E114 - Paul Cox from The Church Co.


James: All right so today we have Paul Cox from The Church Co. And they make websites but we're going to let him introduce himself a little bit more and yeah. Why don't you just say hi and say like a quick like the 30 second version of who you are.

Paul: Yes. So I'm Paul Cox. I run The Church Co. It's a it's a company that helps churches get affordable websites that are extremely high quality at a really ridiculously low price because we believe that better Web sites means more people finding your church more people getting excited about your church more people coming into your church and ultimately more people finding Jesus.

James: And when you say we're going to this pricing a little bit later down the line. But when you say ridiculously cheap What do you mean?

Paul: Our lowest price is 20 dollars a month.

James: Which is insane. Yeah that's that's almost free.

Paul: Well we wanted to you know there's a lot of options out there that are very affordable and we just think that there should be a solid one for churches that's also affordable.

James: All right.

Joanna: I'm curious with this. Like going back further behind that it's more that when you tell us about yourself. Like where does this come from you're already kind of revealing some of it. You care about churches and you want to do something for them. But why did you even start this how did you get into building Web sites.

Paul: All right. So this maybe the longer than 30 second version. Yes you see I used to. So in 2009 I moved to Sydney Australia to go to Hillsong international leadership college. I ended up I said I was going to go out there for two years come back here and become a creative arts pastor at a church and you know I was there for almost ten years after that. So I did three years of college there and then I actually came on staff as part of the Web team there and I was there during the time where we rebuilt all of Hillsong.com and kind of moved all the different brands into a single site and I learned so much during that process because you know I had to make a single Web site that would work for a large church that has been around for 30 years. But also that would work for all the church plants that we would launch all over the world different cultures different context. Just had to work for everyone. And during that time.

James: That's Huge too. Like that's that's a massive build right.

Paul: Yeah I mean I think it's I mean a couple of years ago I think it was listed as the most trafficked church Web site in the world potentially. So during that time I mean a lot of churches would email Hillsong and they would say they would forward it to me. Like who built your website. Can they help us build a Web site. That was always just kind of in the back of my mind. And then I from Hillsong when that project kind of ended I went on to work at a non-profit creative studio. So we worked with a lot of charities, a lot of different organizations that always were social minded had good causes, helped people. And you know a couple couple years into that I kind of came back to this idea of like couldn't there be an option for churches to build really effective web sites that they didn't have to pay thousands of dollars for. And that's kind of where The Church Co. Started.

Joanna: Awesome Wow. And so you were solving problems that like other churches dream of having really like you're talking about like multiple languages you're talking about being intuitive for older people and younger people you're talking about the complexity of multi site and not just multi site multiple nations. So like how long did that build take your team. I feel like that could be like a two year project.

Paul: Yes so I came into it halfway through and you had to be very clear I mean it definitely was a team and I came in kind of as the PHP developer during that time we actually built the site on Wordpress. And so I think the total length of that project from concept to launching was about three years. It's as a long one.

James: That's a long time frame because so much can change in even three years right.

Paul: Right. There was an extensive design kind of phase and obviously a lot of stakeholders in a project like that. Definitely not saying that your church Web site if you're listening to this I should take three years to build.

James: But yeah going into that project how much experience in web developer did you have like what was kind of the lead into that.

Paul: Yeah. So I before I went to Hillsong college actually got a degree in the Internet and interactive systems. So I had been working as a web developer for about five years before I decided to go to Hillsong college. So I worked for a company called A.M.D. they do processors for computers I was kind of working on their internal team building internal Web sites and web applications for the staff. So I've always had that background in programming. And then I got the opportunity to outwork that in a church and it's kind of like one of those what's in your hand things right like it's some people you know its ministry it's just very different to what you see every day like someone's behind the scenes writing code. And what's really cool about that is you know this code. You know you write actually has you know millions of people actually see it like they don't visually see it but they use it. And like a lot of people actually end up finding Jesus through that which is pretty cool to me.

James: So as you were going to set up The Church Co. let's start kind of when this idea first kind of hits you like what was your approach when setting it up. Like I mean did you always have this price point? Was it something that you kind of just looked around and said there is an issue here like kind of, speak about kind of how you set up like as a business and your pricing and where that kind of ties in with business / like your heart for the church hmm.

