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How to Build a Church Website With WordPress

Posted on March 21, 2016 by in Tips & Tricks | 65 comments

How to Build a Church Website With WordPress

Churches today have to meet people where they are and that means having a website, just like most other businesses and organizations. However, for the website to serve the church well, it must be well thought out and easy to manage.

WordPress is the perfect Content Management System (CMS) for churches to use because it is easy to set up and flexible to meet the different needs that churches may have. Whether for a simple brochure site simply listing the services and other basic information, or for a fully featured website including multimedia and membership, WordPress can help get the job done.

This article will walk you through what you need to do to set up your church website and get your information organized and looking good so you can start spreading your mission.

Examples of Beautiful Church Websites

Before we get into how you can set up your own church website, let’s take a quick look at some well designed church websites running on WordPress.

First up is the Aloma Church, which is using a custom theme built on the Cherry Framework. The crisp, modern design features a clear navigation scheme and a homepage slider with information about service times. A bold calendar and a clear link for newcomers makes it easy for visitors to get involved.

Aloma Church homepage

The Aloma Church uses a crisp clean design to inform visitors

Next is the Community Bible Church, using a premium theme called The Retailer from Get Bowtied. The design is very clean and presents the content in a simple fashion. The slider at the top of the homepage presents the values of the church beautifully. Right below that we can see immediately the service times and the address of the church. Further down the page they have presented recent sermons you can click through and listen to.

The Community Bible Church homepage

The Community Bible Church highlights their values and sermons

Finally, the Glad Tidings Church, which uses a custom theme, is very clean and professional-looking. It features a prominent link for people new to the church. The slider uses images and quotes of happy church members and links to their stories. Below the slider, the site provides an easy way for visitors to get more information on getting involved with various groups or through donations.

The Glad Tidings Church homepage

The Glad Tidings Church showcases the stories of its members

Now that we’ve been inspired by these examples of beautiful church websites built on WordPress, let’s get you started on your own website journey.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you will need (and what we will cover below) before you get started:

  • WordPress: We already said we would be using WordPress, so you’ll need it installed either locally or on your web server.
  • A plan for your website: Notice we mentioned navigation in the examples? You need to plan your website before you start.
  • Some content: Besides the basic information, consider pulling together some inspirational images and multimedia materials (e.g. sermon recordings).
  • A beautiful church theme: We will show you some themes that could work well and explain why you might choose a premium theme rather than a free one.
  • Some plugins: Nothing to worry about. We will tell you what plugins you should consider adding to your website.

So far it’s not too complicated, right? If you’re ready, let’s go!

Setting Up Your Website

The first thing you will need for your website is hosting and a domain name.

Hosting is basically where your website lives on the internet, and the domain is the address that points to your hosting space so your visitors can get to your website. Most web hosting packages will include a domain name. Be sure to check out our article on choosing a good domain name for your website before you select one.

Step 1: Choosing Website Hosting

A variety of hosting types exist and the quality can vary.

Basic shared hosting can suffice for very small sites with little traffic, but as your website grows, you may want to consider WordPress-specific hosting and managed hosting. Both may cost a bit more but are well worth it in terms of peace of mind and security.

Shared Hosting companies

Popular companies that offer shared hosting plans

If you’re on a tight budget, shared hosting may be the way to go for you. You can look at some popular options like:

Specialized WordPress managed hosting offers advanced (premium) features such as ‘done-for-you’ upgrades and backups, so you won’t need to worry about that part of running your website. Especially if you have no technical people among your team, consider managed hosting for your website.

Managed WP Hosts

Some of the top managed WordPress hosting companies

Some of the managed hosts offering great packages for WordPress hosting are:

If you need some help figuring out what kind of hosting is best for you, we took a look at whether managed hosting was really worth the money.

If your church is a USA registered 501(c)3 organization, you may actually be able to tap into free hosting offered by several companies. Usually, you will only need to fill out a form and show proof of your organization’s charity status and then you will be given free hosting. Here are a couple of the participating hosts:

Step 2: Installing WordPress

Installing WordPress is pretty easy. The process, however, will vary depending on the hosting setup you chose in the previous step. If you went with a managed host, WordPress is typically preinstalled, so you don’t need to do anything other than give your site a name and get to configuring.

