Creating a Church Website with Wordpress
an article by Neil MacQueen, Sunday
2012 Update: You'll also now want to read my blog
UPDATE: SEE THE NEW VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE AT www.sundaysoftware.com/site/articles
The following is an older version of the article.
Links in it may not work.
Why suggest Wordpress as a way to create a
good* church website?
First, I'm a realist. I've created several websites and two blogs. I've worked in the church as a pastor and volunteer, and I've worked on several church websites. This article reflects real lessons learned. Wordpress is a great answer to problems that afflict many church websites.
Second, you not only need to create a church website, you need to MAINTAIN one too. And there's the rub. Most church websites are poorly maintained. Many start out looking great -and end up stale or abandoned. The person who did all the initial heavy lifting -leaves, or staffers change or lose interest. Or there's no easy way for multiple people to contribute content. The 'design' person ends up having to post everything, and that gets frustrating -usually for the design person! They get tired of people NOT giving them fresh content.
Or they have a volunteer who is good at designing websites, but not that interested in collecting fresh content. Some churches resort to hiring out to get a nice "first" website, but soon learn that the design company must be continually fed money in order to keep the site fresh.
Building a site in Wordpress ADDRESSES many of these real world issues. Wordpress can be set up and maintained by ANY volunteer who has a modest amount of web skills. It has a lot of automated processes, such as updating your menus each time you post something. And it allows for multiple contributors. Wordpress' online tool can be easily learned by new volunteers. Wordpress continues to develop and improve their tools. A Wordpress account is incredibly easy to set up. And Wordpress is ridiculously inexpensive.
And then there are all those "other" factors:
|Yeah, yeah, Wordpress was originally
created as blogging software, -but more and more websites are using
it to build great looking websites for organizations and businesses. The
line between website and blog is now completely blurred. Wordpress' templates and
multitude of 'gadgets' really are impressive. And all those 'blogging'
features are actually things you can use to create conversation and
invite multiple authors to contribute.
Who is Wordpress? The people behind Wordpress are some of the web's most respected innovators. They are an organization of developers who have spent years developing blog software using an open-source model (free and collaborative manner). Their community of coders continues to improve it, which to me, that's a key feature. Your Wordpress website -if you host it on their website, will improve every year because of Wordpress' dedicated community of developers working for you. And all those improvement get immediately added to your site --IF you sign up with them at www.wordpress.com.
I have no connection with them whatsoever, other than I'm a user and like how their tools can help churches with their websites.
Why not Google's Blogger/Blogspot free web blog service?
Originally I didn't recommend Blogger/Blogspot because it lacked some features and controls. That has now changed and Blogger/Blogspot is now on par with Wordpress for our church website purposes.
Read my blog article: Creating a Church Website in Google's Blogspot
There are other collaborative/blog style options on the web, but be careful. Many of such services come and go. They get developed and then languish after a year or two. Wordpress has been around a long time, and has a track record of continual improvement.
1. Check out a few Wordpress-created church websites, and read some blogs by people who are talking about using Wordpress for church sites.
2. Go to
www.wordpress.com and sign up for
a free website. Within minutes you'll be designing yoursite.wordpress.com.
(My former church's wordpress website is at www.stcroixreformed.org. We have 60 members, and a volunteer with no prior web experience now maintains it, though I help from a distance as I'm no longer in that community.)
There is a learning curve. You need to spend time with Wordpress to figure out all its options.
But once you've got them figured out -you're set, and can easily teach others how to help build and post content with you, ...even your pastor ;-)
|Wordpress Tips & Suggestions
...based on my own experience
building MY church's website with Wordpress.
1. Pick a template "theme" that says "customizable header" in the description. This will let you upload your own picture to the site that will appear on the top of every page. A few of their templates don't let you put a picture on the top of the page. You can always upload picture in individual posts, but having a main logo pic, if that's your desire, is only available in those which say "customizable header" in their description. All the themes have the same features/widget. Avoid dark themes with faint lettering.
2. You can change the "Theme" (aka, template) and click PREVIEW to see what your site will look like in that theme. I like that feature a LOT. Then you can implement a theme, and change it again -as often as you want, without affecting all the content you've posted. Pretty slick.
