Free Church Websites
Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 2/6/2007
Free Church Website the ad might read on a website that we have visited. It sounds great, but before you get too excited, letís look at what the companies who are offering free church websites are really offering and how you can create your own free church website without the need to pay these companies anything.
Free Church Websites (for a price)
Very few things in this world are actually free. Air is free, but if you want it delivered in a tank, it will cost you. Water is free, but if you want it filtered and purified, you will have to pay. There are companies that are offering free church websites, but there may be some hidden charges that you were not expecting. One site (ourchurch.com) offers free church websites, but to make use of these free websites you have to be a registered user. What they are really providing free it the ability to use their template driven web design tools. These tools are a dime a dozen and are offered by nearly every hosting company. Most serious webmasters couldnít care less, but for someone who has never developed a website they offer options.
The free church website plan that ourchurch.com provides 1MB of space on the server. This is just enough space to hold the design of the site. Church websites need more than this. The free plan has ads that are displayed every time the church website is displayed. To get rid of the ads, the company charges $7.50 a month. This $7.50 charge appears to be in addition to the hosting fee. For $5 a month, 30MB of space is provided, but with the $7.50 tacked on, it is $12.50 a month or $150 a year. This is grossly over priced. OurChurchís Gold package, which is near the top for them has comparable features to the lowest grade hosting packages of several hosting companies. There is still no indication that it is ad free. They are charging $22.50 a month for the package. Tack on $7.50 for the ad free add on and it is $30. So for $360 a year you can have the same package that many companies are offering for about $70 a year. This is just an example of one company, but it serves as a warning that a free church website may be a very expensive church website.
Truly Free Websites
There really is no such thing as a free church website. Websites reside on servers and servers cost money. Someone has to pay to purchase a server. Someone has to pay to maintain the server. Someone has to pay the electric bill and pay for the server having access to the internet. When someone offers free space of any kind on the internet, they are either doing so out of the goodness of their heart or because they hope to gain something from it. Some churches may have free space available to them out of the goodness of someoneís heart, so I wonít rule that out, but most of the time, free space is a way to increase traffic and increase revenue from ads and services.
One example of free space is blogging sites. Usually, these sites make their money from selling ads. Bloggers do several things. They visit the site to write their blog. They visit the site to read otherís blogs. They see ads and click on them. With enough visitors, those clicks can translate into a lot of money.
If a site is making its money from ads then there users who visit the church website may have to put up with popup ads and other types of ads that detract from the message of the site. There may be a limit on the types of things that can be done with the site and it may be hard to maintain. If a site is making its money from selling services, the site that is using free space may be extremely limited, so that the services are more attractive and the services may be overpriced so make up for providing free space. These situations are usually not ideal, but some people have made good use of these situations.
A Better Free Website
Often, having a free church website in the sense that we need not pay anything is not as important as having a free church website that we are able to use as we please. In this sense, if anyone else has the ability to put control the content of your website then it is their website and not yourís. You might have blog, but it isnít yourís. It actually belongs to the company that is providing the space for it.
Fortunately, the difference between a free church website meaning free as in no cost and a free church website meaning free as in free speech is less than $80 a year. In looking for a hosting company, look for one that provides at least 1GB storage, 20GB transfer per month and doesnít charge more than $80 per year. The rule is simple, if you pay for it, you own it and control it. If someone else pays for it, the other person gets the proceeds from ads.
Many hosting companies offer them, but having a site building tool is not a requirement. No special software is required to build a free church website. I explain this in my book Church Website Design: A Step By Step Approach. Everything you need to build a free church website is already available to you in with the operating system. All you really need is a text editor, a browser and a way to transfer files to the server. In some cases, the browser can also serve as a way to transfer file. Buying the book is not required either, but it will help.
A free church website may sound great, but not fall for it. Unless the person or company offering it has a special interest in promoting your church, they are probably only offering the free church website as a way to take advantage of people who are notorious for trying to get something for nothing. Instead of looking for a no cost option, look for hosting at a reasonable cost and use volunteer labor and freely available software tools to develop the site. This will provide a website at a minimal cost.
Editor's Note: The author of this article has written a book titled Church Website Design.