By Emily Kantner
Although it’s an hour of singing snowmen and flying reindeer, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is packed with valuable lessons for kids of all ages.
If you’re not familiar with the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—well, you should watch it this Christmas season because it’s an American classic. But you can get the gist from the lyrics to the holiday carol.
So what can reindeer and a sleigh full of toys teach you about the volunteers at your church?
Look at the unlikely heroes. The Island of Misfit Toys was filled with polka-dotted elephants and choo-choos with square wheels—not your typical Christmas morning presents. Because they didn’t fit the perfect present stereotype, they were labeled outsiders and banished. The self-proclaimed team of wandering misfits was comprised of an aspiring dentist elf, a reindeer with a light bulb for a nose, and a gun-toting mountain man in search of gold. They certainly made a motley crew. But together, they tamed an abominable snow monster and saved Santa’s Christmas Eve expedition. Yukon Cornelius had the inside scoop on Bumble. Hermey’s dental skills came in handy. Rudolph’s nose shone the way for Santa’s sleigh. And some eccentric toys put smiles on the faces of a few kids Christmas morning.
After pouring hours of effort into recruiting volunteers, sometimes church leaders feel like they’ve been dealt a band of misfits rather than the dream team they were hoping for.
Volunteers may not always be what you expect, but that doesn’t mean they can’t blow your expectations out of the water and provide value. If your church has ended up with volunteers that are as unlikely as a water pistol that shoots…jelly, follow these four tips:
Find ways to use people’s unique gifts—don’t pigeonhole them into a specific role that doesn’t suit their talents. If you do, you could lose them as volunteers. Remember, not all elves can make toys! Rather than focusing on reaching a volunteer quota, focus on matching people to the right positions. Keep an open mind—if the volunteers you have won’t make good youth leaders, maybe they’re the start of a new ministry at your church.
Get creative and focus on how different people and gifts can work together to help the church. After all, it took a team of misfits and a pair of pliers to tame the snow monster. Don’t focus on one person’s weakness because that’s where another volunteer might shine. Help people discover what their gifts are, leverage those strengths, and form multi-faceted teams. Especially in a smaller church, you’ll need to pool your resources and find new ways to work with what you have.
Keep track of what people are good at in your church database so you can recruit them for similar roles in the future. Don’t you think Santa called on Rudolph each foggy Christmas Eve and every elf with a toothache went to Hermey for an extraction?
If all else fails, maybe you need to recruit better next time. Certainly they made some changes in the North Pole after that fiasco! Use the information you recorded to find individuals with the right gifting. Ask people specifically, don’t just make the blanket statement that you need help. And recruit volunteers face-to-face.
The volunteers you end up with may not be exactly what you imagined, but those misfits might just surprise you and save the day.
Check out these other resources to maximize your church volunteer potential:
7 Key Steps of Recruiting, Training and Retaining Church Volunteers
How to Make the Most of Your Volunteers
10 Ways to Double Your Church Volunteer Recruitment and Retention
By Emily Kantner
Whether they’re Chreasters or families looking for a new place to worship, your church has the rare opportunity to connect with a large number of visitors this Christmas season. Some may be out-of-towners, but most guests attending your holiday services are locals who could potentially become a part of your growing church community. Follow these tips to make sure they come back even after the decorations are put away:
1. Deliver on your promises
When you promoted the Christmas program, did you embellish at all just to get people there? If you advertised an ornate live nativity, but you’ve really got a baby doll and some plastic donkeys, you’re probably misleading visitors.
Remember your long-term goal—bringing those guests back so they can connect with your church and be discipled. But why would they want to come back if they’re disappointed and feel like they’ve been hoodwinked this time around?
Set the right expectations and deliver on those promises. Better yet, under-promise and over-deliver. They’ll be pleasantly surprised.
2. Provide a positive experience
It’s not just about the vocals or the chocolate chip cookies you hand out after the cantata. It’s about every interaction from the moment guests walk through the door.
Ensure your check-in process is fast, easy, and secure. Christmas visitors are usually coming with the entire family, so prepare for packed nurseries and leery parents. A system that quickly prints food allergies and medical information on nametags will be a relief to families.
Keep it kid-friendly unless you’ve specifically planned an adult-only event. Parents will be able to enjoy themselves if their toddlers aren’t squirming around the pews out of boredom. People are more accepting of sentimental cheesiness this time of year, anyway. So let the toddlers sing away!
Don’t get stuck in a rut, but don’t stray too far from tradition either—especially if it’s worked for you in the past. People are familiar with the Christmas story and know what to expect. It’s the one time of year when most people take comfort in tradition rather than search for something new. So unless you’ve told them that you’ll be switching things up, keep your Christmas lineup simple.
