Elexio Church Management Software Blog

How Guest Giving Tools Can Help Your Church

Guest GivingEven if your church is utilizing technology to provide multiple options for people to give, you could still be missing out if you require everyone to create an account before making any contributions.

Guests and newcomers to your church

Most churches tell visitors not to feel obligated to give—that it’s the responsibility of the members to provide financially for the church. But what about those people that want to show their gratitude for the church’s hospitality or an influential Sunday morning? Maybe they’re simply passing through town or they’re not quite ready to commit to being a part of your church, but they’d like to keep up with their regular giving to a local church.

Don’t make people feel like they have to be insiders to contribute to your church. You shouldn’t alienate the people who feel led to support your ministry, but rather make that process quick and easy. They should be able to whip out their smartphones and make a donation without the hassle of creating an account with your church for a one-time transaction.

Church finance expert Rusty Lewis says that this could even apply to your church website. Online “guests” who are watching your sermons and connecting with your church online—even those who will never step foot inside your physical church location—might also want to quickly give to your ministry.

But it’s not just people who are new to your church that would appreciate the convenience of a simpler giving process.

Members of your church community

According to a 2013 survey by Barna, 79% of evangelicals made a charitable donation in the previous 12 months, and two-thirds of that group gave to their churches—meaning only about half of the evangelicals polled made even a single donation to a church that year.

Another study found that of current members, between 33-50 percent of them don’t make any contributions to the church they call home.

So if you already have a variety of giving options in place but members of your church community aren’t giving, simplifying that process could result in more active donors. Of course, not everyone will immediately start giving to your church, but convenience is a driving factor for many people.

How to make giving easy for first-time givers

Your church can allow people to make contributions through your giving platforms—like an online portal, mobile app, giving kiosk, or text to give—without creating an account through a guest giving option. They can still utilize these tools without limiting major functionality—like the ability to designate gifts to any of your funds.

If you’re not passing the plate, you’re not pressuring guests to give. But having simple options available allows them to quickly give if they truly want to.

According to a recent survey of churches implementing giving kiosks, 27 percent of the contributions they received came from first-time givers. Swiping a card is much faster and easier than setting up a login and entering personal information—meaning first-time givers will be more inclined to take advantage of this tool.

This doesn’t mean you can’t track that giving coming from your church community. With the minimal information you’ve collected, your database can do some of that matchup work behind the scenes if it’s integrated with your giving solutions.

After falling into the habit of giving, those new donors who are members of your church community will likely create an account and become regular donors.

So make it easy for those first-timers with a guest giving option. Don’t make people jump through hoops to contribute to your church.

Whiteboard: Google’s Changing the Rules for Websites

Elexio Whiteboard – Mobile Friendliness: Google is changing the rules from Elexio on Vimeo.

Video Transcription:

Hi, welcome to an Elexio Whiteboard. In 1935, the company Parker Brothers created the game Monopoly, and they say, if you believe their website, one billion people have played that game since 1935. I bet some of you are some of that one billion. I know I am. It’s been many years for me, and I started thinking about it. I don’t even own a game of Monopoly anymore. If I went to the store and bought it, took it home, started playing, I would jump right in and start playing without reading the rules, which is probably a bad idea. What if Parker Brothers had changed the rules and I didn’t even know about it? There was a way they made the game more fun, or maybe there’s a new way that you actually win at the game.

Today in our Whiteboard, we are talking about a rule change that’s potentially way more important than the rules of a game changing. And that is a change by Google in how they rank search results. If you know anything about Google, they have a variety of algorithms out there, that when you search on their browser, they rank their results. Have you ever wondered why some things come up first and then something else is second and on down? Of course, you can pay Google and you can pay to be on top, but I am talking about the true, organic search results that are returned to you. These algorithms that Google has do a ranking off of a lot of criteria, the criteria way too detailed for us to go into in this particular Whiteboard. What we are really talking about is search engine optimization. But back to the rule change.

