We wrote a web crawling script to research the most popular content management systems used by church websites. We gathered data on 1,600 churches, and our web crawler inspected those 1600 church websites in late 2015. This article describes what we learned.

Initially, we were tempted to title this post “The Best Content Management Systems for Church Websites.” But then realized that the data we gathered doesn’t directly answer the question “Which is the best?” But it does provide a conclusive answer to the question “Which is the most popular?”

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

A content management system (CMS) is a web application that works as a middleman. It’s software (sometimes free, sometimes purchased) that enables you to operate a website without having to build it yourself from scratch. It’s for your content (words, pictures, information); it manages (you don’t need to write code, you just type your words in a box and click “post”); and it’s a system (all the parts fit together).

What are the Most Popular Content Management Systems Used by Churches?

Okay. On to the best CMS for churches. Our research isn’t exhaustive, and we’re still improving it. But here’s what we do have: data on the CMSs used by 1600 websites in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA churches).

We gathered this data in late 2015 using an automated web crawling script. We studied churches in the Presbyterian Church in America because much of our work (portfolio) has been with Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

Your mileage may differ.

Popular Content Management Systems used by PCA churches in 2015

WordPress is By Far the Most Popular CMS for Church Websites

Starting at the top of the pie, we see Church Plant Media (ChurchPM) at 4.6%. They offer a selection of prefabricated website designs specifically for churches. Other findings:

  • CloverSites holds 3.3% of these church websites, and also offers prefab designs specifically for churches.
  • Joomla was used by 2.4% of the church websites crawled during our study.
  • MSites was used by 1.1% of the church websites crawled during our study.
  • SquareSpace offers prefab designs for a broad range of customers, and was used by 4.1% of the church websites crawled during our study.
  • Weebly was used by .8% of the church websites crawled during our study.
  • WordPress was used by 27.3% of the church websites crawled during our study.

So, WordPress holds the largest single slice of the CMS pie. No surprise here. Nearly six times as large as the next-largest, WordPress’s popularity reflects what we at 5MT have found: its versatility makes it a content management system of the highest quality.

Other Research Findings

First, a whopping 12% of the churches we surveyed had no website. (Maybe they should read “Biggest Excuses People Make…”)

Second, 3.7% of church websites we crawled had a “DNS Failure.” This means the church has a web domain name, but when our script tried to analyze it, it couldn’t be found. Either it had a technical glitch at the exact same moment as our script was running, or is permanently offline. An additional 1.6% church websites returned an error code.

Finally, there’s a lot we still don’t know. 34.9% Unknown is the largest slice of the pie. This comes partly because our web crawling script still needs improvement, but many of these sites are “unknown” because they don’t use a CMS. It might be an older static HTML website, or perhaps another web-development framework like Django, Ruby on Rails, or maybe a website built on any of the dozens of other “popular open-source web-dev frameworks”. So, in 2016, we’ll continue improving our web crawler to help us discover more accurate data. Stay tuned.

P.S. Free bonus: You can explore the dataset further using the interactive version of the chart below.

Special thanks to Bethany Post and Daniel Vos – who both contributed to this article.