If instead you opted for shared hosting, you will have the choice of using your hosting control panel to install WordPress, or carrying out a manual install. We have a complete guide to installing WordPress which will take you through both of these options. But don’t worry, even a manual installation is super easy due to WordPress’ famous 5-minute install.

The other option is installing WordPress locally first, then transferring it to your hosting account when you are ready. Installing WordPress online means that you have no extra steps before making your website live to the public. Once you are ready with the theme and content, you can start sharing your URL with people.

The advantages of working with WordPress locally include being able to make changes to your design, content and functionality without affecting your live website. This means you can test things like WordPress updates or new plugins without fear of breaking your website.

Setting up WordPress on a local machine is not super complicated. but it typically includes some other software that needs to be installed. We have some guides for installing WordPress on a Mac computer and doing the same on a Windows computer. Just follow the steps and you will have WordPress up and running in no time.

Once you have finished working on your site, you will need to transfer it to your online hosting. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. As soon as you have installed WordPress, take a look at our checklist of things you should do right after installing WordPress.

Now that you have your hosting setup and WordPress installed, we can move on to the really fun stuff!

Planning Your Website’s Structure

One challenge with making it as easy to setup a website as WordPress does, is that many people jump headfirst without putting any thought into the website. Planning out your website structure before you start building enables you to determine:

  1. how visitors will navigate your site (menus and links needed),
  2. what content you need to prepare (text, images, multimedia),
  3. how your design needs to accommodate your content, and
  4. what functionality your site will need.

Skipping this step means your website will be a patchwork of elements stuck together, each added when you figured out you needed it.

For churches, you will find that your website will tend to mirror your organization. You will typically examine how your church is setup in terms of groups (e.g. youth ministry) and activities (e.g. weekly bible study). A key perspective is how someone new to your church would be introduced to the organization and what they would need to know.

Not everything about your church needs to go on your website, so it is equally important to think about what will not form a part of your website structure. Some aspects of a church community may be better shared in person but many can be shared remotely, such as the sermons given in service.

Choosing a Theme

The Charitas Lite theme

Charitas Lite is a free theme for charities and churches

The WordPress repository has thousands of free themes available for you to download and use with your WordPress website. Additionally, there are many premium themes available through marketplaces like Theme Forest, as well as through theme developers like Elegant Themes (that’s us!).

There is something to fit pretty much any design aesthetic you wish for your church, but you may want to consider a couple of things before downloading and installing your first theme. There are pros and cons to both free and premium themes.

Besides their price, free themes are easy to install through the WordPress administration interface and have gone through an official review process in order to be included in the WordPress repository. However, they often don’t come with much (or any) support and are not updated as often (which can pose a security risk).

The Risen theme homepage

Risen is a premium theme for churches

Premium themes, on the other hand, though they can be pricey, are often better designed and coded, updated more frequently, and bundled with advanced functionality and support. That said, premium themes can be bloated with all that extra functionality and they don’t undergo an official review before being released.

On balance, we recommend premium themes if you are serious about your website.

When choosing a theme for a church website, you will want to consider first your plan from the previous section to make sure the theme can easily accommodate your structure without too much customization. Pay close attention to page layouts, menus and customization options. Most themes will have demos showing you how the the theme looks by default.

Other important considerations include how the theme uses images, whether it is enabled for multimedia (audio and video), and how it deals with events. If you have identified specific functionality that will be needed (e.g. e-commerce), ideally you want a theme that is designed to integrate well with plugins that offer that functionality.

The Avada Church theme

Avada is a popular multipurpose theme

We have selected a few themes you can take a look at, but remember there are many themes available to you:

  • Charitas Lite (Free): Charitas Lite provides a simple, clean design for a modern eye-catching church or charity website.
  • Risen (Premium): This responsive feature-rich, multimedia-enabled theme for churches is very popular.
  • Avada Church Theme (Premium): Avada is a very ‘mature’ theme, very well developed and supported.

If you want to look at some more themes, this collection of over 30 church themes should help you find your perfect theme.

A screenshot of the Divi theme.

