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Can I embed Groups, Registrations, or Giving on my church website?

Many Planning Center applications have public-facing components. Here are a few:

  • Group directory for Groups. (example
  • Group pages for Groups. (example)
  • Event listing for Registrations. (example)
  • Event page and registration process for Registrations. (example)
  • Donation form for Giving. (example)

ChurchCenterOnline.com

All of these areas of Planning Center are hosted on ChurchCenterOnline.com. Upon signing up for Groups, Registrations, or Giving, your church will be asked to establish its unique subdomain, such as

https://firstballard.churchcenteronline.com

This web presence isn't intended to replace your church's website. It's meant to be a place you can link to from different areas of your own website. Here are a few examples:

  • On your church website, the "Donate now" button might link to: https://yoursubdomain.churchcenteronline.com/giving
  • In your church calendar, you might link the "Winter Camp" event to: https://yoursubdomain.churchcenteronline.com/registrations/events/1345
  • On your page about small groups, you might link your "Find a Group" button to https://yoursubdomain.churchcenteronline.com/groups/small-groups/

There isn't any reason to link straight to https://yoursubdomain.churchcenteronline.com from your church website since you can link more specifically, which makes it easier for people to find specific information.

Can I embed Groups, Registrations, or Giving on my church website?

ChurchCenterOnline.com isn't designed to be embedded on another website. 

There's nothing stopping your from doing it, but it's worth knowing as a customer. There are four primary reasons for this:

1. It's a bad user experience for your visitors:

It seems like it would be a good experience to keep them on the same website as they browse register for an event, donate, or find a small group. In practice, the experience is actually worse. All of the sections of ChurchCenterOnline are more than just single web pages or static lists - they're applications that you can log in to, download things from, upload things to, etc. Cramming it all into a box on a single web page can be a frustrating experience for your visitors.

To make matters worse, when operating in an iframe, the web browser's "forward" and "back" buttons usually don't work correctly. The "parent" website essentially hijacks the "back" button which can be maddening if you're 2 steps in your donation process or your event registration process. 

On mobile devices, where screen space is already limited, trying to cram the whole Groups, Registrations, or Giving system into a smaller box with a fixed height makes it nearly unusable. As it's designed, ChurchCenterOnline is meant to work well on small-screen devices like phones and tablets.

2. Your visitors need selectable, shareable, bookmarkable URLs:

When a website is boxed in by an iframe, the URL (link) to that page isn't accessible to the visitor – only the parent page's URL is visible. This isn't a problem for simpler "widget" type things, like a Pinterest pin, or even a Facebook page comment. These elements exist as properties of that page, and visitors don't need or care about the URL of those small bits of functionality. This isn't the case with, say, a small group's group page or an event's registration page. People need those URLs to be able to share them, save them, or copy-and-paste them. 

3. ChurchCenterOnline uses email authentication for login, which breaks the illusion:

On all of the systems that use ChurchCenterOnline there's a login button. For Groups, group leaders log in to manage their small group pages and group calendars. For Giving, donors log in to manage their payment methods, recurring gifts, and to download statements. When they click/tap that login button, they'll be asked for their email address. The system will send them a single-use, fast-expiring login link that will authenticate them onto their donor profile or group page. There are [multiple reasons](link to that guide) we use this type of authentication.

4. It creates potential security warnings:

ChurchCenterOnline uses an encrypted TLS connection which may differ from your church's website. On event registrations that require payment, and certainly for the donation form in Giving, ChurchCenterOnline is asking for credit card numbers and (for your ACH donors) bank account information. When these forms are framed by another website, this can cause some browsers to raise security alerts to visitors – even if your church website is also SSL encrypted. It's not an impossible technical hurdle, it just means that this setup is more volatile as web browsers become increasingly proactive about protecting their users. 

Can I change the color/design of ChurchCenterOnline?

At the moment, there are no theming controls for ChurchCenterOnline. In the future, we may add them if it becomes a popular feature request (let us know!). In the meantime, we've intentionally kept the design of ChurchCenterOnline as neutral as possible (black text on a white page with blue links). 

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