A lot of churches struggle to create websites with great design and function. In today's Whiteboard session, Elexio team member Rodney discusses what makes a church website ugly and what you can do if your church is making those mistakes.
Hi, and welcome to an Elexio Whiteboard. Today we are talking about ugly which can be a bit of a sensitive topic. If I'm saying your baby is ugly, or your shirt is ugly, you might feel a little offended by that. Hopefully, you won't be offended today when we talk about ugly church websites. And before you turn off the video thinking that, “Hey, my site looks great,” we're going to talk about how sites can be ugly on the outside and ugly on the inside. Let's get started with outside ugliness.
One of the fastest ways you can make your site ugly on the outside is an overuse of kingdom color. What I mean by that is there are colors that the church uses: royal blue, purple, maroon, deep red. Those are some of the colors that we sometimes associate with Jesus. It's a great thing for the Easter cantata, not such a good thing for your church website. If you've overused or exclusively used kingdom colors on your site, it's a great way to get started down the path of an ugly church website.
Let's look at number two, warped faces. You know, I love it when I go to a church's website and they've chosen to put the staff directory on the site. It's a great way to connect and feel like you maybe know these people and really get used to who the pastors are, but it can really go wrong if those faces look like this or like this. They're all stretched out one way or another, or maybe they're a little fuzzy. Well, that's a sign that when you loaded up the picture it didn't fit properly. And things go wrong when we don't pay attention to the quality of our photographs on our site. So if you're looking for ways to make sure that your church website isn't ugly on the outside, take a hard look at the photos that you are using. Are they fuzzy? Are they warped? You're down a path of ugliness if they are.
Number three, I've seen that guy. What I mean by that is in my line of work I have an opportunity to visit a lot of church websites. I'll notice that the same photos are used on different sites. And it's the use of stock photography, which certainly has its place, but if you take a look at your site and it's exclusively using stock photography, you may have a problem. Also, I would say, take a look at the churches in your area. Look at their sites. If you see some of the same pictures being used, you have the potential of ugliness on your website because you overused stock photography.
The last way that you might make your church website ugly on the outside really relates to content as opposed to design. Most of these things are about design. Papa Bear here is a way that you can make your site ugly on the outside because it has too much content. Or I might say in Papa Bear terms, it's hot with content, because we know Papa Bear's porridge was just too hot. Your home page can get in that same way if you've tried to put everything there. You're talking about upcoming events, and what your church's methods are, and beliefs are, and you've got a thousand pictures, and all those things, and you've overloaded your home page. You may have good choices here but a bad choice here, you've got Papa Bear syndrome and your website has stepped over into the world of ugly.
Well, there are potentially other ways that your site could be ugly. Here's what I would say to fix it. Gather a team of people who are willing to speak frankly about what the site looks like. Take a hard look. Look at other sites of churches in your community across the nation and then get help of some sort. There are professional organizations that can help you. Find a pathway to solve these problems. It's really not that hard.
Now, let's look at something that is a little bit harder, though. What if your church website is ugly on the inside? Now, what I mean by that is, first of all, Web 2.0, and it came and you missed it. Now, I know what some of you are doing, because you're that kind of folks. You're out looking for some update you were supposed to install to the internet that is Web 2.0. That's not what that means. It's simply a phrase to refer to a movement in websites that would make them more interactive. Think Facebook. I mean, that's the poster child of Web 2.0.
But church websites can do it as well. I'll give you an example. Wouldn't it be great if your regular attenders could hit your website and not only do online donations but be able to run their own contribution statement right from your site, and not just for things they've given online, for all types of gifts. That's a great way to simply make your website 2.0 compatible.
There's others. How about small groups? Could you give your small group leaders the ability to take attendance from your website for the small group meeting that's happening at their house? That's also a great way to make your site lovely on the inside, because it has functionality for the people who attend your church. Web 2.0 strategies, those are some things. And there are many more. Dream up what could our site be as a resource for our church. Web 2.0.
