WordPress for Churches: Themes & Plugins to Get Started

WordPress for Churches: Themes & Plugins to Get Started

May 8, 2013 by

One of the best things about technology today is that it’s faster, it’s cheaper and it’s better than it’s ever been. All of these qualities are a boon for the small, medium and large church because we have nothing but opportunity now to engage with our congregation, reach our local communities and expand our message unlike we’ve ever done—and again, we can do it on the cheap.

That’s why I’ve been a fan of WordPress for the church for a long time. Did you know that WordPress now powers over 17% of the top 1 million sites in the world? The growth curve is unbelievable and your ministry has everything it needs to leverage a best-in-breed technology with an extremely low bar.

But just like the first time you change a tire, it can be daunting at first glance and I hope I can provide some context and some top plugins that can help you get a robust church website up and running in no time flat.

1. Themes
There are tons of themes out there and you really do have your pick of the litter. The biggest challenge here is to not overdo your decision-making process. There are some themes that appear to have all the tricks and features that you might want but I challenge you to start simple. In fact, the simpler the better. Especially if this is your first time venturing into WordPress you want to make that transition as easy as possible. In fact, I recommend using one of the themes that come standard with WordPress. Just use Twenty Twelve to start and you’ll be fine. You can always upgrade and change out a theme but you’ve got to learn to walk before you can run!

2. Calendaring
Most ministries have a calendar of events and one of the best plugins to do this is Events Calendar. It’s free to download (although you can go “Pro” with a paid account later) and should be everything you need to get up and running quickly. The setup is easy, the installation is flawless and they’ve got a robust support documentation to boot.

3. Newsletters
Newsletters still work, especially when you need to communicate key dates or events with your members and congregation. Wysija is where you should start. It’s also free and is simple to use and implement. They have great video overviews to get you sending newsletters to your congregation in no time. There is also a premium version available but smaller congregations shouldn’t need to upgrade (at least not now!).

4. Images and Media
One of the best things that’ll keep your congregation engaged with your blogging efforts is robust and creative media from social networks and services like Flickr, Instagram, 500px or even Dribble. A new plugin that was released recently is called Uber Media that natively integrates those great services right into the post layer. You can easily insert images into your blog posts and pages via the media manager in a simple and intuitive interface. You can even filter out NSFW content in a “safe mode.”

5. Blogging Calendar, Editorial Management
As you solicit help to write content and create an editorial system and process there’s only one plugin that you’ll need to get started and that’s EditFlow. This robust editorial workflow system has everything you need to create a calendar of blog posts, manage your authors, create feedback loops for your content, and even notifications and story budgeting from a brilliant interface. Use it a few times and you’ll be hooked and never be able to use another WordPress blog and site without it. Some of the largest editorial online publications use it and swear by it.

6. Maps
People have to find your church and be able to get there on time. So you’ll want an interactive map and there’s nothing better than this Google Map plugin. You’ll be able to create a local map to your church with simple and helpful tooltips along the way. With full documentation, shortcode builders and even authentication for directions, you’ll never have someone text message your lead pastor Sunday morning asking for directions.

7. Directory
Need to create a directory of your members or even your church staff? Look no further than Connections Business Directory. Built right into the admin and dashboard you’ll be able to see anniversaries, birthdays, and more about your members and staff. With controls over private and viewable content you’ll be able to organize them by groups as well. Done and done.

8. Sermons
For sermons, start simple. There’s one audio plugin that I trust with my life and that’s WP Audio Player. You won’t be able to create a mega-wide database of sermons but the simplicity of this plugin (one sermon per post) cannot be matched. Start here and then upgrade to a bigger podcast/music plugin if you ever need it.

Get to Work
This list of core themes and plugins should be seen as a generalized starter kit for a church to get up and running quickly with WordPress. For every category there are plenty of other options—share your favorites in the comments. There’s almost limitless possibilities so be wise and always think of the easiest and simplest solution to a problem.

Good luck and I can’t wait to see your ministry boost its web presence this year with WordPress!

Not sure if WordPress is for you? Check out our post comparing WordPress with hosted content management systems.

Post By:

John Saddington

John is a full-time hacker and entrepreneur working with and coaching technology startups. His big projects now are 8BIT, WP Daily, and his newest iOS app, Pressgram.
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20 Responses to “WordPress for Churches: Themes & Plugins to Get Started”

  • Jordan Gillman
    May 8, 2013

    Thanks John, there’s a few choice selections in there. Its nice to see the Pro version of The Events Calendar now has recurring events – that was a deal breaker for me for a while.

