Introduction to WordPress for church website builders

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One of the biggest, and most difficult steps in building a church website is deciding which platform to build it on. The newbie may not even be familiar with the different categories of options out there, let alone the many options within each category. WordPress falls within the category of a Content Management System. We’ll get more into that.

Everyone seems to be talking about WordPress. What is WordPress? What is all the hype? Isn’t WordPress for blogging? Is it really the most popular platform? Is WordPress really free? Let’s dive in!

What is WordPress

WordPress is software, which is run online, and can be used to build a website. Specifically, it is a content management system (CMS) which is also open source and extendable. A content management system is a type of software that makes use of databases and code to store and manage content. Open source means that the code is freely available to all – anyone can view the code and even change it to create something different. WordPress was created by Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg in 2003 as a way to provide a much needed, well-built, self-publishing platform.

This light-weight and fast application has stood the test of time and now has millions of users and websites and a very robust community of enthusiasts, users and contributes. There are entire companies built around premium themes and plugins for WordPress. It has quite a massive ecosystem which continues to grow and evolve today.

How does WordPress work

The WordPress code can be downloaded from here for free. You can get the most recent version and open the files right on your computer. However, downloading the WordPress software is sort of like buying a CD without having a CD player to play it.

For most, the code means nothing and it actually will not do anything on your computer without a specific type of setup. So then, WordPress cannot be run outside of a hosting environment unless you have the know-how to set up a virtual server environment locally on your computer.

Running WordPress requires a hosting provider

Though WordPress does require purchasing a hosting plan to run it, most web-hosting providers provide everything you need. Even better, with a few clicks, they will set up everything for you.

To summarize, when people say to use WordPress to build a website, this means you will 1) Purchase a hosting account and 2) Install the WordPress software on the account. Once a copy of WordPress is installed on your hosting account, you’ll have everything you need to get started.

What is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress?

One unfortunately point of confusion in the WordPress world is the difference between WordPress (the software), WordPress.org, and WordPress.com. As I stated above, WordPress is the software itself.

WordPress.org is the main hub for the WordPress project. It is where you can get the code, view and download curated plugins and themes, learn how to work with the code, and receive help from the community of users.

WordPress.com is a hosting option and one of many commercial products from the company Automattic, which was founded by one of the WordPress creators, Matt Mullenweg. At WordPress.com, the software is preinstalled and and managed by the company – just as other “managed hosting” solutions. You can actually use WordPress.com for free (with some limitations).

WordPress.com is a great option

WordPress.com is a great option for anyone who does not want to worry about managing updates, security, or upkeep. I’ll also note that if you hear that WordPress.com does not support plugins, custom themes, or custom code – that used to be the case. However, those restrictions ended in 2017 when all these features were added to the WordPress.com Business plan. I recommend reading their support page on this topic

That said, if you want to get started with a managed-for-you option, with great support, WordPress.com is a fantastic option. WordPress.com offers some additional features that are not found with the stand-alone WordPress software and is a great way to test things out without a monetary commitment (aka, there is a free plan available). If you want additional features and immediate access to their amazing support team, make sure you get the plan that includes Live Chat support.

What type of hosting do I need for WordPress

When it comes to hosting your own WordPress website, there are many options and it can quickly get confusing with all the terminology. There is shared hosting, VPS (Virtual Private Server), Dedicated Hosting, and Cloud Hosting, to name the main categories. Within these categories, you can find Managed Hosting options, which means that some or all of the back end management is taken care of for you by the host (see WordPress.com above).

There are pros and cons to each type of hosting. For a small church website, shared hosting, or managed shared hosting will be sufficient for your needs, likely for a long time. Most of the big companies that provide shared hosting offer low cost WordPress hosting options. These are hosting plans geared toward small WordPress websites and often come with some additional perks.

How do I choose a hosting provider for my church website?

There are hundreds of articles which will answer this question and give a specific recommendation, often at the benefit of the website owner (yes, including this website). This does not mean they aren’t to be trusted – in fact, most will provide you with honest reviews and they will be sincere in their recommendation. Truth be told, choose any provider and you can find an article which touts that provider as the best. Unfortunately, this is not helpful when trying to find a recommendation!

