Do it Yourself

Why can't I design my church website myself?
You can. In fact, I highly suggest you do it yourself. There is no reason you can't do it. It only takes time.

Below are step by step instructions, with links, to create your own church website. You can take your time and just do the steps as you have time. Each section is broken down into steps that have to be completed together.

(note: I am an affiliate seller for some of the links I suggest. I recommend these sites based on their quality, not on my affiliate status. I chose to become an affiliate due to my respect for their products)

If you have questions, contact me for your free one hour consultation. If you get lost in the process I am also available for consultation at $95 per hour. Go for it, you can do it.

Thinking of Using Google Products?

I wrote this article in frustration with Google in 2008. Since then I have only been using Google Analytics and maps for most my websites.

$1,800 dollars.

That should about do it. That is $45 per hour x 40 hours. That is the time I have spent fighting with Google apps that didn't work right.

So if Google sends me a check for $1,800 I will call it even, I will write off the hours of frustration and the other hours I think they owe me for.

What's this all about you ask? Ahhhhh, where to start?

How about with Gmail. Our organization uses Gmail for our domain email accounts.

So I started working on Gmail's "start page" for our organization. This was back in my more foolish days. Now I know better. I would work for quite some time setting up our "start page" and then Google would change something. Move things around, change what was allowed, change configuration stuff. What made it more frustrating was that once a person in our organization hit the "start page" for the first time, that is the one they would continue to see no matter what kind of changes I made. Which made testing pretty difficult, as you can imagine. Finally I wised up and dropped it all together.

Or how about if we talk about "gdocs"? What a waste of time that has been. We could talk about how I set some gdocs for our organization and to take advantage of this idea of shared docs I tried to use some javascript forms page. Well after a week or two Google disallowed javascript. So, I can kind of understand why they would do that but they gave no notice, nor any explanation. All I could do is go to the forums and see other people complaining of the same thing. (yes, the anti-google movement is growing by leaps and bounds).

So, did I give up on gdocs? Oh, I wish I was that smart. I am sorry to tell you that no, I am not that smart. Instead, realizing there are some security issues with javascript, I gave Google grace and remade my pages, this time I used html forms. All was good after I spent the time remaking those forms. I know, I know, you already know what happened. Yes, Google disallowed those in a few weeks. Again no notice, no posting, no explanation. Again I only found out from searching the forums from other people complaining of the same things. (from which there was no response from Google).

Shall we talk about Outlook? Well as long as we are talking about gmail we might as well. It is possible to configure Outlook to work with gmail. The problem is it will work about 95% of the time. When it doesn't work, the problem is gmail. Not with Outlook, not with the Outlook settings, not with the connection, not with the network, not with the firewalls. No, the problem is with Google, but of course Google will not admit that. Instead, after eliminating all the other possibilities, on several occasions, we realized the problem was completely with Google.

Or we could talk about when Google stopped recognizing table cellpadding and cellspacing. That's a problem no one but an html guy would recognize. But the problem is I do this organizations email newsletters. For years I would use tables. They worked everywhere. No problems. CSS had not been widely recognized by email clients yet.

So with no notice at all from Google they change how tables are displayed in gmail. This one took me a while to figure out. I spent a few hours switching to CSS, which is working fine now.

This was actually disturbing to me. I know it makes little sense to most people but what Google did was change a standard that all browsers everywhere, since the beginning have recognized. All browsers in the foreseeable future will recognize these standards. Google arbitrarily changed them. This is crazy that a company can make up their own standards, just because they own a big part of the market (okay so Microsoft did it, but they owned almost the entire market when they started that). Again they did this with no notice, no explanation, and no response in the forums to all the people complaining about this.

The final straw though is Feedburner. Just so you know I am not the only one, check this:

Feedburner is (was) used to do podcasting. It was a good place to give people access to your podcast if they didn't use iTunes. But Google bought Feedburner. If you check out the link above you will see that is when all the problems started. I spent a few hours yesterday trying to work through this mess Google created. I gave up.

