Affordable Church Websites
Affordable Church Websites – How To, Tips, and Suggestions
Who Will Update the Website?
Pastors and church leaders tell us the same thing every day, it’s hard to find someone committed to updating the website and uploading sermons.
You want to have a website that is regularly updated. It should have your current church events, maybe a calendar, but at least recent sermons. This is easier said than done.
You may have said to yourself, “I’ll just figure out how to update the website so I can do all of the updates myself.”
Let’s save you from years of struggle, frustration, and wasted website money.
There are two ways to approach church websites; hire a webmaster or pay someone in your church the task. Hiring a webmaster is easy because you can use that extra money instead on your Sunday school program for kids. Just make sure the webmaster is reliable and won’t charge you an arm and leg.
Selecting a member of your congregation as the website updater can often be problematic.
If you have a webmaster, keep him or her informed. Have regular communication with them about what’s going on at your church and ask them what they would suggest when you aren’t sure how to proceed. In some cases simply bringing it up for discussion can create a great idea you hadn’t thought of before!
Do You Have Reliable Volunteers?
If you currently have a volunteer who regularly attends your church and they enjoy the work, let them do it! Check-in regularly with them to ensure they are still enjoying their labor.
Ask your website volunteer one simple question, “Do you want to continue maintaining the website, or would you like me to start looking for someone else to take over?”
This allows them to gracefully bow out of the work, and if they’re not enjoying the work, there is probably somewhere else they’re better suited to serve the Lord.
How do I Spread the Responsibilities?
“We have a part-time tech guy. His primary job is to upload the sermons every week. We pay him 10 hours per week and he is 6 weeks behind on my messages. My sermons are not online weekly. Every few months he uploads all of them, but I’ve had to push him constantly. At every staff meeting, I mention it again. He promises to do it, but it doesn’t happen. I’ve now had to give him a written warning. I’m saddened to say that has not helped the situation. I probably need to fire him.”
This is a common problem for pastors. At CalTech Web, we believe that you should focus on preaching and shepherding the flock that God has given you. After all, you shouldn’t be dealing with these issues.
In Acts 6, the Apostles didn’t want to have to deal with a problem so they appointed men to serve in that work so they could focus on “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
We are that workforce for you and your church. You focus on prayer and ministry of the word while we take care of your online presence.
What is Church Volunteer Burnout?
In the past, I (Brandon Hopkins) have maintained my church website. It’s a commitment of time and energy. With a young family, a business, and other church responsibilities, it was hard to make time. I didn’t enjoy it, but I was willing. This was causing “church volunteer burnout”.
If your volunteers are not within their spiritual giftings, they will likely not enjoy the work they’re doing and eventually wish they never would have volunteered. By getting them into their spiritual giftings, you have a much better chance of growing and maintaining your volunteers. Also, church members with various skills will grow in their faith as they find satisfaction within what God has called them to do.
Many pastoral gifts include leadership and mentoring; they don’t enjoy website work. This is a good opportunity for the pastor to step aside from this task so that someone who is gifted in it can do it instead. Outsourcing means we get the best person for the job at the lowest cost possible (usually). Outsourcing an affordable church website is where the pastor should be focusing his efforts rather than learning about technology and design than trying to teach others how to use it. The most important point here is that no one would care if the church’s website existed if service was going on.
The volunteer may not be invested in the project or working hard because they have received no recognition for their work, nor have they been compensated in any way. They are doing it because of the love and support of the ministry. It should be made clear to them that this is a ministry project paid for by tithes and offerings. A small honorarium might be appropriate at first just to say thank you. If an individual or group has done extra work above what was required, there could also be bonuses or gifts as well.
Does My Church Need a Website?
Short answer, “Yes.” Here is why…
A survey from Pew Research Center shows that in 2016, 37% of people looked online when they began looking for a new church. This means that over one-third of people who are looking for a church, will find (or not find) you online.
If for no other reason, having a website will bring in new people to worship with you. Once they have searched and found your website, that won’t be what makes them attend or keep attending. That will be other factors.
Your website doesn’t bring in new members, but it does offer a first impression of who you are, what you preach, your statement of faith (or statement of beliefs), your church leadership, and what your facility looks like.
If you do not have a website, you’re potentially missing out on 37% of people looking for a new church to attend. This number is only going to rise as everyone becomes familiar with creating content through social media channels. We are living in a generation of creators, not spectators.
Research from Hitwise finds that churches looking for volunteers for church website work and don’t find any will experience declining traffic to their sites due to high bounce rate (visitors leaving after seeing one page). If it has been decided that your church should have an online presence then you need someone – or someones – who can be responsible for keeping up the maintenance of the site(s). Often this person will be called a webmaster but might also go by other titles such as Website Administrator or Online Communications Director.
How Much Do Church Website Updates Cost?
