The Ultimate Guide to Church Website Builders
Looking for the best church website builder? Use this Ultimate Guide to Church Website Builders to find the solution that fits your church.
First, if you’re already overwhelmed by the number of options for church websites…we’ve been there. That’s why we’ll tell you right up from that we’re huge fans of Omega– a website builder from our friends at Ministry Designs that draws on our team’s ministry experience and is designed to meet all your church’s website needs.
We love the Omega Church Website Builder. We’re convinced it’s the simplest, most thorough way to meet your church’s website needs. But, we don’t expect you to take our word for it. Every church is different, and it’s important for you, as a church leader, to be a good steward of resources. You can’t be a good steward without knowing your options. That’s why we created this guide: to help you figure out which platform will best fit your church’s needs. We’ll cover:
- What a website builder is.
- 5 questions you must ask before choosing your website builder.
- A run-down of the features of general-purpose builders, like Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress.
- A run-down of the features of church-specific builders like Nucleus, Ministry Designs, and Sharefaith.
- What sets Omega apart?
Have questions about something you’re learning in this guide? Join the conversation in our Facebook group!
What’s a Website Builder?
Website builders are platforms that allow you to create a website without coding it from scratch. They often include design templates, website hosting, tools for search engine optimization (SEO), security features and updates, detailed instructions, and technical support to help you make the website of your dreams… Or, at the very least, a website you’re not ashamed to have people find when they’re Googling your church. Website builders vary in pricing and levels of customization, so your church’s budget, needs, and the tech savvy and time constraints of your web team will determine which option is best for your church.
5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Website Builder
Question #1: What Do You Need Your Website to do?
Before you can figure out which website builder to use, you need to have the purpose for your website crystal clear in your own mind. This isn’t nearly as complicated as you might expect, since most of us are looking for the same things in a church website. If you’re a member of Church Marketing University, we strongly suggest that you start this process by working through our Website Course, where we dive deep into what you need your website to do, and how to empower your volunteers to help you maintain it. If you’re not a member (or you are, but you want a little extra help figuring these things out), never fear! We’ve developed a worksheet to help you figure out what your church’s website priorities are. To do that, you’ll have to work through the following questions:
Download Your Free Website Worksheet
Who is your website created to serve?
In case you were wondering, “Our website was created to serve God!” is not an acceptable answer here. Websites serve people, who serve God. Other, more businesslike ways of phrasing this question could be, “Who’s your primary audience?” or “What’s your website’s purpose?” However, we’ve chosen this wording because it encapsulates what your website should be doing: serving the people in your community and your church.
On a broad level, your church website exists to give people the information they’re seeking about your church. Your website’s visitors probably fall into two groups: current attendees and people who are checking out your church, otherwise known as new or potential visitors.
Your current attendees are hopefully plugged in and getting their information from your bulletin, emails, social media, an app, carrier pigeons, or whatever other methods your church uses to communicate, but your website is likely one of the first stops for new guests. Therefore, new guests are likely to be your church’s primary audience for your website.
It’s worth spending some time thinking about the needs of potential visitors and what you want your site to do in order to meet those needs. Communicating with your current attendees is also an important function for your site, which can be difficult when you’re making your home page visitor-friendly.
While you can usually get around this difficulty by creating clear labels and tabs, some web builders allow you to create a “members only” section to your website, which requires people to sign-in in order to be able to view sensitive information like church directories or prayer requests. If this appeals to you, be sure that the web builder you choose offers “sub-domains”, and what (if any) fees will be added for this extra functionality.
What do you hope to accomplish with your church’s website?
What are your goals for your church’s website? Are you trying to…
- See greater attendance at services each week?
- Grow your small group ministry?
- Acquire the ability to reach more people in your community?
- Make it easy for people to hear a sermon or give online?
- Develop superpowers?
With the exception of that last item (sorry to get your hopes up!), your church’s website can do all of these things- but you need to pick a platform and design based on what’s important to you. This brings us to our last question…
What do you need your church’s website to do?