Google, I have a suggestion, how about instead of buying up all these web applications, you just work on the ones you already have until they work correctly? Wouldn't that be nice? Why is it okay for you to take over, or start, a service and just leave it half finished?

As for me, I am a bit wiser now. It will be a long, long time before I recommend anyone use a Google service for their company websites. Unless their web guys and IT guys need something to keep them busy.

I'll be waiting for my check.

Update: no, I never got a check. But I do now recommend some Google products. But only if your needs are basic and you are not counting on using anything but their well documented features.

  1. Read this: overview page about defining your purpose, deciding what you want included, the structure of your site and some different tools for building a website.
  2. Read this: page to consider what you need and don't need on your website. Please consider the amount of time that will be required to maintain the features you want to add to your website.
  3. Read this: page for a few more ideas for your website.
  4. Purchase a plan: Click here to purchase a web hosting plan with Siteground.

    (note: if you are moving web hosts, if you already have a domain name and a webpage and you want to move it, be sure to read the sections on email before you proceed)

    Be aware that there is much fraud, or misleading info at web hosts and domain name hosts. Always read the "fine print" before using any of their services.

    Siteground offers a really good package, has good tech support and has a good price. You will need a web host that can support a "Content Management System". (that is a database driven site that allows easy edits and is very powerful).

    Siteground is the best provider I have found. They offer 5 gigs of storage and unlimited bandwidth.

    (note: ignore the statement on their website about "unlimited storage". While that is technically true, you can only store 5 gigs of media you will actually use, jpg, png, and audio and video files. So you are, in essence, limited to 5 gigs.)

    (note: also ignore their statement of unlimited bandwidth because if you use too much "system resources" they will notify you that you will need to upgrade your package. But if you follow the advice in this tutorial that will never be a problem for you.)

    At Siteground choose your domain name, and then choose how long you want to purchase a package for. I would suggest 2 or 3 years as the savings will be worth it. Siteground includes your domain name for free.

    Enter all your info to pay for the web hosting.

    - get yourself a cup of coffee at this point, you are doing well -

  5. Install Joomla: Go back to Siteground, log-in and go to the Control Panel for your website and click on Fantastico and install Joomla. Follow all the prompts.

    When you are done, check your website "frontend" and "backend" and log-in to be sure you have correct user name and password.

    Do not be alarmed at the look of your website. You have not installed a template yet so your site currently has one of the three stock templates that come with Joomla.

    Disable user registration, (later you may decide to enable this) click here to read how.

    If you want to add another person to administer your website click here:

    Click here to read how to get started and how to set up your website. Skip to the "Managing Content" section.

    Do not set up your site with your real info yet. Explore the "backend" of your website a bit first by trying out some of the things in that tutorial.

  6. Choose a template: Below are some excellent template sites, most of the templates at these sites are not free. You will probably need to pay for the template you like.

    You can use free ones. These sites have some free templates available. And you can search the internet for "free Joomla 1.5 templates". You will find many. If you choose a free template you will need to leave the link to the creator's site, but that is usually not a problem. Their links are usually non-obtrusive.

    What is a problem is that you get what you pay for. The chances that you will find a good template, fully featured, with a good design, for free, is unlikely. But look around, you might.

    In my experience it has not been worth the trouble for a free template (I have created templates, it is an amazing amount of work).

    Here are my favorite sites for quality Joomla templates (in order of preference):
    Rocket Themes
    Shape 5

    After you have chosen a template and paid for it, download it and take a break, you deserve it.

  7. Install Template: Log-in to the backend of your site. (if you have forgotten, that is On the top tool bar click on Extensions and then Install. Click on Browse and find your template and then click "Upload File & Install).

    Go to Extensions/Template Manager and set all the parameters for your template. You will need to refer to the website where you purchased your template for particular settings.

  8. Recommended Extensions: Here are a few recommended "Extensions" to add to your website, and a brief explanation of each one:

    ChronoForms (for creating sign-up forms, enrollment forms and any type of form you may want to create) (download and print tutorials) .

