3 Smaller Church Websites We Can All Learn From

The internet has leveled the playing field in many ways. Even small churches on small budgets can access services that make them look good.

April 7th, 2017

Do you know what I love about the internet more than anything else? It’s a meritocracy. You don’t need to spend $10,000 building a mobile app to reach people on their phones — you can just use Facebook for free. You don’t need to spend $5,000 building a website to act as your homebase online — you can use Squarespace and spend just $10/month.

It comes down to your abilities and hard work — not your church’s bank account.

And this is amazing news for smaller churches! A great digital presence isn’t dependent on your church’s cashflow. Tools exist today allowing you to excel on digital media without a building-fund-sized budget.

Need proof?

Below you’ll find 3 different church websites from smaller-sized churches. One of the churches is around 100 people, while the other two are around 500.

Perhaps more important than the size of the church, though, is the amount spent on their websites and the platforms they used to build them.

Any church can do this. Any size. With any budget.

1. Engage City Church

Church Size: 60 when website first launched; now at 150
Website Budget: $18/month
Platform: Squarespace (Alex Theme)

http://www.engagechurch.ca/

Engage City Church is a four-year-old startup in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada.

The first thing you’ll notice on this website is stunning photography site-wide. And when I’m evaluating a church’s website, this is always the first thing I look for. Why? Because in an instant, photos give me an accurate depiction of what your church is like.

Remember that old rule on the web? You only have 10 seconds to make a good first impression on a visitor before they leave? Nothing does a better job of keeping people on your site than great photos.

What type of photos do you need? Here’s a short list (ranked from most important to least important):

  1. Smiling photos of people in your church
  2. Moments of worship in your auditorium
  3. Building shots (what does your church look like from the outside?)
  4. Your pastor preaching

Engage’s website is clearly targeted at new visitors, which is always the recommendation that I give to churches.

Moreover, everything I could possible want to know about this church is available on the homepage — yet it doesn’t feel cluttered. Here’s a list of valuable info that is accessible from the homepage:

  • What to expect when I attend Engage for the first time
  • Listen to a message from the pastor
  • Service times
  • Phone number
  • Address (with accompanying map)
  • Origin story
  • Call-to-action (CTA) ‘What It’s Like’
  • CTA ‘Who We Are’
  • CTA ‘What We Believe’

Finally, perhaps what stands out to me the most about Engage’s online presence, is that they dedicate an entire section of the homepage to Jesus. Shockingly, most churches don’t do this.

Not only this, but an entire page on the website is dedicated to Jesus. You can see it by clicking here. If your church doesn’t already have a page like this, I highly recommend adding one to your site.

2. River City Church

Church Size: 450 weekly attendance (including children)
Website Budget: $20/month
Platform: Squarespace

http://rivercitychurch.com/

The first thing I want to point out on River City Church’s website, is again, the stunning photos. One of the best investments your church can make is to twice-per-year hire a professional photographer to come in and shoot a couple hundred shots of your Sunday experiences.

Truthfully, many churches have competent photographers within their Sunday attendance already — in which case it doesn’t even need to be an expense.

The main headline on this website is a winner. Instead of River City Church talking about themselves and how great they are, they’re issuing an invitation: Come As Your Are. They follow this up with a brilliant CTA ‘Plan A Visit.’

Click on that link and you’ll see another great picture with an address, service time, and a map. You’ll get a little vision from their pastor and some additional CTAs to ‘Kids,’ ‘Next Steps,’ and ‘Who We Are.’

My favorite page on this website? The Connect page. Check it out at by clicking here.

The navigation on River City’s site is understated and minimal, but their footer always gives you access to everything you could possibly be looking for without feeling cluttered. Here’s all the information you can find in River City’s site-wide footer:

  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Service times
  • Social media links
  • Email newsletter subscription box
  • Site navigation menu
  • Scroll-to-top button

3. Church at Red River

Church Size: 500
Website Budget: $216
Platform: Squarespace (Bedford Theme)

http://churchatredriver.com/

Church At Red River takes advantage of a video background, rather than photos. And I’m a big fan of that. I don’t have a preference when it comes to video vs. photos on your church’s site, so go with whichever makes sense for you.

Another thing Church at Red River does a great job with is their monochromatic color scheme. The word ‘red’ is in their church’s name and so it only makes sense to use that as the main color site-wide. Nicely done.

Like the other two sites highlighted in this article, Church at Red River’s site messaging is targeted toward new visitors. Here’s a list of info you’ll find just on their homepage:

  • CTA to ‘Find Out More’
  • Service times
  • Address (with accompanying map)
  • Listen to messages
  • Email subscribe box
  • Phone number

By clicking on the ‘Find Out More’ button, you’ll go even deeper and be presented with the following information:

  • What We Believe
  • Pastors & Staff
  • Origin story
  • Contact information

All of this information is very easy to find and it’s all targeted at potential new visitors. This is the type of site that answers any and all questions a potential new visitor has and removes any barrier from checking out a service in person.

