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Should You Text Your Church Community?

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

texting churchAs of this January, 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and 81% use their phones to send or receive text messages.

Most people keep those phones within arm’s reach all day—and night. On average, they look at their phones 150 times each day—whether or not a call, message, or alert has come through. In fact, 75% of Americans won’t even make a trip to the restroom without that connection to the world.

While this reliance on technology can be a challenge to overcome when leading a worship service or teaching a room full of teens, churches can take advantage of the texting craze to communicate with their people.

Why texting?

Texting can be quick—for both the sender and the receiver. Traditionally limited to 160 characters, texts can communicate a brief message in a matter of seconds. And unlike emails that may go unnoticed for hours or days, they’re usually read within 5 seconds.  

That’s why text messages are ideal for short, timely alerts like cancellations, reminders, and emergency notifications. If a service is cancelled due to icy roads or a small group has to switch its meeting location last minute, shoot a quick text to all participants. The timeliness of these mobile communications can prevent the frustration of people showing up to an empty building because they didn’t get the memo.

Texting doesn’t have to replace all other methods of reaching people—it can complement your existing communication process. For years Facebook stood as one of the greatest ways to notify people of urgent information. But with recent algorithm changes, your updates are getting through to fewer and fewer people. So adding a text to the mix will increase the number of people you can reach in just a short time.

While texts should be concise, sometimes you might want to expand upon the message. You can include links to more detailed information on your website—and now that 58% of cell phone owners have a smart phone, many people can easily access those links. They’re actually almost five times as likely to follow that link in a text message rather than an email.

Whether you’re contacting 7,000 church attendees or 15 small group members, mass texting can simplify the communication process. This tool is available as a free resource from Elexio for churches that use our ChMS. You can text everyone in the church who has a mobile phone number listed, or communicate with a smaller group or list of people based on certain criteria. It’s a fast and flexible way to stay connected with your community.

Before you get started…

  • Have people opt in to receive your texts or at least inform them that providing a mobile phone number will automatically sign them up for those alerts unless they opt out. Some people don’t have unlimited texting and could be faced with unexpected fees if you don’t give them proper notice.

  • Although you want to maintain this form of communication, make it easy for people to opt out of texts if they prefer other contact methods.

  • Properly manage the phone numbers in your database so you’re not trying to text a landline or a phone that can’t receive text messages.

  • Don’t spam people with repetitive, unimportant text messages. People will quickly opt out to avoid these annoying texts.

  • Avoid the junior high text talk—TTYL, LOL, JK—but do get to the point and keep messages as brief as possible. Always proofread before you hit send and look for any spelling errors.

  • Remember that texting is ideal for brief, time-sensitive alerts that don’t require a personal interaction. Don’t send long texts that might break into multiple messages or discuss serious issues that demand a face-to-face conversation.

  • Consider the demographics and technical ability of your individual church community before implementing this strategy. Texting is probably not the best solution if your congregation still prefers rotary phones. Do they own cell phones and know how to text? Is mobile the best way to reach them?

When you’re in a pinch and need to reach your church community fast, why not send the message directly to their fingertips?

Check out some more information on texting and mobile technology for the church:

5 Reasons Your Church Should Consider SMS Text Messaging for Outreach

How to Engage Your Church Community through Mobile

Mobile Technology and the Church 

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

How to Navigate the Church Blogosphere

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

church blog

With millions of blogs now online and hundreds of new ones popping up each day, many churches are jumping on the blog bandwagon. And this trend is here to stay—at least for a while. If you haven’t started blogging for your church already, should you? And how can you use a blog to effectively complement your ministry?

Should your church have a blog?

  • Consider your church community. Look at the demographics. Are they online and tech-savvy? Will they read your blog? If most of your members don’t even have internet access, a blog may not be the most effective tool for your church.

  • Do you have the time and resources to effectively manage a blog? If you’re going to tackle blogging, you should be able to post on a regular basis and closely monitor any comments it triggers.

  • Do you—or the person who will spearhead this project—possess the writing abilities and knowledge to manage a blog? Writing a conversational blog requires a style that is very different from a theological dissertation.

If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then a blog is probably a great option for your church!