    JoomlaContentEditor (for editing your website. This is not free but well worth the money) Instructions for use are here.

    After you install JCE don't forget to go to the backend of your website, then click on Site and Global Configuration, then the "Site" tab and change "Default WYSIWYG Editor" to "Editor - JCE" .

    Joomfish (if you need translated pages on your site. Do Not install this unless you really need it. It is the best tool for handling translations but it will double your work load for each content item).

    JoomlaWorks AllVideos (for video handling).

    NinjaXplorer (a file manager) .

    JoomlaWorks Simple Image Gallery (a great image gallery, install this even if you will eventually use another one too) .

    (note: more specialized extensions will be discussed later)

    All of these can be added by going to Extensions and then Install. (JCE requires you install their plugins from within the component, so install com_jce_157_154_package first then go to Components/JCE/Install and install all the other plugins except for plg_jceutilities_222 which is installed the regular way.) .

    - Take a break, you are doing well, soon you will have a really great website -

  9. Now start adding text to your website: Read how here.

    Remember to use the structure you decided on at the very beginning of this process. If you are not clear on your complete layout/structuring of your website at this point, stop. It is imperative that it is very clear to you how your site will be laid out before you go any further. Plan now or it will take you at least twice as long later on to fix your website.

    I would also suggest you restrain yourself from using different fonts, font colors or font sizes. Stick with moderate use of bold or italics. The use of different fonts, font colors or sizes to add emphasis to your text usually ends up being more distracting.

    After you have added a few articles for your main sections then add them to a menu. Click here for instructions.

    Be sure to fill out the Metadata Information for each page.

    (note: I would suggest you add your text content before going back and adding pictures to the articles. Because after you add all the text you can then decide on the best placement for your pictures.)

  10. Set-up layout: After you have added all the content to your website and have your menus in place, and all your content is linked the way you want it, then decide on columns and features you would like to add. Refer to the instructions for the template you purchased to see what options are available.

    Decide what you want now, how you want to take advantage of the features of your template. Also make plan ahead for things you will want to add in the future.

    Decide on things like:
    Rotating picture slide shows,
    Special notice areas,
    Video and Audio placements,
    Where the search box will be
    (note: please keep in mind text is easiest to read when the column is 7 words wide.)

  11. Now place your logo on your page: There should be a place for your logo at the top, and probably the bottom of your template. You may need to modify your logo to fit. It is possible to place your logo elsewhere on the page if it will not fit in the upper left corner. But you should put it as close to that corner as you can. Studies have shown that is the first place visitors look so it is important for recognition that your logo be there.

    If you are not satisfied with your logo size or placement consider now placing it also somewhere else on your page.

    Also re-work any graphics or backgrounds at this point that you desire to change.

    (note: if there is any question in your mind that your logo does not look good when you are done, seek a professional graphics-design person for help) .

    - Okay. Take a break. You have come a long way. You have a bit farther to go but by now you realize you can do this well -

  12. Placing pictures: Now that all your text is placed, your logo and graphic changes have been done and you have decided on column widths and layouts, start placing your pictures in your articles. I suggest consistency. If right aligned pictures look best use it on most or all of the content articles. Decide on what dimensions look best too and try to use all the same sized pictures.

    If you chose not to use JCE then here are the instructions on how to add a picture.

    If you chose JCE here is how to insert images along with instructions on how to create popups of larger size.

    (note: decide before you start placing pictures if you want to use popups to show each image larger, it would be best if your use would be consistent)

    - Congratulations! You did it! -

    When you are ready for some of the more advanced features move on to the next step.

  13. Advanced Set-up Instructions:

    1. Adding Bible Study recordings to your website is easy: Use ftp to upload the files into the proper folder (check the extension you are using for the proper folder designated). Here is how to use Coreftp.

      You can get your ftp settings from Siteground. After you log-in go to Control Panel and look for FTP accounts.

      For video display if you use JW AllVideos your videos will go in stories/videos but that is a good place to put them anyway. You will have to create the "videos" folder from within your ftp client (core ftp is a good one).