Do you need to blog and post announcements? Do you want to allow people to give online and sign up for events? Are you excited by the idea of demonstrating your pastor’s preaching through videos or podcasts? How about tracking responses and plugging people into your church’s management software? Different platforms emphasize different aspects of the church website, so it’s helpful to know what you want your church’s website to look like before you start reading up on website builders. For more information on planning your church’s site, we not-so-humbly recommend our Website Course, and more specifically, the episode where we talk website goals with Chase Replogle.
Question #2: How Much Money Can You Spend?
Website builders vary drastically in price. The “cheapest” options might sound tempting, but if you can spend a little more money, you’ll often have access to more design choices, functionality and/or convenience. This brings us to question #3…
Question #3: How Much Time do you Have to Maintain & Update the Site?
Your site should not be stagnant. You’ll need to update it regularly with new information such as events, sermons, and other resources. Some website builders are easier to learn than others. So the question is, how much time do you (or your website volunteers) have to devote to learning how to update the site? Do you need to be able to catch on quickly? Do you need technical support that’s constantly available? Or do you have time to invest in learning the platform and staying up-to-date?
Question #4: How Much Expertise Do You Have at Your Disposal?
If you have a team of geeks itching to design, maintain, and update your site, your preferred platform is going to be different than if you have one person who just wants to be able to add events & sermon videos.
Question #5: What Do You Want Your Website to Look Like?
For some churches, artful web design is everything. Others are more concerned with having a site that’s accessible and easy to navigate. In any case, it’s important to know the “look” you’re going for with your website, and how dedicated and qualified you are to do the design work yourself. Some website builders are easier to tweak than others, and some are, for lack of a better word, prettier. Your church’s needs and your web team’s expertise will determine which options are most appealing to you. If you have an idea of what you’d like but have no idea how to carry it out, check out our list of website vendors! These people know what they’re doing when it comes to church websites, and they’ll work with you to design a unique site that fits your church’s needs.
Choosing a Website Builder for your Church- What You Need to Know
Now that you’ve considered your website’s purpose, as well as the resources that you can devote to it, there are two more key pieces to the puzzle: functionality and transferability. Let’s talk about what you need to know about both these options.
Functionality. This is where you compile your answers to the questions in the previous sections regarding how you want your website to look and what you need it to do. If you’re still not sure, we recommend making sure your website has the following capabilities:
Mobile-responsive. Google penalizes sites that don’t perform well on mobile devices since the majority of people are searching on their phones. So, when you’re looking at website builders, it makes sense to choose a platform that is “mobile-responsive.” Since this is so important, we’ve made sure that all of the platforms we discuss in this guide are mobile-responsive (or have mobile-responsive themes available).
Podcast/Sermon Capability. New people want to know what your sermons are like and your current attendees want to be able to catch up. When you’ve narrowed down your option list, investigate their video and audio platforms. Pay close attention to whether or not they charge for extra data storage after you’ve uploaded a number of large files.
Giving/Payment Option. Since a growing number of people are banking, purchasing, and giving online, an online tithing option is essential for your website. You can use third-party products for this, OR pick a builder that has a built-in giving platform. Please note that most payment processing systems take a percentage of the money that’s donated, so it’s worth looking into their fee structures before you decide which product your church should use.
We could go on, but in the interest of not turning this into “The Ultimate Guide to Church Giving Platforms,” we won’t. If the web builder you choose requires a third-party tithing platform, here are a few options to consider as you start your search:
Want recommendations from real-life church marketers? Check out our Facebook group!
