Rapidly accelerating since early 2021, the need to get churches online has never been greater. There has been fast adaptation and adoption of online streaming, and many churches are now semi-confidently producing videos every week, but it’s possible that a cornerstone of your online presence is missing – a church website.
With or without a pandemic, the fastest way for people to find your church is by searching online. With platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you can establish an online presence, but you’re not fully in control of it – you’re using somebody’s platform to get the message out. Social media is great, but it is not permanent and can be difficult to navigate even if you only use it as a notice board.
A church website can be a fantastic addition to any mission, but if you don’t already have one, you might not know where to start. Contracting a professional to create one might be beyond your budget which can leave you stuck – but fear not! There are tools available that can help.
The traditional methods of building websites include hand-coding pages (a highly skilled and time-consuming task) or, more recently, using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress to create your site. WordPress is great, but only if you know what you are doing – absolute beginners might do better using one of the tools below.
These tools use drag and drop interface and show you what your site will look like as you progress. They’re not perfect, and not always as customizable as you might like, but if you want to get a good-looking and usable website online easily, they make a great choice.
Church Domain Names
The first step when setting up your site is to choose a domain name. This is the name you type in a browser to get to the website, for example, smartchurchtech.co.uk.
You can find out more about choosing a church domain name here, but don’t buy one yet (if you haven’t already). Some of the tools include domain names as part of the package, so you’ll be creating an expense you don’t need – but at the very least, make sure you have a domain name in mind before you start.
Tools For Building a Church Website
Here are five of the top tools for building a church website. There is no “best” option, but some may be more suited to your situation and ability than others – they’re all free to try, so give them a test run to see how you get on.
Wix is one of the drag and drop website design platforms that has been around the longest. It’s simple to use and has plenty of features. Starting off with a basic template (many are available) you can adapt it as you see fit, and you can add on a blog at any stage.
There is also the option to accept bookings online which may be useful for events or managing services when only limited numbers are allowed in the building.
Mobile websites are essential these days, and Wix automatically creates a mobile version of your site. You also have the option to customize the mobile view, giving you great control over what people see.
There are built-in search engine optimization (SEO) features, and you can even set up an online store. You can use this if your church sells branded merchandise, or potentially if you run a coffee shop and people order ahead.
If you build your site on a Wix domain name, it’s free. If you want to use your own domain name (which is advised!) prices start at £3 per month.
Find out more here: Wix
Squarespace has been positioned higher in the market than Wix, offering elegant websites and promoting the ability to choose from stock photos and access to a free logo designer tool. Promotion through social media and setting up email campaigns is also baked in – but look hard enough, and you’ll find these features on other platforms too.
The option to set up a blog and sell online is present, and the online editor is easy to use. Squarespace offers a free trial, and a domain name is included in annual plans which start at £10 per month. One benefit of using Squarespace is that they allow unlimited bandwidth and storage, whereas other platforms may restrict the amount of data you can transfer every month.
If you don’t anticipate hundreds of visitors, this isn’t necessarily an issue – but it is worth being aware of.
Find out more here: Squarespace
Templates, selling online, SEO tools and more – Site123 offers everything you need to set up your website. The website builder is not fully drag-and-drop as the focus is on creating your content. The builder takes care of your site structure and design, you just need to focus on getting the information entered.
This may be a much easier way to work for those who are inexperienced. The platform is free to use, and costs only enter the equation when you want to use your own domain name. Prices for this start at around $11 per month (approx £7).
Find out more here: Site123
Ionos by 1&1 offers two different website builder options – MyWebsite Now and MyWebsite Creator. The Now option is designed for simplicity, while Creator gives more flexibility when creating your site.
Multiple templates are available, and packages can include a free domain name and SSL certificate for security. The generated sites are mobile-optimized and SEO tools are included.
The first month is free, and prices start at £5 per month after that.
Find out more here: Ionos
If you’ve investigated website builders before, you’ve probably heard of Weebly, and often in the same breath as Wix. While the old editor from years ago was basic, the new and updated Weebly offers the same features you’ll find on other platforms, and more too.
From templates to e-commerce tools, Weebly also includes integrated marketing tools such as Facebook ads and email campaigns.
Weebly is now part of Square, known for its online payment solution. This means that if you are selling something via the website, payment processing is right there for you to use.
Prices start at free for basic use, which means it is easy to give Weebly a test drive. If you want to connect your own custom domain, prices start at £4 a month, with higher packages including domain names and Google Ads credits.
Find out more here: Weebly