I was just taking a look at a church website running on Joomla 1.5. We're talking Joomla 1.5 in 2016, meaning it missed the 2.5 upgrade and the 3.0 upgrade. I was surprised to see that a company called Connected Word had its design link at the bottom. I guess it's possible that the company just gave the site to the church, leaving upgrades to the congregation. It's also possible the church was still paying $30 a month to have a Joomla 1.5 site hosted and never upgraded, hopefully at least protected from hackers. [update: I checked, and the site IS still hosted by Connected Word--shame on them.]

When I went to the web designer page, I found a fairly recent video showing off their new design system. IT looked pretty cool, but it was $90 to upgrade, and that means all these churches paying $30 a month for the last five years, nearly $2000, will get the "opportunity" to throw another $100 at a company that let their sites sit there in a sad state most of the time. Again, I could be totally wrong, and maybe the church was given several upgrade options earlier. Free? Probably not.

The fact to keep in mind is that the upgrades were free FOR the company until they created a new system. Joomla is a free script. It was about time and resources. If the company wanted $500 to upgrade to 2.5 and $500 to upgrade to 3.0, it probably threw some churches off, and maybe that's why there are still some 1.5 sites out there with the company seal of approval in the footer. The new system, if it's in-house, makes upgrades free, as the owner said in the video. However, it also makes the site theirs. If it's not Joomla like before, and if the company really developed their own web editing program, you are signing up with that company until the next coming of Christ. And how many free "updates" will be made after the new system is in place? From years of experience with educational software, I'd assume none. Ever. 

How is Luthernet different? Well, we use a free script. You own everything. You don't like the hosting, just ask to migrate it over to your own host and hire a freelancer to take over. We update all the time with all the free and safe scripts we need to keep your site working well, but we do not have a grand scheme to rope you in and then make it impossible to leave. Get your own url address and point it our way. If you don't want to keep it pointing at us, then point it to the next designer. You can ask for your files and database, or you can start over, but it will be YOUR choice. And while you're with Luthernet, you will not see updates skipped because it's too much work or too little reward. We've updated dozens of 1.5 to 2.5 to 3.0 sites free of charge because it was the right thing to do, even if it cost us hours and hours of unpaid work. There are not too many website builders out there who would do that: just ask.

You definitely should budget in upgrades to your website every couple of years. The world changes, and you'll need something to be added that your web designer could not imagine. If your designer uses WordPress or Joomla, however, most upgrades are free to use, and you should question anyone who tried to steal from your church by charging hundreds of dollars for two clicks of a mouse. As a Christian and a Lutheran, I cannot support that kind of web design, even if it could be very lucrative. Ask questions and understand the answers. Be prepared to make changes if your current provider does not want to give you honest advice. Let us know if we can help.