Transferability. Transferability refers to how easy it will be to move your content from one site to another, should you desire to change website hosts or builders in the future. For most churches, this will not be an issue- after all, switching web hosts can penalize your ranking with search engines, so it’s not something you should do lightly. However, for churches who are trying to make something work until they can afford their dream website, this can cause headaches down the road. So if you think you might want to try a different builder in the future, it’s worth investigating how easy it is to transfer from your current platform to your dream platform. Other SEO Elements: Aside from mobile-friendliness, other things about the web builder you choose can affect your SEO. Here’s a few things to look for, courtesy of Tyler Rominger and Ryan Wakefield, presenters in our Search Engines Course:
- Make sure you have a site that loads quickly (under two seconds is ideal). If people have a hard time loading your site, they won’t stay to look around- which means you’ll miss out on potential witnessing opportunities and search engine traffic. Some web builders have unnecessary code that makes them load slowly.
- Make sure your site will be secure, meaning you’ll have a https:// address. For more information on this subject, see our Ultimate Guide to Church Privacy Policies (coming soon!).
- Make sure that your builder of choice helps you optimize your images, or at least allows you to do so. Bloated images will make your site load much more slowly.
General-Purpose Website Builders
The website builders discussed in this section are designed for a general audience. While using a general-purpose builder isn’t the right choice for every church, if you have a web developer working with you to build your site, they’re likely to be familiar with these platforms. And, when you’re paying for someone’s time, familiarity equals better and cheaper results. If your aren’t hiring a web developer, these companies generally make it easy to find tutorials or technical support in order to help you create a site that does what you want it to do. Please also note that the prices for these products, while accurate when we wrote this guide, are subject to change at any time.
- Functionality: Their templates give you a beautiful and fully-functional site. If, however, you find that you want something unique or that goes beyond your scope of expertise, it’s easy to find web developers who work with Squarespace.
- Cost: Most churches need the plans that start at $18/month, in order to be able to accept online donations.
If you’re not sure if Squarespace will be a good fit, they offer a free trial so you can try it before buying it.
- Ease of Use: Squarespace is a drag-and-drop website builder, which is an approachable format for novices, since it allows you to see the changes you’re making to your site as you make them. If you have problems using the builder, they have an extensive number of tutorials & guides for building your site using their platform. However, the sheer number of options and templates available can be overwhelming.
- Transferability: While transferring your site is always a painful process, Squarespace will walk you through the process of moving your content and will let you transfer content directly from WordPress, Blogger, or Tumblr.
- Functionality: Although they only have 40 themes to choose from, Weebly’s themes are clean and look good. While many reviewers complain that the builder is not super customizable, if you’re looking for a platform that is simple and requires no coding, Weebly is a great option.
- Cost: The Pro plan, which has unlimited storage (good for sermons!) and allows you to accept payments, starts at $12/month.
If you aren’t sure if Weebly is the right choice for your church, they have a free plan that you can use to start building out your site.
- Ease of Use: Weebly is considered to be extremely easy to use, especially when compared to Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress. It should be noted, however, that the ease of use is due, in part, to the fact that they offer fewer options. If the idea of building a website doesn’t appeal to you, then fewer options is a good thing- but if you or your staff & volunteers are technically inclined, Weebly might frustrate you.
- Transferability: Should you become dissatisfied with Weebly, there are lots of tutorials and articles out there detailing how to transfer your site from Weebly to WordPress or Squarespace. While transferring a site is never an easy process, Weebly does make it possible.
- Functionality: Wix is a drag-and-drop website builder and has several church-themed templates (check them out here). Wix’s code is, by design, not easy to modify. So, if your web team is full of cutting-edge & tech-savvy developers, they might find Wix’s platform to be limiting. If your web team members are afraid of breaking the site beyond repair (there’s no shame in that!), Wix’s platform might be reassuring.
- Cost: In order to upload a large number of sermons, most churches will need Wix’s “Business VIP” plan, which is priced at $49/month. However, Wix still limits the amount of storage you’re allowed on your website, so you may eventually need to upgrade or start deleting from your sermon archives.
If you’re not sure if Wix is the right builder for your church, they offer a free plan, so you can try it before you make the investment.
- Ease of Use: Drag-and-drop builders like Wix are about as easy as it gets! And, thankfully, Wix is popular enough that it’s easy to find tutorials.