Affordable church websites can fail as they become stagnant. If your church members are out of town and miss the service, they would expect to be able to find the latest sermon that same week. If your website hasn’t been updated recently, they won’t keep coming back and checking.
We will update your website at no additional cost. As part of our $99/month package, we will update your website every week.
The easiest way to overcome the lack of regular updates is to pay someone. The problem with paying someone to update your church website is that for most churches, this is an hour a week.
That leads to many questions about affordable church websites.
Do you want to pay someone $20 per hour for one hour of work per week?
Are they qualified as a 1099 subcontractor or do they need to be on the payroll?
If they’re on the payroll, do they need insurance or retirement?
Who is going to manage that person?
Who will verify the changes are made in a timely manner?
|We build and maintain affordable church websites that support pastoral ministry and invite more people to meet, love, and follow Jesus.|
Hiring a very part-time employee often increases the workload for the pastoral staff. The two CalTech Web founders, Brandon and Nathan, have both been in church ministry for many years and understand the difficulties and nuances that pastors face every day. We want to help alleviate those problems so that you can focus on your ministry while we support your ministry from the outside.
In-House vs. Outsourcing Church Website Creation and Maintenance
A church’s website is one of its most important branding tools. A church’s website conveys to the world who they are and what they do. As a tool, it can be just as powerful as the pulpit or any other ministry item that the congregation and clergy use on Sunday mornings. Simply put, if your church doesn’t have an effective online presence, you may lose members and potential visitors.
1.) In-House Creation = Time Consuming & Disruptive
If you’re familiar with web design yourself, then creating your own content management system (CMS) platform might seem like a good idea initially because it is cost-effective in the short term: free! If this seems intriguing but daunting at first thought, think of the time and money you’ll have to put in. This is a big job. You need to plan and organize your team carefully before beginning any work on your first church website because it won’t be easy if you are really going to do it right.
As an example, we created our first church website for a small rural congregation using Dreamweaver MX back in 2004. At the time, I was doing all of the groundwork in terms of web design through trial and error; this involved hours upon endless hours learning how to install scripts online, create forms and input values into databases (and linking them), working with templates, custom coding HTML tables/cells manually (no drag & drop here) and much more that would be too lengthy to list. I recall my pastor at the time saying, “This is too much for one person.” At that time, he probably could not imagine that years later, there would be an entire world using a CMS platform!
In order to create your own website from scratch you must have the following:
• A background in web design and development or highly skilled in IT coding/programming
• Someone to handle administration tasks such as uploading content
• Time; you will need lots of planning time before building even begins, which includes writing all of your copy and then inputting it into the system once it’s working (for custom content)
• A domain name; you might need to register one, which means paying for it and setting up DNS (server addresses must be linked to the one you purchase so that people know where your church is located online). You might also need to use a third-party provider if the cost of hosting is not included with your platform. And who knows how long these things take.
• Someone in charge of updating issues with plugins or modules (there are many options out there that can enhance functionality but you will want them all running properly so don’t rush this step). Additionally, if something needs fixing down the road due to updates, like security holes or glitches in code – fix those as well.
• A graphic designer/webmaster who will also need to handle social media promotion, community management, and more.
This is without even mentioning that the church must have the funds to pay for a top-of-the-line hosting service (we are talking at least $1,500 per year), a domain name, professional quality custom graphics and photos for each worship service, staff profiles, calendar of events and other ministry information. Maybe they can create with abandon right away because they are able to hire out all work – but if every week a new membership class starts up or there’s a special event going on, this could be difficult to manage effectively if you’re not thorough from the beginning in documenting everything.
2.) Outsourcing = Budget Friendly, Scalable & Time Efficient
Many church websites are outsourced to freelance web designers and developers. They work on the most popular open-source platforms on the market (WordPress for example) so that you don’t have to worry about updates, security issues or anything else web-related. Pastors often take care of all other tasks such as writing content for their website’s blog section (church news), submitting articles to be published online in places like eHow (great way by the way), and also submitting your church information for publication in various directories like Google Local. When outsourcing a church website there are two main factors that come into play: cost and how much control you want over your website. Based solely on this, I would recommend hiring a full-time webmaster/web designer for about $1,500 per month. This will include all the admin work like adding content to your website and renewing your domain name every year. If you are willing to do some of the legwork then I would advise investing in a solid CMS platform that is affordable. For example, there are many options out there such as WordPress Themes, Drupal, Joomla, or Wix.
There are also several good reasons why outsourcing makes sense when it comes to creating and managing church websites:
1.) It’s Cost Effective (for starters) Over the long run, keeping an updated church website costs money but if you outsource the job, the cost is significantly less. The same can be said for creating a church blog – some pastors write their own while others pay someone to generate content on a weekly basis (as much as $40 per article). This also helps your church members who might not have experience in this area of expertise feel more confident when posting online on various social networks like Facebook or Twitter. If your team is busy running ministries and doing outreach, why should they worry about blogging? Why spend in-house resources to operate something that people are willing to do free of charge on their own time?
