So you want to know to create a website for your church. That’s wonderful! Bringing your church online is such an awesome tool to use for the Kingdom. But I’m sure you already knew that. That’s why you’re here. This tutorial will help you create a church website easily using WordPress and Hostmonster, an awesome web host.
Before you start, decide how you want to be portrayed on the internet
First thing you need to think about before you get far in the process is deciding how you will be represented on the internet. If you know exactly who you want to be, then this will be easy. If you want to portray yourself, your church, or your blog as a fun, genuine place to be, then your website should reflect that. It’s important to know this because you may get distracted when you start looking at other sites and themes. Remember the personality that God has designed for your specific church. Once you have this nailed down, let’s move on to the technical stuff.
Step 1: Get your Domain Name and Hosting
All websites need a domain name and hosting. First of all, hosting is just a server that stores your website files. Most basic sites are on a shared server which means that your site is also stored with other sites but they don’t have access to each other. And a domain name or url is the address that points the user’s internet browser to your where your files are stored (your hosting) and those files get displayed on their screen. Easy!
What do you want to be called? Pick your domain name
Now you need to think about what you want to be called. In other words, you need a domain name, also known as your url. Just remember, the shorter the better and easier to remember. You don’t want to keep telling people to go to your url: www.mylongchurchorministrynameofthecityname.com.
Plus, you will also want an email address with your domain name or url. This helps you to advertise the domain name to others when you share your email address. Again, this is why you want a short domain name. Imagine if your email address was firstname.lastname@example.org. It just won’t fit on a business card. 🙂
Once you’ve decided on what you want to be called, search for it and see if has already been taken. If the domain you want has been taken, you may have to come up with a second option that is close to it. If [churchname].com is taken, you can also try [mychurchname][state].com like victorychurchtexas.com.
Hostmonster has a Domain Check feature that you can use for free. Try it out and finalize your domain name before you get your hosting.
Now You Need Website Hosting for $4.95 a Month
Now I will only recommend Hostmonster at this point because I have been using them since 2006 and have had excellent, United States-based service. I have had a horrible hosting experience prior, which I will talk about on another post. There are other great and wonderful hosting companies out there like Blue Host, Hostgator, etc that you can use too.
HONESTY POLICY: I will earn a small commission through any sale coming from this link at no extra cost to you. I just wanted to be up front with you and not try to hide that fact. If you do end up using the link, THANK YOU!
The great thing about Hostmonster is that you get a FREE domain name for the life of your hosting account. So basically you get the domain name and website hosting for the low price of $4.95 per month.
Make a visit to Hostmonster and click on the big button that says, “Sign Up Now”. On the next page, you’ll be able to search for the domain name you decided on. If you already have a domain name registered somewhere, you can enter that instead. Once you have a domain name chosen, enter it in and click on “Next”.
On step 2, you will need to:
- Enter in your contact information
- Choose how long you want to register/sign up for hosting in terms of months (longer the registration = less money you spend)
- Under Package Information, almost every optional add-on will be checked. These are not required and I recommend unchecking them. 🙂
- Enter in your billing and payment information and finalize your payment.
You will receive an email confirmation of your order as well as login information to get started.
Step 2: Time to Install WordPress and Start Building Your Website
Now you may not know what WordPress is. I will explain. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that makes it easy to manage your website content. It allows you to just login, open up a page, type in your text like you would on an email and hit save. That’s it! And your website will automatically be updated with your changes. No HTML, PHP, CSS, or any other web coding languages are required. So let’s get started.
Once you receive your Hostmonster confirmation email, you can login. Simply follow the login instructions found on the email and login to the your control panel. You can also login by going hostmonster.com and clicking on “Control Panel Login” at the very top of the site.
After you get to the control panel, you want to click on the WordPress icon to start the installation process.
Then it will unfortunately bring you to another screen loaded with lots of different code frameworks. Just scroll down and click on “WordPress” under the Blogs section.
After you click that, you will be taken to the Installation page. Follow the steps below to get your website setup and installed.
- Click on “Install” a brand new version
- On the next page, you will enter in some site information.
- Step 1: the default domain name should already be selected.
- Step 2: Enter in your site name or title.
- Step 3: The scripts checked here are all Optional. I recommend unchecking them. You can always add them in later.
- Step 4: Check the checkbox for the terms and conditions which basically say that you understand that the WordPress installation is covered under the GNU General Public License. This means that because you have received a free distribution of the code, you will not sell their code either.
- Click on “Complete” when you are done.
After you click on Complete, you will need to wait on the next screen while it installs on your account. When it is done, it will display your admin and login information. You will also receive an email with the login information that you can keep for your reference.
