Why church websites are so hard (and what we are doing about it)

I’ve been making church websites for nearly 15 years and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that getting a great church website is really, really, hard. Whether you are doing using a web design agency, a freelancer, or doing it yourself, these are the seven problems I’ve found with almost every church website project:

1. Dependence on flakey web designers.

The biggest struggle most churches have is finding a good web designer. There are no shortage of web designers out there — but a lot of them are just customizing online templates. I spoke with a guy the other day who readily told me he didn’t know the first thing about HTML/CSS/Design and yet he had operated a service “designing” church websites when in actuality he was just customizing some templates.

Even when you do find a decent web designer, they almost certainly have other projects, and unless you are paying them a lot of money, those projects probably have priority over their time.

By the way, I don’t mean to disparage web designers. When I refer to “flakey” web designers I’m mostly referring to my own experience failing to help churches.

2. Prohibitively expensive.

Speaking of paying web designers a lot of money, most web design firms won’t even speak to you about a project that will cost less than $3,000. As outrageous as this seems, these web designers aren’t swimming Scrooge McDuck style in a swimming pool of twenties. Most of them make a very modest salary and struggle to make ends meet.

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So the next option is a template based service. There are a lot of these, and most of them also are very expensive. The good ones end up costing around $1,000 per year. While this is usually much better than a custom website from a traditional firm, it’s still VERY expensive for the average church with less than 100 members, a mortgage, and a pastor to provide for.

The cheapest option is usually something like squarespace or wix, and while these will end up costing only around $20 a month, they give you little more than a blank page and make it difficult to integrate church-specific features like sermons, event signups, etc.

3. Tools that aren’t meant for church websites.

Almost all church websites are running on something like Wordpress. Wordpress is great for blogging, but it was never intended to be a CMS for churches. Because of this, it comes with a learning curve and often pushes you into the next problem…

4. Focus on content curation rather than calls to action.

Because most church websites are built on a blogging platform, most church websites put blog-like content first. The homepage becomes a place where impermanent content like blog posts, sermons, and gallery images are curated, rather than a place that purposely leads website visitors into becoming church visitors.

5. Stale content.

A content-curating website, by itself, is bad enough. It becomes really, really bad when (and this almost always happens) the people running the church website stop adding new content. Nothing is worse than a homepage with “upcoming events” that ended two years ago, or “recent sermons” from 2014. As funny as that sounds, the vast majority of church websites look this way.

6. Poor copywriting.

Your homepage shouldn’t be curating content — it should be presenting a clear message about your church and what you can do to help people. Crafting a clear message is hard — especially when you are starting with a blank page.

Far too many church websites start with this:

Welcome to our church website! Thank you for visiting. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

When they should be telling people at a glance what your church is all about and how you can help them.

7. Too technically difficult.

The last problem with church websites is that too often, they require a technician to manage. The tools for keeping them up and changing them just aren’t intuitive, and the responsibility falls to people with few tech skills.

There is no reason why adding content to a church website has to be any harder than posting a tweet or getting on facebook — but too often it is.

A new way to get church websites…

After experiencing these problems over and over and over again, I decided the time had come to do something about it. So I’ve created Simple Church Websites.

Simple church websites was specifically designed to solve all of these problems:

1. You don’t need a web designer,

you can setup your own website in minutes.

2. It’s inexpensive.

$250 a year. That includes sermon hosting and a plethora of other features many church website companies charge extra for.

3. It was built from the ground up for churches by a pastor.

It’s not a repurposed blogging engine, it’s a church website platform where church features come first.

4. It’s designed to turn website visitors into church visitors.

The home page isn’t about content, it’s about presenting your church well and getting people in the door.

Each of our themes are designed to first and foremost get important information to potential visitors.

5. It’s never stale.

We have created a “fresh bar” on the home page of each theme that can optionally show content like upcoming events, live streaming, blog posts and images but that is smart enough to know when that content is stale and will automatically hide it when it’s old. So your website always looks fresh to potential visitors.

6. It’s designed to hold your hand and help you with copywriting.

We tell you exactly the kind of content you need, give you writing prompts and provide you with useful and customizable boilerplate.

We walk you through the copywriting process with prompts and boilerplate.
We are also working hard at creating awesome features like:

  • Sermon Audio/Simple Church Sermons integration.
  • Statement of faith generator with custom icons.
  • Missions map/missionary prayer letter page.
  • Event pages with signup forms.
  • Ministry pages.
  • Church leadership page with special attention given to the senior pastor.
  • Online giving integration.
  • Password protected church prayer requests pages.
  • Much more.

Check us out at simplechurchwebsites.co. All simplechurchwebsite.co subscribers will also get access to simplechurchtools.com.