You can do it; this tutorial is a practical lesson on how to create and build a professionally looking website for churches and religious bodies or organizations using WordPress.
It is a well detailed tutorial of 4300 word count and believe me, it won’t take you more than 30 minutes to learn how to handle and do everything all by yourself.
The solution is in the use of WordPress, Let us get started.
Draw out a plan for the church website – know what they want and purpose
Planning is everything, you need to know the needs and the basic concept of what is needed on the site.
Your first task as a designer for the church website design should be all about relevant questions, examples of such plan and questions include:
- Is the photograph of the overseer, pastor, bishop, founder going to be on the FrontPage design (I.e. Homepage?)
- Are you going to upload videos of sermon or church events on the FrontPage also?
- In essence, is it going to be a simple design e.g. one page or having lots of pages
- Will you be uploading pictures/photographs of the church building, departments and extensions etc.; are you going to upload the choir pictures.
- Once you know all these facts (those are the ones I remember as at the time of writing and publishing this tutorial).
Once these questions are answered, you need to start getting and putting together relevant pictures/photographs, videos, sermons etc. that will be uploaded.
Get the right design – WordPress themes
In this modern times, technology has evolved and it is still evolving; my point of argument is this, you do not have to stress yourself writing programming codes , java languages etc in order to build a website design.
It is now easier than before, the answer is in the use of WordPress software’s and its accompanying tools.
WordPress is the world’s leading open source software for building website and it is powered by more than 1000 people from all over the world, contributing unique and daily updated codes to make it better, secure and affordable.
To build a church website using WordPress, I recommend you get a mobile responsive WordPress themes from reputable companies. Examples of these themes are shown below:
One important aspect that lots of designers have problem dealing with is making a website to be mobile responsive. This technical language means the ability to view a site perfectly on any viewing device without straining your eyes or scrolling up and down. It’s the ability to view a site on any mobile device and it shows with clarity and adjusts to the dimension of such a device without having to move the screen left, right or up and down.
The present day 21st century design must have this feature and all the WordPress themes I am recommending are all mobile responsive.
It makes it easy for church members, visitors etc. to access the site on their mobile phones, communicate and even do important functions on the church website directly.
These templates (WordPress themes) cost typically USD40-USD120; once you make the purchase, download the ZIP files on your computer. It is this ZIP file that we are going to upload and install on your WordPress powered website.
Let us continue:
Now, that you have a WordPress theme to use as your design template; the next step is to get the domain name and hosting for the site, and from here, the template will be uploaded and activated.
The first task is the domain name acquisition and registration;
A domain name is the name of the site, it is the name you will type on the browser on the PC or from the browser of any mobile device and be able to view the church site.
Examples of domain names are:
- google.co.za etc.
However, it is advisable to use the name of the church as the domain name because the brand is already there and it is a good thing to leverage on this and carry the brand awareness online.
For example, if the church or ministry name is ‘Glory Empowerment Christian Church’ GECC (acronym), you can come up with a domain name like gecc.com or gloryempowerment.com or glorychristianchurch.com etc.
However, the task before you is that all these names are suggestions, you will need to check and find out if the names are available on the web.
To do that, I recommend you make use of the bluehost domain name checker form below:
If you get a name that is available, I recommend you register it immediately in the name of the church or your name or name of the pastor (founder or general overseer).
By default, the name you use to register a domain name is seen automatically as the owner of the website, so you need to be careful and cautious on this.
Get Web hosting for the domain name
All the contents you have gathered together i.e. pictures, videos, sermons, articles etc that will be present on the site can only be possible by an act called web hosting.
Web hosting is simply buying a space on a web server to configure your domain name and on which you will be able to upload your contents.
Since the project is for a church, I recommend you host the site with Bluehost web hosting company because it is economically friendly, secured, highly recommended by experts and it is what I am using on this site ( and my clients also).
The process of webhosting and domain name registration is being done at the same time because the hosting options will be presented to you.
- The prime plan because you get domain privacy and sitebackup pro
- Or you can chose the basic plan (but go for 3 years, that is when you will get the package for USD3.5 per month)
- Select the sitelock security ( very important)
- Provide your payment details and make payment
- Once payment is successful, you will get notification in your email address and how to activate your account
However, this is the best deal for you, if you decide to host the domain name with bluehost, the domain name will not be charged to you again (it becomes free, and you are able to save extra fund of about USD18).