Be genuine, but still put your best foot forward. Christmas at church is kind of like a first date: you want to be your true self, but the very best version of yourself. Don’t leave out important details so visitors feel like your services aren’t too “churchy,” only to change your tune the next week. People can usually see right through the façade or they’ll be unhappy when they return to a completely different environment later.
3. Show them what you have to offer
While you’ll be focusing on the Christmas story, don’t forget to let visitors know what else your church has to offer beyond Christmastime. Give them a preview of what’s coming up next and highlight those ministries that would be of interest to visitors. Invite them to the upcoming sermon series or special event. Just don’t let them leave without seeing how your church can be relevant to their lives year round.
4. Follow up with them
Collect guest information at check-in or through visitor cards and enter it into your church database so you can follow up with them after the holidays. While you’d typically reach out to visitors within a day or two, people don’t want to be bothered by phone calls or emails while they’re spending quality time with family. Once things calm down after the New Year, reach out to your Christmastime guests and invite them back.
Visit these other resources for more Christmas tips and ideas:
5 Last-Minute Christmas Service Improvements
Plan for Growth During the Christmas Holidays
5 Videos for Christmas Church Services
By Emily Kantner
Chreasters. Or maybe you prefer CEOs (Christmas and Easter Only). You know—those people who only step foot inside a church two times a year.
They’re looking for a place to go this holiday season. According to Google trends, searches for the word “church” spike at Christmastime, second only to Easter. Are you taking advantage of this season when people who wouldn’t typically join in worship are searching for a church to visit?
1. Get specific
Is your church putting on a Christmas cantata? Are you hosting a candlelight Christmas Eve service? Be specific about the details in your promotion of events. People are more likely to attend a special holiday program than a regular Sunday morning worship service because they have certain expectations this time of year. Childcare and refreshments will also leave people more inclined to be your guests, so tell them ahead of time what you have to offer.
2. Get online
People are searching for a place to go over the holidays, so make sure they can easily find you. Keep your website current and provide plenty of information about Christmas events. Larger churches hosting a variety of major programs might even find value in a dedicated microsite. Check out these eight examples for inspiration.
3. Get noticed
Don’t count on people just finding you organically online. Consider some online advertising during this time of year—try out Google’s Ad Grants program for free. It can serve as a good test to see if this kind of advertising is worthwhile for your church and won’t cut into your tight budget.
4. Get social
Actively promote your Christmas festivities throughout your social networks. Tweet details of your services and create events on Facebook that your church community can share with friends. Create some graphics that will catch people’s eyes rather than a status update that most will overlook. Check out these free resources to get started.
5. Get communicative
Take advantage of the contact list that you’ve collected. Send an email blast to people who’ve visited your church before and consider a physical mailing based on your audience. The personal invitation will serve as a good reminder of their experience with your church. There’s no better time to reignite their interest in your church.
6. Get creative
There’s no one right way to get the word out—it all depends on the local community surrounding your church. Some close-knit communities find success participating in parades and distributing flyers with candy canes, while a young megachurch in the heart of a modern city might not see the same results. However you choose to advertise, make it personal. Provide invite cards for your church community and challenge them to invite friends and family. They can drop one off with a tray of cookies at a neighbor’s home or hang some in local coffee shops and on community announcement boards. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
7. Get prepared
If you’re in an area that could possibly see snow and ice, develop a communication plan in the case of a cancellation. Make a decision as early as possible, and be sure to at least communicate updates everywhere that you promoted the service. Visitors won't be happy with your church if they brave the elements only to arrive at an empty building.
Take advantage of this holiday season to turn those Chreasters into year-round disciples. Only 23 days till Christmas—better get started!
Check out these other great resources for more ways to reach your community this Christmas season:
5 Ways Social Media Can Help Churches Connect at Christmas
Your Church Should Be Thinking About Christmas…Today
Church Christmas Ideas
In this whiteboard session, Rodney introduces the importance of processes in the church and explains how a solid purpose statement and wise use of technology will help your church grow.
Elexio Whiteboard: Are you on the wall at Cracker Barrel? from Elexio on Vimeo.
Hi, welcome to an Elexio whiteboard.
You know, I've noticed that processes are all around us. Think about trash collection. It's a very routine thing that happens for all of us, but imagine what it would be like if you didn't have it supported by a well established process. You'd have to decide where are we going to put the trash in each room, who's going to go around and collect it, who's going to come pick it up and carry it away, what's recyclable, what's not? It's become something that is very automatic because of a well-established process.
Today in our whiteboard, we're talking about process, but something in a much more important vein than trash collection, and that's processes in the local church.
