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The title is kind of misleading. When people see ‘church themes’ most just assume I’m going to tell you about church themes. Can I just be honest? I have found that most church themes, or themes dedicated to ministry are pretty cheesy, sloppily coded, and not easy to customize and use. I’m going to give five themes (only one church theme!) that I think make awesome ministry websites. One other thing, no great looking church site uses just a free theme. Let’s be real, when’s the last time you got something for free and it was amazing? Plan now on paying $40-60 for a good theme. If 90% of people check out your site before they ever come to your church don’t you think fifty bucks for a church theme is a worthy investment?
A few starting criteria. All of these church themes are fully responsive and all are premium themes. All of theme have at least a 4/5 star rating from their buyers. Let’s get started!
Pros: This is one of my favorite church themes. I recommend the author, ThemeWaves, on the Stuff I Use page. Really, any of the Themewaves 5 themes work great as church themes.
- Their page builder makes it a breeze for anyone to keep your site updated, plus it is a very well documented theme, meaning an hour and some playing around will have you on your way to an awesome site. It uses a drag and drop system with 29 different options to put in different sections of the page. Maybe the top container you want a heading followed by two columns and it to all have one color. Then the second container you a parallax background with a quote overlaying it. The options are endless.
- The ‘theme options’ panel is very extensive without being confusing. The color scheme, font scheme for different site elements, as well as different page layouts, all in your hands.
- There are unlimited sidebars. Most church themes have sidebars built in as widgets and by default you can only have a few that show up on each page. With Rebound you can create as many sidebars as you want and in the page builder you can assign a sidebar specifically for that page. Meaning you can have one sidebar that shows up on your about page to get more info or RSVP for a new comer deal and on the ministries page you can have a completely different sidebar with links to all your ministries. Most themes have leeway for two sidebars. Your site can have as many as it needs.
- It comes with a free $15 slider called LayerSlider. After Soliloquy this is my pick for the second best slider. Many like it more because you can add different elements (buttons, calls to action, etc) over top the picture.
Cons: Everything has some kinks right?
- My biggest kink with Rebound and all the Themewaves themes is that they don’t have a built in automatic upgrade capability. One thing I learned the hard way about Themeforest is that you have know a few things to update them on your site. You will need to download the Envato WordPress Toolkit plugin, link it to your Envato account, and update through it. Make sure to save any of your customizations and CSS before doing so!
- My second con is the type of social icons. I would like to see more customization in the social icons available, but that is just a plugin away. I usually bypass the theme’s social stuff and use another plugin to make it look how I want.
- My last con is the space between the containers. I don’t usually mind it but on some pages it looks like there is too much space between the content in one container and the content in the next one.
Sidenote: My design company offers template base packages where churches say ‘I like that site, make mine like it.’ This theme is responsible for more base packages sold then any other. People like it a lot! If you would like to look more into it click the graphic above!
One site I designed using Rebound Church Themes: http://SummitCrestview.com.
Pros: One of the only true church themes I would use. As far as church themes go this one is not cheesy. In fact..the exact opposite.
- The thing that makes this theme desirable (even as dedicated church themes go) is the built ins specific to a church that rival the plugins I use. Their sermon player is crazy good right out of the gate. Same for the events page. Online media and an awesome calendar are two of the most important things a church has online and this theme does them very well. This site is so good that businesses are actually buying this church theme for the built ins.
- All the info is in the right place already. This theme puts ‘next event,’ contact info, etc in the place that site visitors will see them quickly and in a non-interfering way. Lots of church themes just squeeze this info into the top of the site, but this theme does it while maintaining a good look and class.
- Another issue I take with most ‘church themes’ is the admin panel on the backend. They are usually clunky, but this theme is just as powerful under the hood as it is beautiful on the front end of the site. This designer obviously knows that most church people don’t have a WP guru managing the site, so their admin panel, while extensive, will still have your site up and running quickly and effortlessly.
- In the Sermon Player there is no Download button by default. You would have to create a zip file of the audio for listeners to download it to their comp. Not a big deal for most as we podcast. Just a few like to download directly.
- The slider that comes with the theme is versatile but still a little limited in my opinion. I recommend purchasing another and replacing it.
- The footers seem to be limited. I use the footers of my page for a lot of info, but definitely not a deal killer.
Pros: Best ‘one pager award’ for church themes.
