July 23, 2008 Tony Morgan

Using WordPress for Church Websites

A few months ago, Scott helped me relaunch TonyMorganLive.com using WordPress and a new design. Turns out his team at Updatable also helps churches use WordPress to manage their websites. I caught up with Scott recently to ask him about it.

TONY: So, is it true that there are churches running their entire website using WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS)? And, are you impressed that I know the lingo?

SCOTT: Very impressive. (I had to feed him that question.) Regarding churches, here’s one example off the top of my head. While most people who know about WordPress think of it as a blogging tool, it has the power to scale up to meet the website requirements of whole organizations.

TONY: I’m a tightwad. I also know most churches are trying to do more with less. Is this a good option for them?

SCOTT: Actually, it’s perfect for ministries on a tight budget. There are literally hundreds of free, attractive design themes for WordPress. Most are easy to implement and none take special technical knowledge. However, if you can’t find a free design theme, there are design themes that are professionally designed, come with on-going support via email or forums, and aren’t expensive. The cheapest ones can be found for $15 or less while most range from $30 to $75. The best places to discover premium themes would be in galleries like this one or this one.

TONY: Are custom designs an option? And what are the other expenses?

SCOTT: You bet. There are many boutique design shops (like mine) and freelancers (like this guy or this guy) who can design a custom WordPress theme for you. In most cases, even custom WordPress themes are less expensive than a fully custom, hosted CMS from a larger company.

As far as other expenses, you’ll need to consider hosting. WordPress can be hosted on your own servers, which means that you only pay what GoDaddy or 1&1 charge. Most simple web hosts are incredibly cheap. If you’re on a shoestring budget and the higher hosting costs of a hosted CMS are too much for you, this is a huge perk.

TONY: But what if the church doesn’t want their site looking like a blog?

SCOTT: The assumption is, since WordPress is a blogging tool, the only design you can use has to resemble a blog in layout and functionality. While this is the case with most free and premium themes, custom WordPress applications have much more design freedom. The best way to illustrate the stretching capacity of WordPress is to send you here and here and let you see it for yourself.

TONY: What about the churches that don’t have web experts on their team? Is it easy to use?

SCOTT: You’re using it aren’t you? (smile.) One of the most difficult obstacles to using a larger CMS is the learning curve. WordPress, on the other hand, is familiar to most people, has a simple user interface for managing content, and has robust user forums that answer every question under the sun. You’ll seldom run into a situation to which you can’t find the answer with only a few clicks.

TONY: Any final thoughts?

SCOTT: As a disclaimer, WordPress isn’t the perfect option for everyone. Some churches need increased functionality that just isn’t available currently through WordPress. But if you’re on a tight budget, need a simple site that you control, and already love WordPress as much as you and I, then WordPress as a CMS is a great option for you. If you have questions about how to get started with using WordPress as the engine that runs your church’s website, you can contact me with any questions you might have.

Thanks for the interview, Scott. And thank you for partnering with me on TonyMorganLive.com.

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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