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The Economics of Cheap Church Websites

I’m in the unique position of being both a pastor (like, the senior pastor that preaches several times a week) and a web developer.

From the pastor side, I understand why spending $1,000 or more on a church website every year seems out of reach. $1,000 would be a pretty major line item on the church budget and to many of our decision makers, might seem like a waste of money. Many small churches don’t even have an advertising budget, and if they do, probably don’t have much more than $1,000 in it every year. So as a pastor, I understand the appeal of a cheap website.

On the flip side, I’ve been designing church websites for nearly 15 years, so I have some perspective on how much web designers actually make from a web project. So I thought it would be helpful to break down that down for my fellow pastors.

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Let’s say a web designer makes a standard website with four to five unique page templates (home page, ministries page, generic page, contact page, sermons page, blog page, etc.) for a church and charges them $500 for it. That might seem like a lot. But let’s think about it and break down the hours spent:

  • Design research = ~ 2 Hours
  • Content Collection and Planning = ~ 2 Hours
  • Wireframes and Mockups = ~ 5 Hours
  • Iteration and Changes = ~ 2 Hours
  • Markup (Turning designs into HTML and CSS) = ~ 10 Hours
  • CMS integration = ~ 5 Hours
  • Deployment = ~ 1 Hour
  • Training = ~ 2 Hours

We are at 29 hours. Right now the web designers is making $17 an hour.

But not so fast, the designer has to pay for sotware, for his computer, for his internet connection, for a GitHub account, for his own training materials. He’s not making anywhere near $17 an hour — he’s lucky to be making $7 an hour when all is said and done. Now imagine they are in a traditional business and have an office and support staff. Once you add expenses like rent and utilities to the mix and they are probably losing significant money and we haven’t even talked about taxes yet.

But we aren’t done yet. Inevitably, there will be issues and when there are issues, the web designer will be expected to fix them promptly. This could potentially add more hours.

It actually gets worse at scale. Imagine designing 25 websites in a year (roughly one every two weeks). Not only does that put you in the enviable position of making a whopping $12,500 (before expenses), you now have 25 unique websites to support.

The numbers just don’t add up.

via GIPHY

The Bible teaches us in 1 Timothy 5:18

For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

This principle (in context, directed at pastors) applies equally to web designers. It’s an ever-changing, highly technical pursuit and they deserve to be paid fairly for their work.

Here are my takeaways for pastors:

  1. If you want a completely custom church website done by a professional, and you aren’t paying them at least $1,000 up front and then a little year to year for support, they are likely either losing money or making very, very, little of your project.
  2. If you are having a staff member make your website, and they don’t do it all the time, they are likely going to need at least two weeks of time to get it off the ground.
  3. If you do pay less than $1,000 for a church website, it will almost certainly be a template that hundreds of other churches have. (The only way for web designers to actually make money is to drastically reduce the number of hours put in to design and development.)
  4. If you are on a really tight budget, a service like squarespace, wix, weebly, or wordpress.com (all approximately $200 a year) are your best bet. If you can afford between $300-$800 per year, a church website service (churchspring, prochurch, nucleus, church plant media, etc.) is going to suit your needs much, much better.

One of the reasons I created simplechurchwebsites.co is specifically to help churches that don’t have the budget to spend a lot on a church website. At $250 a year, and in almost no time at all, you can have a great church website. Check it out at http://simplechurchwebsites.co.