Once the hosting becomes successful, then we are going to the real issue one step after the other.
Install and configure the WordPress software
I earlier mentioned that the solution to our quest is in WordPress because WordPress is an open source software and it powers more than 80% of the entire blogs/websites globally at the moment.
This is not surprising because with WordPress, everything is so easy and even an ordinary fellow can build a site from scratch.
Now, after the hosting, Bluehost automatically takes full control and everything runs in the background for you.
The following steps are required to be done (follow the images below)
- A password for the new account is important- you will asked to create a secure password
- Skip the next step on theme (template) selection because those ones are not build for a church or religious organization. You already have the templates you bought, we will be making use of that.
- Click on WordPress (the logo and start the overall process)
- A church site is regarded as a business entity, so select business option, chose launch and proceed.
- The installation is now complete because you will be brought to your WordPress dashboard.
Please note down the following:
- Name and URL address of the site: www.nameofsite.com
- WordPress Login address: nameofsite.com/wp-admin/ (do not forget this format because this is what you will be using to access your site and carry out any task e.g. maintenance, publishing contents etc.). Your username for your WordPress login is your email address and sometimes it is just the word ‘admin’, whereas your password will be created by you during the WordPress software installation. Do not forget these two information, they are important. To access your site, just open the browser and type the above login address, then the image below will be displayed to you.
- Bluehost Login address: Your bluehost login address is different from your WordPress login address. Whenever you want to check your hosting details or probably wants to contact Bluehost that is when you will make use of the login. The username for your bluehost account is your domain name i.e. yournameofsite.com (for example) and your password is the password you created during the hosting process.
Please, the above information are very much important, write them down somewhere and keep it safe!!
Complete the website design – Practical set up instructions
For the practical purpose of this tutorial, he following important component areas that makes up a site will be discussed and elaborately explained.
- WordPress themes ( Templates) Upload
- Header and Footer settings ( Including Logo)
- Menu Settings
- FrontPage set up and editing
- Pages, category set up and creation
- How to upload videos and music
- WordPress plugins installation and configuration
- Widget Settings
WordPress themes (Templates) Upload
For the church design, I hope you have made the purchase of the perfect WordPress themes for this purpose (just like the sample above).
If not, check the following companies and get the perfect premium themes;
We are going to upload the ZIP file (I hope you have downloaded it on your computer); to do that, follow the instructions below:
- Login to your WordPress dashboard using: nameofsite.com/wp-admin/, login using your username and password. And if you are already logged in, just proceed.
- By the left hand side of the page, locate ‘Appearance, and under appearance, locate themes, from themes, click on ‘Add new themes.
- On the themes page, you will see the upload box, click on it and upload the ZIP file (you will look for where it is on your PC or laptop).
- Upload it and click on activate.
If it is taking longer time (more than 10 minutes), retry it again and if same problem happens; the solution is this:
- It is probably that the ZIP file contains more than the installable WordPress file, in such a case, you will need to UNZIP the file, locate the ‘Only WordPress file’ and move it out ( e.g. to your desktop)
- Go back to the upload process and try to upload this file that you have dropped on the desktop.
With this, the upload process will work out, just activate and you will see the new changes on your new site by refreshing the homepage.
However, to a more robust solution:
The quickest way to actually set up a WordPress site is to upload the demo; uploading the demo of the purchased templates makes your new church website design to look exactly like it.
To upload the demo, follow this instructions:
- Go to your ZIP file (probably you downloaded it inside your download page or desktop), unzip it, locate any file ending with .XML; this is the demo file that we need and what we need to do is to upload it.
- Make sure you have uploaded the purchased themes already (carry out the above instructions first)
- Go to your dashboard, locate tools and under tools, click on ‘import’; this will take you to the import page
- Install the Import plugin (forget about any warning you receive during the installation, it is just a temporal measure).
- Activate the plugin and the plugin will ask for the source of what you want to import, direct it to the demo file i.e. .XML
- Give all attributes to the admin, and within 5 minutes, all the demo will be imported to your site
- Go to your homepage, refresh it and the new design will look exactly like the demo (though some pictures may be missing, you will have to upload this manually, I will explain later as you read on).