The third way, I think, your site can be or could be ugly on the inside is one size fits some. In other words, your site is one size fits some. Now, you may have already noticed on the video that I have an extremely large head. When I go to buy hats, I'll sometimes pick up a hat that says one size fits all. And I pick up the hat thinking it's going to fit great, and I put it on, and it doesn't, because it's really one size fits some. And I would say the same thing about some of your website. If your site doesn't respond well to mobile device traffic, in other words somebody visits your site through a mobile device and they have to do a lot of pinching and scrolling to make it look right and even see what the content is, your site isn't responding well to mobile devices. You can solve that problem. You can make your site, have design that fixes that problem.
The third thing that I would say could make your site be ugly on the inside is Fernando's Hideaway. Now, stick with me here. There was a skit on Saturday Night Live done by Billy Crystal, and the guy's name was Fernando. He hosted a show, and he was over the top, he spoke with an Argentinian accent, and he had a catchphrase at the end of his show. And the catchphrase was this, “I'd rather look good than feel good any day.”
And I would say that the same thing happens with some websites, and it's actually the opposite of the problems we talked about over here. You've gone so far down the path of great design that you've forgotten that 43% of the people who visit your site, any site, all church sites, those people are looking for your service times. If you've made it so cool that they don't see this quickly, you may have a site that has gone ugly on the inside because it's not helping the people who visit it.
There's other ways that you could make an ugly on the inside mistake. There are other ways you can make an ugly on the outside mistake. We've just mentioned some of them here today. The key point for all of these is you need to be the hero at your church. And I would say that you can do that simply by gathering a group of people together, taking that frank look, and then finally get some help. There are ways to help here. These are potentially a little more complex. This is one of those areas you've got to look at your church management software and see does it connect potentially with our website, and if it doesn't what are we going to do about that.
Well, I want to close by just simply saying this is Biblical. Now, I may be out there a little bit, because I know what you're thinking, “There's nothing in the Bible about good design or websites at all,” and I agree, there's certainly not. But there are things that talk about that the folks who are singers in any service where we're honoring and worshiping God, that those people should be well trained. The Old Testament specifically talks about that.
And I would say the same thing about these. This is the modern world, and if your site has ugliness in one way or another, and you're just trying to solve it on your own, you could be in danger of not having a fix. So, again, be the hero at your church. Thanks for watching an Elexio Whiteboard.
Video transcription by Speechpad.com
By Emily Kantner
Most churches have a Facebook page. A lot are busy tweeting. But the number of churches on Instagram is growing, too. Should you jump on the bandwagon?
While Facebook is still the most widely used social network, numbers on the platform have been fluctuating recently—especially among teens and millennials. As grandparents finally begin to master likes and shares, their grandkids are flocking to new social networks where they hope to find a younger, hipper crowd. Enter Instagram.
As of March 2014, Instagram has over 200 million active monthly users, and 34% of US teens and millennials (ages 14-32) use the network. These numbers continue to grow.
The growing popularity of Instagram is partly due to its appeal to our visual culture. Most people would rather look at a flashy picture than read a post. After all, isn’t a picture worth a thousand words?
Instagram introduced video in 2013, so users can now share up to 15 seconds of video content with their followers. Sure, you can share images and even longer videos on Facebook, but Instagram is solely visual—no FarmVille invites!
Instagram is also popular with the tech-savvy generations because it’s almost exclusively mobile—you can’t post pictures or search hashtags from a desktop. It’s easy to use, and the filters will make any amateur photographer feel like Ansel Adams.
And although some large national companies are dabbling in paid advertising, Instagram is not completely pay to play like Facebook. Your posts will be visible to all of your followers when they log in.
Instagram—the right way
Just like with any other social network, you should keep some best practices in mind when using Instagram for your church:
Make it easy for people to find you. Include a link to your Instagram profile on your church website along with your other social pages.
Don’t feed into the selfie craze. The occasional goofy picture of staff is ok, but your church account shouldn’t look like it belongs to a teenage girl.
Use hashtags wisely. Much like Twitter, users can search for related posts based on hashtags within Instagram. Keep them simple, limit to two or three per post, and make sure you’ve spelled them correctly before hitting share.
