Exodus WordPress Church Website Theme Review
When ChurchThemes.com launched last year, they had one theme available, the Resurrect theme. While Resurrect continues to be a great option, it’s always good to have choices available. This month, they launched their second church WordPress theme, Exodus.
Affiliate note: I’m an affiliate for ChurchThemes.com. That means if you buy any of their services after clicking on a link through my website, I will get a small commission for referring you to them. Thanks!
Also, they were gracious enough to provide me with a free copy of the Exodus theme to review. That said, I really believe in their model of providing high quality WordPress themes for churches coupled with ongoing one on one support. For more about them, check out my interview with founder Steven Gliebe or visit their website.
Installation of the Exodus theme was slightly more involved than a random free theme, but nothing very complicated. The Getting Started guide provided by ChurchThemes.com gives a straightforward walkthrough on how to set up the theme.
Side note: I installed WordPress locally – meaning on my MacBook, rather than on an web server – so I could test the Exodus theme. If you’ve never used WordPress and you want to get a feel for it, installing it locally is surprisingly easy. Directions are here.
Once you have the theme installed, you’ll need to install the Church Themes Content plugin before your site will actually do anything. Again, all this is clearly covered in the guide, and I’m confident their support can easily walk you through it if you have any trouble.
After your site is up and running, I’d suggest importing the sample content provided here. It adds a few extra steps, and obviously it’s not necessary, but it gives you a good idea of what the theme is capable of. You can then start filling in the website framework with the actual information for your church.
How It Works
If you’ve used WordPress before, either for a website or for a blog on WordPress.com, you’re already familiar with most of how it works. WordPress is a content management system (CMS). You take care of putting in all the information, WordPress handles the technology to make it work, and the Exodus theme makes it all look good.
Editing in WordPress is similar to using any word processor (like Apple’s Pages, or Microsoft Word). Managing a website might sound scary, but it’s really not that complicated, and there’s tons of information online for how to use WordPress.
When you buy Exodus, you’re getting a custom theme designed specifically for churches. There are many advantages of using a theme targeted directly at churches rather than just just using a free WordPress theme. Exodus has built-in support for sermons, pastor and staff pages, multiple campuses, and events. There are lots of nice touches, like built-in Google Maps for each event.
Exodus Theme Features
The footer (customizable through Appearance -> Customize) can show the location information at the bottom of each page. It’s on by default if you use the sample content, and it means every page contains all three of the three key elements every church website needs – location, service times, and how to find out more. I love it!
One of my other favorite features is People. This is a fantastic way to manage one of the most visited pages on any church website, the Staff page. When you add a person, you’re basically making a special type of web page for them. Each person has a name, picture, position, phone number, email address, and nice looking social media and website links. You can add a biography as well.
Tip: If you put in social media links for a person and they don’t appear on the website, make sure you included the entire link, including the “http://” at the beginning. That tripped me up briefly as I was testing this.
Once you’ve added people pages, you can assign them to categories for display on the website. So, when someone clicks on the staff link, they’ll see a list of all the people in the staff category. Trust me, this is a really good way to handle staff lists!
The Exodus theme has a whole laundry list of features. It supports single or multi-day events, different banners for areas of the site, video or audio sermon podcasts, online giving widgets, custom Google fonts, sermons organized by book of the Bible, speaker, or series, photo galleries, and much more.
Look and Feel
ChurchThemes.com describes Exodus as “a wide and flat design.” I’d say that’s pretty accurate. If I had to choose one word to describe it, I’d choose modern. Exodus has a clean look with plenty of white space. Design elements and buttons are easy to see, with a nicely flat design.
There are options for a dark and light schemes, and of course, the colors are completely customizable, so you can match your church’s communications or branding scheme.
Like many modern themes, it has an image carousel on the front page. Since it’s WordPress, you have control over menu items, sidebar widgets, site logo and tagline, etc.
Unlike their previous theme, Exodus is designed for full width browsing. Pages fill the entire space of a browser window – no blank sidebars here!
Essentially for any church website theme in today’s world, Exodus is a completely responsive theme, meaning it’ll look good on any size screen, including tablets, smartphones, laptops, etc. All the graphic elements are high-resolution, Retina screen ready.
Visually, Exodus has a beautiful flat, modern-feeling design with lots of great features. And it runs on WordPress, so it’s built on proven code and supports lots of free plugins to add more features. The support documents on their site are also excellent and comprehensive.
Speaking of plugins, although the ability to add more is great, it would be nice if there could be fewer outside plugins involved for extra functionality. For instance, the theme suggests installing the Contact Form 7 plugin to handle contact forms. That’s a great plugin, and I’m using on my sites, but it would be nice if it could be handled within the theme directly. I’m not a WordPress developer, so I have no idea how practical this would be, and there is some benefit to not needing to reinvent the wheel. [Edit: See the developer’s comments below on why this functionality is provided by outside plugins instead of the theme.]
However, I know I’ve seen free themes that support things like favicons, yet ChurchThemes.com suggests installing the All in One Favicon plugin. The same is true for social share buttons. In fact, there are 10 outside plugins listed on ChurchThemes.com as recommendations.
Overall, Exodus is a great theme for any church. It’s relatively straightforward to set up, has a great modern look and feel, and most importantly, it’s easy to maintain so you can keep your church’s website up to date. I highly recommend it.
Exodus is currently priced at
$79 (update: it’s now $99) for the theme and support for one year, with ongoing support and updates available at 50% of the current cost for following years. WordPress hosting is cheap or even free if you go through Dreamhost for non-profits, so this is a low-cost, high quality church website solution. There’s also a 45 day money back guarantee.
Check out Exodus here.