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

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

All these sites are hosted on ChurchCenterOnline.com. Upon signing up for Groups, Registrations, or Giving, your church will be asked to establish its unique subdomain to host your own groups, events, or donation forms.

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/

Instead of linking straight to https://yoursubdomain.churchcenteronline.com from your church website, link to a certain group, event, or fund, which makes it easier for people to find specific information.

Giving donation forms can be embedded on your website using a regular link or embed code.

However, Registrations and Groups do not have explicit embedded/iframe support at this time. We strongly advise you to avoid embedding events or groups into your web pages as they will result in security warnings as well as unpredictable and possibly broken behavior, which results in a bad experience for your site visitors.

In addition, URLs are not sharable when embedded, and people are unable to authenticate their email as required at login.

For more information, read through the information below.

1. Potential Security Warnings

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

2. Bad User Experience

All sections of ChurchCenterOnline are more than just single web pages or static lists; they're applications that you can log into, download things from, upload things to, etc. Cramming that information 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 into your event registration process. 

On mobile devices, where screen space is already limited, trying to cram the whole Groups or Registrations 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.

3. 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. 

4. Email Authentication

On all of the systems that use ChurchCenterOnline there's a login button: group leaders log in to manage their small group pages and group calendars; attendees log in and view upcoming events. 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. The link in their email will like take them to a different page than your website.

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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