      For Audio links you have many options. You can use Sermon Speaker or Bible Study

      Both do great jobs for sorting, searching and displaying audio recordings. They both handle podcasting too.

      The easiest way to add your church Bible studies is to just link to the file. If you purchased JCE you can find instructions here.

      You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy this is to do. (Note: you can use "Insert/Edit File" or "Insert/Edit Media")

      Regardless of which way you do this my recommendation is that after your pastor finishes a series or book of the Bible you upload all those mp3s to Then create one link from your website to the book or series page on offers free storage of media. It also offers lots of description possibilities for each series and/or each mp3. You can see a partial use of the descriptions here.

      If you move each completed series or book off your server it will keep your media storage use and bandwidth use low. You will never need to be concerned with using too much space or bandwidth.

      At you will signup for an account, click on "Contributions" and "Create and upload a new movie, audio recording..." and follow the prompts. You can ftp or use the on page form to upload all the mp3s at once.

      They also allow "deep linking" which means you can link from your website to each file individually so you never actually have to send your visitors to the page you created.

    2. If you use the simple method for adding Bible study audio files and you want to create a podcast...: you will need to do that separately. The easiest way is to copy someone else's podcast xml file, replace their info with your's and upload it to your website. That requires figuring out some code. And each time you update it you will write a bit more code.

      Then create a google account (or log into it if you already have one) and click on Settings, Google Settings and Feedburner and create an account. Link to the podcast xml file you uploaded to your website. Then go to and submit your podcast.

      (note: be sure to be very careful with the code as it can be hard to determine errors)

      Regardless of how you create your podcast, if you make a new "Feed Display" module you can subscribe to your own podcast, choose to display three entries, place it on the front page of your site, and that will automatically display your 3 most recent media files.

      If you chose one of the other options: Sermon Speaker or Bible Study you can podcast from there and the instructions are included. It takes longer to link up your church Bible studies with those programs but you may find it well worth it for the features you get. See a Sermon Speaker example here.

      - Okay, time for another break, get a cup of coffee, you deserve it. But you have to admit, this is pretty exciting isn't it? -

    3. So what about video display?: AllVideos is great for that. You can search the forum for lots of great display ideas. It is very easy to use, see here.

      You can also upload video to and allow derivatives to be created so your viewers can watch lower bandwidth versions if they need to.

      If you are providing only low quality video recordings you can host many on your website before you will need to move them but if you are displaying high quality video you will need to move them immediately elsewhere to view.

      High quality video should not be stored on your web host. is a good choice. You need good throughput for high quality video.

      You have many options for video formats, and you will probably need to use many of them.

      My suggestion is to use Super to convert your video into mp4 for podcasting, or mpg for downloading or flash if you wish to display in a playlist with thumbnails. Depending on how you plan to distribute your video you will undoubtedly need more than one version.

      You can make video as simple or as complicated as you would like. AllVideos will display playlists and single videos from media stored anywhere, so no matter where you store your media,,, or your own webhost, you can easily display it with AllVideos.

      - Whew, hang in there, you are almost there -

    4. So what if you want to live video broadcast your sermons?: My suggestion is to start small. No point is spending $1,000 and then find out you can't support the technology because you don't have the staff to develop it. or Free video webcasting. You can embed the player into your website so your viewers don't have to go to the or sites. You will need to keep the video window small on your website as this is not high quality video but it is quite good. They are very easy to set up and you will not use any of your bandwidth for video streaming.

      Both sites mentioned above allow you create archives of your sessions. You can store them online at each site or download a copy to store on your computer.

      (note: you could also use this in combination with a special log-in area on your website for parents to be able to check in on their kids while they are in children's ministry)

      After you determine you have the resources to handle video broadcasting, and you have people watching, you can then consider purchasing a broadcast package. You can not video broadcast without purchasing a plan from a video streaming provider. (well technically you can, but it is not likely that option will work out well for you)

      You can download either the Adobe Flash encoder or the Windows Media Encoder for free. Although the Windows Silverlight encoder is worth the $99.