Google has announced a new rule that could impact your church. The rule relates to whether or not your site is mobile-friendly, and the rule only applies to search results delivered on mobile devices so think smartphones, think tablets. Okay, let’s talk about a real world example of what I mean. When this rule goes into effect, which if you are scoring at home, the rule goes into effect on April 21st of 2015. Well, for interest, I Googled the word church on my smartphone today, the day we are taping this video. It delivered several results to me, and one of the things that I noticed that Google noted for me is that some of the sites that it came back and told me it put a word in front of the description that said they were mobile-friendly. These are some church names although I changed the names so it’s not anybody who is local to me, but let’s just pretend that the Ascension Church came up first and it notes, “Hey, it’s mobile-friendly.” Engage Church came up second, not mobile-friendly so there isn’t this little indication. Wikipedia entry came up as third and it did say that they were mobile-friendly. We’ll just abbreviate it as mobile. Bethel Church came up fourth, not mobile-friendly. Park City Church, mobile-friendly.

Okay, so what does all this mean? With the rule change that’s coming, right now, Google is being kind. They are giving the browser information so if you are using your smartphone, you can know, hey I am going to have a really good experience on Ascension Church’s website through my phone because it is mobile-friendly. When the rule change goes into effect, it’s going to cause the results to reorder. So Engage Church coming up second right now, probably not. I am going to say they are going to move down, certainly into fifth place in this example but maybe even further down because I only am listing one through five. The sixth result could have also been mobile friendly and that might push Engage Church down to second page which you certainly don’t want to be on a second page of Google’s results. That’s the rule change that it is coming so now the question is what do I do about it? What do you mean by mobile-friendly?

Well, the first thing I would suggest is you got to figure out whether you are mobile-friendly or not. There’s a great tool that Google has created. If you’ll just simply go on to the internet and Google mobile-friendly tester or mobile-friendly check. A lot of searches will get you ultimately to a page created by Google, and they will tell you whether they think your site is mobile-friendly. All you have to do is put in the church’s website address and push go, and it comes back and it tells you the results. So my encouragement to you is the first thing you need to do is find out is your site mobile-friendly and I also encourage you don’t just do your homepage. Look at your other pages that might make sense. So you can test any of the URLs from your church’s website. Ultimately you are going to get results mobile-friendly or not and then you come to the point at which you got to do something.

You know we have used the example here of the rules changing in Monopoly. Well, if you just ignore it, you are going to play that game all wrong. You can’t afford to ignore this. Well, once you find out mobile-friendly or not, then you got to look for help. And that really starts with where is your current website coming from? If you are using a third party, a guy in the church or some marketing agency, you need to contact them and talk about the word responsive. That’s really what you want to look for. You want your site to be responsive. Elexio can help with that if you are kind of lost and you don’t have a place, Elexio is a provider of a CMS tool. That’s content management system or software, and we can help you change your church’s website. But there are other companies as well. The important point is find out first and then develop a game plan. We actually have another Whiteboard that we talk a little bit about responsive website and what some of those solutions are there.

Now, you may be listening to all this and talking about rule changes and even the comparison to a game makes you just sort of feel like aw, church stuff like this shouldn’t be a competition. You know maybe you think well, let’s just let it all kind of just happen naturally. So what if Engage Church ends up down here? Well, I would suggest that maybe you’re right. Maybe you shouldn’t think of it like a competition, but let me challenge you with this. Let’s pretend this is your church’s building and you probably, I am going to guess like most churches, you certainly care whether or not it looks good. So what if the window broke, you would of course, immediately fix it. I mean, there’s a lot of reasons why you would probably fix it, but aesthetics could certainly be one of them. What if the paint in the front was sort of crackling and you are like that doesn’t look very good, you do something about it or really drastic things. What if a gutter fell off? Well, you are going to fix those things because you want your church building to look good, and I would say the same thing about your web presence. If it doesn’t look good, it says something about who your church is.

Well again, just a quick summary. Google is changing the rules. April 21st mobile friendly matters a whole lot more than it used to. Used to be something they presented as a, “Oh, by the way, this site is mobile-friendly.” In the future, when this algorithm goes into effect, it’s going to change the way they rank results. So thanks for watching an Elexio Whiteboard. If you need help, we are glad to help. But get somebody to help you solve a lack of mobile-friendliness in your church’s website.

Check out How to Make Your Website 100% Mobile-Friendly Before Google’s Update on April 21st for more details!

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

9 Signs Your Church Announcements Need a Makeover

church announcementsEach week, church leaders face pressure from different groups to plug their ministries in the morning announcements. This preamble to the Sunday service has become a source of contention in many churches and led to a time of bombarding people with updates. But your church can make better use of this time if you’re falling into these pitfalls of ineffective announcements:

1. They drag on for 47 minutes (or they feel like it, anyway)

Has anyone ever fallen asleep during the announcements because you covered every possible update in the entire church? Don’t subject people—especially visitors—to an announcement marathon each Sunday morning. You have their attention for five minutes tops, so limit it to a maximum of three items. If they last longer than the sermon, your announcements are probably due for a trim.