Use the location feature within Instagram so people can find other photos that were taken at your church.
Consider sharing some of your Instagram posts directly to other accounts like Facebook and Twitter. You’ll get more mileage out of your photos and videos which could lead to more followers.
Remember that Instagram is a fun way to interact with your church community—in addition to your overall strategy. Not everyone will be on Instagram or see every post, so this shouldn’t be the only way you communicate.
Instagram for your church
Although many churches have seen success engaging their people on Instagram, it’s not right for every church. Consider the demographic of your church and whether or not they have smartphones. Will anyone even see the posts? Also remember that while Instagram is easy to use, it’s not the most convenient to manage. You’ll need to post from the app in real time as Instagram doesn’t allow you to schedule posts or share videos and images from a desktop.
If you’ve decided that Instagram is right for your church, try some of the ideas to engage your community:
Promote a special event coming up your church. You can also share photos and video during the event plus recap when it’s over.
Recruit volunteers and tell people where you have service needs.
Introduce new staff members to the church community.
Showcase individual ministries and their leaders within the church.
Highlight an upcoming sermon series at your church to build some interest and excitement.
Show people what goes on behind the scenes of your church each week.
Provide the information that visitors would want to know if they stumble upon your profile—service times and a sense of what to expect from your church.
How is your church using Instagram?
Check out these other resources for using Instagram at your church:
20 Great Ways to Use Instagram at Your Church
8 Creative Ways to Use Instagram Video for Your Church
Your Church Should Be Paying Attention to Instagram
By Emily Kantner
The latest buzzword surrounding churches focused on growth is millennials—young adults primarily in their 20s right now.
While church attendance as a whole has seen a dip in recent years, Barna found that the number of unchurched millennials has grown from 44% to 52% in the last decade.
In an effort to appeal to the millennial population, many churches are switching up worship styles, changing service formats, and adding coffee shops. And then there are the pastors donning tattoos and a soul patch to appear relatable. Some go so far as softening their stance on hot button issues to seem more approachable and welcoming. But even that doesn’t seem to keep them around for the long haul.
Take it from a millennial—you don’t need to water down the gospel or change your identity to be accessible to that generation. But you can make a few small changes to your processes to make it easier for them to get plugged in and grow:
1. Website Presence
Whether they hear about your church from a friend or a flyer in Starbucks catches their eye, millennials will go online to learn more about your church before visiting. Once they get there, what will they find? Is your website responsive and user-friendly? Can they find the information they need like service times and what to expect? If millennials discover an outdated website, they may never give your church a chance.
2. Social Media
Is your church on social media? While not every platform is right for every church, these networks are where millennials spend a bulk of their time. Find the ones that work best for your unique situation and start engaging.
Millennials are relational. If they go to a church for six months but still slip out each Sunday unnoticed, there’s a good chance they won’t stick around much longer. Have you made it easy for them to find and sign up for a small group? Age-based groups are great for introducing millennials to others at the same stage of life, but don’t overlook the value of mentorship and intergenerational fellowship.
4. Service Opportunities
Most millennials have grandiose dreams of changing the world and leaving a lasting mark. While some of these goals seem lofty, unlikely even, churches should provide opportunities for them to get involved and serve. Is your church focused on missional ministry? Have you made it easy for millennials—and the rest of your church—to find service opportunities?
5. Media Center
According to Barna, 31% of all millennials watch videos online pertaining to their faith and 30% search for spiritual content online. Have you made content like sermon series and further study materials accessible from your website? You could even reach millennials across the country with video resources in your Media Center.
6. Giving Options
Along with the desire to make a difference through service, most millennials want to contribute financially to causes and organizations they care about. But a lot of them don’t carry cash and have never written a check. The option to donate online, through mobile, or at a giving kiosk—and to the fund of their choosing—will appeal to millennials who only carry plastic.
Do you consider who you’re trying to reach before determining which communication method to use? Each situation will be different, but a quick text, Facebook update, or brief email is usually best for reaching millennials who are glued to their smartphones at all times.