I know what you may be thinking, "Hey, you know, process is good for things like trash collection, but people are different, and the church is all about people. People come in all different shapes and sizes." I certainly agree, but how much more important to have well established processes for this much more complex task of working with people. It's going to make you better at what you do.
Mostly, what we'll be talking about today can be found here in this book, Allen Ratta's "The Optimized Church." In it, he largely spends time talking about the important processes of the local church. If you take a look in his book, you'll see that he suggests that there are six Ps to effective church leadership. I'm going to leave it to you to read his book to find out about one through four. Our main topic today will be number five and number six.
Six is processes, but Allen suggests that it's really hard to start talking about church process until you take a hard look at purpose. What is the purpose of the local church? Allen borrows some words from Rick Warren who wrote a fantastic book called "The Purpose Driven Church." I'll guess you've heard of it.
Allen suggests, along with Rick, that the purposes of the church can be identified into five major categories, worship, ministry, evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship. You may think to yourself, "I'd add some words there," or you may be thinking, "I'd use different words there." You could be right. It's not Allen's suggestion, nor is it ours here in the Elexio whiteboard, to suggest that this is the definitive list. I would say, and I would agree with what Allen says in the book, you'd be hard pressed to detract from this list. You certainly couldn't say, "Oh, well, evangelism isn't part of it." Again, you may want to use a different word.
We'll use this, as Allen does, as our basis for the big categories of the purposes of the church. The fifth P, again, is purpose, but Allen suggests you need to go a step further than this and move away from just key words and get it into something that's a bit more memorable. He suggests that you put here a purpose statement. Gather the team at your church who might be involved in these sort of things and decide how can we, in a very succinct way, indicate what we're about? Put it into a statement.
I'll borrow one from a church that I saw which is, "making disciples, more and better." I like it. It's simple. It's easy to remember. It goes nicely on the header on a website. I think that's perfect, until your purpose statement, your church, maybe even you at your church, ends up on the wall at Cracker Barrel.
Don't get me wrong. I love Cracker Barrel, like I really love Cracker Barrel. Just think about it. Home cooked food, shopping, and old fashioned candy when you're done. It's beautiful, it's perfect but you know what one of my favorite parts of Cracker Barrel is actually? Is the decorations on the wall. They have old-timey advertisements. The best part are the things on the wall. You look at them and you're like, "Oh, don't really know what that is," or sometimes you might have some sense. Sometimes, I see them and think, "I think my grandfather had one of those." It's not that the items on the wall don't have a purpose. It's that those purposes to me, a modern person, are irrelevant to my life. I don't need them anymore. The sad thing is, despite the wonderful purposes of the church and your wonderful, easy-to-remember purpose statement, if your church isn't relevant to the people you're trying to serve, you're on the wall at Cracker Barrel.
It's certainly a bigger task than we can cover in this whiteboard to suggest all the ways that you might make yourself engaged with people rather than relegated to the wall of their grandfather's time. I would suggest that there is a simple or a few simple things that you can do. The thing I would suggest and I would say is, you know what I've never seen on the wall at Cracker Barrel? Is a bluetooth controlled butter churn. Stick with me. Here's what I'm talking about. I have seen a butter churn on the wall. Nobody needs a butter churn anymore, because we just go to the store and we buy butter. What I mean by that is if we were going to do butter churns today, it would have an app associated with it. It might be bluetooth controlled. We would have an app that we'd be able to monitor how the butter is going in the process. It would be like everything else in our life, like it or not. You may be watching this video thinking I don't want technology, but like it or not that's part of our world.
If you're going to be a relevant, purpose driven church, if we're stating our purpose, it needs to have technology inside your processes and outward facing things. We talked about, in a previous whiteboard, the importance of a nice looking website and not just nice looking but functional as well. In our last session, we also talked about an app, a great way that you can connect in a relevant way with the people that you are trying to effect these purposes on. There are ways that you most definitely can take yourself off the wall at Cracker Barrel.
Let's talk real practical now. Where we'll go in our next session is to talk more detailed about something that Allen suggests are macro processes. They go here. One is going to be acquisition in nature. The other is going to be maturation in nature. Again, we're kind of working down. Your statement may not be like this, but I'm going to guess it's something like this, making disciples more and better, the more is acquisition, the better is maturation. We'll get into more of that and that's a lot of what Allen talks about in his book.
Let's talk real practical as we end up here. What can you do now, after you finish watching this video, tomorrow, when you're thinking about it, in staff meeting this upcoming week? What can we do? I would say the first thing you can do is really take a hard assessment, a hard look at where you are now. If it's good for you, put it in terms of Cracker Barrel. Are you on the wall and you're so out of touch that people can't even figure out who you are and what you are? They may think, "Oh yeah, my grandfather went to church, but I don't." Where are you in that realm? Take a hard look to assess where are you? I would suggest you need to think about it in terms of technology.
