In order to make the most out of your church website using WordPress, you are going to need to install a few plugins. Plugins are ways to extend the functionality of the core funtcions of WordPress and make your website do exactly what you want it to do.
Installing plugins is now extremely easy. In your WordPress dashboard there is a section on the left called “Plugins” with an “Add New” submenu. Just click on that, search for the plugin you want, and click “Install” on the desired plugin. After that, you will have to click “Activate Plugin” to make it functional.
Most plugins have options you will have to configure in some way. Usually a plugin will add a new link on the left hand side of your WordPress dashboard. You might have to click around a little bit to figure out how to configure your new plugins.
All that being said, here are some plugins that I either installed on my church website or think you should keep in mind for yours. Feel free to add your own or comment on my list. If you know of a better plugin to do similar functions, let me know:
- WP-Cache or WP Super Cache – [UPDATE: see the comments for Adam Walker Cleaveland’s experience with this plugin] Without getting too nerdy in explanation, these plugins will make your website run faster. I have never used them, but if you have a large population still on dial up (if that’s even possible) or are getting lots of traffic, these plugins can help you out a bit. By the way, only use one of these at a time, not both. These are just the two most popular plugins that perform this function. One may work better than the other for your church website.
- Contact Form 7 – If all you need on your website is a simple email form for people to contact someone, this plugin should suit you. But if you need something a little more complex, the next plugin will do.
- cforms II – If you need custom forms for people to fill out, this is the best plugin. You can create huge long forms with checkboxes, text fields, radio buttons, anything you want. Even better, this plugin not only emails you the data every time someone fills in their information, it can also create a database of all the information entered that can be downloaded into Excel.
- get_themes – To quickly install new themes on your site, this plugin makes it really simple.
- Email Obfuscator – I’m not sure how well this works in reality, so if someone has any better solutions, please comment below. The idea is that this plugin finds email addresses on your website and then makes them more difficult to read for the spam robots that troll the internet looking for email addresses to add to their email lists.
- Embed Iframe – To do a few of the things I will show you in the next post, you will need this plugin.
- Google Analytics for WordPress – Again, this plugin will make more sense after you read the next post, but it has to do with tracking your website’s traffic statistics.
- Google XML Sitemaps – You want to make sure that your all of your church website is in Google’s index and shows up in appropriate searches, right? This plugin, in addition to (again) what I will show you in the next post will go a long way to making sure Google doesn’t overlook anything on your site.
- ICS Calendar – I use this plugin to import calendar data from our church’s Google Calendar (which will be explained, you guesed it, in the next post) and displays an automatically updating list of upcoming events.
- Page Links To – If you want to create a main navigation link that goes to another website, this is the easiest way to do that.
- pageMash – WordPress doesn’t make it easy to put pages in the exact order that you want them in the navigation menus. Thus plugin makes it really easy.
- Role Manager – WordPress allows you to give registered members of your website four different levels of access to the back end of your website. For example, if you just want someone to be able to write articles but not install plugins, you can do that. However, if you want to create really custom levels of access, this plugin allows you to control every aspect of accesibility.
- WenderHost Subpages widget – If the theme you are using is a little bit limited in it’s navigation capability this plugin can make up for that. It creates a widget you can put in your sidebar that will only show up if you are on a page that has subpages under neath it. Otherwise, it disappears.
- Search Everything – For whatever reason WordPress’ default search function only searches posts. Since most churches will be using this on websites comprised mostly of pages, this widget will allow your pages to be searchable on your website.
- Akismet – If you allow comments on your website underneath pages or posts, this plugin is a must-have to keep spam comments at bay. It comes automatically installed in every version of WordPress, but you need a free WordPress.com account in order for it to work.
There you have it. Remember to add you own commentary in the comments below. Up next will be a post on how to use some free Google tools to make your church website even better.