You’re looking for a free WordPress theme for your church, right? I know, I’ve been there. I’ve used WordPress since 2006 and use it to manage my church’s website. After doing this for all these years, I’ve learned one thing: paying for themes is usually worth it. Here’s why:
- It will save you hours upon hours of time, because they come with instructions.
- It will work. I’ve played around with enough poorly-coded free themes to know that you get what you pay for.
- It will be supported. If you pay for a theme, you can get technical support from those behind the theme. You can’t do that with a free theme.
- They’re affordable. All of the paid themes suitable for churches that I have seen are less than $99.
Below is a list of my favorite premium and free WordPress themes for churches.
The Absolute Best Theme for Churches: Maranatha
Maranatha is the newest theme put out by Churchthemes.com, and it is the best WordPress theme I have ever seen for churches. I reviewed the first ever theme by ChurchThemes.com in 2012, and it was amazing four years ago. Maranatha is leaps and bounds better.
With Maranatha, you get:
- Mobile-friendly- Maranatha has a responsive design optimized for smartphones and tablets.
- Customizer- Customize the design’s colors, fonts and other elements with a real-time preview.
- Sticky menu bar – The menu and logo conveniently “stick” to the top of the screen as you scroll.
- Add your logo – Upload your logo image or use text while choosing a custom font and size.
- Section navigation – A compact menu specific to each section helps users navigate sermons, events, etc.
- Custom colors – Easily customize your site’s main color and the color for links and buttons.
- Simplicity, readability – A single content column with carefully chosen width and font size emphasizes contentand improves comfort.
- Custom fonts – Choose from a hand-picked selection of Google Fonts ideal for Maranatha.
- Header images – Show images for different sections (e.g. one for sermons, another for events).
- Custom styled maps – Custom styling of Google Maps ties them into Maranatha’s unique design.
- Sticky notice – A notice bar sticks to the bottom for showing upcoming events, recent sermons or other content of your choosing.
- High resolution – Maranatha is optimized for high resolution screens, including Retina®.
- Long homepage – Drag and drop sections to create a stunning, informative homepage.
- Sermon archive – Share audio, video and text sermons. Upload or use YouTube, Vimeo and others. Topics, books, series and speakers.
- Events calendar – Display events as calendar or list. Set weekly, monthly or yearly recurrence. Show maps, directions and categories.
- Sermon podcasting – Podcasting for audio sermons is included and works with iTunes®.
- Locations – Single or multiple locations with service times, map/directions and photo tour.
- Staff and leaders – Show staff and leader profiles with contact details, organizable by group.
- Ministries – Create a listing of your ministry pages using the Child Pages template.
- Blog – Publish articles or news on your church’s blog. Nothing beats a WordPress blog.
- Photos and videos – Add galleries to any content and upload or embed videos from popular sites.
- Footer widgets – Show widgets in your footer for sermons, events, blog, photos, giving and more.
- Footer map – Make it easy for newcomers to find your church with a map in the footer.
- Site search – Users can click the search icon in the header to find things on your church site.
- Sample content – Get started fast by importing sample content similar to the demo.
- Portable content – The Church Theme Content plugin makes switching themes easier.
Making it easy
- Made for beginners – WordPress and Maranatha are made for regular people — design skill not needed.
- Helpful support – Get answers to your questions with private, one-on-one support by email.
- One-click updates – Updates for compatibility, bug fixes and new features with one click.
- Guides and videos – Step-by-step guides and videos walk you through setup and use.
- Translation-ready – A guide is included to help you translate Maranatha into another language.
- Child themeable – Advanced users can modify the code. Filters and actions abound.
The best part? ChurchThemes.com offers a 45 day money back guarantee. Try it out for 45 days and if you don’t think it will work for you, you can get a complete refund.
StuidioPress has been making high-quality WordPress themes for a long time. I have recently used Genesis and I am loving it. The Genesis Theme Framework is all the rage right now–it seems like there are all sorts of websites using it to build custom sites. They have one great theme for churches, Outreach, but some of their other stuff would work well for churches, too. These guys are definitely worth checking out.
iThemes is often times my top recommendation for a novice WordPress user trying to build a church website. iThemes has a lot of different themes, all paid, many of which would work fabulous for churches. In fact, I decided to purchase Architect for our church’s website. Now they even have a theme built just for churches with Foundation Church Builder. iThemes could have the perfect solution for your church.
