If you want to make something like a social network for missionaries, http://www.ning.com is a website that lets you make your own social network. It's legit and takes the work out of creating something that would take quite a long time.
I am considering creating a new website, but I don't even know where to start. I want to design it myself and I don't mind a little... or a lot of hard work to do so. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and work to do it if I really decide that I want to go for it, but I need some help getting it figured out in the first place.
BellaSong, I think it's imporant to realize that building a web site is a LOT of work, especially if you've never done it before. Nothing good comes of investing a "little" work; don't assume you're ready to go after reading two tutorials on the web - especially because you want to build a web site that can't be done using plain HTML. Sooner or later you'll need to learn a lot about building dynamic, database-driven sites, including all the different technologies involved.
I don't want to scare you, but it will save you a lot of frustration later if you're aware of the effort involved early on.
Next, w3cschools.com is a good resource (I myself use it regularly), but if you have no prior knowledge of web technologies I recommend buying a couple of books (Wrox or O'Reilly are usually pretty good). It'll talk you through the concepts and strategies in more detail than the tutorials you usually find on the web. You may even start with the "...for dummies" or "...for beginners" series, but I would definitely only use this as a start. You'll need the more detailed info in the more professional books later.
Next, don't try to build everything at once. Think what you ultimately want to do, but start out with a MUCH smaller and simpler project and work through it start-to-finish. Start by creating the visual design of your site in paper or in Photoshop, then try to recreate it in HTML. Once you've done that, start adding functionality. Leave the dynamic parts of the site for later when you have a solid grasp of HTML/CSS.
You have a ton of work ahead then. You need not only a website, but also an underlying database. That's a lot of things to learn...
However, i'm looking into the programming language Ruby right now, and there is quite a trendy web development framework for it, called "Ruby on Rails".
Perhaps we could cooperate...you'll get help with coding, and i have a motivation (other than mere curiosity) to take a closer look into this framework. That'd be a win-win.
I'm from the Windy City, home of RoR creator DHH himself. I'm part of the local group of Rubyists. Ruby on Rails is a great platform. If you want to try an app out for free I recommend heroku for hosting.
I work with Rails professionally. If you need any tips just ask.
Yes, you can code stuff from the ground up all over again, or just use a Public Domain Package that's already available.
The Problem you're going to have is Funds.
You really do get what you pay for.
Yes there are Free host out there that control what you can post, ect.
You can get a Domain Name (Example pgp-protector.com is One of My Domain Names) for around $10 a year, but this doesn't include hosting.
Hosting on a shared server can start as low as $2-$5 a Month when you pay by the year, and can go up.
As you start out your site, unless you've got quite a few people lined up, you're not going to have a lot of traffic (visitors) so shared hosting is a good way to get started, but as your ministry grows, you'll eventually outgrow shared hosting and require more Server Power / Bandwidth, then you're looking at $$$. But my that time hopefully you can get donations from your Members.