2.) Allows you to Focus Energy & Resources Elsewhere For many churches, IT issues are rampant. It’s often hard for these organizations to keep up all the time and can lead to costly, time-consuming issues down the road. If you operate a church that has limited IT resources then outsourcing could be perfect for you. You are able to focus on growing your church and having a stronger ministry presence online without worrying about website upgrades or quality control-related tasks.
4.) Return on Investment Considerations Websites like Facebook are a big business – they grow because people use them as tools to communicate. It’s not hard to find affordable church websites that will give you all the tools you need for connecting with others through social media. By outsourcing this relatively simple job to someone else, you can spend less time worrying about these tasks and more time growing your church attendance by investing in better resources or training programs for members of your congregation. There are several studies that show the return on investment (ROI) for church websites really can yield significant results. For example, a recent study showed that churches that used social media and interactive components to engage in community outreach saw a greater chance of increasing their monthly attendance.
3.) SEO & Social Media Benefits Outsourcing is also good for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Having someone else handle marketing efforts is important if you are not familiar with SEO techniques which can easily help drive traffic online for free and increase rankings on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing search engines. An affordable church web design will include plenty of keyword-optimized content so the site ranks higher online due to increased visibility in popular search results. When using an in-house team for website creation and management, search engine optimization (SEO) might be a concern. While good code is important, it’s also important to optimize the keywords, meta tags and other vital aspects of your church website.
5.) Allows you to Focus Outreach Efforts Online Church websites have become more than just an information source – they are also valuable pieces for growing your church ministry. Think about it: if you operate an affordable church website, why limit yourself within the four walls of your local church? Every person is different and has different needs as well as unique tastes in terms of spiritual matters. By outsourcing these services you can focus on reaching those people online through blogs, forums, and other interactive features that your church website provides. Your goal should be to reach out and connect with people in a meaningful way, regardless of where they may live.
6.) Provides More Flexibility Since everything is done online there are more opportunities for someone else to take over where you left off. If you’re interested in stepping down from blogging or other duties or perhaps leaving the church altogether then outsourcing these services can help make the transition easier by allowing someone else to take over. For example, if your church has a great writer then it’s easy enough to replace them with an affordable church blog service that will also handle posting content. The same applies as well for services like web hosting, maintenance, and security solutions – all of these things be outsourced to outside providers in order to effectively reduce costs and focus on growing your church ministry.
7.) Builds a Stronger Church Website When you utilize an affordable church web design then the end result will be a better overall experience for users. This is important if your congregation wants to have input into how their virtual space looks, feels, and operates. The idea behind outsourcing is that you can bring these services in-house at a later point but make it more cost-effective this way by hiring independent contractors first. There are plenty of talented website development teams who can help create affordable church websites with no upfront costs or hidden fees or contracts – just pay as you go using simple flat-rate billing.
8.) Provides Resources for Members Outsourcing services for your church website can help you provide more effective, tangible resources for members of your congregation. For example, if you hire a freelance writer then they will be able to create blog posts and other articles that may have been otherwise ignored or passed on by the in-house team. If someone else is creating content then it’s easier to bring in different people with varying perspectives and share those thoughts with others. When things are outsourced there’s less chance of them falling through the cracks because everything is done online. This also applies to other types of outsourcing as well – such as web marketing, SEO management, and social media engagement tools.
Here are a few things to consider before choosing to handle the church website internally or getting outside help.
Can You Afford to Outsource Your Website?
Most website companies charge an hourly fee. This can range from $40-100 per hour. If you’re paying $75 per hour and it takes them one hour to upload a weekly sermon, you’re paying $300 per month in website maintenance costs.
CalTech Web includes these maintenance costs in our affordable church website package. If you can afford a small fee, you can afford to have your website updated as often as you would like.
What are Important Parts of a Church Website?
Every church website should have a couple of critical things.
Statement of Faith/Beliefs
This tells both congregants as well as visitors what to expect. Are you in agreement with them doctrinally? If not, where do you diverge? This helps pave the way for a consistent set of expectations between the preacher and the hearer.
This is often the most visited page on a church website. People want to know their pastoral staff. Who is the preacher? Where did he go to school? What does he like? Is he married? Does he have children? Those are just a few of the questions someone may want to know about the pastors, both paid and volunteer.
Mobile Friendly Layout
Over 53% of website traffic happens on a mobile phone or tablet. Your church website should be optimized for both mobile as well as desktop computers. Both should be tested to ensure a consistent experience. Are pictures visible on mobile devices? Does the menu or header block any part of the page? Does the contact form work and display correctly on a cell phone?