After uploading and activating the themes, then the following steps be done.
Header and Footer settings (Including Logo)
Now, for the image above (the template I am using for this practical exercise, the image below is the definition of what a header and a footer is:
The header is an important element and you have to fix everything that needs to be fixed. Now, on your dashboard, most themes will have the instructions on how you can edit or change the header.
However, if it is not there, you can edit the header from the widget settings, including the logo. For the logo aspect, you need to know the size and dimension so that by the time you are uploading your own logo, it will fit perfectly in the space provided.
To be honest, you just have to be observant to all the details and you will be amazed at how you can get everything up and running.
- Look at your dashboard very well, most themes have details on steps to take
- Also check the widget settings; the header, footer and logo settings are sometimes present in the widget (tutorial on widget is further below).
However, the most important element of the header is the menu and it is the next factor we are going to discuss.
The Menu serves as the navigation; from the navigation, a visitor should be able to know virtually everything about the church website in question.
This is the menu (image shown below)
Now, the menu is made up of important pages and links on your site. It is mandatory that when crafting out your menu, do it with conversions in mind. Don’t put useless pages on the menu; examples of recommended pages are:
- Our Facilities
- Sermons ( Videos)
- Meetings / Program for the year etc.
That is why I said earlier that you should have a clear picture of what the church needs on their site; As a matter of fact, I think it is important you print out the colored copy of the template and show them the type of design you want to make for them to approve before you start with the design concept.
The menus is made up of the primary and secondary menu; the primary menu is mostly the menu just below the header.
FrontPage set up and editing
If you uploaded the demo from the themes, what you will have is that your site will look exactly like the template you bought.
However, few changes may be noticed and essentially it is the pictures or images. In some cases, the import plugin may not import the pictures from the demo.xml and in such a case, you will need to save those images manually and then upload them. I mean you go to the demo of the original template, right click and save the images etc. How you will upload pictures is discussed further below.
All these discussions are part of what you need to know if you want to edit and adjust the FrontPage settings. However, no matter the situation, the FrontPage can always be edited from the:
- Widgets settings and also
- from the dashboard and in some cases the FrontPage directly ( you will click on the edit icon to use this feature).
On the dashboard, depending on the template you bought, the full instructions on how to edit the FrontPage will be displayed for you to see. How to use the widget settings is explained further below.
Step 6 (5)
Pages, category set up and creation
Virtually everything you need to do and publish will be done using pages, except if you want to write and publish news on the church activities, share updates and probably you may want to blog alongside it.
Because the church is a non-profit organization, the following are important pages you MUST create and publish:
- About i.e the Church
- About the General Overseer / Pastor / Founder
- Terms of service
The above pages are important to publish and you must do that now; but observe and check if some of these pages have already being published (if you made use of the demo). If they have been published, you just need to edit and make one or two changes to your own version.
But generally, the following steps are required to create a page:
- From the dashboard, you will see the icon for page, move your mouse over it and click on ‘Add new page’
- On the page, give it a title (e.g. About the Church or About the Ministry), write one or two things in the box provided for contents. Upload pictures and videos (if available), use a good image as your featured image; after this, you click publish.
Watch this video on how to create a page in WordPress
This is a church website, and as such, you may not create any category or you may just create one or two categories e.g. news, sermons
The essence of the category is that any posts (not pages) you want to publish e.g. on news or sermons falls under a particular category.
WordPress is originally built as a powerful content management system and as such, everything is systematically arranged.
So, for any news about the church, events etc., you will publish them under the category ‘News’; and also for any sermons to be uploaded and publish, you do so under the category ‘Sermons;
These two categories should be part of the primary menus that will be under the header!!
To create a category, follow this step:
- On the left hand side of the dashboard, you will see the name ‘category’; click on it and you will be taken to the category page.
- On that page, start creating your categories e.g. news one by one and publish them. It is as simple as a, b, c.
Step 6 (6)
How to upload videos and music
With WordPress, activities such as uploading of pictures and videos becomes easier, most especially with themes/templates that are retina ready.
The themes I recommended that you should buy are both mobile responsive and are retina ready, being retina ready means you are well able to upload pictures with ease and the uploaded pictures comes out sharp, glossy and non-pixelated. The same concept applies to videos likewise.