      So all you would need to pay for is the service to provide the video streaming, but it is expensive. So try the free ones first, then determine if you think it is worth upgrading.

      - okay, let's take a break from this stuff and go back to some content things -

    5. Go to Extensions/Plugin Manager and Simple Image Gallery and...: check out the settings and how to put gallery pictures into pages. More info here.

      (note: you can use Simple Image Gallery to display just a few pictures on a page also)

    6. To create forms on your website: go here. and print each of the tutorials. Then follow along to create any type of online form you want.
      (note: or see below about gmail)
    7. If you want a more powerful Photo Gallery...: go to It is free and can be used with Simple Image Gallery too.

      - there are many more extensions you can add to your joomla website. See Extensions -

    8. Gmail - domain name email accounts: (note: if you are moving email addresses be sure to read this entire section before starting, and read my sidebar rant also.) Go to and click on the business option or the education option. Google keeps changing the layout of these pages so search around for the info for churches or non-profits. You will probably find that as a non-profit you can get free domain name email account through them. Check the number of accounts you can have (probably 50) and decide if that is enough accounts for your church (you will probably need 10 more email accounts than you think you do).

      Gmail walks you through the steps of how to use gmail for your emails. It is a highly powerful and easy to maintain system.

      After reading through gmails pages, if you qualify, keep reading here, if not, skip to #22 (because gmail domain accounts are too expensive for serious consideration).

      Okay, if you are still reading here I will assume you qualify for the free gmail domain name accounts.

      After signing up completely at gmail change the MX records at Siteground, the instructions are here.

      Log-in to your temporary gmail email account settings page and create all the email address you need, especially the ones you are moving.

      Then get the code to put into your page to activate your gmail, start your ftp program and upload the file that gmail said to create, then click on authenticate.

      (Important: if you already have some email accounts that you will be moving it is very important you get the new email accounts ready before activating your new gmail domain name email. That will ensure you do not lose any emails during the switch.)

      More Gmail Features.

      You also have access to the gmail calendar. You can embed this on your website so it will be publically available. You can sync your Outlook calendar with your gmail calendar. Each email account can have its own calendar that can be shared with others or kept private.


      You can share documents and collaborate on documents easily with gdocs. You can also use gdocs to create forms. This is much easier than the forms creation tool that I recommend for Joomla. The gmail version is not as powerful but will probably work for all your needs.

      Chat is a useful feature if you and your staff spend a lot of time on their computers, it is built in to gmail.

      Webclips are useful. You can go to settings and Webclips and add the feed link for each blogspot you want to follow and you will get updates on the top line of your gmail account when a blog is updated.

      Gmail domain name email accounts are very easy to manage, it is easy to set up new accounts, create and modify groups.

      The only problem with gmail email accounts is they are limited to 7 gig. That will serve most people for at least 3 years but at some point long-term staff will need to clean out their old email messages.

    9. Email Pop3: If you do not qualify for the free gmail domain name accounts then go to the Control Panel in Siteground and click on "Email Accounts" and set up all the email accounts you need at this time. Be sure to enter all the email accounts you are moving/replacing. You can set up an unlimited number of email accounts. (note: if you are moving where your website is hosted, and/or where your domain name is hosted to Siteground you will need to set up the email accounts as soon as you purchase the domain and start the domain name transfer. This will ensure you do not lose any emails during the transfer.)

      While you are setting up the emails you can use the Siteground tool to download the files to automatically install Outlook settings or Outlook Express. Or you can copy the info for other use.

      (Here is a bonus tip: consider creating a new email address just for your domain name registration and your website hosting. Then set up forwarding on that email account so you forward it to 3 or 4 staff people. That will ensure that a renewal notice will not get overlooked. If you lose your domain name it can be very expensive to get it back.)

    10. Email Newsletters: You will love VerticalRepsonse.

      After having done ministry email newsletters for years this is the best tool I have found. After you sign-up you can create some test email newsletters (they call them campaigns and offers because this is a tool for businesses to send out email advertisements) and you can send them to yourself to see how they look.