- Transferability: Wix is not easily transferable. Once you publish your site, you cannot even switch themes within the builder without having to re-enter everything. However, if you plan on using Wix for the foreseeable future & know which theme you want, this isn’t an issue. Either way, it’s worth doing your research first.
WordPress.org is not a website builder- it’s an open-source software, which means that it’s free for anyone to use, copy, and modify to their heart’s delight. Free sounds great, right? However, using open-source software also means you need to be able to code in order to build a WordPress site. You’ll also need substantial technical know-how (or access to someone who knows the ins-and-outs of WordPress) to keep it updated and working properly. This is why countless church communicators recommend the Divi theme, which gives you drag-and-drop functionality and design options for a fee. Please note that Divi is a plugin for WordPress.org, which is not to be confused with WordPress.com– a blogging platform whose themes and templates are built using WordPress software.
- Functionality: Divi will help you design your web pages, texts layouts, and photos, but you’ll still need to find a website hosting service and a way to accept donations online.
- Cost: WordPress is free, and Divi itself is fairly inexpensive over the long haul- you can currently purchase lifetime access to the theme for around $250 dollars, or pay a yearly subscription fee of under $100. However, this option involves additional costs for website hosting and online giving platforms, which will vary based on what you choose for each.
- Ease of Use? Using WordPress.org requires knowledge of coding, but the Divi theme gives you the drag-and-drop experience when adding elements to your page. There are also lots of tutorials and reviews for Divi and other WordPress products available online.
- Transferability? Transferring or “Migrating” from Divi to another WordPress-based is fairly easy. Transferring to builders that don’t use WordPress software is painful.
Examples: Crossway Church Abiding Hope Church Here are 15 more examples, courtesy of Katie Allred. Church-Specific Website Builders These website builders are designed with churches in mind. The prices are steeper on many of these builders, but the pricing comes with helpful features & the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you can reach out for technical support to people who understand your church’s mission and are rooting for your success. Please also note that the prices for these products, while accurate when we wrote this guide, are subject to change at any time.
- Functionality: FaithConnector has an exhaustive list of features, many of which are uniquely church-specific, such as their free site graphics, announcement integrations, and ecards. They have 15 similar-looking templates to choose from.
- Cost: Faithconnectors’s plans start at under $20 a month, but churches with more than 100 active email addresses in their system will need their “Mega” plan, which is priced at $70/month in addition to a set-up fee. This is steeper than some of the prices in the other website builders we’ve covered, but FaithConnector is notable from the perspective that they take no cuts out of your online giving. If a large percentage of your congregation prefer to pay online, FaithConnector could quickly pay for itself.
If you’re not sure if FaithConnector is the right choice for your church, they allow you to request a demo of their product.
- Ease of Use: FaithConnector is a drag-and-drop editor, and their customer service gets great reviews.
- Transferability: Transferring to or from FaithConnector is not set up to be terribly easy, since they use their own custom CMS platform. This is on purpose, since they state on their website that FaithConnector is designed to be handed down from generation to generation of volunteers.
- Functionality: Because FaithLife sites integrates with their other church products, items such as events can be automatically updated on your website. Plus, there’s built-in stock photography and a giving platform.
- Cost: You can start your site free, then upgrade to premium service, which is $20 per month. If you want the added functionality and integrations, you’ll want to bundle it with FaithLife Equip, which is priced based a number of factors, including church size.
- Ease of use: FaithLife sites come with templates for many of the most-used pages, and unlimited blogs.
- Transferability: They offer 24-hour support (even on weekends!), which can be a lifesaver when you’re getting your site switched over. However, make sure you’re ready to make the commitment to this site before you switch off of the free plan: Because FaithLife Sites are designed to be integrated with their other products, switching away from it could be a bit of a bear.
Examples: While the examples listed in this article aren’t necessarily FaithLife sites, they show the look and feel of FaithLife templates.