2. They lack clear instructions

If you’re inviting people to get involved with a ministry or attend an event, they shouldn’t be left scratching their heads guessing what to do next. You should provide them with clear next steps. Rather than telling them to connect with so and so after the service, direct them to a kiosk or online portal to find a small group. Let them know that they can find more information on your website so you don’t need to review every detail of an event during the announcements. You can even encourage them to register immediately from your mobile app.

3.  They sound self-serving

If every announcement is about how to give to the church or how to help the church, people might begin to tune out. These needs are important to highlight, but don’t forget to thank people for faithfully giving and serving, too. Let them know how their contributions are making an impact and demonstrate why people should want to get involved.

4. They’re irrelevant to most people

Announcements that make the cut should be pertinent to at least 80 percent of the people in attendance. Each ministry will be vying for a timeslot to plug the next event, but does the entire congregation need to hear about an update that only applies to a handful of people? Promote the church-wide picnic during announcements, but find a more suitable way to spread the word about a college student outing. If multiple ministries are searching for volunteers, direct people to a single place where they can learn about all needs and sign up.

5. They’re not timely

Although you’ve already begun planning for a series beginning six months from now, the rest of your church community probably won’t share your excitement so far in advance. But you’ll also need to give people more than a three day notice. Based on the event and how much planning is required to attend, make announcements when they’ll have the most impact.

6. They’re not rehearsed

When the person making the morning announcements decides to wing it, people can usually tell. The subsequent rabbit trails and rambling make everyone uncomfortable. Make sure anyone standing in front of the congregation at least reads through the announcements a few times before stumbling over words.

7. They’re not reinforced

People typically need to hear about something several times before it sticks. If the only time you inform your church community about an important update is during the announcements, some people might miss out and others will forget. Include this information in your e-newsletter or on your website or on social media to back up the message and keep more people in the know.

8. They conclude with an uncomfortable greeting time

In a poll by Thom Rainer, people named a time of forced conversation and hand shaking as the top reason they wouldn’t return to a church after an initial visit. Those few minutes of greeting the people around you can be awkward enough, so don’t add to the discomfort by giving people a series of questions and answers to recite to each other. In-person connection is important, but these tactics make many people feel uncomfortable rather than welcome.

9. They’re painfully boring 

If people’s eyes glaze over every time the announcements begin, it’s probably time to shake things up. Get creative and make this time more engaging for your church community. Introducing giving through your mobile app? Show, don’t just tell. Have a cool clip to accompany an update? Throw it up on the screen. People will be more likely to remember your announcements if they’re not dozing off out of boredom.

Some churches have abandoned announcements altogether and relegated important updates to the bulletin. Others have moved to video announcements because they can be more engaging and controlled—and they can be repurposed online.

What has worked for your church?

Check out these other resources for more tips:

Church Announcements Are Boring (& What to Do About It)

Obscuring and Illuminating

How to Make Announcements in Worship Services

Prevent Pastor Burnout with the E-Reverend App

The Elexio Reverend from Elexio on Vimeo.

Did you know that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each year, and 80% will burn out within their first five years?

To counteract the intense workload and emotional stress, some try to strike a healthy balance between their work and personal lives while others delegate more tasks to staff or volunteers.

But what if churches could completely eliminate the overwhelming burden placed on pastors—or even the need for a pastor at all?

The Elexio Reverend App is the long-awaited answer to ministry burnout.

Whether you’re too busy to prepare for Sunday’s sermon or you want to avoid another awkward wedding ceremony, the E-Reverend has you covered. And no more chilly dips in the baptismal or answering whether all dogs do, in fact, go to heaven.

With an advanced feature set, the Elexio Reverend App can also:

  • Solve any exegetical disagreement within minutes
  • Calculate how much people should be giving
  • Alert you to signs of the end times
  • Fully explain the Trinity in 30 seconds
  • Answer WWJD in any real-life situation
  • Locate local Christian businesses so you can patronize them only
  • Perform less-desirable tasks like hospital visitations and counseling

With customizable options like traditional suit and tie, clergy, or hipster persona, the E-Reverend is designed to fit your church’s unique needs.

