First, I think it is important to set a launch date for your new site. This is important if you are or hiring a company to do the work for you or having a volunteer create it. Creating a deadline will help make sure the decision are made and things are done in a timely fashion. Second, your new website does not have to be perfect when you launch it. While I would never post blank pages or pages that say coming soon, I can't tell you how many times I have seen people wait to launch their new website because they want to wait until it is absolutely perfect. My guess is your new site is better than your old one. If the images aren't quite what you want, remember you can take new ones and add them later. You can make grammar changes when you people find them.