Website CMS options for a religious organization?
March 3, 2012 8:44 PM   Subscribe

What's the best CMS for a busy church with a bunch of committees full of non-technical people? Are there professional website maintenance companies that deal specifically with religious organizations?

I'm one of the very few technical people in our 300-member church (UU fellowship, actually) and we're looking to replace our current website, a very cumbersome legacy Drupal system supported by one person who barely knows how it functions.

Do you have personal experience either maintaining or working with community sites? If so, what CMSes lend themselves well to this kind of organization?

Most of the end-users will be very non-technical people. I'm a capable Linux sysadmin with web experience, but I haven't looked at CMSes for large organizations, nor do I really deal with user-friendly sites, being more of a back-end process person.

We want something easy to update with new information, support for podcasts, social media integration, members-only areas, discussion forums, etc.

We're also entertaining the idea of hiring out some of the maintenance itself. Have you worked with any companies that provide services specifically for this kind of organization?
posted by odinsdream to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if WordPress has all the features you need, but our organization uses it. We have a couple of technical folks tending the coals in the back end and most of us on the front end are minimally techy. It works pretty well.
posted by elizeh at 10:27 PM on March 3, 2012

Drupal is often the best replacement for Drupal, because it does so many things other CMSes don't. If you have a lot of custom content types and views constructed around them--recognizable as sortable lists of structured data--then your best options are Drupal 7 (which mainly requires understanding what you've got), custom application development with some programming framework (e.g. Symfony, Rails, or Django), or perhaps Plone (which is not easier than either of the foregoing).

But it sounds like you might be able to get away with a WordPress multisite (a.k.a. network) install. That gives you any number of public sites named, like, or, plus any number of private sites only available on sign-in. The 'forums' could be comment threads on posts or pages, which work pretty well if you don't need arbitrary folks posting minor new topics, or you could look for a plugin. Private file uploads are tricky: by default they don't exist, but there have been plugins that would do it. Add too many plugins, though, and you'll hose the upgrade-ability of the site pretty quickly. If you really start going down that path, try stepping back and seeing if just WordPress plus BuddyPress would do what you need.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:02 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use Weebly for the public facing site and Google Apps for Business on the back end. Weebly is limited, but dead simple to use and is updated and expanded very often. If you know CSS and basic HTML you can customize the bajillions of templates easily. Our church secretary is a total non-techie and she can update the front page and our embedded google calendar like a pro. I handle the more complicated stuff, like our Amazon store, rss feeds etc. Our next project is to finally get our photos in Picassa up on the site.

I've used Wordpress before and found that it was much too confusing for people. I adore Wordpress, but I didn't want to be doing all the work myself. Weebly was a much better solution.

The basic free Google Apps does everything we need it to. We now have email accounts with our domain name which users can forward to their personal email. We also can create email groups like "vestry" or "altar guild" which make communication easier. Hands down, my favorite thing is being able to create aliases for users. Right now Sherry is our secretary. Anything sent to "" gets forwarded to her mailbox. If she leaves and we hire someone new I can easily assign the "office" alias to that person and the email to the office flows uninterrupted. I'm sure this is possible with any mail server but Google makes stuff like that so easy.

If you have any specific questions about either of these, let me know!
posted by Biblio at 12:12 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, Google Apps is a great suggestion--Sites for members-only areas and Groups for forums. There's a non-profit edition that's free up to 3000 users, if you're a 501(c)(3).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:18 AM on March 4, 2012

You might want to check out Mustardseed Media. I can't personally vouch for their work, but I have found their Drupal podcast helpful.
posted by kittydelsol at 2:55 AM on March 4, 2012

The Godbit project seems to have petered out, but if you look around the forum you might at least find some references or people to follow up with outside of it. Off the top of my head:

OpenChurch is a Drupal distribution with an obvious focus.

WordPress has Sermon Manager for, well, managing sermons and plenty of podcasting-related plugins if you need something with a more generic approach. A search for "church" turns up plenty of other plugins, but many other needs like events can also easily be provided by non-church-specific plugins.

As far as hosted options, Light CMS isn't actively being marketed toward church groups, but you'll find a lot of them in their gallery. The company behind it created a CMS they basically white-labeled under a few different names/markets at one point, one of them being churches, but it seems like they've consolidated things. At any rate, the actual features are surely still there.

For services, the only person I can immediately think of is Nathan Smith, who could likely point you at some other people if necessary.
posted by Su at 4:09 AM on March 4, 2012

Oh, also Ekklesia 360, also hosted.
posted by Su at 4:17 AM on March 4, 2012

Think Radiant (formerly AdvancedMinistry) is aimed at churches.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:24 AM on March 4, 2012

Would you believe that there's a hosting service specifically aimed at UU fellowships, organizations, districts, individuals, etc? I use it myself. Run by a guy named Jim Hermann, who will install the CMS of your choice. I've been using it for years; he got me set up to begin with, but now I do most of the maintenance myself. Not sure about something with as much back-end as you're talking about, but I feel like Wordpress will at least do most of it (and WP is super-easy to maintain, install plugins, etc).
posted by supercres at 6:38 AM on March 4, 2012

ExpressionEngine is used on a lot of church sites. Building a Church Site is a detailed 39-post series that "takes you through the implementation of a church website on ExpressionEngine - from start to finish" and includes "Why ExpressionEngine for a Church Site?"
posted by kirkaracha at 8:03 AM on March 4, 2012

We used LightCMS for our church website. It's a good fit, and there are a number of very non-technical people adding data to it on a daily basis.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 5:18 PM on March 4, 2012

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