- Functionality: Nucleus is designed to help people take their “next steps” with your church and its “cards” or page templates help you do exactly that. The layout is designed to work on computer screens and kiosks. It centers around creating forms, your “sermon engine,” and a clean visual look, customizable with photography taken in your church. If you like the look of their demo sites, great! If not, this isn’t the right fit for you, since Nucleus’ look is not terribly customizable. At the time of this writing, Nucleus also has no way to upload a video to the “home page” area of your site.
- Cost? The entire Nucleus package is around $100 dollars per month, and you can purchase smaller packages for cheaper prices.
If you’re not sure if Nucleus is the right product for your church, they offer a free one-month trial so you can build your website and learn the platform before paying for it.
- Ease of Use? Nucleus is unbelievably easy to use, and there’s plenty of tutorials and super-responsive customer support if you run into any snafus.
- Transferability? You can copy/paste your text to Nucleus with relative ease- or just tweak their pre-written copy! If you have your sermons and videos already on Youtube or Vimeo, you can insert them into “cards.” There’s no easy way to move video files or pages from your current site to Nucleus’ sermon engine- you’ll have to copy/paste text and reupload video and photo files if you’re planning to keep them.
We love everything that Brady Shearer and Pro Church Tools do, and they are the creators of Nucleus. So if you go this route you are in good hands. Examples: Community Christian Church Ten 10 Community Hanceville Ablaze Revival Center
- Functionality? Sharefaith’s website builder covers all your basic website needs, such as giving and podcasting. Their plan also includes up to three sub domains, so you can create a “members-only” area of your site (great for online directories!) or design sites and landing pages for specific, recurring events (like Easter).
- Cost? If you want to use Sharefaith’s website builder, you’ll have to subscribe to their “Web + Media” or “Complete” plans, ranging from around $45 to $80 per month.
If you’re not sure if Sharefaith is the right product for your church, you can request a demo of their website software.
- Ease of Use? Sharefaith’s web editor, like many (but not all) on this list, is a drag-and-drop editor. Their additional products (such as the giving platform and calendar & email integrations) make setting up and maintaining your site fairly straightforward. However, these integrated features will make transferring your site difficult, should you ever decide to leave.
- Transferability? Sharefaith will migrate your site for you, free with your subscription, so it’s easy to transfer your site to Sharefaith. However, since Sharefaith’s bundle of products play a key role in the functionality of their sites (for example, you have to use their giving platform on your site) transferring away from Sharefaith will take significant effort and could cause a few headaches. So take advantage of the demo to make sure Sharefaith is your forever website solution before you take the plunge.
- Functionality? The “Basic” package has many of the features you’d expect from a church-specific builder, such as unlimited podcast capabilities, online giving, and blogging. If your church uses Planning Center, you can integrate it into your The Church Co site. If your church upgrades to the “Premium” subscription, you get some features that are unique to the The Church Co, such as their Small Groups Engine, Members Portal, and a “Prayer Wall” where your members can post requests and let people know, in real time, that they’ve prayed for their requests.
- Cost? The Church Co is a subscription service, and their plans range in price from $20-$200 per month. There are no set-up fees.
If you’re not sure if The Church Co is the right product for your church, they offer a free trial so you can check it out before you buy.
- Ease of Use? Their blog provides tutorials on using their builder, as well as statistical insights from the church websites they manage, like this post that ranks the most-viewed pages on church websites. If your church subscribes to the “Ultimate” plan, you can send them tasks 10 times per month, and they’ll change your site for you.
- Transferability? Transferring your site to The Church Co is extremely simple, since they’ll have one of their web designers do it for you! You can also design your own site, if you’d prefer.
- Functionality? Tithely sites have many of the functions you’re looking for in a church website, from a sermon media player to events calendars and a built-in plan your visit system. They also make it super easy to connect to their online giving platform, which is a win if you use Tithely for that!
- Cost? Tithely Sites are for churches who use their digital giving service. Because of that, Tithely Sites only cost $19/month with a $149 one-time set-up fee. There is no contract, and you can cancel at any time.