Congratulations! You have just installed your very own WordPress website! You can now visit your site url and see the default WordPress theme on it. On some occasions, it may take a little longer for the installation. But for the most part, it is instantaneous.
Let’s Explore and Setup Your New WordPress Site
The reason that I am recommending WordPress is because it is probably the easiest to use for the end user of all the other content management systems like Joomla and Drupal. This is just my professional opinion after having developed for both over several years.
When you login to the admin side of your website, you will see your dashboard.
The dashboard has a welcome area that lists steps on how to get your site started. But first, I’ll explain the difference for each area on the left sidebar to help you get started.
- Dashboard – this is your home view. It will have information on your pages, comments, posts, etc
- Posts – Posts are what got WordPress started. Posts are what you use when you are using the site as a Blog
- Media – This is where you can upload and manage you images, audio, or video files
- Pages – These are the main component of your website. The difference between these and posts is that they will show up on your main navigation menu. These are timeless pages like About Us, Contact, Ministries, Services, etc.
- Comments – If the comment feature is enabled, this is where you would manage and delete comments made on your site.
- Appearance – Your site’s look and feel can be updated here. The site theme, widgets, and menus can be updated. Widgets are blocks of content that you can edit and specify where you want them to show up on your site.
- Plugins – These help add more functionality to your site like adding social media icons, security, etc.
- Users – Edit the users on your site and choose what they can do.
- Tools – Includes the bookmarklet and categories and tags converter. For church websites, you won’t need any of these at this point.
- Settings – This is where you will setup your site configuration and other settings for the site. Some plugins that get installed will have their configuration settings in this area.
Feel free to explore and see what everything does. It should be easier for you to move around your website now that you know what each area does.
Now that you’re done exploring, let’s handle some important tasks to get your site started.
Update your Permalink Structure
By default, your page url will look something like http://mydomain.com/?p=789. That’s a little hard to read and remember. What you want your urls to look like is http://mydomain.com/contact.
To do this, we will need to change the permalink settings before you create pages and send out any links.
- Hover over Settings and then click on Permalinks.
- Check “Post name” under Common Settings
- Click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page.
This will make your website have urls that make sense to the average person.
Let’s Add a New Welcome Page
Most church websites have pages like Home, About Us, Ministries, Contact Us. So let’s start by creating the home page.
- Hover over Pages on your left side menu and click on “Add New“
- Enter in your title, “Welcome!”
- Enter in some placeholder text in the main text area for now, “This is my homepage.”
- Click on “Publish“
Congratulations! You have just created your first page.
Setup Your Welcome Page as the Default Home Page
Now you want to setup your site to show the default home page that you just created instead of a listing of the recent blog posts. Again, this is the default because WordPress was built as a blogging platform.
- Hover over Settings on your left side menu and click on “Reading“
- Under the “Front page displays” section, select “A static page“
- Then select your “Welcome!” page as your new home page.
- If you want to also have Blog, you can create a Blog page and then select it here as the default page for “Posts“.
You now have a default homepage. Setting up the rest of your pages will be easy. Just follow the same steps as above until you have all your pages setup. You can also choose to setup the page and save it but not have it shown to the public. Just click “Save Draft” instead of “Publish” and this will save your page so you can edit it later and still not show it to the public.
Step 3: Let’s Make Your Website Gorgeous
Nobody likes a plain or boring website. So we’re going to use one of the plethora of free WordPress themes available. You can think of a theme as a wrapper or skin for your website. It can be changed as many times as you want, although I don’t recommend that. 🙂 But you can change it as many times as you want until you are happy with it.
The best thing is to explore and view the theme demos before you actually install it. It helps to save time from installing it and uninstalling it and installing another.
You can pay for a theme but I would exhaust any free themes first and then start looking at the paid for or premium themes.
In this new mobile era, I would highly recommend finding “Responsive” themes. Responsive means that the website will adjust the layout to fit in a user’s device such as a mobile phone or tablet.
There are thousands out there so here are some sites where you can find your themes:
Now after you have gone through every single theme available, okay maybe not every theme, once you have found one we can install it.
Let’s Upload and Install Your New Theme
Most themes will come in a zipped file with folders and files in it. Here are the steps needed to upload and install a theme on your new WordPress site.
- On your left side menu, hover over “Appearance” and then click on “Themes“
- Then click on “Upload” to upload your theme
- Click on “Choose File” to select the theme zip file that you downloaded
- Click on “Install Now” button when you are ready
After you have installed your theme successfully, you want to click on “Activate” to make it public and start using it.