Last but by no means least, it would be remiss of us not to mention our very own Divi theme. Although it isn’t ‘church-specific’, per se, it is (in our humble opinion) the most powerful and functional premium WordPress theme available. You wouldn’t be the first church to use it either.

Installing Plugins

WordPress is very powerful on its own, so you don’t need plugins (which can extend its functionality in near-limitless ways) to get started. That said, there are some essential plugins that we think you should consider installing and activating to get the most out of your site, such as Yoast SEO for search engine optimization and Akismet for spam protection.

For a church website to be truly useful, it must go beyond the purely informational. In planning your website, you likely included some specific types of content or functionality that you want your site to have. This is where plugins can come in very handy. Some use cases (with accompanying plugins) that you might want to consider are:

Sermons

Sermon Manager plugin

Providing access to recordings of the sermons presented at your church is a good way to engage your website visitors and introduce them to your church. For those who may miss a service it is also helpful to be able to hear the message delivered in their absence. Plugins like Sermon Manager and Sermon Browser (both free) can help you to easily publish sermons online.

Events

Events Manager plugin

Besides the weekly services, most churches have other activities such as bible study, group meetings, choir rehearsals, fundraisers, etc. Displaying these events on the church website is a good way to get people involved in the church community and remind them of what is coming up. The Events Calendar is a very popular free plugin for managing events on your website.

Donations

Give plugin

Besides the tithes or collections taken during a service, your church may be interested in accepting donations on their website to further their ministry. Free plugins like Seamless Donations and Give make setting up and collecting donations quick and easy.

Prayers

PrayBox plugin

Prayer requests are one way to engage both your existing congregation and new visitors on your website. A plugin like PrayBox can help you manage prayer requests and display the prayers being requested.

Conclusion

A well thought out church website can go a long way towards serving the mission of the church. Creating a church website with WordPress isn’t difficult, and with the right plan it can be done very quickly using a great theme and some plugins.

We’ve given you a step by step approach to get you started. Following these steps, you could have your church website up and running before your next service:

  1. Get website hosting
  2. Set up WordPress
  3. Plan your website structure
  4. Choose a theme
  5. Install plugins

Have you set up a church website using WordPress? We would love to see it. And if you have any questions or suggestions or if you think we left out something, please let us know in the comments section below!

Article thumbnail image by Artisticco, Julia Tim / shutterstock.com

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65 Comments

  1. Yes WordPress is definitely the perfect platform for Church websites. However, I would never recommend shared hosting for a church website. Church websites are often highly targeted by attackers and therefore need something more secure such as WP Engine, etc.

    Overall great article! We’ve seen some great church websites made with Divi too! 🙂

    • True, our church website was hacked! Yes, I’ve seen some great Divi church sites too 🙂

      • I agree with Matt. We’ve helped several thousand churches build sites with WordPress and shared hosting is fine as long as it’s a good host (ie. not Bluehost, Hostgator or another EIG brand). SiteGround is who we recommend because they are affordable and assist with WordPress-specific issues.

        All websites are targets of hacking. Keep WordPress, themes and plugins up to date and use strong passwords. Maintain regular backups. It’s a good idea to use a brute force protection plugin like Jetpack with its Protect module. This my advice for any hosting.

        • Tom Ewer

          Good, solid advice, Steven!

    • I disagree. Shared hosting is more than adequate for most churches. As long as a quality hosting provider is used that monitors for attacks and acts on them, there shouldn’t be an issue. My company specializes in building sites for churches on WordPress, and have had no problem with shared hosting with any of our customers.

  2. Just use the DIVI theme..

    • I agree with Richard. Just use Divi.

  3. Thanks for this timely article! We’re a new Church plant and we’re building a Church website using Divi. These tips and plugins will get us going in the right direction. I especially like the site that’s using Divi. There are lots of good ideas there.

  4. perfect timing as I start our new church website! Thanks!

  5. I’m currently trying to design our church site using Divi and Modern Tribe’s Event Calendar plugin. Can anyone tell me how the example site was able to get the single-event pages to display full-width (i.e., without the sidebar)? I’ve been trying to figure that out all day.