Conclusion

You don’t need a big budget to build a brilliant church website. The internet is a meritocracy. Tools like Squarespace help make it so.

Your church’s website will come down to your own ability, knowledge, and hard work. Use these church websites as shining examples of what you can build with very little money.

Of course, while these websites do a great job of reaching potential new visitors. What about your existing congregation?

That’s what Nucleus is for. Nucleus is the all-in-one central hub for your church. Every next step for your existing congregation housed in a single online platform. Built mobile-first, accessible 24/7.

Nucleus launches April 25th, 2017 (we’re so close now!). To get on the launch list and receive an exclusive discount when we open Nucleus for charter members, click here.

  • Lynette P

    This, like many other articles, is great! I personally like this one because we have a small church as well (actually less than the ones listed in this article). I am in the media ministry and I just built up a new site for our church and still updating as we speak, so it was nice to see these other smaller churches and to gain tips and ideas. Our church website is http://www.kingdomharvestva.com. I am praying that God will continue to birth creative ideas to everyone! Again, thank you for this article.

    • Way to go, Lynette! Love the gradients on the site!

      • Lynette P

        Thank you! I read about it in one of your articles 🙂

    • Chris

      Great site!

      • Lynette P

        thanks means a lot! (I have like no experience)

  • Bob Castelline

    Our site is up and running now, as well (www.2thecrossroads.com). I used the principles in the 11-step blueprint to rebuild our site, along with fundamentals I learned in 9 years working for Meredith Corporation, one of the world’s leaders in direct marketing. It’s amazing how important word choice is. For example, the Church at Red River uses the words “Find out more” in its call to action. That’s good stuff. Many organizations tend to use words like “Learn more,” which is not as effective because for many of us, “learn” sounds a lot like “work.” That reduces response. Little changes like that can go a long way for our websites. The most important things I’ve learned from the 11-step blueprint are that 1) a website should be geared toward people we’ve never met, and 2) our headline should be the ONE THING we want them to know, written as if it’s the ONLY thing we’re allowed to say. That has made a HUGE difference in how we approach everything on our website. Good stuff, Brady Shearer!

    • Duuuuuude, your site is fire! Amazing, amazing, stuff. How big is your church and how much did you spend on the site? Obviously built with Squarespace, what theme?

      • Bob Castelline

        Our church averaged about 210 in worship a year ago, and it had been at that level for nearly 4 years, despite the fact that we’re in a suburb that is growing rapidly. As the Director of Discipleship and Outreach, I felt it was my responsibility to find a way to kick-start us.
        After I had found your site and done a TON of coursework with your stuff — along with a bunch of stuff on Lynda.com for using SLR for video, using After Effects, using Premiere, even Google Analytics — I told our pastor that I was going to do three things.
        1. Improve our website
        2. Remodel our worship space
        3. Make quality videos (including video announcements)

        Of course, I explained WHY I was going to do these things. Good communication was the missing ingredient that was causing our stagnation.
        My pastor loved the proposals, as did our board, so they set me loose.
        Meanwhile, he made a proclamation from the pulpit shortly after the first of the year — he declared to the congregation that his vision is that we would DOUBLE IN SIZE IN 5 YEARS. Not because we want to be a megachurch. Not because we want to pat ourselves on the back. But because we want to “empty hell and fill heaven.”
        All I can say is … it’s not going to take 5 years. It was EXACTLY what our people needed to hear.
        Every Sunday since the reveal of our renovated worship space (you may remember the picture on Facebook from a couple of weeks ago), we’ve exceeded 300 in worship, with as many as 340. That’s nearly a 50% increase! Giving is WAY up. We’re already got a team working on the feasibility of facility expansion. Our room is fire-code rated for 430, but we don’t have nearly enough parking or potties for that many. We’ve got to do something!
        Here’s the cool part, as it relates to the website. We have always been a church that is alive in the community — doing a lot of outreach stuff, helping the poor, etc. BUT NOBODY KNEW ABOUT IT. Thanks to everything I’ve learned from (mostly) you, people are finding out about us. They see what we’re doing, and they love it. We’re getting emails of thanks from people in the community we’ve never met. Our members are connecting with Facebook and sharing like mad. It’s amazing!
        The most important concept for us on the website was your idea of “what if you only had one sentence?” I asked my pastor to tell me, “What’s the ONE THING you want people to know about Crossroads Church?” I told him not to give me our mission statement. Not a tagline. A real, no-kidding explanation of who we are. I got this from your branding podcast — a brand is your story. “What’s our story?” I asked him.
        He came up with a story that would eventually become the landing page when you click “Find out why.” He’s a pretty rough writer, so I tuned it up. Our story is that NONE of us are “good enough” on our own. We’re all sick, wounded sinners. But thanks to the blood of Christ, we ARE good enough. That message resonates with people. They know we’re not “shiny objects on a museum shelf, never to be touched by the grimy hands of the not-good-enough.” We’re sinners, just like you. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH!
        We’re using the Hayden template in Squarespace. Our cost is $18.50 a month. And I’m just getting started. I’ve got so much planned, both for this and social media (thanks again to your 71 ideas).
        Sorry to go on and on. I remember when I first found you on Facebook. I clicked on your free stuff, and I thought you might be a scam. Boy was I wrong! The only thing keeping me from many several hours a day on PCA is that I’m so busy handling what’s happening here.
        Have a great day!

