I decided to include this church website help article as a service to Churches so they can build quality sites for the Internet. I’ve designed and hosted a number of Church websites and learned much about some internet applications that can provide church website help to many.
Christian Web Hosting?
I don’t believe in applying the title “Christian” to a product. Web hosting is a computing technology and is no more Christian than an automobile or blender. The larger principle that a Church ought to consider is the quality of the service for the price offered and being good stewards of their money. In my web hosting ratings, there are detailed reviews of features to match differing site needs. Service, reliability, and value for the money are all Biblical business principles. I looked at the web hosting services that call themselves “Christian Web Hosting” and found their prices to be too high for the service offered; hence, they did not appear in my top web hosting ratings.
Recommended Products and Services
I recommend the following services and products (as appropriate) for your website needs:
|Hosting||ICANNWholesale – this might seem a strange choice but I’m not a big fan of bundled services that include the domain name with the hosting. I think you ought to retain full DNS control of your domain so you can take advantage of some services (especially Google Apps). Also, this host does not oversell its products and the amount of storage/bandwidth received are appropriately priced with no gimmicks.|
|VPS or Dedicated Hosting||Again I recommend ICANNWholesale: VPS Plans, Dedicated Plans. Ensure you really need this much power. Shared plans are usually sufficient for your Church web hosting needs unless you’re running processor intensive applications on the server.|
|Domain Name Registration||ICANNWholesale – fully featured at a great price. Retain full control of your domain and host with them too. No gimmicks.|
|FTP Client||CuteFTP Pro|
|Content Management System (Church site)||WordPress – There are some really nice plugins that make setting up a nice Church site very simple and easy to maintain. The Podpress plugin is an incredible tool for managing your Podcasts and publishing to the web and iTunes. Finally, the community support for this CMS is exceptional.|
|Content Management System (Advanced)||Joomla! – This is an extremely powerful CMS that is more feature rich than WordPress but is not for the faint of heart. Very large Churches may consider utilizing this for the more advanced features as Joomla! is a true content management system while WordPress is a blogging platform that has sort of morphed into one.|
Choosing Domain Names?
You’ve probably already experienced the frustration of finding a .org name that was available for your church. A good tool to research available domain names is to search for domain names through a registrar like ICANNwholesale. You can try different domain name combinations and they suggest domain names you might consider. Read the article choosing a domain name for more help. Once you’ve settled on a name, don’t forget about the idea of buying additional domain names that may direct folks to your site that are easy to remember. What if you already have the domain name podunkgracechurch.org. If your Church is in Podunk, see if you can get the names podunkchurch.com and podunkchurch.org. You can use those names as aliases for your main Church website and perhaps redirect folks that were just looking for a Church in Podunk.
A Plan with Lots of Storage and Bandwidth for Streaming Audio?
It has become commonplace for many Churches to provide the ability for website visitors to listen to sermons or teaching online. The process is not too technically complicated nor is it expensive. Real Networks, Microsoft, and others allow the download of free tools that convert .mp3 or .wav files into formats that can be uploaded into a Church website and then streamed for visitors to listen to. If you plan on converting files regularly then I recommend a product called dbPowerAmp, which I use for all conversions of file format. Please view the web page how to podcast to learn the details on how to create, upload, publish, and advertise your own sermons and teaching.
The key consideration for a Church website is space or storage available for your web hosting plan. Most websites are less than a megabyte (MB) in size and ICANNWholesale is recommended. If the Church is thinking about streaming audio then assume that each 30 minute sermon or audio file is going to take about 10 MB in storage space.
Churches that want to reach many visitors with their streaming audio need plans with generous storage and bandwidth. Assuming the average size of a sermon or teaching series is 10MB, even the basic plan at ICANNWholesale could hold almost one hundred sermons and easily stream that amount. You can check out the Web Hosting Reviews List for plans with more storage and bandwidth if you really believe you will exceed this amount or upgrade your account at ICANNWholesale as your needs increase.
Create a Quality Website
Just like any organization that has a presence on the web, a Church should seriously consider how its website looks to those visiting it. I’ve seen a lot of websites built by members with some computer experience but little web design experience. Many Church websites look very unprofessional and are difficult to navigate. There’s much more to a good Church than a great website and horrible Churches can have great websites and vice-versa. Nevertheless, if you want to use the Internet as a portal to reach people then seriously consider whether you have the requisite talent in-house. If you have somebody strong technically but are weak on the design side then think about using a website template. Churches with larger budgets that want a unique site with great impact should consider hiring a professional website designer. I’ll also be developing a “How To” for Churches to deploy a web site using WordPress. I’ll create some common themes that will be available for installation “out of the box”.
I don’t know how many Church websites I’ve visited that have website addresses like www.churchname.org and then you click to e-mail the pastor and his e-mail address is email@example.com. See my discussion about domain e-mail. When your domain is hosted, nearly all web hosting plans allow you to set up POP e-mail addresses or forwarding rules for your domain. It is much more professional and memorable for your Pastor’s e-mail to be firstname.lastname@example.org. It also frees up his personal e-mail address from becoming cluttered. If your web hosting provider does not let you set up e-mail accounts then switch to one that offers this very basic feature.
While you’re at it, you can set up e-mail forwarding rules to give e-mail aliases to everybody in your congregation if the Church is small enough. In my last Church, I set up e-mail forwarding rules so people could e-mail email@example.com and the e-mail was forwarded to the members’ personal e-mail addresses. It made it easy for everybody in the Church to remember other e-mail addresses once the forwarding rules were all set up.