At the end of the day, a small church website will do well on nearly any hosting platform. For you, it likely will come down to a few specific criteria such as price, level of support, and additional features that come with the plan.

It may come down to just taking the recommendation of someone you trust.

What hosting provider should I use for WordPress?

I have compiled a list of some of the top hosting providers that provide an entry level WordPress hosting plan. As you can see, these offer mostly the same features and are within a certain price range. I have listed the full monthly price for each but most are usually running a promotional price. Please note that any free domain, email, or SSL may have limitations (like, free only for the first year) so you will need to check with each provider to find out the specific details.

Host

Cost / Refunds

Support

Extras

$9.99 / month

Refunds: 48 Hours for monthly plans

  • Email

  • Chat

  • Phone

  • Free Domain

  • Free SSL

  • Free Email

$5.99 / month

Refunds: 97 Day

  • Email

  • Chat

  • Phone

  • Free Domain

  • Free SSL

  • Free Email

$4.00 / month

Refunds: 30 Day

  • Email

  • Chat

  • Phone

  • Free Domain

  • Free SSL

  • Free Email

$3.99 / month

Refunds: 30 Days

  • Email

  • Chat

  • Phone

  • Free Domain

  • Free SSL

  • Free Email

$14.99 / month


Refunds: 30 Days

  • Email

  • Chat

  • Phone

  • Free Domain

  • Free SSL

  • Free Email

$11.95  / month


Refunds: 30 Days

  • Email

  • Chat

  • Phone

  • Free Domain

  • Free SSL

  • Free Email

$10.99 / month


Refunds: 30 Days

  • Email

  • Chat

  • Phone

  • Free Domain

  • Free SSL

  • Free Email

Can I get free hosting if our church is a non-profit?

Of our list, the only provider that currently offers free hosting for non-profits is Dreamhost.com. This is currently offered only to US-based 501(c)(3) organizations. You can read more about this offer here.

What benefits does WordPress offer for a church website

There are an abundance of resources for WordPress online

With WordPress being one of the most widely used website building platforms, and with it being open source and supported by a global community of loyal users, there is an abundance of online resources to support you in your project. In other words, if you run into a specific question or problem with WordPress, a solution is very likely a quick Google search away.

WordPress is extensible with plugins

Need a feature for your website? There is probably a plugin for that. There are currently more than 60,000 free plugins in the WordPress.org plugin repository. And this is not the only place to get WordPress plugins. Plugins range from free versions that are developed by hobbyist developers, to agency-grade premium plugins created by world-class professional developer teams. So it does require some research to find the best options – but they are out there and this is one reason why many love WordPress.

To be more specific, plugins can provide options for you features such as:

  • Online Giving
  • Events and registration management
  • Members only area
  • Online sermon audio and podcast management

There are thousands of themes available for WordPress

Need a certain look, layout, or functionality? There is probably a theme for that. Similarly to plugins, there are more than 5,000 free themes in the WordPress.org theme repository, along with many more free and premium themes found elsewhere. One of the largest marketplaces for premium WordPress themes, Theme Forest, has more than 10,000 WordPress themes for sale.

Get an affordable church website for the price of hosting

What is great about WordPress is that you can get by with only paying for hosting and a domain and still have a good looking and highly functional website. With WordPress being free to use, and the availability of free themes and plugins, you will have more than enough options to get your website up and running at a very low cost.

With hosting costing $5-$20 per month and domains costing between $10-$20/year, you can get by comfortably budgeting $200 a year or less for a self-hosted WordPress website.

Is WordPress difficult to use?

There is certainly a learning curve with WordPress. There are other platforms that will be easier to master and will allow you to get a website up quicker. However, you are usually trading ease-of-use with lack of customization and extensibility. Most people who dive in and learn WordPress find it well worth the effort. That said, one does not need to master all of WordPress to build a simple website with a handful of pages. WordPress works just as well for simple sites as it does for 1,000 page, million-visitors-a-day websites.

There are many steps to creating a church website and it can be overwhelming. Take out the guesswork with the Free Roadmap!


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