Most themes come with documentation so I would go through it and see how you can customize your site.
Step 4: Fix Up Your Menu
Let’s setup your menu so that you can have control over the order of your pages.
- On your left side menu, hover over “Appearance” and then click on “Menus“
- First you want to create your main default menu by typing in a Menu Name and then click on “Save Menu”
- After you’ve created your menu, you want to check on “Automatically add new top-level pages“. This will add any new pages to your menu automatically.
- Now we need to add the pages that you have already created. Check the boxes on each page under the “Pages” section and then click on “Add to Menu”
- Now you can rearrange your menu items the way that you want.
- One more step, you will need to specify your newly created menu as the Primary menu.
Now whenever you need to move your menu items around, you will just need to go back to this page and drag them to the order you want them in.
Step 4: Jazz It Up with Widgets and Plugins
Your new WordPress site will work just fine the way it is. But to really maximize its potential, you have a huge repository of add-ons that can really make your site unique and useful.
A plugin is a small piece of coding that adds a feature or functionality to your site. Installing plugins is a lot easier than a theme because they are all kept in the WordPress Plugin Repository. To install a new plugin, you will just need to follow these simple steps:
- Hover over Plugins on your left side menu and click on “Add New“
- Search for the plugin that you want or need. It’s best to search for the exact plugin name since it will deliver a large listing.
- From the results, you can click on “Details” to read more about the plugin or just go ahead and “Install Now“.
- After it installs (basically it means it was uploaded to your hosting), you need to click on “Activate” to actually turn it on.
- Some plugins may have other requirements. If it does, it will let you know and let you know how to handle it.
Important: Since plugins have access to your site’s coding and inner workings, I highly stress using the plugins that have more stars (positive ratings) because that means that they have been used by others and don’t have any issues.
The internet is full of good and bad people. There are lots of bad people who want to cause harm to your website. So making your site secure should be a major priority. In all my years, I have had several weaknesses exploited which resulted in hours and hours of cleanup and restoration. Trust me, you want to do it right the first time. 🙂
Here is a list of my recommended plugins for both security and functionality:
- Limit Login Attempts – This plugin is great at preventing bots from trying to hack your site by trying to login over and over again until they find it. It will block the user based on their unique computer IP address which makes it very difficult for them.
- Better WP Security – This plugin helps to tighten up your site security. It checks all the areas of your site and gives recommendations and steps on how to beef up the security.
- Contact Form 7 – This is a very easy to use plugin that adds a contact form to your site. You will just need to create a regular Contact page and then add the code from this plugin to the page.
- TinyMCE Advanced – This adds more functions to your text editor when building your pages. A definite must for every site.
These are just a few of the many other plugins out there. There are so many social media, seo, comment plugins that you can use. I recommend finding the one that best fits your needs. On this site, I am using:
- AddThis Follow – I am using the Add This service and it works for me. It gives you options for social media sharing options as well as follow me options.
- Disqus Comment System – I am also using the Disqus system which is an internet-wide commenting system with content distribution. You can find out more on their website.
How to Use Widgets
Widgets are simply chunks of content that are displayed in different regions of your site. Each region will vary based on your theme. Some themes have a few regions and others have lots of different regions. You can view the regions and widgets on the widget page.
To edit the widgets on your site:
- Hover over Appearance on your left side menu and click on “Widgets”
On the right hand side of the page, you will find the widgets and regions already installed and live on your site.
- Drag new widgets from the left side to the region or area that you want them to appear in. Once you drag it over there, it will be saved and live for the public to view.
- Once they have been moved, you can change the settings for each widget or enter in the text that you need.
For a church website, some widgets that are handy to have on your site are:
- Social Media – This is a great way for your church to communicate information
- Service Times – A must have for every church because it is one of the #1 questions asked
- Location – Another must have for churches 🙂
Again, there are so much more that you can add and do. Just take it one step at a time and continue to build.
Finally, You Are Done!
At least for now. It is best if your site continues to grow with you as you grow. Sites die very quickly when the content doesn’t get updated which results in users not coming back. Some features will work with your church and some may not. The only way to find out is to try them out. Church websites are a great way for people to learn about your church. Most people check out your church website first before ever stepping foot inside your building.
Here’s a few quick things to do now that you have your site done:
- Advertise your domain name wherever you can. If you have business cards, get the domain name on that.
- If you have a church bulletin, you will want to include it there as well.
- In your email signature, add your domain name there.
- Add your website to all your social media profiles.
So there you are. At this point you are done with your site. Again, continue to build on it as you go along.
Leave me a comment below with a link to your new site! I would love to visit and get to see you what you came up with.