        Bob

        • Bob, I just wanna reach through this computer and give you a big giant hug. Thanks for sharing all of this. Just amazing stuff.

          • Bob Castelline

            Thanks Brady. It’s been quite a 3-month ride. That’s all it has taken so far. Three months.

        • Dawud Hurshine

          Pls I need this exact clue for our worship centre

          Please can I count you for this
          [email protected] com
          Thanks

          • Bob Castelline

            Hi Dawud. Not sure what you’re asking me for. Could you please elaborate? I’m happy to help any way I can … just need to know what you need. Thanks!

      • Chris

        Brady, I, too, really like their website – and their philosophy of ministry! I’m starting a church in Colorado and started out with a simple, budget-friendly website ($10/mth), but would eventually like to upgrade to squarespace (my fav!). I was wondering, what are the 3-5 best things you like about their website – aesthetically and content-wise?

        • 1. Messaging is entirely focused on the new visitor – no conflict in their messaging.
          2. Call-to-action is clear.
          3. Messaging answers questions that a new visitor would be asking.

          • Chris

            Super – thanks! That ties in with what you’ve been saying about frontline web for seekers/visitors and a separate portal for members/participants – so, looking forward to targeting the former with website and the latter with Nucleus!

          • You know it, Chris! That’s exactly it!

    • Bob Bekkerus

      Bob, this is old but I ran across it today. I’ve searched all over for the 11 Step Blueprint but can’t seem to find it, and now I’m in a new ministry rebuilding a site! Do you (or Brady) have the link?

  • Eric Thompson

    Good article except 500 is not consider a small church according to the stats of church size in America. Glad the one under 100 is included.

    • Eric, you’re absolutely right on that. But the first church on this list was 60 people when they launched their site – 150 now. And every church on this list used the same platform and paid the same amount. So practically, the point stands.

      The budget and platform used in every one of these sites should be accessible to every church.

  • Evan Stewart

    Thanks for the article. I love the idea of using photos of the church. I want to incorporate that on my site. I use WordPress’ Premium package for a little over $99/year (8.25/month). My church is under 200 regular attendees. This package is lower cost than the examples of SquareSpace. I haven’t used SquareSpace before, but WordPress is simple to use and setup (a lot easier to manage than building and managing my own site like I used to do).

    • WordPress is great too, Evan! Pro Church Tools runs on WordPress.

  • jacob

    Hi Brady, Do you know of any website template sites that charge a one-off fee rather than a contract? I hope to try and persuade the elders at my church to invest in a new website and want to have an idea of all the options! This is our current website – http://www.cornerstonehytheurc.org.uk/ – and in all honesty, I think it’s awful, despite only being a few years old! Thanks!

    • Jacob, you can definitely find an agency or website builder that charges a larger up front cost and smaller monthly payments. But monthly payments are usually a necessity because of recurring hosting costs. It costs money to host your Internet online (not much – sometimes as low as ~$10/month), but that’s why the monthly cost exists.

    • You can also find designers that will build you a website on the host of your choice and then hand you the keys. You will have some that don’t require you to buy your own licenses for the software they use, but that’s rare. I know the ‘cost’ is a factor from month to month, but in general it’s always worth it for the right support/know-how/ability on top of hosting charges.

    • Crystal

      This is my area of work. I agree your site now is bland and seems like it lacks branding focus but that is an easy fix with a good designer. WordPress is a great platform to do what you are wanting from. I suggest then using Divi or X theme as each are a one and done kind of payment. You can buy on themeforest.com. The only ongoing fee you then have is the hosting. Both have easy to use front end or visual type builders if the backend is not your thing and video tutorials. WordPress does have a learning curve, but it is worth it long term. (full discolsure I like X theme best but I learned it first so that may be why) You can also hire someone to build it and then just train you how to make minor edits and updates to help keep costs down.

  • Evan Gruver

    Can anyone give me some feedback on my church’s site? I’ve done the best I can with little to no knowledge of what i’m actually doing. haha http://www.nbccgreenville.com

    • Timothy Brown

      Clean up your footer, develop a color palette and blend colors closer instead of just having blocks, remove about 40 percent of your text (you want people to ask at least some questions) and you don’t want to overload people at once. Less is more.
      I develop sites like this protectthegospel.com Feel free to get ahold of me at [email protected] if you have any questions or would like any help 🙂