Meet the Pastor Turned CEO Who's Helped Thousands of Churches Raise Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
A personal introduction to the CEO and co-founder of the world's leading church technology company.
December 16, 2019
July 23, 2019
Free church websites 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 church website.
This is the cold truth.
A text-only website with a small email signup form is better than no website at all.
If you’re planting a church, it’s better to go with a no-frills free website 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 website aesthetics and functionality, it can be tempting to spend weeks and weeks of full-time work “tweaking” your church website so that it’s perfect.
Set up a free site—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.
Free church websites are relatively no-hassle.
They have many other shortcomings, but time-to-launch is nearly unmatched.
Use these available free services to set up your digital patch of grass in 15 minutes so that you can return to the website issue at a later date.
Time and energy are the church planter’s greatest 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” website 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.
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.
Website building can be a complete black hole.
The fact that free website are 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 website isn’t to win people with aesthetics.
The point of a free church website is to put the bare-bones essentials on the internet for now.
Most people underestimate what goes into creating a stellar website.
Building your own church website 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, free website 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.
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 church website is a great middle ground to help older elder boards become friendly with the concept of a website.
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 website 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 your 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.
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 serve 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%.
Again—of course, an enterprise-level church website would be great.
A cool, eye-popping website 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—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.
In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.
Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.
Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:
A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.
With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.
To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.
The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.
Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving. So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.
Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.
Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.
Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.
Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:
There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.
Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.
How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.