Fuel for your Devotional Life

Creating User-Friendly, Cost-Effective, Findable and Maintainable Church Websites

What is your address? No; not your postal address, your web address.

People no longer search for you by your postal address, they search using Google or other search engines, hoping to find your web address. This applies to your church also.

When people ‘Google’ your church name, the top three things they will find about your church are your social media accounts, GPS location and/or your web address.

While you want people to find your GPS location and your social media accounts, a website provides a more stable, professional, and organized way of presenting your content on the web. Through a website, you take charge of how people interact with your church before deciding to attend. A social media account is too dynamic to provide that type of interaction.


Benefits of having a church website

A church website provides the following benefits:

  1. Your church can reach a large and growing online community. As of October 2020, close to 5 billion people (63% of the world’s population) have access to the Internet.[1] This is a 1,266% growth since the year 2000.
  2. Non-members can learn about your church before deciding to join.
  3. Members who live abroad can keep connected with your church.
  4. Former members can stay in touch with the events and activities of your church.
  5. You can provide relevant information, announcements, and updates to your patrons.
  6. You can collect useful data from members and non-members.
  7. On your website, members and non-members can:
    1. Submit prayer requests
    2. Make inquiries
    3. Make a contribution
    4. Listen to or watch sermons
    5. Sign up for Bible studies
    6. Get updates on current and upcoming events and activities

Therefore, developing a website for your church is no more a privilege, it is now mandatory if you are going to do effective ministry in the 21st Century and beyond.

But how do I get a website for my church?

Establishing a website for your church can be quite easy if you have the money and technical skills to do so, but, based on your needs and expectations, can be one of the most difficult and complex ministry ventures.

While you may be able to get a website up within a few minutes, there are some important questions to be answered regarding how effective your website will be. These include user-experience, cost-effectiveness, maintainability, and findability.

In this article, I will attempt to answer these questions and help to break down the steps towards creating an effective church website. Developing an effective church website involves the following steps: 1) Planning, 2) Designing, 3) Promoting, and 4) Maintaining.



When thinking of creating a website, most persons usually attempt to skip the planning stage as they hasten towards the technical aspect of designing a website. However, this will only prove detrimental and create frustration in the end. No technical aspect of designing a website can be effective without a roadmap. That is like trying to build a house without a plan.

Some important matters to address in the planning stage of your website development is choosing a team, deciding on a maintenance plan, establishing your target audience, and preparing an outline or layout for your site.

Selecting your Team

You will need a team of persons to assist with various technical and non-technical aspects of the website. For example, you will need content editors, graphic artists, web developer (s), and persons responsible for gathering the content that you decide you need for the website.

Maintenance plan

You need a plan regarding how you will keep your website up to date as soon as it is launched. One of the key aspects of website maintenance is to appoint a content editor or a team of content editors to assist with posting new information to your website on a regular basis. This is one of the greatest challenges for most Churches. But it is especially important. It does not need any technical skills, it simply needs persons who are dedicated and available. If you are unable to find volunteers for this work, you may choose to pay for this service to be done.

Establish your Target audience

While you cater to members, it is important to prepare your website in such a way that those who know nothing about Adventism or about your church can also feel welcome on your website. Establishing a target audience is beyond the scope of this article. However, this would include activities such as simply deciding the type of persons you are expecting to visit your website and tailoring your content to address the anticipated needs of those persons.

The layout of your Website Pages

As soon as you decide on your target audience and their needs, the next step is to design a proposed layout of and the type of content to include on your website. Two major aspects of your layout that you need to consider are 1) the layout of the Home Page of your site, and 2) the content and layout of other pages.

Home Page

The first design task for your church’s website is the Home Page. This is the first page that most visitors to your website will see. The important thing is to keep the home page simple, but clear and containing relevant information that you want your visitors to see about your church. Information that could be included on your Home Page are as follows:

  1. Complete name (should include Seventh-day Adventist) and address of your church
  2. A tagline for your church. A theme or vision statement
  3. A short description of your church or a mission statement
  4. Service times
  5. Welcome from your pastor
  6. Upcoming events
  7. Recent News

Other Pages

After designing the Home Page, the next step is the set up the child pages for other content. Again, your choice of content should be based on the mission statement of your church and what you want your visitors to see. You will arrange content in categories and sub-categories. Make sure to choose your main content carefully.