The final thing I would say is, that you can take action on this week, is get some help. It's a recurring theme. I said it in our last whiteboard as well. Get some help. You're trained in these things. There are people out there that are just as passionate about serving the church and serving Christ through technology as you are about the things you do. You can get help.
Call Elexio. That's great. We'd be glad to help you, but there are other people as well. Get some help.
Next time in our whiteboard, we'll fill out the rest of our triangle. We're going to look at micro processes that affect the church.
Hey, thanks for watching our Elexio whiteboard.
Video transcription by Speechpad.com
By Emily Kantner
Most churches are working hard to get every member of the church community involved with one ministry or another. Some screen every potential volunteer to ensure safety and a good fit while others choose to save time and money by skipping this process. After all, most churches don't have unlimited resources.
But as the need for background checks increases and the number of providers grows, the cost continues to drop. Even churches with a tight budget can afford to run background checks. In fact, they can't afford not to.
Why you should be running background checks
Many churches see hundreds of kids come through their doors each weekend. Although we’d like to think that our families are completely safe there, not everyone worshipping with us has a clean record. And some of those people are trying to volunteer within the church—including the children’s ministry.
LifeWay found that in their program, of the 142,000 background checks conducted by 7,700 churches since 2008, nearly half revealed a criminal offense, and 21% contained serious offenses including over 9,000 felonies.
God changes lives—even the lives of those who have a criminal record. But the church needs to actively seek out this information in order to keep predators away from children and protect the church community.
If you don’t do your research before opening up volunteer opportunities, your church and those who are serving could face unfair accusations and a damaged testimony. Conducting background checks and training everyone who serves will help to protect your ministry.
Parents’ peace of mind
When parents know you’ve done your homework to ensure that their kids are in safe hands, they’ll be able to focus on worship and want to come back. As the holiday season approaches and attendance spikes, make sure your church is an environment where visitors feel safe.
Background check best practices
Determine how often you’ll perform background checks on current staff and volunteers. Many organizations choose to repeat them annually, while others wait two to five years to update records. But some insurance carriers will deny coverage unless churches repeat background checks every 12 months.
You should also consider how you’ll handle any situation where someone leaves the church or takes a break from serving, then comes back. Most churches will restart the process.
Will you make each staff member and volunteer go through the background check process before they can serve or only those who will be working with children and financial information? Because many duties will overlap, enforcing background checks for everyone involved in ministry is the recommended practice.
Make sure that you’re not only running background checks on people who are new to your church but also those people who have been serving for 25 years before you implemented new standards. You might get some pushback, so help them understand the importance of these policies.
Create a process for handling results and respect the privacy of your church community. Keep hard copies in a locked file and digital records secured with a password. Limit the number of people who handle this sensitive information.
Make a plan for dealing with any unfavorable issues that come up from background check results. You may have to ask people to volunteer with another ministry because of a checkered past. Handle these situations delicately.
You’ve got a lot of options when choosing where you’ll get background checks done. Consider companies like SecureSearch that understand the unique needs of your church.
The extent of background checks will probably vary based on the person’s role, but you have a variety of resources available to you. (Keep in mind that some information also varies by state)
County and state criminal records
National criminal and sex offender database
Motor vehicle records
Employment and education verification
Develop a policy for background checks and stick to it. Otherwise people may feel like they’re being singled out or you could make an exception that could be devastating to your church.
Don’t stop there
Background checks are important, but they’re not always enough. You can do even more to make sure you’re providing a safe environment at your church.
Use discretion when assigning volunteers. Look for warning signs. Just because someone doesn’t have a record, doesn’t mean they should be working with kids.
Be smart. Avoid private one-on-one situations and always keep at least two adults in a room with children.
Be proactive and keep people accountable. Enforce a policy that requires staff and volunteers to alert the church of any arrests or legal issues.
Invest in training. Help those serving in your church know what characteristics and behaviors to look out for and how to avoid risky circumstances.
Make it easier with technology
Integrate background checks with your church management software to save a few steps and run automated reports. You’ll avoid entering those details into your database, always find the results when you need them, and have a simpler way to get updated information.
Check out these other resources on background checks and making your church a safe environment:
3 Things You Need to Know About Background Checks
Volunteer Background Checks: Giving Back Without Giving up on Privacy
The Top 5 Myths About Background Checks
Image credits: istockphoto.com
By Emily Kantner
It’s easy to be thankful when you've got a stomach full of turkey and pumpkin pie while watching football surrounded by family.
But expressing gratitude shouldn’t be limited to Turkey Day. Especially in the church, we should have a Thanksgiving mindset all year round. And that attitude of gratitude should be incorporated into your communication strategy.