If you’re not sure if Tithely is the right builder for your church, they offer a 30-day free trial so you can test the features before committing.
- Ease of Use? Tithely sites are designed to be easy to use, and they have plug-and-play templates to make the set-up process quick.
- Transferability? Because Tithely sites are integrated with their online giving platform and have built-in systems for everything from planning your visit to language translation and storage, transferring to another website provider will be difficult (that’s just a lot of information to move someplace else!) However, they allow multiple logins & have a good set of features, so if you think this is something you’ll be happy with for a long time, it could be worth making the switch.
- Functionality: Ministry designs has all of the standard features of a church website builder, plus several email tools. Plus, they’re the only platform with the official Church Marketing University website solution, which integrates all the features that we recommend in our Website, Search Engine, and Plan a Visit Courses.
- Cost: Omega is $97 per month. If you want get your website up and running quickly, the CMU and Ministry Designs team host bootcamps throughout the year (there’s a LIVE 3-day option, as well as an on-demand option!)
If you’re not sure if Omega is the right choice for your church, they allow you to schedule a demo to test out the builder before you buy. You can also try the Omega builder out during one of our bootcamps and cancel your trial before 14 weeks is up.
- Ease of Use: Omega is a drag-and-drop editor, and they have a library of training and troubleshooting videos to help you set up your site. Additionally, they have 24/7 support via their website!
- Transferability: Transferring to Ministry Designs should be relatively easy, since they have many resources at your disposal and templates that will help you make your copy and layout even better. However, because Ministry Designs is a proprietary platform, there is no straightforward way to migrate your site to another builder, should you choose to switch. This doesn’t mean you can’t fully transfer your site, just that it will take some time.
Examples & more information here. What’s So Great About Omega?
- It saves you serious time. You can spend hours working through and implementing our Website, SEO, and Plan a Visit, and Copywriting courses for your church’s site. Or, you can purchase Omega, which integrates all our best recommendations from our courses AND if you order using this form, you’ll get CMU as part of your access, in case you want to go through those courses anyway!
- It checks all the SEO boxes. We’re serious. Mobile-friendly? Check. Super-fast loading speeds? Check. Secure? Check. It allows you to optimize images? Check, check check!
- You’ll get special bonuses, like Easter and Christmas landing pages. Christmas and Easter are a big deal for your church. That’s why we love developing resources like our Ultimate Easter Kit, which help you reach even more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Omega makes it even easier for you to customize your holiday messaging, so you can link to it on Facebook Ads, invite cards, and fliers.
- It comes with help, whenever and wherever you need it. Even the most tech-savvy among us can run short on time or information, which is what is great about Omega. If you have questions about marketing or copy, a CMU coach is here to help. If you have questions about the technical side of things, the team at Ministry Designs has your back!
Need More Information?
Pros and Cons of the Top Five Website Builders– While geared toward a general audience, this article details the differences between WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly (as well as two other general-purpose website builders).
The Best Church Website Builders– This article on CMS Critic details different church-specific website builders and Church Management Software packages, ranking which ones they consider to be “best.”
Church Website Providers – A Comprehensive Comparison of Pricing and Features- Communicate Jesus took a survey of several church-specific website builders, and they’ve made the results available so you can compare the builders according to several specific criteria, like whether or not you can do custom colors or send push notifications.
19 Reasons Why You Should Not Use WordPress to Build Your Church Site– This article by Tyler Rominger brings up several points to consider before you take the plunge and use a WordPress.org- based platform for your church’s site. Worth the read if you’re thinking about using WordPress or interested in learning what Tyler’s company, Ministry Designs, has to offer.
Our Church Marketers Facebook Group- This is a great place to be if you need to ask questions, get recommendations, find resources, or just chat with people who understand what you’re going through as a church marketer! You can browse our history of discussions on Websites to see conversations about web builder recommendations, or examples of well-done church websites.
How to Make Your Church Website ADA Compliant- This article by our friends over at Ekklesia 360 covers some great tips on how to make your website easier to access for people with disabilities.
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