Church Website on a Shoestring

The most common question I hear has got to be, “How can we have a church website on a shoestring budget?” For the purposes of discussion, let’s assume you’ve got some kind of budget. An annual budget of $500 is a fine place to start. The answer to the shoestring church website question starts with the basic who-what-when-where-why questions we learned that time in 8th grade English during the journalism unit.

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This is a two-part question. “Who are you trying to reach?” And, “Who is going to write the content and keep it updated?” That second person is just as important as all the people in the first part. I’ll assume it’s going to be you, and you’re just getting started. As for reach, you’ve got two audiences. The people who are already at your church, and those who might visit. They have different but aligned needs.

What do those two different groups need to know, think, and feel about your church? The answers to those strategic questions should be part of every decision you make about your church website. Those who are already at your church need to know about special events, guest speakers, and the like. You can rightly assume that your insiders already know the service time and your location. To go further, here’s a previous post about the Critical Elements of Any Church Website. People who might visit have a string of needs that are more basic, but are the heart of your site. The two most important are: when does church start, and where is it?

Here’s another two-parter. When does your church service start? You absolutely have to include this on the site, and place it prominently on your front page. Think of it like the “Open” and “Hours” signs on a business front door.
The second “when” is, when are you going to update the site? It’s great to get yourself into a regular schedule of weekly or monthly updates. The more often you are able to add new things to your site, the more reasons you give people to come back.

Where is your church located? You know where it is, your members know, but potential visitors don’t. To put it in an older context, you wouldn’t have a yellow-pages add without the name, address, and phone number would you? Put those on the site in a prominent location.

Why don’t you have a website? Let’s not get bogged down in that. I’m thinking of starting a support group. Yes, you need a website. The “why” question I’m asking is the full strategic question. Maybe all you need to get started is a one page (or 5-page) site with the service times, location, and a photo of your church so visitors recognize it when they drive up.

If you’re thinking of doing more, why? Do you have the who, what, when, and wherewithal to make that happen – and is it the right decision for your church?