Most churches depend on a team of volunteers to keep ministries running each week. You probably shoot them an email when you need help, but is recognizing their efforts a part of your regular communication strategy?
Although people don’t serve in order to receive praise, gratitude will leave volunteers more inclined to continue serving because their efforts are recognized and appreciated.
Personally thank volunteers while they’re in action. If you’re passing by the nursery on Sunday morning, take a few seconds to thank the volunteers who are changing diapers and handing out snacks.
Highlight a volunteer in your newsletter, on your blog, or with a Facebook post. Thank Sarah for her 12 years of selfless dedication to the youth group with a brief story of her experience in ministry.
Recognize volunteer efforts during church announcements. Give credit to the team that organized your Trunk or Treat outreach and feature a few snapshots from the event.
Turn the tables and host a thank you event where the typical volunteers are honored guests.
Automate. Sometimes you can’t personally thank every single volunteer, so schedule an email to participants following the Christmas cantata.
Send a handwritten card. Whether it’s a birthday wish or a simple thank you, the personal touch will go a long way in making volunteers feel appreciated.
Say thank you—without actually saying thank you. Sometimes actions speak louder than words, so show your gratitude by finding value in volunteers’ experience and understanding. Make it easy for them to communicate any needs or concerns with church leadership. Actively seek their input and take it to heart. Provide all the tools and training they need and work to accommodate their schedules.
Check out 33 Ways to Show Appreciation to Volunteers at Your Church for more ideas.
You probably work hard to bring new people into your church, but do you thank them for coming once they visit?
Thank them from the pulpit. Don’t embarrass visitors by making them stand up or raise a hand, but tell them that you appreciate them joining you in worship.
Offer them a visitor gift in exchange for some basic contact information. Check out these ideas to make an irresistible gift bag.
Follow up with them. Whether it’s a letter, a phone call, or a personal visit, express your gratitude by following up with each person that visits your church for the first time or attends an event—and make sure it’s timely.
Visit 5 Ways to Keep Visitors from Coming Back to Your Church for more tips on visitor care.
Some people think that since church staff members are getting paid for their service, they don’t need to be thanked or encouraged. But pastors and other church staff typically make some kind of sacrifice in order to work in ministry—and many will end up suffering from ministry burnout. So make sure you’re expressing gratitude to your entire team.
Stop by their offices to say thank you—especially after they just completed a major project. Show them that you see their accomplishments as important too.
Encourage the church community to thank them—and not just those in leadership positions. The secretary and IT person should be recognized too.
Automate some thank you communication. After the busyness of the holiday season, send out some emails thanking your church staff for all their hard work preparing for the musical, outreach event, and Christmas Eve service.
Make sure you’re not grossly underpaying church staff if you can afford to give them a decent wage. Just because someone is dedicated to ministry doesn’t mean his family should live in squalor.
Check out Employees Need Appreciation in Churches Too for more information.
While it takes staff and volunteers to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of your church, they couldn’t get much done without the financial support of your church community. Are you thanking the people that faithfully give?
Incorporate a thank you in the bulletin or on a slide along with your weekly giving report. This might also serve as a reminder for those who’ve neglected their giving.
Include a thank you message with year-end contribution statements. If people print their own statements online, you can send them an email recognizing their financial support over the past year.
When your church reaches a financial milestone—like paying off the mortgage or raising the funds for a special missions project—express your gratitude in an email or letter to the church community.
Make it easy for people to give. Invest in the technology that will allow your loyal donors to give when and where it’s convenient for them and make sure you’ve communicated how to use these different options.
See HOW TO: Thank Online Donors for more insight.
While you’re not going to send Him an email or tag Him on Facebook, isn’t God the one who deserves the bulk of our thanksgiving?
It’s easy to get caught up in the things we don’t have—megachurch attendance, hundreds of volunteers, unlimited resources—but we need to acknowledge all that He has given to us.
Share with your church community what God has already done for your ministry rather than solely focusing on your wants for the future. Set an example of gratitude. Regularly thank God for his provision as a church family.
Because you can’t automate those thank yous.
By Emily Kantner
Did you know that 25% of Americans will only access the internet from mobile devices? By the end of 2014, 79% of all online traffic is expected to go through mobile devices. And it’s not just teenagers—56% of American adults own a smartphone. Does your church have a responsive website to accommodate all that mobile traffic?
What is responsive design?
Responsive web design refers to a website that will automatically adjust to fit the device a viewer is using—“one site for every screen.” So whether you’re pulling up your church website on an iPhone or a desktop, you’ll largely see the same content, but in the ideal format for that particular screen size.
But we have a mobile app!
