How to Start a Church Membership Website (In 5 Steps)

A disengaged congregation can mean trouble for even the best churches. If you’re writing a fantastic sermon for Sunday, but no one is attending or acting on that message, your words might fall on deaf ears.

With all the distractions of this day and age, it can be tough to keep your community tuned in. Fortunately, a membership site can help you connect with your members – even when they’re not physically present.

In this post, we’ll explain why a dedicated membership site can be immensely beneficial to your church. Then we’ll walk you through how MemberPress works as a WordPress church membership plugin. Let’s get started!

How a Membership Site Can Benefit Your Congregation

There are many different ways a membership site can benefit your church. Primarily, it can strengthen your community by giving members the ability to connect online outside of traditional hours.

The Church of the Good Shepherd website.

Here are a few specific ways a WordPress church membership plugin like MemberPress can benefit your church:

  • Increase commitment by making it easy for people to volunteer and contribute to church ideas. A website is also an ideal place to share opportunities for stewardship and teaching, which may in turn boost engagement.
  • Keep church members informed and updated on important information.
  • Predict attendance so you can be prepared for events – whether that's for a significant celebration such as Easter or something smaller like a Bible study class.
  • Better organize and manage community happenings. For example, manage performances, schedule musicians, and determine availability.
  • Allow members to book and engage in online counseling sessions.

The above is just a handful of the many, many ways churches can benefit from having a place to connect online. Do a bit of brainstorming, and you're certain to come up with all kinds of additional ways you could use a church membership site.

How to Start a Membership Site for Your Church (In 5 Steps)

If you've decided that a dedicated site is a smart move for your congregation, the next step is figuring out how to go about creating one. Fortunately, we're here to make doing so as simple as possible.

In the following five steps, we'll show you how to start a membership site for your church using our MemberPress plugin. This premium tool works with just about any theme. You can use MemberPress to transform your existing website into a membership site. It gives you full control over the plans, pricing, and analytics.

To get started, you'll need two things: a MemberPress license and a WordPress site (we'll assume you already have the latter). You can sign up for a MemberPress plan on our website. If you need help setting up your site, check out WordPress' help docs.

Step 1: Install Our MemberPress WordPress Plugin

Our MemberPress plugin is a tool that lets you create members-only content on your site. Once you've purchased a plan, you can install MemberPress by downloading the .zip file from your account dashboard.

To upload it to your WordPress site, navigate to Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin > Choose File:

The screen to add a new plugin in WordPress.

Once you open the plugin file that's saved on your computer, click on Install Now , followed by Activate Plugin. MemberPress will now appear as a menu item in your WordPress admin dashboard.

After it's done installing and activating, the plugin will prompt you to enter your license key. You can find this in your MemberPress account dashboard.

Step 2: Set Up Your Membership Plans

Chances are you won't be charging for your memberships. But you still may want to create separate plans for your website. For example, you might have separate membership plans groups like:

  • Members of the congregation
  • Worship team volunteers
  • Children's ministry volunteers
  • Teens
  • Church staff

By doing so, you can create a unique experience and offer varied access to certain areas of your site, depending on a individual's role.

The information you provide when setting up your memberships will give site visitors a breakdown of the features and benefits associated with of each membership level. When someone goes to sign up, they'll be able to choose their membership type from one central page.

To get started, browse to MemberPress > Memberships from your dashboard, and then click on Add New at the top:

The screen to add a new membership in the MemberPress plugin.

On this screen, you can enter a name for your membership plan:

Creating a new membership plan via MemberPress plugin.

To the right, under the Membership Terms section, there are field where you can enter pricing information and billing type. However, since you probably won't be using these, you simply leave them blank.

You can also determine the level of access (Lifetime, Expire, or Fixed Expire). If you're unsure how to complete these details, consider exploring some examples.

On this same page, below the text editor, you can find the Membership Options section:

The 'Membership Options' section of the MemberPress plugin.

In this panel, you can configure the membership permissions and registration options. You can also set up the membership access URLs. When you're done, click on the Publish button to save your changes. Also, note that you can repeat this step for as many plans as you wish to create.

Step 3: Edit Access for Your Membership Plans

Once you're done creating your plans, the next step is to establish some membership rules. To do that, you can navigate to MemberPress > Rules, and then select Add New:

The screen to add new rules in MemberPress.

On the Add New Rule screen, under Protected Content, you can choose which content to exclude from members in certain groups or roles:

The 'Protected Content' section of the MemberPress plugin.

You can hide posts, pages, tags, or categories. You can also change the user access permissions at any time.

When you're finished editing your rule, make sure to click on the Save Rule button before exiting. Remember that you can make as many rules as necessary to ensure that your church membership site runs seamlessly.

Step 4: Add a Registration Link

When you're finished setting up your membership plans, the next step is to add a registration link. This gives your visitors the ability to become members.

To get started, you can navigate to Appearance > Menus from your WordPress dashboard. Then, click on Manage with Live Preview:

The 'Manage with Live Preview' option in WordPress menus.

This will take you to the Customizer. On this screen, click on Primary Menu > Add Items > Memberships:

The option to add memberships to the Primary Menu in WordPress.

Next, click on the (+) icon next to the membership you want to add. You should now see it under your Primary Menu. Select Publish to save your changes.

Now, when users visit the membership link on your website, they'll be able to register for an account. On this screen, your plan's price will appear, as well as fields for any details you require for signup, such as their first name, last name, and email.

Step 5: Add a Login Link

Your members can't access your membership site without a login page. Therefore, the final step is to create a login URL for your church website.

You can configure this using our MemberPress login page. To do so, navigate to MemberPress > Settings > Pages, then use the drop-down menu under MemberPress Login Page to select Auto Create New Page:

The screen to add a MemberPress Login Page.

To edit the login page, you can click on the Edit button next to this drop-down menu. Then you can customize it to your liking. Next, click on Update Options at the bottom.

That's it. You've successfully created your membership site!

Once you're up and running, you'll want to explore all the incredible MemberPress integrations you can use to expand your site's functions – add everything from email marketing and members-only forums, to online classes and online counseling sessions. The sky's the limit!

Conclusion

Connecting with your congregation can be challenging, especially in this modern era. Fortunately, innovative technological tools make it easier than ever to communicate and collaborate with your church community, even on the go. This is why we recommend considering building a dedicated website.

In this post, we discussed how you can start a membership site for your church in five simple steps:

  1. Install our MemberPress WordPress plugin.
  2. Set up your membership plans.
  3. Edit access for the plans.
  4. Create a registration link.
  5. Add a login URL.

How do you plan to use your membership site to connect with your congregation more effectively? Let us know in the comments section below!

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About John Hughes

John is a blogging addict, WordPress fanatic, and staff writer.

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