When you’re thinking about building your church website there are generally two groups of people you want your website to serve. First, people look for churches online. So you want your church to be represented and easily found when people search for churches in your area. Second, you want to make information and resources available to the people attending your church. In other words, your church website is used for both reaching new people and serving your own congregation. So, let’s take a look at what you can get from do-it-yourself site builders and compare that to what you’d get with a custom church website.
Building vs Communicating
Actually going through the technical process of putting a website on the internet is point-and-click simple. Anybody can do it without any technical experience. There are plenty of self-serve website builders out there including free ones like Wix. There are also site builders specifically designed for churches with pretty low up-front costs. The problem is not getting you website online. The real problem is knowing how to do it effectively.
Communicating effectively is really hard. It takes experience and practice to know what to say as well as how and where to say it. If you are going to build your own website, try not to get caught up with colors and fonts. It is much more important to focus on how you are going to organize the information on your website and how you’re going to represent your church online.
Bottom line: If you just want to put a website on the internet, get started on your own for free with Wix or a low-cost do-it-yourself site builder. If you want help building a church website that conveys your unique message in a way that connects with your community, we can help.
The True Cost
How much does it cost? This is often one of the first questions because many churches don’t have large budgets for projects like websites. But, there are two sides to the coin when it comes to the cost of your church website. One one side, you have the upfront cost of building and maintaining your website. On the other side, your website can be one of the best tools you have for growing your congregation. Offsetting the cost of developing your church website with the growth of your congregation is often overlooked when evaluating the true cost of your church website.
The reason most churches don’t think about offsetting the cost of their website with the growth of their congregations is because their website doesn’t actually grow the congregation. The problem is that do-it-yourself website builders aren’t able to do very much for you when it comes to getting traffic. We’ll look at some reasons why this is
We’ll dig into some the details for why do-it-yourself church site builders tend not to grow your church, but the overall point is that getting traffic to your site involves doing things that go beyond just putting a website online. For example, rather than just waiting and hoping that Google finds your site, you can proactively register your site with Google in several different ways so that Google knows where your website is, what the pages of your website are about, and where your church is physically located. It takes a real person to set these types of things up. It just not technically possible for a website builder to do this for you.
Bottom line: Rather than being a sunk cost, your church website will grow your congregation and your church’s budget.
Things Site Builders Don’t Do
The big point to take away from this is that there is more to building a church website than putting web pages on the internet. There really are some very easy to use tools for building web pages. The basic process for putting a website online is so simple that it can be automated. That’s why site builders are so inexpensive. They put all the hard work on you.
Why Come To Your Church?
Site builders can’t answer that question for you. But, if you want to attract people to your church, you should let them know what makes your church different from the church down the street. Song of Solomon 5:9. This is the starting point for building your church website. Before you pick a theme and start building web pages, answer this question first. All of the pages of your site should hang off of the answer to this question.
The best a site builder can do for you with regard to site planning is let you pick a template to get started. It is all on you to figure out what to say on each page, how many pages you should have, and how to organize those pages. You want new people to discover and learn about your church while, at the same time, keeping your current congregation connected to everything that’s going on.
For example, it’s really easy to overlook important information such as:
- When services start AND when they end
- Making your address and phone number easy to find
- Childcare information
- How people normally dress
- What visitors should expect
Making Your Website Shine
There are some technical things that most site builders don’t give you the ability to control. Or, if they do, the settings are “advanced” and most people don’t know how to configure them. Here are few examples.
How social media views your site: You know how when you share a link on Facebook (or Twitter) how that link sort of gets expanded in your post. A picture often gets pulled in along with a description of the page you are linking to. You can control all of that.
How search engines display your site: You can also control what gets displayed on search engines when they display your site. Most site builders just show a short excerpt from the first paragraph of content your website. But it’s possible to do a lot better than that. You can write exactly what you want people to see in the short piece of text that shows up with your website on search engine results.
Page load times: One of the factors that impacts your search engine ranking is how fast your site loads. Do-it-yourself site builders are notorious for being slow. With a custom website we have control over technical details like page caching, minimizing code, and keep things running fast.
Technical Stuff Beyond Your Website
To get the best results from your church website you need to do some technical stuff that goes beyond your website. Here are a few things that go beyond your website that DIY site builders can’t do for you.
- Register all of the pages of your website with Google
- Tell Google where your church is physically located
- Control what shows up if someone shares a link to your site on Twitter of Facebook
- Install website analytics that you can actually understand (Google Analytics can be overwhelming)
- Set up an email newsletter
- Set up an email system to help connect with new visitors
- Create a YouTube channel to share what God is doing in your church
- Create social media accounts that are integrated with your church website
All of these are important things to do in order to make the most of your website and get your church noticed online.
Site builders have come a long way in terms of making it easy for anybody to put a website on the internet. The challenge is not in putting pages on the internet. Today, the real challenge is figuring out how to reach and serve the people in your community with your website.
If you want to use a site builder and build your church website yourself, we’ve got some articles and resources that can help. If you want a custom church website or if you just want to talk about your strategy, we’d love to help.