A mobile app typically provides tools like event registration, giving, and check-in for the church community. As Steve Fogg explains, church apps “are for insiders, mobile web is for outsiders. That means that if a church is on a mission it should also create an experience crafted for the great commission.”
So while a mobile app is a wise investment for your church, it’s your website that will make the first impression to potential visitors. If they’re just trying to learn more about you before they attend a service, why would they install your app—or even know you have one?
Why Responsive Design?
Some churches are sticking to their regular websites and are not adjusting to the shift toward mobile. Others are opting for mobile websites. But responsive design is still the best option for most churches.
If a website is not responsive and requires a lot of pinching or scrolling, 99.5% of mobile users will not proceed past the homepage.
A responsive design usually renders the best experience for mobile users. Mobile sites require a redirect which will slow down load speeds—and most people won’t wait. But they’ll probably stick around longer with the improved usability of a responsive website.
And with only one URL—rather than a separate URL for a mobile website—responsive websites offer simplicity to potential visitors.
A responsive site will also provide a more consistent and fluid user experience.
Although a responsive website could mean some extra work or cost for your church in the beginning, it will be much easier to manage in the long run. You’ll only have to manage and maintain one website—rather than two separate sites—and duplicate content won’t be an issue.
It also means only one SEO campaign to monitor. If you’re sending people to both a desktop site and a mobile site, you’ll do twice the work to get people there. With a responsive website, all links will go to that single site rather than splitting traffic, and your organic search traffic won’t be negatively impacted.
Responsive design is also Google’s recommended configuration. Googlebots will only need to crawl your responsive website once (rather than multiple times with different agents for a mobile site). According to Google’s Webmasters, “this improvement in crawling efficiency can indirectly help Google index more of the site’s contents and keep it fresh.”
In fact, your website could be penalized if you don’t adjust. Google is currently testing a variety of methods to help mobile users identify mobile-friendly websites in search results. But these changes could also negatively impact websites that don't respond well to mobile devices.
With 67.5% of search engine queries coming through Google, you’ll want to keep them happy.
With one URL, one set of content, one code, and one experience for all devices, responsive design is probably the best option for your church.
Check out these resources for more information on responsive websites:
Mobile Responsive Church Website Design 101
Google Hates Your Mobile Website (Here’s How to Fix It)
Responsive Mobile Design for Your Church
Some churches struggle to incorporate technology into their assimilation processes. In this whiteboard session, Rodney explains how you can simplify assimilation—drawing from Toy Story.
Elexio Whiteboard - Assimilation from Elexio on Vimeo.
Hi. Welcome to Elexio Whiteboard. If there was a top ten list of Christian buzzwords, I feel certain 'assimilation' would make the list. It's something that most churches are talking about, strategizing about, thinking about, maybe keeping pastors up at night.
Today in the Elexio Whiteboard we're going to talk about how you can use technology to leverage the assimilation process.
When I think assimilation, I think Toy Story. Now stay with me. Toy Story is actually, in my opinion, a movie in many ways about assimilation. You've got this guy, Buzz Lightyear, who joins a group of toys and he feels like a foreigner.
We're going to talk about three scenes from Toy Story that can help us see how technology could leverage the assimilation process.
The first one is Apps. As we look at it, actually the second one's Apps, and the third one is Apps. We'll get to that. It looks like I don't know how to spell, but stick with me.
The first one is Get A Process. I think of the scene where Woody calls all the toys together and he's got this crucial concern that the family is moving and he doesn't want any toy to be left behind.
I love it because in his speech he just says, "If you don't have a buddy, get one" and I would say the same thing as a church. Before you can use technology to leverage the assimilation process, you have to get a process.
The next thing I would say, once you get a process, is to Document a Process. This is, again, also not technology necessarily, but it's getting down on paper with the key leaders at your church not just big ideas about what we're going to do in generalities, but very specific things that we are going to do as a church and as a church leadership to make efforts towards assimilation.
Get a process, document a process.
Now, it's Automate a Process. Really, I say that comes in three main ways. Automated communication in the form of letters, emails and phone calls.
You may be thinking we're doing all those things right now, but if your process heavily depends on somebody, church staff or church volunteer, remembering to do these things, if you've documented that you want to make sure we send a letter in the first week, an email in the second week and a phone call somewhere in between, but you don't have any automation supporting that, you certainly run the risk of the best intentions not happening.
If we think in our Toy Story terms somebody's going to get left behind simply because automation didn't help you in the process.
This really does start to speak to what technology does your church have to be able to automate the processes you've come up with? Again, letters, emails, phone calls.