- This theme uses the Genesis Framework, which means the startup cost is a bit more, but it is so much more solid than most sites. The framework is like the solid skeleton theme, and Start is like the the skin. It operates on a child theme so that means when it updates you don’t have to worry about losing anything.
- Fairly easy to customize and make your own without the use of any code. You shouldn’t even have to touch the CSS or any other code to make it look great.
- The ‘main menu’ section is actually ‘2 in 1’ meaning on the home page you can have it set to one menu and on the internal pages the same menu can be set to a different menu. Really unique! Works this way because it is meant to be a one page theme, but has more funcitonality.
- Extremely good support. I’ve used multiple ‘church themes’ from ZigZag and when I’ve run into issues they are quick to respond. Not only is the response quick, but usually I don’t even need to ask because the tutorials for their church themes and knowledge base forum is very thorough.
- It’s a Genesis Framework theme. Yes that is a big pro, but for some it may be a deterrent because of the $70 price tag on top of the theme price. I think it’s worth it because of how solid Genesis is. They have the best reputation, and the most active sites, of any WordPress developer.
- Container short codes on the home page. If you don’t look at the documentation before you jump in the extensive use of shortcodes and such will tick you off. I recommend buying a type of page-builder that integrates with a genesis theme. Should be easy enough to find on CodeCanyon.
Site using the Start Church Themes: http://tonydavidson.org
Pros: Most Versatile of all the church themes.
- This church theme is crazy customizable. Of all the church themes I’ve uses, this on is absolutely most versatile. One of their ads is ‘the last theme you’ll ever need to buy.’ The reason is because of how much you can do with this one theme.
- Very well built. The coding for this theme is solid. Cutting edge WordPress development. Performance optimized. I wish more church themes came this solid on the back side.
- Stacks. This theme has four ‘stacks’ or starting points to customize your site. From there you can do pretty much anything. The only stack I don’t see a church site doing well on is the ‘icon’ stack.
- Inspiration. On their demo site they have links to like 40 sites built just with this theme to show you just how far reaching the customization is on this theme. It’s really like 40 church themes in one!
- Live Previewer. You can edit your site right on your site, whereas with other themes you have to edit in the dashboard and then preview separately. I’m telling you, the pros for this theme are endless.
- Page builder. I still still prefer Themewaves’ page builder, but the X theme is good as well.
Cons: Because every theme has them, even this one.
Let’s be honest. When crazy customization is available there is great potential for confusion. There is a bit of a learning curve with this theme. The way around it? Do your research for one. Secondly, it would be helpful to find one of the setups you like on their demos and just import the settings.
The price is currently $63, which places it about 5-15 dollars above most themes, but with this probably being your only site as a church that shouldn’t make or break right? Plus, you get about $50 of free plugins. Check out my review of X.
Pros: This is their only theme, so all their time goes into it. As far as church themes go, this one is pretty sharp, especially their content slider.
- Video Backgrounds. What’s more eye catching than a video playing on a website? Salient is unique in that it offers you the option to have a video as a background, either a full background of partial. So neat!
- Built ins. This theme has great built ins, meaning instead of having to buy another slider, you can use their awesome nectar slider instead. Saves you money!
- Color and Font Schemes. The theme customization for colors and fonts for Salient is extensive. This means your site can stand out from other sites where the font is just put in the code.
- Drag and Drop Page Builder. This theme has a super easy to use page builder. Again, I’m partial to Themewaves, but this page builder is more than sufficient and is quickly learned.
- Tutorials. Well documented sites are always my favorite. This theme has an HD video tutorial series that guides you through every aspect of making an awesome WordPress site using Salient.
- Limited layouts. If your pastor is a heavy blogger and wants to use the church site as a his medium then you only have two layouts for the blog. Same with the portfolio if you use it for your ministries instead of individual pages.
- Limited customization of the header area. But it looks good already so you probably won’t have to do anything to it if you like it!
Site using Salient church themes: http://redemptionpoint.net
If you already have a sweet church site, what do you use? What features do you like best about your theme? Would you consider moving to one of these four? Comment below!
Hey guys! I am a church leadership and creative guy living in the Atlanta area with my awesome wife and two kiddos. I've worked on staff with a number of churches as well as traveled full time as a conference speaker. Now, I work full time at The Reach Company helping ministries and businesses tell their story and make an impact online.