    Connections Business Directory looks good too.

    I use WordPress to design and develop church websites and the thing I love about WordPress for sermons/podcasting is that you can use a player like you suggested for the audio – but set up a custom post type to handle all the other information about sermons and series. It’s super flexible.

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  • Jordan Wiseman
    May 8, 2013

    Great list! I’d suggest Series Engine for sermons. (http://seriesengine.com)

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  • Frankie Jarrett
    May 8, 2013

    Excited to see WordPress being recommended here! We think it’s a great solution for churches to still make a big impact while on a small budget.

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  • Zach Imboden
    May 8, 2013

    I am wanting to move to a wordpress account however my our leadership is concern with security and us being on our own without help is someone hacks our page. Do you have any recommendations on any wordpress hosting and managed wordpress hosting companies out there to provide the back end support?

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    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      May 8, 2013

      One of the best presentations on WordPress security I’ve seen comes from Dre Armeda, founder of Sucuri. Check it out.

      If you’re worried about security there’s a lot you can do to lock WordPress down. Sucuri also has some services if you need more peace of mind.

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    • Jordan Gillman
      May 8, 2013

      Hey Zach,
      I’ve not tried them myself – but have heard no end of good things about WP Engine (http://wpengine.com/) and Pag.Ly (https://page.ly/) in terms of WP specific hosting (really good with security and backup).

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    • Eric H. Doss
      September 4, 2013

      I know this is a bit late, but thought I’d chime in for you here. I’ve worked with WordPress for many years and it’s one of the most secure environments for development. I wouldn’t say there was a 0% chance of you getting hacked, but for most users, the only way people hack into the site is through out of date themes or plugins or WP core files. If you keep your site, plugins, and themes up to date, you’ve eliminated most of the danger.

      Think of it as keeping your car locked: hackers are always looking for the easiest way in, the proverbial unlocked car door, so don’t leave the door unlocked by not updating the site and you’ll avoid most of the issues you’d face.

      Past that, there are literally hundreds of security plugins you can use to limit login attempts, block IP addresses, and more.

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  • Carol
    May 21, 2013

    Our church uses Connect Daily (MH Software) for their WordPress plugin calendar. It’s easy to put into your WordPress page and fully meets the needs of our church (we’re averaging about 1000 each weekend). It helps us manage our resources right along with our events too, no more room conflicts. It’s worth checking out: http://www.mhsoftware.com/WordPressCalendar.html

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  • Frank
    June 13, 2013

    We just released a CRM plugin for WordPress called PauPress and we built it to help organizations manage people (directory & search), donations, events and emails all from within WordPress. We initially built this out to help faith-based organizations do all of their work within an integrated environment but we’re actively seeking out churches that are wanting to manage their site with WordPress.

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  • Roman Heindorff
    July 13, 2013

    Hi All! If you’re looking for blog/content management that allows you to build and grow your contributor community without getting overwhelmed with permissions settings, etc., you may want to check out Camayak (www.camayak.com) – our cloud-based tool for high school, college and professional publications that use WordPress. We have our own plugin that allows anyone with a Camayak account to publish directly to one or more WordPress sites and are always eager for feedback so we can keep improving the product!

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  • Brian
    September 10, 2013

    Any recommendations for a solid plugin or solution for online tithing through WP?

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  • Craig
    June 10, 2014

    Nice list … thanks. I would consider adding something like Wishlist, which allows the posting of items and media that are protected (for members only). For communities with concerns around posting images of children, or of individuals are otherwise not comfortable with the web, this can help overcome issues. I am not pushing Wishlist, but I can say after much research that at the time it was the only membership solution that offered multiple levels of memberships including no fee memberships, which is key for a church (although nothing wrong with being able to add paid levels of membership for those who want to support a church or no-profit in that way.

    I was surprised not to see a security related plugin, but your list is tight and useful. I hadn’t seen EditFlow, and now am going to go check it our.


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  • Ashish Ajani
    January 17, 2015

    Nice list of themes and plugins for Church websites, John. I think you’ve not mentioned any donation plugin which is very essential for any church website for receiving online donation.

    I would like to suggest free wordpress plugin for Church “WP Church Donation”. Specially designed for Church websites to accept donation using Authorize.Net credit card processing. Also there are other features as well like Donation list, Donor information, dynamic thank you message and thank you email content management, etc.. The plugin is free but having good features.


    Hope it will help someone to start receiving donation online.

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