Millennials can do just about anything on their iPhones now—look up Scripture, pay bills, interact with friends and family. So they’ve come to expect this kind of flexibility in every area of life. Your church can adjust to this shift toward mobile through a church app that allows millennials to register and pay for events, access a church directory, or listen to the latest sermon audio.
When you’re trying to engage millennials, it’s important to stay current with technology trends in order to be relevant. It’s not about getting the pastor into a pair of skinny jeans or changing the message. Millennials want transparency and authenticity. Don’t change who you are as a church or a pastor—just find ways to incorporate their expectations into your processes.
Check out some other great resources on reaching millennials:
3 Big Ideas for Your Church to Connect with Millennials
How to Use Technology to Re-Engage Millennials
Where Do Millennials Attend Church?
3 Ways to Re-Engage the Lost Millennial Audience
Image credits: istockphoto.com
By Emily Kantner
Probably the most common reason pastors and church staff alike leave the ministry is burnout. With overwhelming expectations and responsibilities, life in ministry can be challenging. But every little detail shouldn’t be a source of anxiety for your team—like frustrations with your software. Find the value in collaborating with others using ChMS in their ministries to alleviate some of the stress.
No matter the size, location, or affiliation of your church, others are struggling to implement best practices just like you. Which reports are the most important to run each week? How can I utilize the software to help the assimilation process? What’s the best way to get people to use our mobile app?
These are the kinds of questions that only other people in ministry could understand. So reach out to fellow church staffers and you’ll find a great resource.
Share your daily struggles.
Whether you’re heading up the IT staff and you’ve got extensive technical issues to discuss or you’re pastoring a church of 50 and responsible for the entire database, other people are facing the same challenges.
Learn from others’ experiences and strengths. And provide insight, too!
You may be new to implementing a kid’s check-in system, but the children’s pastor at a neighboring church is an expert—and he’d probably like to hear how you got so many people to sign up to serve in the church. Collaborate with others in ministry to diminish your inexperience or weaknesses in certain areas and help out another church.
As you talk with others in ministry, you’ll gleam bits of knowledge and creative ideas that you can adopt at your church. And when you’re all facing the same hurdles, you can work together to find innovative solutions.
See how God is working in other ministries. Learn how He’s using people all over the world. You may be frustrated now, but you’ll see that others have already walked that road and can relate.
Remember that you’re not in a business where everyone needs to keep success secrets to themselves. We’re all working toward the same goal of building the Kingdom! When you collaborate with other churches you’re creating relationships, a support system, and friends.
It’s easier than ever to connect with people from all over the world through blogs and social media. Check out ministry or church tech blogs. Subscribe and become active in those online communities. Sometimes you’ll learn more in the discussion that happens in the comments than from the post itself and meet some great people. Get started now—we welcome comments and conversation on this blog!
Connect with churches in your area or of similar size or ministry process
Other churches in your region or fellow church planters are probably addressing the same issues right now. Find them online or ask your ChMS provider for nearby references—especially if you’re just getting started with the software.
Whether it’s conferences like Catalyst and the Global Leadership Summit or Elexio’s user conference ELEXICON 15 (Educate. Collaborate Innovate.), you can learn from the speakers AND the other attendees!
By Emily Kantner
When you’re accustomed to an intuitive check-in system, scrambling for a pen and paper because the internet’s down can feel like you’re returning to the Stone Age.
After scanning your fingerprint on a touchscreen kiosk, you might as well be clocking out from the Slate Rock and Gravel Company with a slab of stone like Fred Flintstone.
But not all church check-in systems require an active internet connection to function. Some offer both online and offline function so you’re never left stranded.
Why you might need it
Whether you’re meeting at a small building in the country or a megachurch in the heart of a major city, the internet connection is not always reliable. You can invest in the best technology and a seamless set-up, but weather can be spotty—and so can your connection.
Storms, provider issues, limited internet access, and a high traffic volume could all bring your smooth check-in process to a screeching halt.
But if you can check people in offline, there’s no panic when the Wi-Fi fails–at least not for your kid’s ministry volunteers.