4. Less is More. Resist the tempation to load up your pages with too much text. Make a rule to keep things tight.
5. Learn the key features, such creating a PAGE which can be set as your "home" page...ie, always appear on the main page. Click Settings then Reading in the Dashboard and pop the static homepage switch. (Wordpress is blog software --which means it was originally designed to always put your LATEST post on the main page. But you can tell it to put certain posts on the main page.)
6. Set up a way for your readers to get ALERTS to all your new posts. Read one solution below...
7. You'll probably want to "turn off" Wordpress.com's automatic features known as "Related Posts" and "Snapshots." Click Appearance, then "EXTRAs" on your Wordpress Dashboard and check "Hide related posts" and uncheck "Snapshots." If you don't, Wordpress.com will automatically put LINKS underneath your posts that it thinks are related to your content, and you probably don't want to let them associate 'their' content with yours. For more details, go to http://support.wordpress.com/related-posts/
8. Insert the FACEBOOK WIDGET! Your church should have a Facebook page because it allows your members to connect with each other, 'friend' each other, and stay connected in-between Sundays. You can easily put a 'live feed' of your Facebook announcements ON your church's wordpress website.
|Here's the most
powerful feature of any church website: an email subscription
Every time something new is posted to your site, you want your members to automatically get an email with the news. And Google's free "Feedburner" is the answer.
Feedburner is a free service that "scrapes" your blog/site every day to see if there's anything new. If it finds something new, it sends an email containing the new posts to all your feedburner subscribers. Your subscribers sign up at your website by clicking a link and typing their email address. This gives your site and church a DE FACTO email newsletter... for free. Now you just need to get all your members to go to the site and click that link!
The steps to setting up a Feedburner may change as their service evolves, but this is the basic idea as of April 2009. The important thing to remember is that you have to create accounts, activate them, copy a few things and paste them in the right places. It's not rocket science, but your fellow parishioners don't need to know that! Here's the FAQ to it: http://faq.wordpress.com/2006/10/11/how-can-i-offer-email-updates/
Here's how to set up the Feedburner acct to give your Wordpress site an email newsletter feature:
1. After setting up your Wordpress website, go to www.Feedburner.com and create an account. Remember to write down your acct info somewhere.
2. Next, Feedburner will give you a special web address where it will place your site's latest posts for broadcasting. Write that down for safe keeping.
3. Next, After creating a feedburner account and getting that special address, you must go into your Feedburner acct and click the "Publicize" tab, and then click the links to 'create email subscription' to generate the required code.
Two code choices will appear. I recommend using the second code offering marked "Subscription Link" rather than the first code they offer (which is a form that sometimes doesn't load in wordpress). If you click the "preview the subscription link" you can see what your subscribers will see when they find it on your website. Copy the link code using your mouse.
4. Finally, go back into your Wordpress "dashboard" and select to add a 'text' "widget." You'll see it appear on the right side of the dashboard. Click 'edit' on the widget and it will open. Paste the feedburner code into that widget. Give it a title such as "Subscribe to News from the Church Website" ...and then click Save. (you can now move that widget up on the page by dragging/dropping).
This will put an 'email subscription' link on your church webpage. Sign up and see how easy it works! (Note: after you sign up, it takes the Feedburner servers a little bit to activate your feed and send the subscription code into your blog. At first, only the subscription title will appear. Soon enough, link for subscribers.)
Now, every time a new post is added to your website, everyone who is subscribed will get an email with a copy of that post, and a link back to your site as well. Posting Note: Feedburning does not immediately broadcast your new posts. The Feedburner service typically "scrapes" your website for the latest posts every 8 to 12 hours, so you have some time to edit your post before everybody reads it.
So now you have an "email newsletter". Anytime you want to broadcast an email to your subscribers, simply create a post in any category.
Who's subscribed and reading your blog? Feedburner can tell you that too. Log-in to your Feedburner Account and examine your feed stats. Follow the links and it will give you a list of everyone's email address who has subscribed. You should also copy your subscriber's email addresses from time to time for safekeeping.