Paul: Well yes. I mean at the time there was yeah I think there's a lot of design trends that kind of go in phases right? Like a major church will launch a site and then a lot of other churches will kind of try to imitate that site you know things like that and so there was a lot of websites that I saw that were kind of Hillsong esc. And I was like. I feel like we could provide something that is built with quality that's affordable because a lot of people were making them on some of the free platforms that are out out there and we can talk about those platforms later. But the price was just like. This should be affordable like this shouldn't cost three thousand dollars. And then at the end I have a site that I can't edit like this should like churches.

Joanna: Or cost more like ten thousand, fifteen thousand dollars for a small, midsized church.

Paul: Absolutely. So the price point was always. I mean honestly as much as I would say I put a lot of thought into it. I just was like How much do I think a church should pay for a Web site. Twenty bucks. OK. Twenty dollars. That's how the price came about. And then I've you know I've never raised the prices I've I've kept it there the entire time and because I just I really think that I mean we get purpose of websites later but it's the first interaction you have with someone coming to your church like aside maybe from Facebook or Instagram like that's your touch point. So better websites mean more people coming to your church. And we've actually had that feedback from a lot of our customers.

James: And I love that like I mean even with my business VMC like it's the exact same it's like, I love the heart that you have for it because I mean we can all look at the big churches and see what they do. And they also have big budgets. But the reality is 95% of Christians even just within the US and Canada don't have those kinds of budgets right. So yeah building something that a lot of Christians can use as opposed to the wealthier ones is I think an honorable goal and it also makes business sense to right? Like you could try to build a product that is you know a really high price point but ultimately you're not serving as many people as you probably could with what you know the gifts that God has given you really right?

Paul: Right. And I think like if you look at church websites like if you go and pull 20 church web sites up the designs are going to be so similar. And I just realized. We can actually cut this entire design process like if you hire someone to come in and get a custom design your Web site. The chances are at the end of it it's going to look very very similar to a lot of the other church sites out there. And so that's one of the ways that we keep it cheap is you know we have templates and they're all like very solid designs. They look great. They are responsive. They work on mobile. They load very quickly and by not having to design that custom site every single time you're able to get the same quality code of when I say like you know build Hillsong or any of the other sites that I've worked on but I'm able to discount that down to you know extremely affordable amount.

James: Yeah I mean you don't need to have a conversation about hey do you want a big header image of the top and a menu to click through all things like.

Paul: right. It was going to be that going to be there.

James: So we don't need to waste time discussing about whether or not it should be. let's give you here's the you know the 5 10 popular ways it's done. Pick one of those because that's 99% of all the Web sites that you're going to want to pick anyways. Right? Why waste my time. Which which makes total sense right. I remember a little bit of my old days when I was learning to HTML code and CSS code it was just it was complicated and I personally waste a lot of time trying to figure out all these unique things when at the end of the day the Web sites that we always landed on were about the same anyways.

Paul: Right. Yeah that's exactly what I found. I mean we have done custom designs for people that really wanted them but it's just that, our focus is on the masses like we want as many people to have great Web sites as possible.

Joanna: So in some ways Paul you're answering the question indirectly but more directly, What would you say are some of the core beliefs behind how you're doing this business.

Paul: Yeah. So I mean end of the day. Good Web sites and effective web sites bring people to your church. And when people are in your church they find Jesus so everything that we do has to come back to that. And why would I not want the most people in churches possible. Right? So that's why I want to make it as affordable as possible. I mean that's why the price is low. It's one of our kind of core beliefs that you know what is in our hand. We write good code and we have a ton of experience with web. So we offer to build your Web site for free because we think if we can set you up in a way that we know will work for your church that ultimately meets those goals that we have which is more people in your church which means more salvation.

Joanna: Yeah. And you're talking about doing doing Web sites at a price that's doing Web sites at a price it's accessible with ministry in mind. But but you're doing it in a way that's as excellent as some of the You know the top brands in the world would would expect their Web site to be done.

Paul: Yeah absolutely. I mean I like full disclosure I've worked with a lot of those top brands like outside of church I have quite a resumé of working with kind of names that everyone would be familiar with and the same level of coding standards that go into those projects are the same thing that's going into The Church Co. And so I mean if.

Joanna: Without the price tag.

Paul: Yeah exactly. I mean if I was to if one of those people came and said Can you build us a site I would be building it the exact way that I'm building The Church Co. It's just that the price tag would be far more expensive for someone outside of the church because we just want churches to have this same level of excellence. Right? Like everyone wants to have really great worship and everyone wants to have really great preaching and really great connect groups and great contact with their congregation and we want that through your Web site.

Joanna: Thanks for listening to this week's episode. Tune in next time when we're to talk about the future of church websites what they used to look like and what they're going to look like. With Paul Cox from The Church Co.