    • There must be a way, but I gave up on The Events Calendar for a restaurant site I’m building, in large part for that reason. There are no shortcodes that allow you to put it on a page or a post, using the Divi Builder.

      Though I’m not that far along with it, just yesterday I switched to the Timely All In One Event Calendar, which does have shortcodes and does allow me to put the calendar onto a full width page using the Divi Builder (and Divi Theme). It also seems to have more views and seems generally more full featured out of the box than The Events Calendar, at least from what I’ve seen so far.

    • Hey Brook,

      If you figure this out or went to the forums and found a solution, would you post a link here in the comments. I was also having trouble with the Event Calendar plugin and Divi.

      • What I did.. although not pretty, it worked…

        Make a blank page with the Permalink set to http://yourdomain/our-events
        In Events Calendar/Settings/Events URL slug use the exact Slug as the blank page. /our-events

        You’ll most likely get a warning indicating something like – The page “Our Events” uses the “/our-events” slug: the Events Calendar plugin will show its calendar in place of the page.

        Hope that helps? and I’d be interested if someone knows of a nicer way to add the Events Calendar in a Separate Page.

  6. I wouldn’t use anything other than Divi. Have a Church site… a prayer center site… a church library site.

    They have truly improved “the learning curve” of how to use the site builder and the end result is tops.

    I love the Divi theme and credit where credit is due… letting those who see this know that I use it and think it’s great.

    Divi is wonderful for use in Church sites that glorify Jesus Christ. 🙂

    • I agree with Laura. Just use Divi. Its the best.

  7. Nice article and thanks, but I am constantly worried why Elegant Themes would be promoting any templates over their own! Don’t get me wrong… it’s nice they share the love. But most of the articles are written by guests and so I would hope there would be more of a “This is how to build a church website using divi and these plugins”. rather than telling us why we shouldn’t use divi or “there is a better way” kind of post.

    • Exactly what I was thinking!

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Hey Al, I totally get where you’re coming from. I wouldn’t say we’re promoting other themes because we don’t want people using Divi. We have to walk a thin line with our blog. We want our content to be relevant to WordPress users in general, as well as relevant to Divi user specifically. We’re working on finding more ways to showcase Divi tutorials–such as my bi-weekly Divi Nation shorts.

      In fact we have a rather massive blog post series coming up that I think anyone using Divi is going to love 😉

    • They do it because they are genius marketers. 🙂

      People Googling church website terms will discover Elegant Themes. Other blogs and social media will link to this post. That means even more people will discover Elegant Themes. And Google will look at all those links and say, “wow, Elegant Things is the cat’s meow” and give ’em even more preference in search results.

  8. As I often build websites for houses of worship and other not-for-profits, I found and tried implementing the “Give” plugin for donations. It looked pretty and implementation was relatively easy, but I’m finding I like “Seamless Donations” a lot more as it allows out of the box donations in people’s names (honor) or in memory of, along with options of giving levels. There are paid upgrades as well, but it’s well worth a look!

  9. Hi,
    Nice basic article for those starting a church site. If the church staff has access to a technical person then Divi would be a great choice for a church theme. A few suggestions:

    The sermon plugins you mentioned are ok but in the past support has been very limited. I purchased one and it took weeks or get questions answered and that was paid support. What i did was purchase a one time fee plugin called series engine…for churches. updates for life. (seriesengine.com)

    wpforchurch.com also is a great place to get one stop shopping for church themes and plugins. They have new managment and offer some themes & plugins. The have a churchpack plugin that offers events, staff, groups, photo albums etc. to give you more than a sales looking site.

    Lastly Themeforest has a nice theme called forgiven that comes bundled with several plugin to make your site easy to design.

    Nice article, I would enjoy another one with more advanced options.

    Thank You

    • Thanks Mel for the third option for sermons. Was familiar with the two listed and not real happy with support as well.

  10. We used Aboundant Church Websites, which uses Divi by Elegant Themes as their primary Theme and is hosting on WPEngine. Their smart questionnaire, Launch Pad, allowed us to create the first draft of our site in minutes.

    • Do you have a link for, “Abundant Church Websites?”

