Why Your Church Website Needs Encryption

Open padlock on door

Encrypted website traffic is not just for eCommerce sites. All websites can benefit from encryption. Many browsers and search engines even alert users to unsecure connections. The good news is that several new services make getting an SSL certificate cheap and easy. Read more to learn about the benefits of a secure website.

Times Have Changed

The web is a different place than when hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) was invented in 1994. Previously this extra layer of security was mostly used for login pages and credit card payments. Also, this was when most internet traffic was sent over slow dial-up connections. Encryption adds additional bandwidth requirements. Today, high-speed phone and home internet access erase this limitation.

What is SSL Encryption

There are many aspects to how SSL encryption works. Yet at a high-level, know that all data passed between a visitor and your web server is encrypted. This means instead of seeing plain text (like what you are reading now), it appears as random letters, numbers, and characters. The process uses public and private keys that use mathematical formulas to encrypt the data.

Security Prevents Snooping

Churches that are seeking an international audience should care very much about encryption. Many places in the world are hostile to religions, including Christianity. Agencies will still be able to see that someone visit your website. However, the data passed between your web server and their browser is not decipherable. This will encourage visitors from other countries to trust your site and content.

Security and Sensitive Data

Any time a visitor submits information to your website, it has the potential to be seen. This can be something simple like what is entered in a search box. Or it can be sensitive, like login information to a church management system. Regardless, protect your visitors’ interactions with your website. What they do on a website should only be seen by the owners of that site.

The Price of Security

The good news is that SSL certificates are now free. A website called Let’s Encrypt opened up the doors to everyone. However, depending on your technical abilities, this may be a difficult process. I managed to install a certificate on this website, but I will admit that it took me a few tries to get it right. The biggest obstacle to this is an what website host you use. I will not go into details on how to instal an SSL certificate. However, just know that a quick Google search and some patience can yield good results.

Action Item

Hopefully I convinced you of the benefits to serving secure content. If so, talk with your IT team about installing a SSL certificate on your website. Then ask them to force all traffic to switch to HTTPS. If you are both the person designing the site and running the web server, start learning. A quick search for “install SSL certificate (name of your hosting company)” should yield some good results. Then set up reminders in case you need to reinstall your certificate after so many days/months. In no time you can reassure your audience their information is safe.

Photo courtesy of Megan Stevens

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.