Why Free Church Websites Rarely Work Out

by | Jan 9, 2017 | Church Websites

woman with head on laptop, holding head with arms

Throughout my ministry I’ve created a lot of free church websites, and they rarely work out for the churches involved. This is one of the main reasons I founded Aboundant. I often get asked about the free solutions that are out there, such as Weebly, Wix, and Dreamhost with WordPress, so I make it a point to keep up with the latest trends. There have been a few free church website platforms over the years, but they tend to all fizzle because they never have any type of sustainable business model. Regardless of the platform used, the free church websites that I’ve seen created–even those I initially set up–tend to fizzle within the first couple of years. Here’s why.

No Commitment

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that churches who aren’t willing to pay for the best solution are not really committed to their website in the first place. This isn’t always true, but I’m surprised by how often it plays out that way. If churches aren’t paying an ongoing fee, then there is no financial penalty (or so they think) for not maintaining the site. In truth, there is always a financial penalty for not having a great website – the penalty of failing to attract new membership.

This the reason why Aboundant has a $15/month plan and is the only church website company to offer proactive training and coaching in the form of a weekly interactive webinar. The $15 cost ensures a basic financial commitment, and the webinar converts a church’s commitment into action.

Failure to Launch

Even with a great drag-and-drop editor, you still have to figure what goes into that initial site. There isn’t a free option on the market that’s optimized for church websites. Besides, I think we all can agree that church websites are significantly different than business websites, the primary market of these companies. With Aboundant, we’ve made launching super simple with our smart questionnaire, Launch Pad. Launch Pad allows you to have your initial site created in as little as 10 minutes!

Free = Difficult. Paid = Simple.

In the technology world there are lots of free products, but you nearly always have to pay real money to get the solution that works just right for you. This is often referred to as “Freemium.” We’ll beat our heads against the wall looking for just the right free system when we could have paid a little money up front and gotten exactly what we needed.

Surprisingly, technologies often get simpler and easier the more money you pay, because greater attention is paid to usability and design. When it comes to church website companies, even if their free platform has the features you are looking for, chances are you’ll need a higher level of technical expertise to make them work well for you. For example, you can get Google Calendar for free, but you still have to figure out how to embed it in your site and format it to look right, which can get complicated. This is why Aboundant has vetted and included the features that Churches most commonly need while cutting out all the noise, i.e. the features you don’t need that only get in the way.

Reactive Rather than Proactive Support

We all want to believe we can figure things out on our own, but that’s a losing strategy. I cannot tell you how many sites have failed because the people involved were too proud to contact tech support or found it to be a waste of time. Most free options don’t offer phone support; if they do, you’ll get taken through a decision tree to provide you with as little help as possible from a real person. There is no system in place for asking open-ended questions! And even if there was, those support people are not likely to understand the unique needs of churches. Again, this is why Aboundant is the only church website provider to offer weekly training and coaching webinars, and they work!

Free Will Cost You

The number one reason given for wanting a free site is obvious: “We don’t have enough money to pay for a site.” There’s only one thing that’s truly free in life, and that’s God’s love. When churches fail to invest in their church website, they are living into an idea of scarcity that sounds more like capitalism than like God’s divine economy of abundance. Without a good church website in our digital world, how can you hope to fulfill God’s mission of creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? To be fair, you can still do it–that’s the power of the Spirit–but you are making the mission way harder than you need to. The truth is that you’ll be missing out on new (tithing) members, new confessions of faith, and new disciples for Christ. Web ministry is not the area you want to leave out of your budget.

The Bottom Line

Can you make a great free church website? You can, but chances are it will take way more commitment, technical skills, and human resources than a paid solution will. If I hadn’t experienced this myself in my own technology ministries over the years, I would never have created Aboundant in the first place.

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