      You will be very impressed. It is very easy to use and is quite powerful. You will need to upload a csv or excel spreadsheet with your email contacts. You should put in at least three lines, first name, last name and email address. Because you can insert individuals names into each email sent. So your recipients get a personalized email.

      If you also enter into your spreadsheet the mailing address of each person you can also send out customized postcards at a very reasonable price. You can upload a picture to be used for the postcard.

      VerticalResponse allows you to send test emails before you send them out to everyone. So you can email yourself at your email accounts to ensure they are correct.

      You only need to pay just before you send out your emails and the cost is under 2 cents each. For the service you get it is an amazing value.

    11. Facebook: Don't get a church facebook unless you, or someone at your church is going to keep updating it. Unless you are consistent there is not much point in doing it.

      If you are consistent it is a good way to send out announcements, invitations and keep other's informed.

      If you create a "Fan Page" instead of a regular facebook page you can embed a small part of your fan page into your website easily. But with Joomla you can also embed the entire page using what is called a "Wrapper". You will find that option when you add something to a menu.

      You can embed your church podcast into your facebook page, add personal blogs from people from your church, and there are many other features of Facebook that may appeal to you.

      Maintaining a facebook page can take up lots of your time though.

    12. Blog integration: The pastor or anyone from the church can easily do a blog from within the website. Each time they want to blog they will just create a new content article, using any additional features they want, video, audio, any feature you can put in an article, and place that into a special Category (probably you would call it "Pastors Blog" or "Church Blog").

      Once they create the new article and put it in the correct category it will automatically show up on the "Blog" page.

      To do this sign-in to the backend of your website and then go to Menus and "Add a menu item" and click on Articles and then you will see "Section Blog Layout" and "Category Blog Layout". Choose "Category Blog Layout" and add a menu item that links to what will be your blog. Then set the parameters as you want them.

      If you choose to do an external blog (like with or wordpress) you can also integrate that into your website by going to the backend of your website, clicking on Menus and "Add a menu item" and choose "Wrapper", then set the parameters as you would like (set the dimensions and paste in the address of the blog) then click on Save.

    13. Members Area (registered users): You can set individual content articles, or modules, or entire Categories of articles to only show to a certain group of people.

      To do this you change the access level to "Registered" and then the content article, module or category of content articles will not show unless the viewer logs-in to your website.

      Then to set who can log-in, on the backend of your website go to Site and then User Manager and then click on "New" and enter the details for each person you want to give "Registered" rights to. Then click "Save" and give the person the password you assigned them.

      (Bonus hint: or you can allow users to register themselves, then you could check the registered users on the backend at Site and User Manager and then delete out anyone you need to.)

    14. Accept Donations Online:Paypal donations are a good way to set this up.

      You have many options for accepting donations via PayPal. Click here for live demos with instructions.

    15. To check the number of visitors to your website...: and get lots more info, you can check the webstats on Siteground by logging in there to your Control Panel or by installing Google Analytics. To install Google Analytics you copy some code and paste it into the template for your website. To check your webstats on Siteground you only need to log in at Siteground.
    16. You can use PDF or Word docs on your website: Simply upload them using FTP (or JCE) and link to them from your (JCE) "Insert/Edit File" option.
    17. For RSS Feed, Polls and to put the log-in box on your website: Go to the backend of your website, go to Extensions and Modules and click on Module Manager and click on "New" and choose either "Syndicate" or "Poll" or "Login" and fill in the parameters. (note: for Polls you first have to go to Components/Polls and click on "New" to create a new poll)
    18. Set the info for search engines: That is called Metadata and can be set for each content article you write. Hopefully you did that when you created each content article.

      You can also set that info for the entire site (will be overwritten by settings you used per content article) by going to the backend and clicking on Site and Global Configuration then filling in the meta data there.

    19. You can create a simple "Prayer Request" form: Go to the backend and click on Components and then Contact and Contacts and clicking on "New" and setting the parameters.
    20. Author: Mike Pritchard

Monday, April 22, 2019

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