This is a new company that I’ve never used personally, but their themes are built specifically for churches and claim to be very user-friendly. I know one thing, they sure look greak. If you use them, drop a comment below detailing your experience.
I had the privilege of testing out this theme, and let me tell you, it is top-notch and very user-friendly. It has a lot of features, including a mobile-friendly responsive design, sermon archive, photo and video gallery, church events calendar, support for multiple locations, staff profiles and church news. The sermon archive is complete with the ability for visitors to search for audio, video and text sermons by category, tag, date and speaker. Risen has customization options that make it easy to change the theme’s colors, fonts and background. (Updated 7/23/12)
Some of the best free church WordPress themes:
ChurchThemes.net has a unique business model in that all of its themes are free, if you so choose. The free themes have some limited functionality and support, but at least you can try them out without anything out-of-pocket. And if you want to upgrade, it’s only $29 for their standard edition. (Updated 7/14/12)
This a clean, modern looking theme that could easily be adapted for church use. You can download it on this page. (Updated 7/14/12)
Vandelay Design has a collection of free themes designed specifically for churches. I really like the Stylish Church Theme, which features a customizable slider on the home page, an events calendar, custom post type for audio files & sermons with audio player, and 4 color schemes from which to chose. (Updated 7/14/12)
- Arras – I don’t know anything about Arras, other than I saw it on a church site the other day and it looks real nice.
- [UPDATE – Ministry Theme is no longer free] Ministry Theme – As you might guess, this theme is built specifically for ministry websites. I’ve never come across it before in the wild, but it looks really great. Thanks to Bill Robbins of Organized Themes for pointing this one out.
- Ashford – This theme claims to be among the most user-friendly for the novice. Among the unique traits of this theme is the ability to edit certain aspects of the website from the front end rather than having to login to the back end of the website at do all the editing. I have never used tried it, but if you have never used WordPress before (or will be allowing other people to edit the site who have little experience), this might be perfect.
- LivingOS UPSILON – A very clean theme with a rotating picture header. Changing the pictures takes a little bit of code work, but it’s pretty easy to figure out. I used UPSILON to create PassingOnFaith.com for a conference I helped organize. UPSILON was designed specifically for churches. Check out the other themes at LivingOS.
- [UPDATE – Organized themes appears to only have paid themes now]Organized Themes.com – Run by a guy who worked as an associate pastor and realized churches need a simple way to present their web content and began designing WordPress themes. I’ve never used them, so I can’t speak for their user-friendliness but a few of them look really nice.
- Ocean Mist – Another really simple site, but I’ve never used it so can’t speak for it.
- Vigilance – I used Vigilance for a long time on MattCleaver.com. It has some really sweet features that could make it a great site for churches to use. Go to the linked page to see the extra goodies that I am not using right now on my site. I can also vouch that it is very user friendly, a great place to start for newbies who want some flexibility and customization options. This is one of the best free themes I’ve run into in a long time.
- Titan – Just released on March 11 by the same guy who made the above Vigilance, Titan looks great. Titan offers drop-down menus that are helpful for sites with a lot of pages.
- WooThemes (mostly paid themes, but some freebies) – WooThemes has some really sweet themes, most of them paid. There are a few free ones though, like the Original Premium News theme that Tim Schmoyer uses.
So far in this series we’ve learned the advantages of a self-hosted church website, hosting it through HostGator, and how to install WordPress to manage your website content. But now your website looks really ugly and boring, and we can’t have that. Thankfully, giving your WordPress website a whole new look is as simple as downloading a few files and then uploading them to your website (click here for step-by-step instructions to install a theme). These collections of files that style your website and give it a particular look are called “Themes.” There are tons of both free and paid themes available for WordPress, from the simple blog theme to a complex news and video website. If you Google “best WordPress themes” you will get a ton of websites who have compiled a list of themes that they think stand out. If you want a really great-looking website a paid theme is probably the way to go ultimately. Be warned though, that some of these themes require a significant amount of customization that may not be really easy to do at first. Most of these paid themes include step-by-step instructions for how to customize things like rotating picture banners, but you might have to dig a little bit to find it. Also, for the best appearance, you will need to crop pictures to certain sizes at times, which can be done pretty easily online at sites like Picnik.com.
Please leave some links and comments in the comments section below if you know of other great themes for churches. And yes, you can promote your own, paid or free! If I like them, I’ll add them to the body of the post.