Address and Contact Information
Every page of your church website should have the church address as well as the primary contact methods (phone and email, or phone and contact form). In order to serve all ages and computer abilities, your website should be as easy to navigate as possible. If someone simply needs your address, it should be easy to find. We try to put the NAP (name, address, and phone number) into the bottom (footer) of every website. That’s the most commonplace someone will look.
“I’m New” Information
This can include frequently asked questions (FAQ), a message from the pastor, information about children’s and youth ministries, and unique facets about your church.
We are strong believers that your sermons should be posted online. A member who is out of town for a week wants to keep up with your preaching. New visitors use online sermons to get to know you. Out of state and country, Christians may stumble upon your preaching. I (Brandon) found a pastor 1500 miles away at a small country church that I listen to regularly and I found him by accident. I’ll never go to his church and I’ll never meet him, but his preaching ministers to me.
This one is debatable. Some churches choose not to have online giving as they prefer it to be done in person. We can help set up online giving if you would like to have online giving as an option on your website.
When adding online giving to your church website, it is important to make sure that all information is secure including credit card numbers and other sensitive data. If someone were to get the information from your church website they could potentially have access to a lot of private information. It would also be important to know who has access to this information.
What some churches choose to do is give out a unique ID number along with each person’s tithing or membership info at church such as when people pay tithes in church on Sunday morning for example. They would just need to add their own special identifier (such as 123456) and then the church can track these payments through online giving instead of writing them by hand or using an Excel spreadsheet which isn’t very efficient.
The church can generate reports by church member name or church ID number for leaders, church members, and church staff to find out payments that have been made online.
Some churches like to give an option of paying online tithes or offering, while others choose not to offer this online payment option as church members are encouraged to bring their tithes in church on Sunday morning and then just drop the money off at the check-in station that is present in every church.
Another reason why some churches prefer not to have online giving is a lack of trust in the online process.
Some church leaders feel that it is more secure to have church members bring their tithes in church on Sunday morning instead of online giving as church staff or church volunteers are present during this time frame so there is a higher trust level involved with bringing tithes back into the church from home, versus online giving where church staff or church volunteers aren’t always around.
Ways to stay informed
Make it easy for former church members to stay informed. If someone’s moving or starting grad school or has children in another state but still wants to know what’s happening at their old church then make it easy for them to stay informed. For example, many church websites have a place where visitors can easily and instantly be added as subscribers of the monthly email newsletter or they can sign up to receive regular updates from Facebook.
First Steps for a Church Website
We help walk pastors, elders, admin staff, and volunteers through this process on a daily basis. We can help your church website to accomplish your goal.
We like to start with our discovery questionnaire. You’ll be asked a couple of questions that will help us direct the design and development of your website. This is a pretty quick process.
During this process, we want to identify your color scheme, your logo, website content, staff bio’s, pictures, and any other information that may be helpful on your website.
If you don’t have a logo, pictures or biographical information, don’t worry, we can help with as much as you need. We want to help!
Once we start gathering the information, we’ll start putting it together on your website. As we’re building your website, we will want your feedback. You can change the layout, colors, pictures, or anything else you want. You can take an active role in choosing every detail, or a passive role and let us handle the bulk of the decision-making process.
Each church is different and we want to serve every church in the ways that make it unique.
Devote quality time & money
If you realize partway through this process that you are going to need the help of others in your church to accomplish this task then don’t be afraid to reach out for their help. If you’re expecting a lot of people from outside the church or even other churches like neighboring congregations, seminaries/schools, and retirees then it’s well worth it to hire someone with experience as many of them to charge more an hour than most tech-savvy members will earn in a week!
What about automated church websites?
Make use of automation tools. If you have enough content, like calendar items or even sermon series, that update often then don’t hesitate to create an RSS feed to automatically update people who are subscribers when new content is posted. This way at the very least the information is accurate more than once a month instead of just hoping that someone remembers to put up all those pictures from the youth trip or those baby dedication notices they promised last week!
When should you update your church website?
Don’t try and update it immediately after every service as most people are still wending their way out of the building. It’s better to wait until off-hours like Sunday night or even first thing Monday morning before going to work. This way you can load up the site with updates and be sure it’s working before leaving your church website in a state of semi-dysfunction until your webmaster has time to fix it!
Be realistic about resources you can post to the site, so updating isn’t hard work for one or two people. It’s best to have a calendar, church events, and the past few sermons (or podcasts) readily available on your website.
We have worked with churches as small as 25 weekly attendance to over 6000 weekly attendees spread over multiple services each weekend.
We have vast experience not just in building church websites, but also in serving in paid and lay ministry positions.
We understand churches and the needs of churches on an intimate level.
We come from diverse theological backgrounds and believe in unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials, and love and grace for all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Your church website should be unique and reflect your church, to the glory of God!