Sample website pages outline:

  1. About Us
    1. Our Beliefs
    2. Meet our Pastor
    3. Mission and Vision Statements
    4. Our History
    5. Our Team (Board/Committees)
  2. Visitors/New to this Church
    1. Submit Prayer Request
    2. Links
    3. Calendar
  3. Ministries
    1. List all ministries with a brief description of what they do.
    2. Ministries that are unique to your church (e.g. Evening School, Community Outreach, Bible School etc)
  4. Bible Study
    1. Links to Bible studies online (Discover, It is Written, Amazing Facts etc)
    2. Bible School (Conference, Union, or Local)
    3. Sabbath School Bible Study Guides
    4. Request a Bible Study Form
  5. Devotionals/Blogs
  6. Media
    1. Live Streaming
    2. Photo Gallery
    3. Videos
    4. Sermons (Audio) or Podcast
  7. Resources
    1. Preaching Roster
    2. Other Important Documents for download
  8. Links to other entities
  9. Contact Us
  10. Privacy and Terms of Use Policies


Creating your website

After preparing the proposed layout for your website, the next step is to create it. Now, we are entering the technical side of website development. At the bare bones, a website is built using the HyperText Mark-up Language (HTML) and presented to the public using the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

Do not be daunted by the terminologies. Just be aware that these are protocols used to allow content to be accessible through a browser across the Internet.

When building a website, there are three main options available to you. You will choose an option based on the affordability, the skillset available to you, and how much control over the aesthetics of your website that you desire. These options include 1) Building from Scratch; 2) Using a Content Management System; 3) Drag and Drop Website Builders.


Building from Scratch

The only reason I am including this as an option is to make the point about how complex it can be to create a website. When we understand the complexity involved with creating a modern website, we will have a greater appreciation for Content Management Systems (CMS), and therefore be more willing to accept their limitations.

If you are going to build a website from scratch, you will need to work with several technologies that are divided into two categories: 1) front-end technologies; and 2) back-end technologies.

Front-end technologies

Front-end technologies have to do with the ‘look and feel’ of your website. This involves the colors, shape, size, presentation style, and responsiveness of your website. Front-end technologies are as follows:

  1. Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML). HTML uses tags to arrange and format the content of your website on the page. Think about how you format a Word document for example. If you need a text to be bold, italic, or underline, you simply block the text and click the appropriate icon or use a short-cut key to format. Well, HTML works the same way, except that you enclose the text inside tags to set the format you desire.
  2. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS works together with HTML formatting. It is basically a centralized area (file) to pre-set and globalize your formatting styles so that you can easily apply them to your HTML document/page.
  3. JavaScript (JS). JavaScript is a programming/scripting language that helps to make your HTML page dynamic and responsive. It can make content disappear and appear, reshape, change color, and move in response to the various actions.

Back-end technologies

It is possible to build a website using only front-end technologies. However, it would require you to manually load and update the content of your website. Matter of fact, this is how I built my first websites between 1999 and 2000s. However, it is very time-consuming and unproductive to maintain.

Modern websites use back-end technologies such as Database Management Systems (DBMS) and Programming Languages (such as C#, Java, PHP, and Python) to manage the logic and loading of content on their websites. Back-end technologies are referred to as such because you will not see their operation when loading a website. What you see are the results of the HTML, CSS, JAVASCRIPT, and the content that is more than likely loaded from a Database.


Content Management System

The combination of front-end and back-end technologies allow for easy maintenance of websites with hundreds or even thousands of pages. This combination is referred to as a Content Management System (CMS) that allows for non-technical content editors to easily update content on a website.

Besides helping with easy updating of your website, a CMS also help in the following ways:

  1. Automatically generate navigation elements. Navigation elements are the links or buttons that allow users to easily access the various pages on your website.
  2. Making content searchable and indexable
  3. Help to manage users, their permissions, and security settings

A Content Management System is made up of three parts:

  1. Content. Your articles, blogs, pages, etc. These all get stored in a database and retrieved when requested. Most times, this is what you will do as a person who manages your website. You add/edit/remove content.
  2. Template/Theme. This is a pre-set design of the look and feel of your site that is usually built by a professional front-end designer. For example, the Seventh-day Adventist church has its own Template, called ALPS. You can access ALPS at https://alps.adventist.io/v3/
  3. Technical Design or Logic. This is the programming and database management aspect of your site that manages the retrieval and displaying of content. This portion is usually built by professional software developers—back-end developers.