What it means
You don’t need to be dependent on a fickle internet connection. Rather than relocate your kid’s ministry to be central to a router, you could station your computer or check-in system in an obscure hallway and the software would still do its job.
You might not even dream of running check-in kiosks offsite or at outdoor events with no internet access. But your church can still track attendance when you function offline.
Portable churches face unique challenges. Connectivity can be an issue when you don’t have a permanent home. So no matter where you meet, checking people in with a system that will work anywhere is a great convenience.
Most new visitors are impressed by a sleek check-in system—it means the church is current and their kids are safe. But when you’re switching from a barcode scanner one week to a tablet the next week, people might not get the best perception of your church.
If you’re using a check-in system that can only operate online, you’ll be stuck finding another way to track attendance and monitor kids when you lose your internet connection—scribbling down names, throwing improvised duct tape nametags on kids, and organizing that information. You’ll have to enter all those records into your database later, once your internet problems are resolved. But functioning offline means you don’t need to waste time manually entering data.
How it works
A check-in system like Elexio’s is web-based, but can also work locally on a desktop or kiosk when offline. Once you have an active internet connection again, the information will sync and update your database. So your information is always available and you’ll avoid downtime even if you can’t get online.
You can’t anticipate every hiccup in ministry, but you can be prepared with the right technology so you don’t revert to the Stone Age.
Last week a group of our Elexio staff attended a satellite location of the 2014 Global Leadership Summit hosted by Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Community Church. One of the primary focuses of several speakers throughout the event was communication. Although a foundational element in leadership training, it is often overlooked or quickly forgotten in church leadership. But these three speakers contributed some unique thoughts and perspectives on communication in church (or business) leadership.
1. Joseph Grenny—author, speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance discussed the Crucial Conversations of leadership from his best-selling book. He pointed out that “when the stakes are high, emotions run strong, and opinions differ, masters of crucial conversations create alignment and agreement.” And why does that matter? “Because this can foster a culture of open dialogue, mistakes are caught earlier, decisions are implemented more effectively, and innovation flows more routinely.”
2. Similarly, Patrick Lencioni addressed a lack of vulnerability in communication as one of the most dangerous mistakes in leadership. He explained that this is a fear-driven response originating from embarrassment, loss, or inferiority that leads us to guard our communication. But when we are transparent and vulnerable, we often strengthen our relationships rather than break them down. If we’re vulnerable and the relationship still dissolves, we must question how strong the relationship really was.
3. Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesus, pastor of the Chicago-based New Life Covenant Church, challenged the reason we communicate, poignantly demanding, “if you’re not going to do anything about the answer, then don’t ask.” Challenged in his own ministry to become fully reliant on the work of the Holy Spirit, he’s learned to embrace the response of people when he engages them—regardless of how absurd it may be. He provided several practical examples and proposed that with revelation comes responsibility. So when we approach communication, we must ask if it’s for the personal benefit of getting our point across or if we're truly prepared to respond to the answer we receive. It may seem like a great challenge, but that's when we need to exercise faith in our all-powerful God.
These are just a few of the powerful words spoken at the Global Leadership Summit. We pray that if you attended, the Lord has already begun to work in you and your church to help you apply these learned traits in your ministry leadership. Our team here at Elexio has been equally challenged to implement these ideas in our business. We look forward to putting the communication principles into practice as we seek to serve you into the future!
We’d like to hear—what did you learn at GLS?
By Emily Kantner
Small groups are often the glue that keep people in a church community connected—especially in large churches. But managing everything from meeting locations to group attendance can become tedious and time consuming. Try these tips to simplify your small group process by making creative use of technology:
Make it easy for people to find the right small group and get signed up. If the process is simple and convenient, more people will get involved.
Station kiosks within your church so people can quickly connect with a small group after the Sunday morning service.
Allow people to log into a member portal on your church website where they can update their information, give, and even join a small group. Include a map feature on the small group search so they can find one close to home. Leaders can also use this tool to share links to study materials and location details. Make sure it’s easy to navigate so people don’t get frustrated and leave your website without getting connected with a group.
