Free church website builders haven’t been popular since 1995.
There are many reasons to go all out on a church website.
I could sit you down and tell you 1001 reasons to spend $1001 dollars on a church website.
You won’t find many arguments for free church websites anywhere online.
People intuitively know—there’s no such thing as “free.”
So, what’s the catch?
There’s no catch.
There are actually legitimate reasons to use a free website solution for your church.
And I’m going to make that argument right here, right now.
We both know that you (and other church leaders) want your church to basically look like the Apple Website, with epic, high-quality photos of your preaching pastor, 4K video of your welcoming team, and low-lit footage of your church during worship.
But here’s the deal:
This isn’t the right fit for every church at every time.
Here are seven arguments for why you should use a free website builder.
1. A free website is better than no site
This is the cold truth.
A text-only website with a small email signup form is better than no site at all.
If you’re planting a church, it’s better to go with a no-frills website builder that enables you to easily upload your information, collect user data, and stay in contact with those who are trying to stay in contact with you.
Don’t worry about making your church look like the next hipster mega church on the internet.
In the beginning, simply have a URL that you can give to people while you get busy with the other business of building the church.
A website can be an easy distraction from the more important business items of setting up a church.
And because so much weight is placed on aesthetics and functionality, it can be tempting to spend weeks and weeks of full-time work “tweaking” your church site so that it’s perfect.
Set up a free site—get a free domain or buy a domain if you have to—and let it sit there with a “Coming Soon. Enter email for updates” sign.
At least your site will passively build an email list for you while you wait.
2. Free websites are published quickly
Free websites are relatively no-hassle.
They have many other shortcomings, but time-to-launch is nearly unmatched.
Use these available services to set up your digital patch of grass in 15 minutes so that you can return to the website at a later date.
Time and energy are the church planter’s best assets.
Don’t waste them on a project that might have little-to-no-ROI.
Focus on building your community, honing your message, optimizing your preaching, and networking with local Christians as you aspire to launch your church.
Nobody is sold merely on your website.
More than that, a “flashy” site for a church that doesn’t even exist yet can feel a bit presumptuous.
So build a very stripped-down version of what you need while you launch so that later, when more time and energy are required, you can either hire someone or build it yourself.
3. Free websites for churches have stripped down features, allowing you to focus on the essentials of your message
Have you ever spent a straight hour playing with fonts on a project that desperately needed to be finished?
I know you have.
I have, too.
It’s a universal human experience.
Site building can be a complete black hole.
The fact that they have no-frills allows you to focus on the core elements of your digital presence—What, When, Where, Who. That’s four pages—a landing page, an “About” page, a “Staff” page, and a “Directions” page.
Quite honestly, you could easily put all this information on your landing page.
The point of a free church site isn’t to win people with aesthetics.
It is to put the bare-bones essentials on the internet for now.
4. Free websites don’t require you to deal with hosting, coding, styling, or mobile-optimizing
Most people underestimate what goes into creating a stellar website.
Building your own church page can be a black hole of learning.
Don’t sabotage your church planting energy by requiring yourself to ascend the steep learning curve of web development while planting a church.
So many things can go wrong when building a website.
There are two solutions to this—a high-priced “full package” website purchase, or a simple, one that offers none of the trimmings and all of the functionality.
When you start adding “design elements” to your church’s website, you add complexity and opportunity for the site to crash, malfunction, and appear misconfigured on various sized screens.
Save yourself the headache of troubleshooting these errors while your church is young, and forego the design elements in favor of straightforward simplicity and functionality.
5. Free websites are a great first step for late adopters
A free church website is easier to justify to an anti-technology elder board when it isn’t eating a ton of money out of your monthly budget.
Very few churches don’t have websites in the 21st century.
And yet, some elder boards remain skeptical of the value of church websites, and would prefer to use analog methods of communicating with their congregation and community.
A free site is a great middle ground to help older elder boards become friendly with the concept of a website.
6. Free websites work well in the pre-launch phase of a church plant
If you’re a church planter, you may not have the time or money for a big website before the launch.
In lieu of this, you can set up a simple landing page for free, and send visitors there to enter their emails so that you can begin building your church communications list.
You can then use that same list to announce your new site when you have the resources to produce a higher quality website.
The domain doesn’t matter as much—the mere existence of the URL to place on literature, social media, and other marketing materials matters most.
After you launch a higher quality site, you can set up (or pay someone to set up) a 301 redirect, which automatically sends people who go to your old URL to your new URL. Or, if you’d like to retain the same domain name, you can simply transfer the domain custody to your new web server—something a pastor should pay a web development professional to do.
7. Free websites are a great learning experience for DIY pastors
If you’re a pastor who simply can’t afford to hire a web development professional, then you are in the position of having to develop a website for yourself.
In this case, a free church website is optimal for you—especially at first—because you can push it to its limits and learn the basics of operating a web page, designing the page, and managing its contents to support your community without digging deep into the church’s pockets to buy a big website, of which you will only be able to use 1%.
Over to you
Again—of course, an enterprise-level church website would be great.
A cool, eye-popping site populated with high-quality images is better than a basic text-only site.
And yet, free church websites serve their place in the economy of church growth.
To dismiss them outright robs young pastors of the opportunity to establish a hassle-free, no-frills, honed-message digital presence that frees them up to focus on the real work of ministry.
If you’re a church planter, young pastor, or pastor considering your first church website, you should seriously consider a free church website builder—it has serious benefits for your situation, and foregoes a lot of the needless cost of bigger websites that won’t serve your immediate needs.
Editor's note: This post was updated on May 11, 2020 to reflect the latest trends.