      • Steve – I found it. the key Is the word Aboundent – not abundant

  11. Thanks for a great article, I could never get on with the calendar plugin you recommended, I would suggest time.ly instead.

    Sermon Manager and Prayer Box are great.

    Elegant themes & Divi are brilliant for a church site, we have used elegant themes for several years (and themes) before Divi, they always had enabled us to have a great appealing modern looking website.

    • Nathan B. Weller

      So glad Divi has worked out for you when creating church websites! Thanks for the suggestions too!

  12. I loved using the Elegant Themes SimplePress site for a church site.

  13. I used Divi for my church’s website!

  14. I’ve used Divi for a couple of church sites recently and it’s been perfect, apart from finding a good events plugin – which has now been solved thanks to your post. Thanks Tom.

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Some of the commenters here have made what sound like other good event plugin suggestions too. Probably worth checking them all out.

  15. Great article as I am about to embark on a site for my church. Likely with Divi as it has worked well for a couple sites for me.

    One aspect of church sites that was not addressed and that I want to incorporate is to facilitate messages for each of the groups that is really intended for members of the group. Think Men’s group, women’s group, youth each of 6 choirs, etc. Could be 10 to 20 in a decent sized church. Blog posts with categories that appear enable the messages to appear on separate pages for each group is a good fit. But giving 20 volunteers access to Divi post creation scares me. I guess what I am looking for is some sort of front-end post creation that would only appear for the designated volunteers for each group that could be set up in a way they could not screw it up.

    Any ideas?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      I’d recommend using a user role management plugin. As well as Divi’s own user role manager for builder pages. This will allow you to hide or lock down anything you don’t want your post creators to have access to. And you can * probably * give some people access to just one page. Such as their event/group page.

  16. You have created a devotional ideas which is nice and informative and it is really superb please say where you got those ideas it is really awesome.

  17. Is it possible to create church website with Divi theme and add those church related features?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Yes absolutely. You can create just about anything with Divi 🙂

  18. A great platform for Church related website to use WordPress for the CMS platform. We can easily to update and change theme in the future if necessary. Due to the hacker attack, I believe with regular WP and core file updates, it can significantly reduce the possibility and does not install a lot of unpopular plugin for the theme. Regular backup on the database and core file is the best way to prevent hacker.

  19. Your choice of theme should be based on theme options. I purchased Divi and its awesome, but its too easy to say ‘just use Divi’. Sure, with Divi you can build nice pages, and header options are cool, and responsiveness is well developed, but themes that cater specifically for Churches have specific functionality that give the church a head start, like a Sermon Library for example. Some churches will just post audio clips on a single Sermon page, or find a sermon plugin. I have tried dozens of them, and some are ‘ok’. I ended up using a church theme though, which had built in and nicely integrated sermon library, events, staff, gallery etc. It was a way better solution than using a regular theme then going on the search for all the plugins and fighting to make them work the way you want them. I am planning on using Divi for other small sites, and will enjoy that too.

    • Paul – What theme did you use, and can you post a link to the site?

      • Hubbs, I did add a link to my site, but the moderator removed it, despite this post showcasing themes from outside the Elegant Themes family.
        But you can google it – we are GGWO baltimore. Not sure if Im allowed to mention the name of the theme I used though.
        I will mention that I am a Elegant Themes customer, and I did ask if they have any themes or plugins that are suitable for churches, ie sermon library, events, staff etc but they said, “In Divi you can use Video and Audio Module, but I’m afraid that without customization (php, html, css, js) sermon library feature is not present in Divi.”
        However, if you dont need a sermon library, then Divi and its page builder are nice.

    • I find that the divi blog or portfolio module, along with the audio and video modules are far superior to most worship plugins on the market. Especially since making a template for the way you want to present them is super easy.

      • Wil,
        In Divi, can you categorize and tag media posts, and put them in a series? Can they be searched or sorted by speaker or topic?
        May I see your site. I struggle to imagine how it could be easier to manually build a media or sermon library, rather than simply using a theme that already has one. I could be wrong though.

        • I would say it’s super easy. Divi lets you display and sort newsfeeds by category on the fly. It also takes advantage to tags. It has three different “Blog” modules for three different categories on the home page, but there is also grid feature that lets users sort by category if you like. You can choose to use featured images. As as usual, you can take any category in WordPress and get a feed for it to use on iTunes.