To upload a video, there are two ways:
- Either you upload directly on the page or post you want it
- You upload it to the media section
Follow the steps below to upload a video;
- From your dashboard, locate ‘media’; it is by the left hand side of the dashboard
- On the media board, you will see the box to upload, click on upload, locate the source of your video and upload it.
- Within 2-4 minutes, the video will be uploaded
However, if are presently on a page (maybe you are about to edit or publish) or post, you can upload a video in the following way:
- From the page or post, just look above it, you will see the tools needed to fine-tune or edit the contents, check and you will see the icon to upload a video
- Click on it and you will be taken to the media section
- If you have already uploaded the video, it will be in the media section, just import it from there
- But if not, ignore the media section and click on upload, locate the source of the video and upload it.
Steps uploading a video
The same protocol and steps is also applicable to a picture or image.
Step 6 (7)
Do not worry so much about the permalinks structure; however, I will advise you that you implement the following changes.
- Go to your permalinks settings, it can be seen under ‘settings’, click on it and you will see permalinks link. Click on the link and you will be taken to the settings page.
- On that page, change the default settings to either date based permalinks or name based permalinks URL structure.
The image below will guide you perfectly.
Step 6 (8)
WordPress plugins installation and configuration
Your new site is like a new born baby, you need to fortify it and give it all necessary support for it to be able to stand perfectly well and also be able to do what you intend for it to do.
WordPress plugins make this possible!!
WordPress plugins powers WordPress software; without learning or writing a single line of code for anything you want on your site, you just make use of these plugins.
The following are important plugins you must install and activate on your site immediately.
- Yoast SEO plugin : The most essential tool for SEO task; very important also to create your sitemap for Google indexation.
- W3 Total Cache: For speed, great loading speed.
- Akismet: For security
- Jetpack plugin:; Very important, you will open a free wordpress.com account and link it together. Very good to know daily statistics of visitors and also to make contact page form.
- Sumo plugin:: For social media sharing buttons and follow link.
- Real time (online) chat plugin: You will be able to chat with visitors in real time.
- Easy digital downloadable plugin : Probably the church wants to sell eCopies of books, hard copies also, sermons, messages etc.; this plugin makes it possible.
Step 6 (8)
The widget is the bank that houses all settings components of any WordPress powered website or blog. The widget is a powerful location that matters to the overall building and designing concept of a site.
When building a church website using WordPress, you are going to be making use of the WordPress to add components, remove elements, edit and configure everything.
The image below is the overview of the widget settings;
The widget can be found just in the appearance link at the left hand side of the dashboard; with the widget, you can carry out some functions like:
- Adjusting and editing the header and footer, including the logo settings
- Adjusting the sidebars of the site, adding more elements to it etc.
- Depending on the themes you bought, with the widgets, you can edit the homepage i.e. FrontPage etc.
If there is any help or support you need, do reach out to me, I will be glad to be of help.
All the above guidelines are for the installation and configuration of the entire site, the next step for us now is on how you can start getting traffic and visitors to the site.
Our first port of call is getting on Google’s radar!!
Get listed on search engines
Google is the world’s biggest search engine and it is important you get on their index, the process of getting on Google is called Google indexing.
The first step to take is:
Open a free account on Google search console; the process on how to get this done is explained further below:
- Get a new Gmail account and get it active
- Go to Google search console at www.google.com/console
- Sign into it using the Gmail account and follow the onscreen instructions
- Get your website verified, (to learn how to verify your site in Google console.
- After verifying your site, the following task should be done as soon as possible ( make sure you install the Yoast SEO plugin)
- Submission of sitemap
- Using the fetch as features
- To create a sitemap, go the Yoast plugin you installed, click on it (in most cases, it is displayed at the left hand side of the dashboard).
- Locate the sitemap feature and activate it, your sitemap will be created.
- Take this sitemap and submit it to the sitemap section of the console.
To have a first hand information about SEO ( search engine optimization) for your site, I encourage you to install the Yoast SEO plugin
Getting on social media e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+
Once the site is up and running, you will need to open an account with Facebook and other major social networking websites and get active.
I hope these guideline is relevant enough to help you in your quest in knowing how to build a church website using WordPress. If you need help or assistance, kindly reach out to me.