The automation process is going to depend on having technology that is flexible. Some software packages you may have or other technologies you have at your church, you may hit brick walls where you've got this wonderfully documented process, but you're not able to really translate it into automation because you're stuck with potentially terminology that is foreign to your church or processes that are very rigid in the technology.
The ability to automate it and then avoid those brick walls is going to be a real key to being able to leverage technology to serve assimilation.
Finally, the final thing says App and I'm reminded of the scene in Toy Story where Buzz arrives for the first time. As I said, that's the whole concept of the movie, there's this new toy, he comes.
When he first arrives, he's looking around and everything is very different to what he's used to and the other toys are looking at him and thinking you're very different. I can't help but think about how that is for people who visit churches.
Churches themselves are different. Your church may be very different than what this person grew up with if they didn't grow up in a church at all, and your church is serving communion and reciting prayers. There's a foreignness that has to be bridged and really that is at the heart of the assimilation process.
We have our documented, our automated, now a real enhancement to that can be and now I'm using the term properly here, gaving a church app. Having a church app is going to help you be, by default, relevant.
The degree and quality of your app is going to certainly say more and more, but just having one alone is going to help you in our culture be relevant. Getting the church app in the first place is the first step. It'll show some relevance.
I'd say the second thing that if your app, if you already have one or if you're looking to have one, the thing that you want to look for is can we communicate who we are as a church through the app? Can it say something about our church culture?
I'd say one of the great ways to do that is with video content. I think when people like Buzz, when he arrives in the room and he doesn't know what's going on, if he could pull up a video and watch and see, here's how these people interact. Here's Woody giving a speech. I would say the same thing about the people who come to your church.
If they can pull up a video that says, “There's the pastor, and here's what he speaks about,” it will help communicate your culture through a device that people are already very comfortable with. You’ve bridged the gap in many by simply having the app in the first place.
The final thing I would say that an app should have, if it's going to really help with the assimilation process, is to have your church directory accessible through the app.
You may not want that to be available for everybody who downloads your app, so maybe it's something that has to be given permission to get there, but once somebody is a part of your church being able to pull up a church directory is a great way for them to feel more comfortable.
Three ways. Relevance, culture, directory. Those are possible ways to have an app affect assimilation. In general I would say, the whole process related to assimilation, it can get a bad feeling associated with it.
When we think of assimilation we sometimes think of that movie, the Star Trek movie from back in the 1990s, I think it was called First Contact and there was this alien race called the Borg. The Borg said they were going to assimilate everyone and their general theme was your individuality will no longer be important and you'll be part of the collective. If that term starts to lean that way it could not be something you really want your church to be associated with.
When we think assimilation what we really want to think about, what I like to think about, is really one of the final scenes from Toy Story which is Buzz has been through, pretty much been through the assimilation process. He really is part of the toys. There is a scene in the end where he and Woody end up flying through the sky and there's fear, they think they're going to fall, but they utilize an individuality that Buzz brings by the wings that pop out and they're able to drift right where they want to be.
I would say that's the beautiful thing about assimilation. All of these people coming to your church, shepherded through the process that you've developed, enhanced by the app that you potentially have, so that they can take what is individual about them and make your church what it's supposed to be which is something that is pleasing to God.
Thanks for watching The Elexio Whiteboard. We'll talk to you later.
Video transcription by Speechpad.com
By Emily Kantner
It’s that time of year when churches invite their members to fill parking lots with cars covered by DIY costumes and pack their trunks with candy corn and peanut butter cups.
Trunk or Treat is about providing a fun, safe activity for kids and families in your community. If done properly, it can be a great outreach initiative.
So you’ve got the kids, cars, and candy ready to go—but how do you make sure this amounts to more than just a night of fun and nauseating amounts of sugar?
Although it’s probably a little late to begin planning or advertising for this year, there are still some things you can do to ensure a successful Trunk or Treat.
Hopefully you’ve been promoting your Trunk or Treat event for several weeks now. But even if you’re behind on the marketing, you can still use social media to attract more people—up until the day of your event!
If your church has an active social media presence, consider creating an event hashtag. You can use it leading up to Trunk or Treat, during the fun, and after the event as you share details and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
You can also create buzz by inviting people to a public event on Facebook. It’s not so much about predicting attendance as it is about creating awareness. But it will help you gauge what kind of turnout to expect.
Need some more last minute volunteers? Recruit help from your church community by sharing those service opportunities throughout your social channels. Get them involved after the event, too by having them share posts, pictures, and updates with their friends.
Before posting pictures online, make sure you have consent from parents—and watch out for license plates. Your social media activity could backfire if you don’t respect people’s privacy.
Event Day Considerations
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the event, but make sure you’re prepared with more than just some sweet treats.