  20. thank you so much, this article was very helpful for me..

  21. Hi Nathan
    An interesting and informative article. Perhaps in the future another on How to family tree with WordPress. I have started such a project with Divi and am wondering how best to have the ability to have a page on which I can extend family tree branches to show extensive links across generations.

    • Nathan B. Weller

      That’s a tricky one. I’d love to write it up though. I’ve been working on a family tree website for my own family for quite some time now. What I’ve found is that it’s not Divi I’m having trouble with, it’s getting the right combination of third party plugins for what I really want. When I figure out a good solution I’ll be sure to write it up.

  22. Using a theme that is specifically designed for building church website will make the website development process faster and easier.

  23. Thanks for a great and timely post. I love WordPress (having moved to using it for a couple of years now and learning new things everyday!!) and DIVI for that matter. I’ve just used DIVI to re-design and convert a church’s old website which was previously built using Dreamweaver and managed using Adobe Contribute. They love it so far. The plug-ins you’ve just mentioned for managing sermons and giving are just what I wanted. They’re the next set of features I’ve been asked to add to the site and I look forward to delving into them. Thanks again. Long Live WP + DIVI. Long Live Elegant Themes!! Looking forward to more features and more flexibility.

    • Tom Ewer

      Thanks Kafui! Glad you’re loving Divi as much as we do 🙂

  24. I develop websites and have created several church websites. I am working on creating a new website for a church I have started working with. Also, serving as a deacon and a minister, I am acquainted with some of the needs of a local church that can be accomplished using a well thought out website. I appreciate the article on this topic but was hoping for something a little more in-depth. This article is more on how to build a website than how to build a website for a church using DIVI. I understand and appreciate attempting to be all things to all people but I think an Elegant Themes blog might lean more toward your clients (not criticizing). Maybe you might consider writing a part II blog about creating church websites using DIVI that would include: creating a membership section with a church directory, online Bible Studies, interesting ways to draw attention to times and location of services, upcoming sermon topics, on-going Bible class topics for various age groups, etc.

    • Steve, I agree that there is a lot more to church websites coming from the church’s viewpoint. I, too, am starting to build one using Divi, and hoping that I can get it set up so that lay leaders can easily post messages that go on their ministry’s page or an event tagged to their ministry on the calendar in a moderated fashion. Would like to see a front-end posting page to support this. Also wanting an easy way to separate the information to be seen by the public from the information that would only be seen by members (and then by group) without going all the way to a 100% membership in the website.

      Perhaps we can collaborate.

      • Thank you, Yes! I would be interested in your progress and sharing updates.

  25. I love all the useful information you share in your posts, thank you! Our website is growing and there are a lot of pages with different pop ups etc. I wonder if you have any information on the best way to keep track of these things. For example we changed an autoresponder the other day but found that someone received an old one from a pop up we missed and didn’t know what page it was on. We have a lot of pages to look through – how would you suggest to track all that to make finding these things easier?

    • Tom Ewer

      Jo, I think a good, old-fashioned spreadsheet might be suitable! Something like a Google Doc would be appropriate, so that you can share it between all of the relevant people. Good luck 🙂

  26. Another handy article, Tom. I totally agree WordPress is the best solution for churches.

    Thanks for sharing my Risen theme. I recommend our newer themes at http://churchthemes.com over it. The designs are more current and they share the same plugin (which is also used by other church theme makers) to help make switching themes in the future easier (readers can Google “theme lock in” for more on that).

    • Tom Ewer

      Thanks, Steven!

  27. Nice article,

    Just an idea though: when listing solutions and plugins like above, it could provide added value to crosslink to other ‘relevant’ ElegantThemes articles when appropriate.

    I mean, just the other week there was this great Divi Nation on (amongst others) the Give plugin. For those who missed that, it would provide interesting background.

    Like i said, just an idea,

    Thumbs up!

    • Tom Ewer

      You’re absolutely right Richard. I try to link to relevant articles whenever possible, but I missed a good’un there. Thanks for the suggestion!

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