What Is a Good Web Host for Churches?
November 16, 2016
3 comments 145 views
Our church may be looking to switch our web host in the near future (we currently use iPower). What do you all use for your church's web host? Do you go with one built for churches or with a general one like Wix?
Have any of you switched hosts before? If so, what issues did you run into doing so?
Thanks for any feedback!
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There are several service providers that you typically need to manage and maintain a church website and it can get a bit confusing because some of them combine their services.
1. Registrar - This is the service with whom you register your domain (i.e., the address of your site). You pay a yearly fee (usually $10-$20 for this).
2. Hosting - There are different options for this. As someone who designs websites for a living, I strongly suggest you look for something called "managed hosting". Discount hosts are typically slow and have very poor service. Good, managed hosting usually costs between $15 and $30 per month.
3. Content Management System - Wix is actually a content management system that includes hosting. Squarespace is a similar option. As a website creator, I'm not a big fan of those tools for reasons I won't get into here. WordPress has become the world's most popular Content Management System, but it requires some expertise to use it well. Other choices you'll hear are Joomla and Drupal. And to confuse things even further, there are specialized content management systems designed for churches (like Ekklesia360 and Cloversites). In the right hands, any of these solutions can be fine.
The bigger challenge
When it comes to websites, the challenge many churches face seems to be overall management of website projects, including strategy, content planning, execution and on-going maintenance. Another big challenge is budget. Many CRC churches invest a lot of ime and money on their ministries and on their physical buildings but they don't really invest in doing websites well. And they often lack the the expertise within their staff/volunteer base to get projects like these done.
When you have a minute, check out ChurchJuice.org. This is a ministry set up by BTGMI to help educate and inform churches about issues like yours.
James offers some great advice there. I agree that WordPress is the best choice for most churches, especially if they've got someone in the congregation that builds sites in Wordpress, or can hire someone to do so. Can't go wrong with Wordpress.
We use Drupal for most CRCNA ministry sites, but I wouldn't use it for my local church. It's very powerful, but overkill for a church website. And even though the CRCNA has pretty much standardized on Drupal, we still use Wordpress in some situations.
But actually lately we've spun up a couple of product sites using Weebly (similar to Wix and Squarespace). Examples:
Tools like that are incredibly easy (mostly drag and drop) with nice prebuilt templates. But you need to be content with their featureset because there's no ability to extend beyond it. So look at the list of features carefully, and especially compare that to some of the church-specific tools that James mentions. They all fall into the 'limited technical expertise required' category, it's just a question of what features you'd want/need.
Wordpress.com is probably between those two options. You get most of the functionality of Wordpress, but avoid some of the more technical aspects (and trade off some customizability).
I manage the website for my church (encounterchurch.org) which runs on Clover Sites, which is a website platform built for churches. It tends to run on the simple side (can't link to other web pages from built in tabs, etc) but has been great for our church. It is very easy to build and make changes to our website. Our domain registration is through GoDaddy. When it comes to switching hosts, make sure you read all the specifics that the new host is looking for (this generally requires making changes to our domain name registration DNS). Most web hosting companies have documents and step by step instructions for making these changes. For example, a Google search of "Clover Sites GoDaddy" returns this as one of the top options: http://help.cloversites.com/customer/portal/articles/1933074-going-live-with-godaddy. I would say that is the biggest thing to consider - If you don't have our DNS settings correct with the new host, your website won't work!
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