So, you have finally decided to bite the bullet and build a Parish website!  Or perhaps it is more like a grudging realisation that there is no use trying anymore to tweak the 20-year monster that used to be a pretty neat website; until it got too hard to manage, the only lady who understood it moved away and it has sat gathering electronic cobwebs and happily spreading dis-information to the few people who happen across it when they have a search go wrong.  Either way, Congratulations!

First Steps

Contrary to popular practice, the first thing to do is not to run out and throw something together, (or even worse, run out and pay someone to throw something together!)  A parish website is usually a long-term, strategic communication tool (or at least, it should be if it is to create more value than it costs.  There are some cases when a website does not need to be a long-term investment, such as a website for an event or conference, but even so, they still need to create more value than they cost.) 

The first thing to realise is that value is not the same as money.  Value can be created several ways and not all of them can be neatly evaluated with a $ amount.  It doesn’t matter if your objective is building community, reaching people outside of your immediate church community, improving communications, mitigating administrative overhead or all of the above.  If you don’t have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve, then it will be difficult to achieve it.  One of my first Website articles for Touchstone explores this concept in more detail.  (Parish Websites: What, Why and Wherefore, Feb-2018).

Practical Considerations

Web Hosting

Web hosting refers to the how you get a computer to make your website available to other computers on the internet.  In the “old days”, this was potentially as simple as loading the right software on an old computer, connecting it to your network and throwing it all under the desk until something went wrong.  While in principle this could still happen, it is not recommended as the required software a bit geeky, and the consequences of getting it wrong include the potential for major security breaches.  Much better to rent a computer with the software already setup, sitting in an optimally air-conditioned datacentre with massive internet connectivity, all ready to make your website do its thing well.

The key things to look for with a web host service are;

  • Location: the physical location of the server should be close to where you expect your audience will be.  If your webserver is in the UK and your audience in NZ, it will take longer for the information to flow back and forth between the two locations.  There is also more opportunity for something to go wrong.
  • CMS Platform Compatibility: Ensure that the web hosting service supports the content management system (CMS) platform you plan to use for building your church website.  (See next section).
  • Reliability and Uptime: Choose a web host known for its reliability and uptime. Your church website should be accessible to visitors at all times without experiencing frequent downtime. Look for a web host with a track record of high uptime percentages, ideally 99.9% or above.
  • Scalability: Consider the scalability of the web hosting service. As your church website grows in traffic and content, you may need additional resources such as bandwidth and storage. Ensure that the web host offers scalable hosting plans or options to upgrade seamlessly as your needs evolve.
  • Security Features: Prioritize the security features provided by the web hosting service. Security is crucial for protecting sensitive information and maintaining the integrity of your church website. Look for features such as SSL certificates, regular backups, malware scanning, and firewall protection, but ensure you only pay the level of security appropriate for your requirements – not all of us are banks!
  • Customer Support: Evaluate the quality of customer support offered by the web hosting provider. Responsive and knowledgeable customer support can be invaluable when troubleshooting issues or seeking assistance with website management.
  • Cost and Value: Consider the cost of the web hosting service relative to the features and resources provided. While affordability is important, prioritize value over price alone. Invest in a hosting plan that meets your church website’s needs and offers sufficient resources for growth without compromising on quality or security.
  • User-Friendly Control Panel: Choose a web host with a user-friendly control panel interface. A intuitive control panel makes it easier to manage your website, configure settings, and perform routine tasks such as installing updates and managing email accounts.

CMS Platform

A content management system (CMS) platform is essential for building and managing your church website. Popular CMS platforms include WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. WordPress, in particular, is user-friendly and offers a wide range of plugins and themes tailored for church websites.  The CMS for the Methodist Church of NZ parish websites is Silverstripe.  If you don’t have any idea about this, write out your requirements and get advice from an independent advisor.


Consider the structure and organization of your website. What pages will you need? Common pages for church websites include Home, About Us, Ministries, Events, Sermons, Contact Us, and Donate. Think about how you want to arrange these pages and what content will go on each page.  Also think about the hosting and security requirement required by each part of the website – obviously, a Donate page will require a site with more security than one with no money functions.

Design and Theme

Choose a design and theme that reflects the identity and values of your church. Look for themes specifically designed for churches, which often include features like event calendars, sermon archives, and donation integrations. Ensure the theme is mobile-responsive, meaning it looks good and functions well on smartphones and tablets.

Content Creation

Invest time and effort into creating compelling and informative content for your website. This includes writing clear and engaging copy, selecting high-quality images, and creating multimedia content such as videos and podcasts. Your content should reflect the mission and values of your church while also providing valuable information to visitors.  Think about how you will continue this effort into the future, both from the aspect of keeping content accurate as well as from a strategy to promote engagement by publishing new content regularly, if that is part of your requirements.

SEO Optimization

Optimize your website content for search engines to improve its visibility and reach online. (SEO = Search Engine Optimisation).  Use relevant keywords related to your church and community throughout your website content. Include meta tags, titles, and descriptions that accurately describe your pages. Consider creating a blog section to regularly publish relevant and engaging content that can attract organic traffic.

Training and Support

Ensure that members of your church team are trained to manage and update the website regularly. Many CMS platforms offer tutorials and support resources to help users navigate and utilize their features effectively. Consider enrolling in training courses or hiring a web developer to provide guidance and support as needed.

Launch and Promotion

Once your website is ready, launch it with a bang!  Announce the launch to your congregation and community through social media, email newsletters, and church announcements. Encourage members to explore the website and provide feedback for improvements. Continue to promote your website through regular updates, events, and engaging content.

The Methodist Church of NZ (and most other mainstream demoninations) have a directory page on their website listing all known parish websites.  The Methodist page is at  When your website is up and running, make sure you register it with the relevant denominations so we can all take inspiration from your work!

In conclusion, building your first church website is an exciting journey that requires careful planning, creativity, and dedication. By following these steps and leveraging the right tools and resources, you can create a dynamic and impactful online presence for your church community. Remember, your website is more than just a digital platform; it is a powerful tool for sharing your message, connecting with others, and making a positive difference in the world.

More information for Parishes connected to The Methodist Church of NZ

Peter Lane is Principal Consultant at System Design & Communication Services and has over 30 years of experience with Technology systems.  We invite your questions, suggestions and ideas for articles.  These can be submitted either through the editor or by email to  We also operate a website focused on building a community of people interested in improving how we use technology in churches, located at   

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