On Trunk or Treat night, take advantage of the fact that hundreds of people from your local community are pouring into your parking lot. Advertise another upcoming event for kids and families so they’ll come back for more fun.
Make sure you have plenty of volunteers available to not only hand out candy and help with the grunt work of the event, but also to engage with the families and answer any questions from parents.
One of the biggest draws of Trunk or Treat is that it’s typically safer than children roaming neighborhoods in the dark. So make sure you take all the necessary precautions to ensure a secure environment for families.
Don’t miss an opportunity to learn more about the people from your local community so you can follow up with them later.
Ask parents and guardians to fill out visitor connection cards or enter their information on a check-in kiosk. Keep it short, though. You’re providing a free event to the community, so don’t make people feel like there are strings attached to your friendly gesture.
Consider allowing those cards to serve as an entry form to win a drawing–for something that is worth sharing their contact information.
Be straightforward. People will be more likely to give you their information if you tell them what you’re going to do with it. Will you send them a letter or add them to your weekly newsletter?
Use that valuable information within the next few days after your event—while the fun is still fresh in their minds. Get them entered into your database and into a workflow so they receive an automated email or letter. Have a member of your follow-up team call them. Invite them to the next family-friendly event at your church. Use Trunk or Treat as just the first step in making families familiar with your church.
Most of these ideas are perfect for other seasonal activities your church plans like a fall festival or spring fling. Throw seamless events, but make sure you focus on more on the outreach opportunities—isn’t that why you’re doing it, after all?
Check out these other resources on effective follow-up:
Fantastic Family Follow Up
Follow-up after a Church Holiday Outreach Event: Speed Dating or Relationship Building?
8 Effective Ways to Follow up with Guests at Your Church
By Emily Kantner
Whether you’re planting a church, considering an overhaul of your current branding, or you just need to make things fresh, make sure you put in the time to do it right.
Why it matters
No matter where you’re located or what you believe, people are going to form an opinion about your church. And it’s usually not based on personal experience.
The brand that you establish for your church will affect your reputation in the community, even if you haven’t put any conscious effort into creating one. You want people to hear your name or see your logo and remember you—for the right reasons. A strong branding strategy will go a long way in giving your church that credibility in outreach.
More than an ichthus
You don’t need a logo that incorporates a cross, a dove, a fish, and a crown of thorns. People will probably know that you’re a church even if you don’t pack every single Biblical symbol into your design.
Nor do you need to name your church First Community Calvary Grace Bible Fellowship. We get it—you’re a church! Keep it simple rather than trying to incorporate too many stereotypical elements into your unique branding.
But your church brand is more than just your name, logo, and color scheme. Of course those elements are all important in solidifying your branding. But before you examine your tagline and fonts, make sure you’ve identified how you want to represent your church and consider these guidelines:
1. Be authentic
While you want to attract new people to your church, you need to make sure that you’re doing it the right way. Your branding shouldn’t be a clever disguise that lures people in with false imagery and unrealistic expectations of who you are—stay true to your identity.
Consider your mission statement and what’s important to your church. If you’re having a difficult time pinpointing those unique elements, answer these questions to help you discover what the heart of your brand truly is.
2. Be relevant
Relevance doesn’t mean becoming worldly or compromising your standards—it means relating to the community you’re trying to reach. What is your church doing to meet the needs of the overwhelming homeless population in your city? How are you helping single parent families in your area? Let these kinds of considerations influence your messaging as you develop a brand.
It also means avoiding acronyms or cryptic church-speak that might alienate the unchurched. Creative names for your kid’s ministry or Sunday school classes can be fun, but make sure they’re clear enough that a first time visitor would understand.
3. Be transparent
If your church does meet a specific need in the surrounding community, express how a burden to reach troubled teens led local families to found your church. Let people know what makes your church distinctive.
Your branding should allow people to glean some insight into who you are as a church. That doesn’t mean telling your 20 year history in a logo, but that story should help shape your branding strategy.
4. Be unified
As your church considers its branding as a whole, make sure that everyone is on the same page. The sub-branding for each individual ministry should be complementary—it shouldn’t conflict with the church’s brand or compete with other ministries.
Your church should have a consistent, unified brand across all platforms, not silos that can be detrimental to the church. Once you have these strategies in place, opt for a brand guide that will keep everyone in the know.
Adapting as you grow
As your church grows, it will become increasingly difficult to enforce branding that stays true to your church identity. If you’re a multi-site church, determine early on how you’ll tackle this challenge—will each location have its own website, logo, social accounts? Even if you don’t have the resources to hire someone, entrust a single person with monitoring your brand on all levels.
Check out these other great resources on developing your church brand:
Building Your Church Brand like a President
10 Church Branding Myths
6 Ways to Create a Consistent Church Brand