The benefits of a church blog


  • A church blog that produces relevant information will create community, engagement, and conversation. You’ll get people to think and interact with each other as they sort through the details. People across the country or globe might even discover your blog—people who would never enter your physical church but can still become a part of your online community.
  • Great content will reinforce the reputation and reliability of your church. Consistently writing about specific topics could eventually make you a ministry expert or at least build credibility.  
  • A blog can drive traffic to your website and result in better Google search rankings. New content—especially when written with SEO in mind—can improve the visibility of your website to people looking for a church.  
  • It is an affordable and relatively simple way of reaching people. Whether you use WordPress or a blogging tool within your CMS, the time investment of a blog is usually the greatest expense.

Blogging best practices         


  • Keep in mind that a church blog is not an online bulletin board or event calendar. Use it to delve deeper into the Sunday morning topic. Highlight the impact of a specific ministry or volunteer. Share what God’s been teaching you through a Bible study. But don’t let your blog turn into a boring announcement page.
  • Come up with an attention-grabbing headline. You can ask a question, offer a how-to, or explore the 10 tips to XYZ—list posts and bullet points are easiest to read! Convince people that the post will be worth their time so they click. But don’t be clever at the expense of clarity. Tell them what the post will be about in an interesting—and keyword-friendly—way.
  • Write for the average person in your church. Don’t try to impress people with big words or overly deep theological concepts. Keep a conversational tone and loosely follow spelling and grammar rules—it’s ok to end a sentence with a preposition if it sounds natural! While you should consider SEO, don’t write keyword-heavy posts for robots. If you’re producing well-written, useful content, Google should be happy.
  • Dedicate adequate time to your blog. Monitor and respond to comments quickly—you don’t want your blog to look like a ghost town! Determine how often you will blog and stick to it. Consistency in posting is more important than frequency. You could start off with one post per month and gradually work your way to a weekly post.
  • Include a photo with a keyword-rich description in each post. Like an intriguing headline, an eye-catching image can increase the interest in your blog post and improve SEO. But be mindful of licensing issues when using images you find online. Consider taking your own photos—you don’t need to be a professional photographer—or purchasing them from a site like Lightstock to avoid any legal problems.  
  • Make it simple for people to subscribe to your blog and share the posts via social media. While you should promote your own posts through these channels as well, you can only reach a limited number of people. But when others can easily share your content, your audience immediately grows.
  • Try out some of these ideas when your blog is stuck in a rut or just getting started:
    • Embed a video that relates to your topic within the post
    • Ask someone from within the church, another ministry leader, or an expert on a specific topic to guest post on your blog
    • End the post with a question to spark a conversation in the comments
    • Share links to other sites and further study materials

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see much traffic on your blog right away. Be patient until it catches on—it can take up to a year or longer to establish your online community. Continue to regularly post good content, and the people will come.

Check out these other resources for some more insight on blogging for your church:

4 Reasons Your Church Should Blog

Should Your Church Have a Blog?

Why Your Church Desperately Needs a Good Blog

7 Reasons Every Pastor Should Have a Blog

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

Does your small church need ChMS?

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

small churchWhile most discussions surrounding modern ministry turn to packed megachurches, not much attention is given to those that make up the majority of churches in America. According to the National Congregations Study, the average Christian church has 186 regular attendees. And 59% of US churches have 99 or fewer in weekly attendance.

Although small churches may not have the same number of resources and members as a larger church, technology like church management software can still be a valuable tool for them. But taking the step to a ChMS is a major decision. If your small church is considering the move, check out the answers to these four common questions:

1. Does my small church really need a ChMS?

Many small churches may think that a ChMS is unnecessary because of their size—they only have 75 members, so why would they need the same technology as a church of 7,500? But the basic processes that shape how the church operates are the same whether you’re a small congregation or a megachurch.

Every church still needs an organized method for managing membership records, events, and communication. Small churches have donations to record and ministry roles to fill. Just because your country church sees humble attendance numbers doesn’t mean your ministry is any less important than the large urban churches.

In an effort to save money and resources, many smaller churches will turn to a program like Excel for managing all of their church data. But as more and more information is added to the mix, records can become overwhelming to manage in this format.

By streamlining processes with a ChMS, churches can better care for visitors, members, and volunteers. They can easily follow up and monitor the discipleship process. So people aren’t just visiting your church—they’re staying and getting connected. And your church starts to grow.

2. Can my small church afford a ChMS?

Don’t be scared away by confusing pricing pyramids and numbers that seem to exhaust your church budget. The price you pay typically depends on the size of your church—average weekly attendance, for example. So the cost for your small church would be much less than your large counterpart. And many providers, like Elexio, offer special pricing for church plants.

While an added cost each month could seem like a drain on your finances, consider the time your staff and volunteers will save on one-time data entry. When everything is in the same place, you can work efficiently and dedicate more resources to discipleship.

Many churches that adopt church management software and its added giving options also see an increase in donations. People are more inclined to give when it’s easier for them, so the ChMS often begins to pay for itself.

Open source software has become popular among smaller churches because free sounds like a great price. But understand that these products can cost the church in the long run—in more than just financial ways. They often don’t have the funds or manpower to keep the technology current, make bug fixes, or provide support. If you opt for an open source software now, you may eventually need to make the switch to a paid ChMS.

3. How do I know which ChMS is right for my church?

While cost is certainly going to come into play when selecting a ChMS, the price tag should not be the only determining factor. Church management software is not one-size-fits-all. As a small church, you should look for a solution that’s simple enough to use for the basic functions you need right now but can still grow with you. Will it integrate with other solutions when the church grows, yet allow you to engage and connect as you do now?

Some other important questions to consider—especially if a non-tech staff person or volunteer will be managing the system—are: Can they offer the personal support you need? Can you contact them in a variety of ways and expect a timely response? Is it easy for staff and volunteers to use, yet powerful?

4. How can my small church get started?

  • Make sure you have the resources to effectively manage a ChMS database. Even the best solutions will have a learning curve and require substantial time to manage. Recruit the help you’ll need to get started—staff or volunteers who can dedicate the energy needed to effectively use this tool for your ministry.

  • Do your research and take advantage of free demos to find the best fit for your church. Ask questions. Read the reviews. Choosing a ChMS for your church is an important decision.

  • Pray and seek advice as you narrow down the list of contenders. Hopefully you will stick with your ChMS for years to come, so you want to find a good match for your ministry.

Would you like to learn about how Elexio can help the small church? Get started now!

Check out some other great resources for the small church:

Stretchy Software: ChMS that Grows with Your Small Church

The Innovative Small Church

Too Small to Buy Church Management Software? 

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

The 10 Commandments of Church Twitter Use

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

iStock 000021682373Small resized 600According to a study from ROAR, 77% of churches are using Twitter—second only to Facebook and ahead of other social networks like Instagram and Pinterest. But while some are effectively using Twitter to engage their church community, many churches are struggling to make sense of the platform. Twitter can be a great communication tool for ministry as long as churches avoid breaking these 10 commandments:

1. Thou shalt not be willy nilly

When diving into Twitter, Facebook, or any new platform, developing a strategy is crucial. And this social media strategy should fit within the overall marketing plan for your church. Don’t just jump on Twitter because that’s what everyone else is doing. Does it make sense for your church? Is the community you’re trying to reach there? Do you have the resources to effectively manage it? A lot of churches can answer yes to these three questions. But they still need to determine how to create tweets that will complement their other efforts, leading to engagement and awareness.

 2. Thou shalt not be an egghead

Utilize the image blocks on Twitter to include relevant profile and header photos. If you don’t, you’ll forever have the image of an egg or some other default avatar representing your church. When people see this, they’ll assume the church either doesn’t use the account or doesn’t know what they’re doing—and they probably won’t follow you.

 3. Thou shalt not be mysterious

Your church may have a unique name, but did you know there are about a jazillion named “Calvary Church” or “Faith Fellowship?”  And that’s ok—they’re great names! But how will people know if they’ve found your Dallas campus or a church in Idaho? Complete your Twitter profile by using the bio portion—tell them who you are and where you’re located and link to your website

 4. Thou shalt not grow cobwebs on Twitter  

Just like with other social media outlets, you should maintain consistency on Twitter. Don’t tweet 25 times one day, and then go silent for two months. This is a surefire way to lose followers. Establish some type of schedule or guideline—like 5 tweets each day—and stick with it.

 5. Thou shalt not be a robot

Automation tools can come in handy for organizations like churches—but be careful not to over-automate. Some things can only be shared in real time. If people always see stale content on your Twitter because you scheduled your tweets two months out, they’ll probably unfollow you.

Keep track of current events and be practical in order to stay relevant to your online community.

During a national tragedy, a silly post or a funny picture of the pastor would be inappropriate. Even when otherwise harmless, tweets that have been scheduled should be reevaluated in these kinds of situations.

Your church should also avoid auto-following anyone who follows the church. Take a look at the profiles before follow backs. Do they seem like legitimate accounts? Or are they sending out spammy links? Creating community through mutual relationships is great, but be sure to protect your church from fake accounts.

Finally, avoid sending canned private messages to new followers—especially asking them to like your Facebook page or take some other action immediately. They just followed you on Twitter, so prove that you have something to offer them before asking for more.

 6. Thou shalt not use Twitter as a boxing ring

People expect churches to hold firmly to certain values. And you should. But that doesn’t mean you should employ your Twitter account to debate eschatology and hot topics with strangers. These discussions can get heated, and the last thing you want to do is scare people away from your church because you lost your cool in a tweet war.

 7. Thou shalt not be anti-social

Sometimes in the mad dash to come up with clever, relevant tweets, churches forget that Twitter is a social network. You’re supposed to engage with your community—answer their questions, thank them for retweeting your content, and sometimes even respond to their criticism. Rather than break the sixth commandment (on this list, but please don’t murder anyone either), kindly respond to any negative words and direct the conversation offline if possible: “We’re genuinely sorry you had a bad experience at Faith Church. Please see the private message we just sent you so we can fix the situation.” Follow up with those who aren’t just trolls, and they may become your greatest cheerleaders after you make the effort to clear things up.

 8. Thou shalt not toot thy own horn 

In the age of selfies, it can be difficult to remember that social media was not designed for self-promotion. Make sure your church demonstrates humility by not just pumping out its own updates, but also sharing information from others that would be useful to your audience. Don’t become your own graven image or retweet every positive comment about your church. Focus on your community rather than vanity metrics like number of retweets or shares.

 9. Thou shalt not host a takeover

Remember that the church Twitter account should be about the church. It’s great to post a photo of the staff or share what the day-to-day operations of the church look like. But don’t get carried away. Some churches run out of ideas, so the pastor starts posting selfies or the secretary tweets out photos of her lunch each day. Keep in mind that this isn’t a personal account, and your community is looking for relevant, useful information about your church—not pictures of a bologna sandwich.

 10. #Thou #shalt #not #use #9 #hashtags #in #every #tweet

Please don’t hashtag every single word in a tweet. And please don’t hashtag words like “thou” and “use.” Even though hashtags have been around for a few years and are becoming popular on multiple platforms, many people still don’t understand the concept. They were intended to make it easy for people to find more content on the same topic. So if your church is tweeting the link to a sermon on being a witness for Christ, then try a hashtag like #saltandlight. But what are the odds anyone is searching for #wecantwaittoseeyouatcommunitychurchonsunday? (I bet you had to try a couple times to even read that!)

If you have a decent following on Twitter, consider using a custom hashtag for a church event or campaign. For example, when hosting a large conference, encourage attendees to tweet live with a hashtag like #CCC2014. It will get people engaged and create buzz around your event.

The key here is to always use hashtags wisely and sparingly. Limit yourself to two or three max per tweet.

 

Check out these other great resources as you develop your church Twitter strategy:

Top 10 Things Churches Need to Know about Twitter

Twitter’s New Profiles: Everything You Need to Know

Ten Things Not to Do on Twitter 

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

The Cookie Threat: Allergy Awareness in Kid’s Ministry

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

church cookieWhenever I think back to my time in nursery or children’s church, I can’t remember much about the Sunday school teachers or the flannel graph lessons. Call me a heathen, but I remember snack time. Animal crackers or those generic-brand Oreos? I could take them or leave them. What I wanted were the ring butter cookies—they were snacks and accessories. And a couple times a month, every kid got a few of these golden goodies to eat (or wear), no questions asked.

With a sister who suffers from Celiac disease, I wonder what would happen if these gluten-filled treats got into the wrong little hands. Such food intolerances are a serious issue, but allergies could lead to significant medical problems or even death.

Allergy awareness has come a long way since I was a toddler, but many churches are still struggling to properly care for children with special dietary and health requirements.

The Facts

According to a 2009-2010 study, about 8% of children have a food allergy, and 38.7% of them have a history of severe allergic reactions. Those numbers seem to grow every year—approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.  

90% of all food allergies are attributed to eight foods: milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Makes you rethink the choice of cheese crackers and chocolate chip cookies as the snack choice, doesn’t it?

Many children also suffer from allergies to non-food items like latex, medication, and creams you may be using in the nursery.

Even beyond allergies, specific medical needs can leave kid’s ministry a hotbed for potential danger.

The Concerns

The greatest concern, of course, is child safety. No ministry wants to see a child rushed to the emergency room because of an unknown health condition or an allergen-packed snack.

But beyond the immediate safety of children is the concern of their parents. They should be able to trust your staff and volunteers enough to feel comfortable leaving their vulnerable kids in their hands. You want them to be able to leave any concerns at the door so they can focus on worship, fellowship, and their own spiritual development. Especially when dealing with visiting families, you should show credibility in these areas so they keep coming back.

The liability of the church and its volunteers is also at stake when dealing with allergies and medical conditions. Should a child have a serious reaction, the church could face legal consequences—beyond the tragedy that a little one was harmed. A lack of awareness and one incident could be devastating to a ministry.  

The Solutions

Although there are several things that could go wrong, churches can prepare and equip their people to deal with children’s medical issues.   

Utilizing a check-in system that prints labels for children that can include allergies, medical needs, and any special instructions is one of the best ways to prevent any health scares. Parents won’t have to worry about personally telling every nursery worker about Billy’s soy allergy, and the critical information will follow him wherever he crawls. Ministry staff won’t need to keep a mental list of which kid has which allergy—they can simply check each label before handing off a treat.

Churches should also provide volunteers and staff with the proper training to understand allergies, intolerances, and other health concerns. Awareness is key. The problem is much more serious and sensitive than most people understand—just a trace of eggs or contact with peanuts could be enough to trigger a reaction. Make sure workers always double-check the labels for hidden ingredients—different brands of the same item can contain very different ingredients. Allergens find a way to sneak into most foods where you’d never expect to find them. Proper protocol may require more than one kind of snack available, and some churches are eliminating them altogether. Always require anyone who will be in contact with children to wash their hands, as cross-contamination can also lead to problems.

Being proactive is most important, but accidents happen. So learn to be reactive as well. Along with prevention training, ensure at least one volunteer or staff member in attendance knows how to administer epinephrine and CPR, and always keep first-aid supplies nearby. Develop an emergency response plan, and contact parents or guardians immediately after an incident occurs—never try to hide and solve the problem without involving them.

Get started with a church check-in system today and take advantage of some other great resources:

Allergies in the Classroom

Why Your Church Needs a Plan for Allergic Reactions

Food Allergy Basics 

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

Should Your Church Data Be in the Cloud?

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

church cloud dataEach day we work with people who serve in a variety of roles at churches throughout the United States and beyond. While some are IT staff or other form of techies, many are not familiar with the lingo you hear when dealing with a software company. So they have plenty of questions about church management technology, including the cloud.

We’re not talking cumulonimbus here, but the off-site storage of your information—“in the cloud.” Even though cloud storage has been around for several years and is a great option for churches, many are still reluctant to put their trust in technology they can’t see. But there are a few things you should consider before dismissing this service for your ChMS data.

You’re probably already using some type of cloud technology. You just don’t realize it.

If you use email services like Gmail, share photos on social outlets like Facebook, or back up the information on your iPhone, then you’ve already taken advantage of cloud technology. You’re not storing those messages, images, or data on your own server—a company is keeping track of all that for you.

What are other churches doing?

According to a 2013 survey, 80% of large churches are using a cloud of some sort, while just over half of all churches with fewer than 1,000 in weekly attendance take advantage of this technology. These numbers continue to grow as more and more churches see the value of this service.

Cloud storage offers several benefits to the church:

  • Equipment

Consider all the information included in your church database. You might have records for 300 people or 30,000. Now imagine the hardware required for your church to store all of that information on-site—not to mention the audio/video files from the latest sermon series available on your website or mobile app.

With your information in the cloud, you don’t need to worry about the cost of hardware, upkeep, and maintenance needed to maintain all those records. They’re more quickly and easily accessible than if your church were trying to tackle the job with limited technology. And you’ll experience minimized downtime because of the amount of backup in the case of a system outage.

  • Safety & Security

Your information is probably safer from theft and damage in the cloud than in the church basement. Although all data storage is somewhat susceptible, an experienced provider can better withstand these dangers where individual churches could not afford such security. Credible ChMS providers will heavily invest in antivirus software and disaster recovery plans to protect your information as well as safeguard hardware from natural disaster and any physical damage.

  • Accessibility

When you’re using a web-based solution that stores information in the cloud, you can access your database from anywhere that has an active internet connection. You can also make any necessary changes and the database will update automatically—whether you’re working on your office computer or laptop at the local coffee shop.

  • Hassle-Free Convenience

Churches often lack the technological resources to manage the breadth of information included in their extensive databases. But even those churches that do staff a full IT department don’t need that burden on the ministry’s shoulders. It’s not where they want to focus their time and energy. Utilizing cloud technology means less worry for the local church.

  • Ministry Benefits

Churches using cloud technology to enable online giving are more likely—almost twice as likely—to see an increase in contributions. They are also significantly more likely to engage their church communities through a variety of media like mobile apps and blogs.

  • Multi-Site Churches

Multi-site churches, although regionally spread out, can all access the same information on their church database when it’s stored in the cloud. So whether someone checks in at your downtown campus or a satellite location, the record is updated.               

What are the negatives?

Although utilizing the cloud will save your church time, resources, and hassle, it’s not perfect—no system is. There are still risks because storage still physically exists somewhere. Even with preventative measures, cloud-based storage could be damaged or hacked. But your church’s system is still likely much more vulnerable. Because of the great measures a provider will go to in order to keep your information safe, cloud-based storage can also be pricier than do-it-yourself—but worth the investment.

Safeguard against the risks

Even though your information may not be on-site, the devices you and your staff use to access your database aren’t in the cloud. Keep the computer that you’re accessing this valuable data from safe—make usernames and passwords secure and be wise about sharing credentials. And check out some great tips on tough-to-crack passwords and staying safe in the cloud.

 

In most cases, the benefits of cloud storage greatly outweigh any risks. If you haven’t already made the switch, consider using this technology for your church to make things easier for your staff. It just might leave them floating on cloud nine. 

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

Your Guide to Preparing for Summer at Church

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

summerOnce the school year is officially over, you can breathe a sigh of relief! You get a summer break from ministries like youth group and kid’s club to rejuvenate and get some rest. But as many activities wind down and people head for vacation, are you prepared for this special time of year? Tie up any of these loose ends so you can get out and enjoy some of that sunshine:  

Volunteers

Most church activities couldn’t even get off the ground if it weren’t for dedicated volunteers who are willing to sacrifice hours each week to guarantee a smooth rollout. From Sunday school teachers to worship leaders, every volunteer will appreciate an end-of-school-year thank you, and the encouragement will make them more likely to serve again. A letter. An email. Something to show their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

Not only should you show your appreciation for the volunteers who’ve served this year, you should also—if you haven’t already—communicate your needs for any summer ministries as well as fall programs.

Don’t assume that just because they ran the toddler nursery this year that they’re up for the challenge again next year. And remember all those vacations! Be sure to communicate with your summer volunteers about any weeks they will be unavailable. You might be a little shorthanded on volunteers for the next couple months, so keep that in mind when scheduling.

Giving

As people head out on extended tropical vacations and weekend family trips, summers usually lead to sporadic church attendance for a few months. But your church budget isn’t taking any vacations. Have you prepared?   

Allowing your people to give online or through a mobile app means that whether they’re in the front row of your church or floating on an innertube in Hawaii, they can still make their regular contributions.

And if they’ve set up recurring giving, they don’t even need to think about it—this week or any other. You don’t want to be seen as focused on money, but there’s nothing wrong with sharing the Biblical concept of giving and asking them to help you be good stewards of the resources God has given the church.

Communication

Members of your church community may not be sitting in church every Sunday during the summer, but they can still stay up-to-date on what’s happening while they’re away.

Keep the news and information on your church website current, and be sure to update your social media accounts for the people that missed the weekly announcements. And don’t forget the great tool you have in mass communications—even from a tropical island, most people are checking their email.

Summer Ministries & Fall Programming

Although you may be taking a break from all your regular programs, summer brings a whole list of ministries itself—VBS, camp, mission trips—are you ready? Have you planned for the volunteers, resources, promotion, and follow-up you’ll need for these activities? Take advantage of event management tools in your ChMS to plan for a successful summer.  

One school year just ended jam-packed with activities, but keep in mind the next one is not that far off. Don’t forget to use some of that down time to start brainstorming and laying out plans for the upcoming year. Start the groundwork for your fall programs now, because the summer will fly by!

How are you preparing for summer at your church?  

Why You Should Integrate Your Church Database and Website

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

church to do listIf you’re utilizing the right ChMS for your church, you already know what a huge time—and headache—saver you’ve got on your hands. A database that allows you to manage everything from contributions to people to events already cuts your work load in half. But did you know that integrating your church database with your website could save you even more time? And did I mention that it’s simple and will help get your church community involved?

Scratch a few items off your to-do list and let your church community do the following online:

1. Give

Online giving not only makes it quick and easy for your people to make their weekly contributions from home any day of the week, but it can also lead to an increase in giving for your church. Donors can save their payment information—whether it’s a credit card, debit card, or bank account—and set up recurring giving. Allowing them to set up an account online will likely result in more consistent giving for your church. They can even view their giving history online and print their own statements—saving your staff a significant amount of time come tax season!

2. Update personal information

No matter the size of your church, managing the details of each person in your database can be tedious and time-consuming. Remembering to change an address or update a phone number could easily slip your mind while working with so many people. But when your website is integrated with the church database, your people can log into a portal and make those changes on their own in minutes. As an administrator, set controls to monitor who sees these details, and your people can access this information to engage with others in the church family.

3. Find and connect with a small group

One of the best ways to ensure that people don’t just come to your church but they stay is to help them get connected. You can make it easy for your people to find the right small group when it’s convenient for them. They can search for groups based on a variety of criteria and see where those groups meet on a map. Group leaders can share links to online study materials or meeting location details. They can also enter group attendance here rather than keeping a printed record to be entered into the database manually later.

4. Register and pay for events  

When you announce an upcoming event on Sunday, you don’t want people to go home to check their calendars and then try to remember to sign up next Sunday for the retreat or conference. They’ll probably forget. You can make it easy for them to register online for an event as soon as they know their availability. They can even pay for those events that have a cost associated with them right away from any device.

Integrating your church database and website will allow your people to take care of these functions and more to lighten the load on the shoulders of your staff.

Sounds great, but how do I get my church to use it?

As with any new system, it may take some time for your church community to adjust. The younger generation will likely be quicker to adopt these changes, but below are some tips for getting your people on board:

  • Promote

Advertise this new tool to your congregation in the bulletin or within a screen announcement and remind them to take advantage of it periodically.

  • Share

Share information and links to help your people get started through email and social media.

  • Start from the top

Are you the pastor? Well, practice what you preach. Log in and make a contribution or update your address. Show them that it’s really that easy.

  • Take advantage of some great resources  

Already an Elexio client? We have plenty of resources to help you communicate these changes with your people.

How has your church benefited from integrating its ChMS and website? 

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

How Well Do You Know Your Church?

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

shaking hands at churchWhen you’re part of a church plant or new multi-site campus, it’s pretty easy to remember the names of your 25 members, their kids, and how often they’re sitting in their usual spot in the third row on the left.

But as the church starts growing—and hopefully it does—keeping track of all the little details about your congregation becomes much more difficult.

Yet whether your church has 10 members or 10,000, people will expect your staff to be able to recite the names of their entire family and remember each ministry they’re involved with when you run into them at the grocery store.

While you can’t realistically remember the intimate details of every single church member, you can take advantage of technology to keep certain important information accessible at all times.

  • Who are they?

Not just their first names—do you know where their heart for ministry is? How old they are? Who their kids are? Having this information about your church community readily available in a database so you can access it when needed (like on your smartphone during that run-in at the grocery store) can be a great tool for your ministry. You can also keep their contact information and links to their social accounts so you can see what’s important to them. Something as small as sending them happy birthday email or card can be a great encouragement to your people.

  • Are they still attending?

Just because someone was among the original members of your church back in 1992 doesn’t mean you should assume he’s still coming to weekly services. Invest in a church check-in system that automatically updates your database as people arrive. Look at what classes and events they’re attending and learn what’s important to them. If there’s a shift in attendance, you can then examine the data you’ve collected and determine who’s not coming and why that might be. If you’ve collected all the details, you can also look back at how long they’ve been attending, when they became members, where they came from, and much more. The more information you have available, the better you can lead and serve. 

  • Are they giving?

If your church has doubled in size, but the offering totals each week have stayed the same, your church community may not be giving. Find out where the disconnect is. Of course money is not the main focus in a church. But bills still need to be paid and ministries still need to be funded. Especially when dealing with new Christians, they may not know what God’s Word says about giving—today’s culture is charitably benevolent, but have you addressed the concept of Biblical giving? Consider making it easier for them to make contributions with giving kiosks and mobile and online giving—and allow them to access their own financial records.

  • Are they connected?

It’s not difficult to slip into the habit of going to church on Sunday morning, saying hellos to the five people who typically sit in the same section, then go home and not interact with anyone from the church until next Sunday. But getting plugged in and fellowshipping with other believers is so important to the body of Christ. Keeping a record of what small groups—if any—your members are a part of will help you better understand your people and their spiritual growth. If they seem to be disengaged from your church community, how can you help them get better connected?

  • Are they actively involved?

Just as you want your church community to connect with each other, you also want them to actively participate—serve in the nursery, teach a Sunday school class, lead worship. Keep track of where your people are serving and make it easy for them to continue to volunteer. Take time to record where people would fit based on their gifts—someone with no technical knowledge may not be the best person to run your sound system, but might make a wonderful, friendly greeter. Based on people’s ministry strengths, you can actually reach out to them with specific service opportunities.

  • What are their needs?

When a believer is struggling in life—whether it be spiritually or financially or any other area—he should be able to go to the church (specifically leadership) for support and encouragement. Make it easy for people to share prayer request and seek out that support. Keep track of those needs and follow a system for dealing with them. Utilize functions like follow-ups to aide in the discipleship process.

 

Even in a small church, it would be practically impossible to remember each of these details about every single member. But you can utilize technology to keep track of all this information so you can access it whenever you need to. Check out how Elexio's ChMS can help you know your church community better.

Visit these other great resources for more insight:

Do You Know Who Is in Your Church? (You May Be Surprised)
Are You Getting the Most out of Your Church Software?
Pastor, how well do you know your church?

 

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

Going Beyond to Stop Hunger

  
  
  

By Emily Kantner

Here at Elexio, we obviously love software and technology and striving to make things easier for the church. But what really drives us is our heart for people.

We are blessed to have rewarding careers that not only make an eternal impact, but also provide for us financially so we can live comfortable lives. We don’t have to worry where our next meal will come from—but many people throughout the world do.  Elexio volunteers

Did you know that 2.6 million children under the age of five die each year from undernutrition? Or that undernourishment contributes to more deaths than malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS combined?

Because God has given us so much, we know we need to share His love with others by not only reaching out to them spiritually, but also helping meet their physical needs.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Harvest Bible Chapel here in Lancaster County, PA through their Go Beyond campaign—a week dedicated to spontaneous and planned acts of kindness.

We have signs posted throughout the office that serve as constant reminders to be thinking of ways to go out of our way to put others first. And last week we participated in an effort to send thousands of meals for the hungry through Stop Hunger Now—an organization whose mission is to end world hunger.

Our staff volunteered in two groups with others from the community to package over 10,000 meals to be sent across the world in each two hour shift.

The dehydrated meals contain several nutrient-rich ingredients, specifically designed for people who are malnourished and lacking essential vitamins and minerals. Each has a shelf life of two years and costs only 29 cents.  

It’s amazing what a few volunteers, a couple hours, and what we’d consider pocket change can do.

Elexio staff volunteers

Charity isn’t always just about sending a check—what about getting out of your comfort zone and giving your time to the people who need it most?

And you know what? We had a blast doing it!

We’re now faced with the challenge of making this concept of going beyond not just a one-time event, but a lasting change in our attitude and culture. The people who are hungry or sick or impoverished will not all be reached overnight, but with a Christ-like mindset and selfless hard work, we can spark a change.

 

Let us know—how are you going beyond to make a difference? 

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