Whether on your church’s mobile app or a smartphone-friendly sign-up through your website, adjust to the shift toward mobile and allow people to find a small group on the technology that’s always by their side.
Small group leaders can log into the website portal to enter attendance records from each meeting rather than jotting down names in a notebook. If your church utilizes a check-in system for nursery, this same technology can help you quickly and easily manage attendance for your small groups.
Run reports to find out how many of your people are involved and regularly attending a small group—this is crucial information for pastors and staff trying to gauge the spiritual growth and discipleship of their members. You can set goals for the percentage of people participating in a small group and monitor those statistics.
4. Mass communication
Rather than rushing to make phone calls to 15 people when you have to cancel this week’s small group, contact everyone immediately through mass communication tools. Shoot a quick text with last minute information or send an email to all participants so they know what to bring to the next meeting. Always consider a few important factors—who you’re trying to reach, what the message is, and when they need to know the information—to determine the best method of communicating with your small group.
5. Integrated ChMS
An integrated church management software will incorporate all of these features and provide you with some great insight when planning for future small groups. If you’re taking full advantage of the software, you can use the information you’ve collected to find new people to lead small groups based on their gifts and the ministry roles they’ve served in the past. You can also reference notes to choose topics that match the needs of your people—if you find that several people are struggling with addiction, it may be a good focus for a small group.
Ready to get started? Check out these other resources for more small group tips:
5 Steps for Starting a Small Group Ministry
You Know You Have the Right Small Group System When…
Top 5 Keys to Starting New Groups—Lots of New Groups
By Emily Kantner
Your church would never post a sign telling people they aren’t welcome, but could you unknowingly be giving visitors the same impression by the way you’re treating them?
Here are five things NOT to do if you want to see visitors return to your church:
1. Make them feel like outsiders
Have you ever been to a party where everyone is laughing about an inside joke, but no one bothers to fill you in? Makes you feel pretty uncomfortable, doesn’t it? Don’t do the same thing to the people visiting your church. Avoid using obscure acronyms and evasive ministry titles in the bulletin or when delivering the announcements. Visitors may not know what an ABF is, but if you explain the opportunities to get involved with a small group, they’ll understand.
2. Forget about them
I once visited a church and filled out a form requesting more information and provided all my contact details. I never heard back from them. Nothing. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I didn’t want to go back.
Don’t make this same mistake. Show people that you have a genuine interest in them and help them learn more about your ministry—and don’t wait too long. Nearly 90% of church visitors will return if someone follows up with them that same day. That number drops to 60% if you wait 24 hours to make contact.
All of this follow up doesn’t need to—and often shouldn’t—be made by the pastor. Depending on the size of your church, delegate follow up to teams of volunteers based on location, demographic, or special interests. If you’re going to follow up in person, consider taking a small gift and be prepared to answer any questions they may have.
3. Be pushy and pressure them
While you should provide visitors with information on how they can connect and get involved with your church, don’t force them to sign up for a small group, the church picnic, and 15 ministries on their first visit. They shouldn’t feel like they’re signing their lives away, and you don’t want them to say “yes” out of guilt or obligation.
But you can help them with the next steps if they’re interested. Offer more information about the church and its ministries. Answer questions. Let them know the best way to get involved. Determine the next step you’d like them to take—attend a visitor’s luncheon or informational meeting—and give them an easy way to sign up.
One of the biggest complaints of the unchurched is that they believe churches only want their money. While you’re actually passing around the offering plate for your members to conveniently give, some visitors feel uncomfortable letting it pass by without dropping in a donation. Consider nixing the traditional offering in favor of giving kiosks, online giving, or an offering drop in the foyer.
4. Neglect them
If a visitor walks into a church of 75, everyone will likely notice. But recognizing visitors in a church of 7,500 can be a challenge, especially when you host multiple services.
So create a welcoming atmosphere from the time they walk in the door. A smiling face and kind word can make all the difference. Make sure you have friendly greeters stationed at the entrances—but don’t stop there. Encourage everyone in your church community to reach out and introduce themselves to people they don’t know. Avoid questions like, “Is this your first time here?” that might insult a longtime attendee. Opt for “I don’t think we’ve met yet” and a cordial introduction.