Whether you’re a multi-site megachurch or a new church plant, the Elexio Reverend App is an affordable alternative to a burnt out pastor.

What are you waiting for? Contact us now to get started with the E-Reverend and take some of the ministry workload off your shoulders.

You’ll wonder why your church ever hired a real pastor.

Whiteboard: Robot Church Volunteers?!

In this whiteboard session, Rodney outlines three laws of volunteer management and how your church can simplify the process with technology. 

Elexio Whiteboard – Robot Volunteers?! from Elexio on Vimeo.

Video Transcription:

Hi, welcome to an Elexio Whiteboard. One of my favorite movies in the entire world is I, Robot. This movie takes place in the future at a point in time when robots become as commonplace as vacuum cleaners. Everybody’s got one. I can’t wait till that day happens. Think of the impact on the local church. Our volunteer problems are completely solved. You need volunteers in the nursery? A robot will fill the role. You need volunteers in parking ministry? Robots. Café? Robots. It’s going to be great. But until then, we’re stuck with using human beings to fill our volunteer roles.

Now, calm down. I’m joking. Now, I’m not joking about robots. They’re coming, and they are going to be popular everywhere. But in the local church, it’s the right thing that we will always use humans to fill this role. It’s the right thing, and so today, in our whiteboard, we’re talking about volunteer management.

Real quick, let’s take a look at some numbers related to volunteering. This one is 62 million. That’s the number of people, who on the most recent U.S. census, reported that they gave at least one hour a week in volunteering. That’s awesome. This one is 7 billion. That’s the number of volunteer hours recorded in a year. It’s amazing. Now, an economist took that and did some thinking and said that the value of volunteering to the organizations that get the benefit is $22 an hour. Think about that for your church. What if you had to pay people that much or even a fraction of that to complete and do the things that you are getting from volunteers?

So again, today, in our whiteboard, we’re talking about volunteer management. And I’m no expert, so I interviewed somebody who is. This person has worked in the local church for 20 years in a variety of roles and managed hundreds of volunteers. And from that interview, I distilled three laws of volunteer management. And I’ll use the word VM, and you see it again here. So let’s go over the three laws of volunteer management. A volunteer manager may not devalue a volunteer or, through inaction, allow a volunteer to feel devalued. And that’s really the important part of law number one, this last part about a volunteer feeling devalued. Let’s look at law number two. A volunteer manager must seek biblical guidance when making decisions that affect volunteers. That is law number two. Law number three, a volunteer manager must grow your ministry as long as that growth does not violate laws one and two.

Okay, that is the three laws. They’re designed to be guidance for working with volunteers. Remember, it all came from my interview with this person who’s had both great success and great failures that she admitted and she had learned over the years that if you’ll keep these three things in mind, your volunteer problems certainly won’t go away, but you’ll be well on your way to having valued volunteers. And a valued volunteer’s going to stick with you much more so than someone who doesn’t.

Now, within the confines of our goals here in our whiteboard, we’re going to look at the three laws from a technology perspective and, how can we use technology to help us meet the three laws? And my suggestion is that, if we do that, we’ll end up with, and I’ll abbreviate it again there, I Volunteers. And the I stands for volunteers that are informed and important. That’s an I volunteer, they should be informed and important.

Let’s talk about technology in informing volunteers. We could go a lot of directions here. But I want to focus in on what you can do with your church management software. You’re probably using some kind of database to keep track of people. Maybe you’re using multiple things. Keeping people informed, you want to keep them informed about data. Now, I don’t mean analyzing like volunteer rates and how many people are coming. All of those maybe good things to do. I’m talking about the real basics like volunteer schedules, important announcements about volunteer meetings, important announcements about things that are part of the vision of your ministry. Making sure those people are an I volunteer means you’re making sure that they are informed.

And the thing that the ministry professional told me is, “Don’t count on one technology to do that.” She told me a story of volunteers team she was leading. It had about 50 people in it, so big group. They had decided upon using Facebook as their primary means for communicating important information. And she found out after a period of time that there were some people that were kind of pulling away from the ministry. And the thing that they articulated is that they felt alienated because they didn’t use Facebook. Now, people, that’s a choice. So her point is, to really make sure you’re in law number one and not being here where some inaction is causing a volunteer to feel devalued, is to have a multi-pronged technology approach. So send emails with attached PDFs, things that anybody can read. