[This post is a part of the Technology in Youth Ministry series]
If you are leading a youth ministry, you are likely also utilizing some form of web technologies as a way to communicate with parents and students about your ministry. Oftentimes student ministries choose to have their own websites apart from the main church website, which allows for some extra flexibility and freedom when it comes to posting new information, sharing media, and making it “youth friendly.” Building a website can be a daunting task; from working with FTP servers, writing html code, and all kinds of other tasks that will hurt your brain. There are countless services and options that are available to make this easier for you; the following describes one option that we use when we build our websites.
Hosting. In order for your website to exist on the internet you have to have somebody that is willing to host it. Or more accurately, you have to pay someone to be your host. Often when you register for your domain nomain, you will do this through a company that also offers some kind of hosting. My favorite option for youth ministry hosting is Dreamhost; dreamhost actually offers free hosting for non-profits.
CMS system. CMS means “Content Management System,” which practically means a way for you to update your site without having to do all the code stuff. You will want some sort of CMS. Since CMS is so popular in web development, several hosting providers also provide one click installations for various CMS providers. When we build our websites, we use wordpress as our CMS, which is easily installed onto our domains using dreamhost’s one click options.
WordPress themes. If you decide to use wordpress for your CMS, which you probably should, your next step will be to find a wordpress theme. A theme is simply a set of pre-packaged design elements to make your website look nice without you having to go through all the design work yourself. You’ll provide pictures, logos, and content and the theme provides the layout. This site is built using the theme Standard. For our student ministry sites, we use themes from churchthemer.com.
Other stuff. If you are using wordpress, there is an awesome tool that can be a great addition to your youth ministry website called the prayer engine. The prayer engine is a tool that allows students to submit prayer requests and prayer for other students using your website. The Prayer Engine will work on sites not created with wordpress, but they have also made it extremely easy to install the Prayer Engine as a plugin for wordpress pages. This has been a great addition to our sites to encourage students not only going online to find out what’s going on, but to also spend time in prayer for their fellow students.