The perfect church Web site

I’m still searching for the perfect church Web site.

The perfect church Web site would have to have a lot of things going for it. It would allow committee chairs, staff, and others to directly add content to their pages on the Web site without going through the Webmaster; it would allow several levels of password protection including pages that can only be viewed by members; it would allow online payment of pledges, and online registration for events; it would support an online calendar of events; it would support a forum for congregational conversation; it would integrate staff blogs; it would allow easy posting of news; it would be inexpensive or free; it would be easy to navigate; it would be easy to maintain.

I spent today investigating Drupal, a free (and open-source) content management system. Drupal meets every single one of the criteria above — except the last two. It is not easy to maintain, and it’s easy to give it a bad navigation system. For example, it looks like it’s a pain in the neck to upgrade the software when security patches are released — and as for the navigation, you’ll have to invent it totally on your own. If you wanted your church administrator to maintain a Drupal-based site, you would have to send him or her to a substantial class in Drupal — and, outside of a few major metropolitan areas, where are you going to find such a class?

There’s a smaller subset of Drupal called Civic Space, which was developed in 2005 to support the Howard Dean presidential campaign. It’s now available for non-profits either as a free program, or a for-pay program with lots of technical support. However, it doesn’t look like it’s quite the right thing for a church Web site.

What I’d like to see is some Unitarian Universalist geeks commit themselves to maintaining a subset of Drupal (or similar content management system) for use by Unitarian Universalist congregations. This group of dedicated geeks would volunteer to be on-call via email for technical support (just as I make myself available to support a couple of WordPress blogging sites), and they would also come up with a basic installation of Drupal preconfigured with permission levels, basic navigation, etc. I’d say I’d take this on myself, except that it looks like the Drupal learning curve is pretty steep and I’d need a year (and training in PHP and CSS) to get to the point where I could do this. But maybe there’s some geeks out there who already have the knowledge?…

13 thoughts on “The perfect church Web site

  1. Pingback: The perfect church Web site

  2. Anna Belle

    I absolutely love this idea! I’m starting to use Drupal in my professional life, and actually find it much easier to work with than Joomla, though I’m told it’s harder for end users. I wonder if ITEC could help with this in some form? I’ll forward your idea on to them. And if they can’t (and maybe even if they can), I’d be glad to volunteer to help with this effort. I’ll try to blog about it soon over on Faith and Web. I think we’d be doing a huge favor to spreading the good word of UUism if we could get something like it off the ground.

  3. Administrator

    Anna Belle — Even though I won’t be of much help, I’m playing around with Drupal myself, and I’m also going to bring this idea to our district Webmaster. Let’s all stay in touch and see what comes of this.

  4. Philocrites

    The idea of a team of techies developing and maintaining a good platform for church websites is a great one. I’ve managed a Drupal site, however, and found it hellish and not at all intuitive to use. Customizing the CSS is something that would also require some aesthetically-gifted CSS coders, too.

  5. Administrator

    Philocrites — Have you had any experience with CivicSpace? Supposedly it provides a manageable subset of Drupal, one that is much easier to administer. I say “supposedly” because I ahve yet to meet a real live CivicSpace administrator.

  6. Nancy Proctor

    The new Growth team in the Thomas Jefferson District, is looking to do something ‘organic’ around storytelling, appreciative inquiry, reflective learning.

    I’ve been checking out enterprise/community building wiki/sites. Confluence is community-based wiki with some possibilities.

    Dabble is interesting if you like data — you can important data from spreadsheets.

    Most of these places are free for the first month — but then the price jumps considerable for the number of users.

    I’m going to check CivicSpace tomorrow.


  7. Scott Wells (Boy in the Bands)

    My is a rather basic Drupal site, but since my Day Job responsibilities include some Drupal admin, I was hoping to learn some more to do much of what you describe.

    On the other hand, I really, really want to learn CivicSpace intuitively because I think — more than being a church website — it could be ideal for church administration

  8. Administrator

    Nancy — Hope CivicSpace meets your needs.

    Scott — I didn’t realize that was based on Drupal — cool. And yes, I think one of the things that attracted me to both CivicSpace and Drupal was the potential for church admin.

  9. Pingback: Boy in the Bands: Scott Wells on the practice of Christian faith » Blog Archive » Fresh Drupal install

  10. Scott McDonald

    Another potential way to minimize the administrative headache is to choose a hosting company that specializes in deploying (and maintaining) Drupal sites. is one such hosting company ( I’m looking into them now to see how they support sites with custom functionality and presentations.

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