Making a church website sub-blog: 1. starting up

For years now I’ve been trying to come up with a reasonably-flexible middle option for churches (and temples, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras, spiritual assemblies, or other worshipping congregations) that want a clean, attractive, usable website but don’t have a lot of patience or native tech ability. Or where the tech person doesn’t have a lot of patience. You get what I mean. I’m not going to ask anyone to typeout HTML like I have in some of my legacy sites.

I’ve been trying to tease out what opportunities lie in WordPress because they are easy to install, or at least you can borrow someone who knows what their doing for five minutes to get the dang thing up. (I used to have a fetish for flatfile database powered site, but SQL accounts have gotten as cheap, and flatfile content management systems tend to be under-developed, so . . . )

That would be about 80% of the battle. A plain, unaltered default WordPress install would be a better church website than many or most that litter the Internet. But we can do better.

This means that a helpful gift to the churchly (templish, etc.) blogging community would be to create a theme and some documentation.

Right now, I assume that you can or can learn to

  1. rent or borrow some hosting space with MySQL
  2. get a domain name if you need one, and point it to said space
  3. download, uncompress and install WordPress and the Simplr template
  4. create the MySQL database
  5. alter the config file (easier than it sounds)
  6. upload it all
  7. activate the new theme

With practice, steps 3-7 literally take less than ten minutes, and I know a bunch of y’bloggers have done it.

I’ve got the test site up this far — I’ve added a fake entry; there’s a bug unless there’s two entries — at http://www.universalistchurch.net/trialchurchsite/

I’d like some commentary, but note that I want to release any documentation under a liberal license, probably CC-by-nc-sa 2.5 — but I will correspond with any contributers and work out an agreement before moving forward with a license.

The new template itself will be rereleased as GPL since that’s how I got Simplr.

Next step: what can we take down from this template.

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

3 thoughts on “Making a church website sub-blog: 1. starting up”

  1. Hi Scott,

    I agree with you that this is a huge step up from a lot of church webistes. There are two issues, though. One, is that most churches need about 5 static pages (about, history, services, yadda) – and blog-centric CMSs have a hard time incorporating that pretty simple need.

    Second, I’ve worked with a number of churches, and, well, I think it’s assuming a lot that many have enough expertise on hand to do those easy steps that you’ve outlined above. Yeah, they are easy for you and me, but… It’s surprising to me, but one of the things I’ve learned is that things like dealing with domain names and hosting are some of the most difficult things for people who are even moderately tech savvy to do.

    Anyway, it’s certainly a good contribution!

  2. 1. The static pages are quite easy with WordPress. See my “About Scott Wells” page off of the main blog page.

    2. You’re right, of course, and more than that there’s little need for a score of little churches having their own host, or even their own domain. Might be a good shared project for a UCC association or UUA district. Or twenty-first century version of a missionary publishing house. The hosting and volunteer set-up support, I mean. I could see a whole bunch of sites initiated at a denominational meeting, for instance.

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