While we don’t like to compare church to a business, you really are trying to make a great first impression to visitors in order to sell them on your church. So think about a great customer service experience you’ve recently had—how did that coffee shop or bookstore make you feel valued? How can you recreate that positive experience for your visitors?
5. Keep them in the “visitor zone”
When people keep coming back to your church, don’t be afraid to move the relationship forward—they probably want to be more than just visitors. Let them out of the visitor zone!
Encourage them to check in from the very first time they visit—you’ll get their information for follow-up communication and help them make attendance a habit. Show visitors that you do want them to attend regularly.
Treat people like they’re more than just numbers. Form relationships with them. Help them get connected to a small group where they can grow and engage. If they find just five friends through your church, they’ll be less likely to leave.
Once they’ve decided to become a part of your church community, don’t make it easy for them to just blend in. Whether it’s attending a Sunday school class or serving in a ministry, keep them accountable and don’t lower your expectations. Thom Rainer has found that people generally don’t want to be active in a church that expects nothing of them. When people can just coast along unnoticed, that’s when you’ll see a higher turnover.
Check out these other great resources for more insight on church visitors:
6 Ways to Follow up on First Time Church Visitors
Church from a Visitor’s Perspective
How to Engage Church Attendees…Easter and Beyond
Image Credits: istockphoto
By Emily Kantner
Switching to a church check-in system would cost more than the pen and notepad you’re using right now. You also have to account for the hardware to use these programs. So is it really worth the cost from your church budget? What does a check-in system really have to offer?
Probably the greatest reason for implementing a check-in system at your church is to keep kids safe and accounted for. Even in this typically secure environment, a slight risk always exists. Someone could slip in the back door and try to lure children out of the nursery. Parents in the midst of a custody battle could discreetly pick up children when there’s no system for recognizing authorized guardians. But a poor check-in process—or none at all—should never be an excuse for child abduction. You can’t put a price tag on kids.
Children should also be safe from any medical concerns when they’re in the hands of your kid’s ministry volunteers. About 8% of children have a food allergy. With snacks being passed around, your church needs an effective way to monitor which kids are at risk of developing a serious reaction should they get their hands on one of these treats. Allergies, medications, and health conditions can easily be documented and monitored with an effective check-in system.
If a child is hurt or abducted while in your care, the church could be held legally responsible. Without a check-in system in place to drastically reduce the chances of an emergency situation, your church could be left financially devastated. The reputation of your ministry is also at stake—visitors should feel confident leaving their children in the hands of your staff and volunteers. To keep them coming back, show them you value the safety of their children.
Whether you see 15 kids each Sunday or 1,500, a check-in system can lead to better organization for your church. Writing names on masking tape and sticking them on the backs of active toddlers is a quick way to lose track of children. Lists and clipboards leave a messy paper trail and even more work for your volunteers. But a touchscreen kiosk? That leaves volunteers to interact with the kids—not office supplies.
Not just for the kids
When most churches search for a check-in system, they have kid’s ministry in mind. But check-in can help streamline processes throughout your entire church.
Rather than passing attendance forms down the aisles and distracting from worship, utilize check-in stations to track attendance for weekly classes, small groups, and special events. Utilize a label printer to provide nametags for participants at a conference and simplify the entire process.
Have your volunteers check in when they arrive for duty at the nursery or welcome center. Track their service so you know who’s showing up and what areas of ministry fit each person’s unique gifts. Utilize this information to thank volunteers and reach out when your church has a need for help.
Speed up the process by allowing entire families to check into multiple classes in a matter of seconds. You can control which events and classes are available to each person based on age, gender, or other criteria. So if mom is checking in for the family, she’ll be reminded of the ladies’ brunch—but this wouldn’t be an option for her husband or kids.
Get the most out of your check-in system
Want to learn more about how a check-in system can help your ministry? Get started!
Image Credits: istockphoto
By Emily Kantner
As 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.
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