How To Start A Web-Based Church
By Rev. David M. Ford
Presented by
The First International Church Of The Web



So, you want to start a web-based church. Congratulations! You'll find that pastoring a church on the internet is a challenging and personally rewarding way to serve Our Lord. By founding a church on the internet, you'll be able to reach and minister to people all over the world, you'll take part in an exciting new wave in evangelism, and most importantly, you'll have an opportunity to lead people to Jesus who may otherwise have never had the opportunity.

On this page I'll share with you everything I've learned as the pastor of The First International Church Of The Web. Of course, I'm still learning as well, so if you know of anything that should be added to this page, send it to me, and I'll be happy to add it, and, of course, give you credit for the contribution. Please share your knowledge with others, and together, we can make this a complete guide to starting and maintaining a web-based church. Okay, that said, let's jump right in.



Get Ordained

First, you'll need to be ordained. Fortunately, this is a free service offered by The First International Church Of The Web - See our website for full details. You can also choose other non-traditional ordination services, such as World Christianship Ministries (for more on "Ordination Ministries" such as World Christianship, visit our Online Ordination Frequently Asked Questions Page). However you choose to be ordained is up to you, but I do recommend it as the first step. Also, since you'll be starting a Christian church, it's important that your ordination credential comes from a Christian organization. Of course, you may already be an ordained minister, in which case you're ready to go on to the next step.



Choose A Name For Your Church

This may seem pretty obvious, but it's worth mentioning. After all, your church will be known by the name you choose for it. The name should be a reflection both of you, as the pastor, and the type of ministry it will be. Since your church will be on the internet, you may wish to include some word as an indicator of that - for instance, Internet, Web, Virtual, Online, etc.



Build Your Website

If you're just starting out, you may wish to start your church on one of the free website providers available on the internet. A few of these are GeoCities, Tripod, and Angelfire. These all provide free websites, and usually offer turorials on things like HTML, web page design, etc. Personally, I'd recommend Tripod, but they're all good services.

Here are a few basic tips on webpage design. First, the primary rule of thumb when designing a web page is "Keep It Simple". Too many "bells and whistles" may be fun to add, but they make the page slower to load, and are also very distracting to a lot of people. Too many graphics can also really slow down a page. Remember, the internet's a pretty fast paced place, and if your page takes too long to load, visitors will simply skip on to the next, faster website. Other pitfalls to avoid include having a background that is too "busy" and makes the text hard to read, text that is too small, text that doesn't contrast enough with the background and "bleeds" into the background, and MIDI (music) files that take a long time to load and may actually be annoying to your visitors when set to run automatically. Remember, you want your church to be a friendly place that's quick to load, with text that's easy to read, and is easy to navigate. The best advise is to experiment with different things, find out what works best for your site, and avoid everything else. For a more complete lesson on website design in simple, easy to understand language, read our lesson The Saint Luke Course On Christian Website Design.



What To Offer On Your Church Website

Again, this is a matter of personal preference, but here are a few features most church websites like to have. Most importantly, your visitors should be able to reach someone for counseling and witnessing. I recommend posting an e-mail link either to you, the pastor, or to members of your church who are qualified to counsel others and are willing to spend time doing so. Other features to offer include a prayer request page, a testimonial page, a BBS (Bulletin Board System) for threaded discussions, and maybe even a chat room. All of these features will attract visitors to your church, encourage participation by the membership, and offer opportunities to minister to others.





Get An Independent Church Charter

You may ask, "Why should I get an Independent Church Charter for my church?" There are many good reasons for doing so. An Independent Church Charter gives your church the same legal status and rights as any other church. With an Independent Church Charter, you can legally ordain ministers, issue Honorary Dr. of Divinity certificates, and even start issuing Independent Church Charters yourself. These are all important activities for any church. You can order an Independent Church Charter from our catalog page at www.ficotw.org/catalog.htm for a nominal contribution. See our catalog for full details.



Join The International Alliance Of Web-Based Churches

The International Alliance Of Web-Based Churches is an association of churches founded on the internet. Joining will help attract visitors to your church, and put you in contact with other ministers of web-based churches. Membership is free. For more information Visit the Alliance Webpage



Membership

As a church, you'll want people to join and take part in your ministry. It is up to you to decide what requirements to have for membership. You should post these requirements on a page on your website, along with a link to your e-mail. Each request for membership should be prayerfully considered under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Occasionally you may receive requests for membership from folks who you know in your heart are not sincere. These people should be ministered to, but you should try and avoid granting membership to anyone who seems insincere or simply trying to make trouble. Again, this is entirely up to you as the pastor of your church.



Publicize Your Church

Okay, you've done everything outlined here. Now you're ready to tell the world about your new church. There are many ways to do this. First, you should submit your site to as many search engines as possible. This may take some time, but it's the best way to make your presence known on the internet. Also, visit other Christian websites and request a link to your church. Go into Christian chat rooms and invite people to visit your church. Place ads in the various free classified advertisement services available on the internet. Visit Christian newsgroups and post a link to your website - but DON'T SPAM! (Spamming is sending out thousands of announcements via e-mail mailing lists or posting the same message on dozens or even hundreds of newsgroups. Spamming is wrong, and can get you terminated by your Internet Service Provider.) In short, tell everybody you can about your new church, and you'll start getting plenty of visitors building your ministry.



Conclusion

That's all there is to it! Hopefully, this page has helped you in your desire to build a church on the internet. You may even have more tips and suggestions for building a web-based church. If so, send them to me, and I'll be happy to add them. Now, the rest is up to you. I'm confident that if you sincerely desire to have a web-based ministry, and are willing to work at it, Our Lord will bless you with a dynamic and exciting ministry. God bless you and your new ministry!

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