Some popular CMS that are available for website building include:

  1. WordPress
  2. Drupal
  3. Joomla
  4. NetAdventist (for Adventist Churches)

Customizable CMS

There is a class of CMS that allows you to not only add content but to customize the logic and database management system. Therefore, you are not only able to decide what information is stored, but also how it is stored. This is the closest you get to building your website from scratch while benefiting from the setup of a CMS. While most CMS are customizable, among the CMS that allows for the greatest level of customization are:

  1. Umbraco
  2. Drupal
  3. Joomla


Drag and Drop Website Builders

Another type of Content Management System (CMS) that I like to place in its own category, is what I call Drag and Drop Website Builders. These go beyond simply allowing you to add content, they allow you to ‘design’ your website, dragging and dropping blocks of pre-set CSS and HTML. Once you ‘design’, you add content to your block of pre-set areas.

Popular Drag and Drop website builders include:

  1. WIX
  2. Weebly
  3. Squarespace
  4. Website Builders that come with your hosting provider


Website building options

Here, I will help you with choosing your design option for building your website by using a matrix that covers the cost, flexibility, maintainability, and technical skills required for building with each tool. I also give separate scores depending on whether you are paying to get the website built, or you are doing it yourself.

Promoting Your Website

As soon as you have planned and designed/created your website, the next step is to ensure that others become aware of your site. There are various steps involved with promoting your website.

Choosing a domain name and hosting

Domain name

The first step in promoting your website is choosing a domain name. A domain name is simply a friendly and unique name that persons use to access the content that you share on the internet. It is your web address. For example www.yourchurchname.com.

In choosing a domain name, you can use the following guidelines:

  1. Choose a name that suits your church’s personality
  2. Make it easy to remember.
  3. Make it relevant to your church’s mission

After choosing a domain, the next step is to register it. Domain names are registered with internet registrar and hosting companies such as GoDaddy, BlueHost, Arvixe etc. Most time, there is an annual cost to registering a domain name. Before registering your domain name, you would want to ensure that the domain name is available. You can do so by visiting the website of your registrar and do a search.

For Seventh-day Adventist Churches, it is important that you take steps to protect your church’s domain name. “Domain names used by Church entities should be owned and registered in the entity's name, or in the name of another denominational entity, such as a conference, union, or division, that has granted use of its domain name; and a business plan should be established to preserve the domain name for future use by the entity.” (Adventist Websites)

Website Hosting

For users to gain access to your website, the files of your website need to be stored on a computer or server that gives access through your domain name. If you had the technical skills, you could do your own website hosting. The better option for persons without such resources and technical skills, is to pay for this service or select a free option for hosting websites. Most of the hosting companies mentioned above usually offer a paid package for hosting your website and your domain name.

Once you pay for the service, the hosting company will allow you to upload the files for your website or they may allow you to start building your website using a selected CMS online.


Marketing your website

Part of promoting your website is to market it. Marketing involves efforts you take to increase traffic to your website. You can employ website optimization experts to accomplish this for you, or if you choose to do it yourself, here are some tips for properly marketing your website:

  1. Make sure to optimize your website for being picked up by search engines by adding your domain to Google’s search engine. (www.google.com/addurl).
  2. Add links to your church’s website on other websites, such as:
    1. Adventist Directory (http://www.adventistdirectory.org/)
    2. Your Local Conference Website
    3. Church’s Facebook Page and other social media sites
    4. Local Community Websites
  3. Using statistics to evaluate your site.
    1. Getting feedback on the traffic and usage of your church’s site is important to improving your web ministry. There are several ways to go about getting feedback:
      1. Setup statistical features on your website, such as Google Analytics, Statcounter etc. These tools will give information on the number of visits to your website.
      2. Provide an opportunity for persons to give feedback
  • Offer a free book or another incentive for persons to visit your church.



It is obvious that building a website is not a trivial matter. It requires time, technical skills, money, and maintenance. I am hoping that the information provided in this article would help you to make the right choice among the many variables involved with creating a cost-effective, user-friendly, findable, and maintainable website.


[1] World Internet Usage and Population Statistics 2020 Year-Q3 Estimates. (2020, November 12). Internet World Stats Usage and Population Statistics. https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm.

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