This is a guest post by Nathan Oulman. Read more about how you can guest post on Christian Web Trends here.
Did you know that, in 2016, a little less than half of all small businesses did not have a website? According to stats released by Duke University, that number is also on par with the number of churches that don’t have websites.
While you may be thinking that a website is unnecessary—after all, you’re trying to build a local community, not sell services nationwide—it’s an essential part of everyone’s personal brand nowadays. Individual bloggers. For-profit businesses. And even non-profit organizations like churches and ministries. Everyone can benefit from having a website.
Now, if you’re worried that a website will be too expensive or difficult to create, put those fears aside. These are very common reasons why non-profit organizations choose not to have a website, but they are often mistaken.
Thanks to companies and individuals that understand churches’ missions (and are fully aware of the constraints they face), there are a number of very affordable—and sometimes free!—resources to help you build a website quickly, under budget, and without any technical know-how. OurChurch.com is one of those resources you should start with.
Now comes the fun part. Once your super-charged, secured, and great-looking church website is up and running, you can some take time to build out the features and functionality within your website.
Since this is the part that requires your personal touch and guidance, I’d like to offer you the following guide to the free WordPress plugins every church or ministry website should be using.
9 Free WordPress Plugins Your Church Website Needs
If you’re not familiar with WordPress, that’s okay. This content management system is just as intuitive and easy to get the hang of as, say, Microsoft Office or Outlook.
Here is what WordPress looks like:
Yes, there are a lot of modules to play around with within the dashboard, but let’s minimize those dashboard notifications and focus on the plugins. Click on Plugins and then Add New.
Within this tool you will find all of the free WordPress plugins currently available. To give your church website cutting-edge functionality (without the technical know-how or high cost of a web developer), let’s focus on adding the following plugins to your site:
Churches aren’t in the habit of inviting people to join the church, and then just leave it at that. You’re hoping to build a community of believers, people who want to connect with one another and become part of something bigger than themselves. Be sure your website has a way to keep track of members (new and old), share their information, and foster a true sense of community and connection with one another.
The Connections Business Directory plugin can be used for a variety of your website’s needs. This includes publishing a directory of your staff, sharing member profiles on your site, or simply collecting all this information behind the scenes for your own records.
If your church has a prayer box or regularly asks congregants to send their prayers to those in need, this plugin would be a nice touch—especially for members who are unable to attend services, but are still in need of support, thoughts, and prayers from the community.
Develop far-reaching connections by publishing your contact information and letting people know how to reach you online, social media, and in-person.
Many people may want to reach you through a contact form (especially the younger millennial crowd). Contact forms also happen to come in handy for inviting people to subscribe to your newsletter, signing up volunteers for events, and more.
As your younger congregant base grows, you’ll need a more modern way to connect and stay in touch with this digital-savvy audience. When you’re ready to make that jump into social media, be sure to include share and follow icons on your website so they know where to find you.
Use the Google Maps Easy plugin to provide directions to your church and also give people some beautiful, high-resolution photos of your church to look at. As a bonus, when you add an address and Google map to your website, you’re also giving Google’s search engine instructions on how to direct local residents to your church.
Share sermons online—and even live—for congregants who are incapacitated or cannot otherwise make it to your services.
One of the obstacles many people face in uploading video content to a website is knowing how to do it right. Videos tend to be resource-draining (especially when longer than a few minutes in length), so having a plugin like this one is truly indispensable.
Publish an events calendar, share information on upcoming charitable work, and invite the community to get involved.
Looking to raise funds for your church, community, a member in need, or some other charitable organization? Use this plugin to complement your in-person charitable work and request donations online.
Does your church host local events within the community or to raise money for congregants? Use this plugin to publicize those events and keep a running calendar so those interested in attending can get all the details and stay in touch.
For members of your congregation that want to go above and beyond donating their money, give them an easy way to volunteer their time too. This plugin enables organizations of all kinds to create and manage sign-up sheets for upcoming events—and also helps you get to know your members a little better, too.
The above plugins—and their associated functionality—are just the start of what you can achieve with your church website. As your membership base grows and you discover new opportunities to expand your reach and spread the word of God through your website, investigate some more of the WordPress plugin possibilities. You may be surprised by what you can achieve.