WEBSITE BASICS -- Website Ownership

It is very important that the church or ministry, and not the webmaster, should always "own" the website and its domain name (eg. "mychurch.org")

First Story

Our church website was first developed by a church member who had left the area over a year before I entered the picture. The new pastor heard that the church had a website and the search engines were serving it up to him readily enough. The site featured the previous pastor which was the key reason the pastor wanted changes made to the web site. Also, the web site was hosted by GeoCities, a free hosting service, which meant it could survive that way for years to come. It took me about three weeks of phone calls and emails to finally get the login and password so I could take over the site. (Past webmasters don't always remember the password they used months ago.)


Second Story

Another church also had a problem that I got involved with. A member of the church had built the church's website on his own initiative, paying for it himself. He considered it his gift to the church. The website was in place for quite some time before a new pastor entered the pulpit. The new pastor was not pleased with the website or the webmaster and asked that the site be put on hold. The webmaster loaded the site with a crazy collection of static and active Under Construction graphics. It looked like a hacker had done some major sabotage on the site. Fortunately the webmaster finally agreed to shut down the site.


Who Owns The Design?

I personally believe that the work I do on my church's website belongs to my church. It makes no difference that I'm not being paid for any of it. Others believe it is their intellectual property. If they moved to another city or transferred their membership to another church, they would expect to move the website design with them and of course change the content to match that of the church they move to. For others it might predicate on the conditions of their departure.



The conclusions should be relatively obvious:

  • The church or ministry must be the owner of the website. If you donated your services as architect of the church structure, you would not expect to take the church with you when you relocate.
  • Others will, of course, have a different perspective on this. It is important that an understanding be arrived at. It might do well to capture that understanding in writing.
  • Website basics should be documented and on file in the church office. Have the webmaster write up such a document or explain it in detail while you take good notes. The document needs to explain how to gain access to the site for uploads and other maintenance. Several logins and their passwords may be involved. Domain and hosting renewals as well as other procedures should also be explained in the document.
  • Such documents should be on file in the church office in a secure location.
  • Hosting and domain update notices should be directed to the church office.


What To Do If ...

. . . your church's website is hosted for free (e.g. GeoCities) so it won't be going away, the search engines keep finding it, and the webmaster has left the area and cannot be reached?

  • Get a new website built and uploaded.
  • Use the tools featured in the Search Engines and Directories section of this website. The tools will help you identify the sites that link to the old site.
  • Contact those sites and let the webmasters know about the new web address.

You may wish to move to a new identity (e.g. a domain based on the church's name). In that case, once you have the new site up and running, put redirecting code on the other site's most commonly used web pages. In a year perhaps, after the traffic to the old site has dried up, you can have it shut down.


Primary Author: David Buxton>

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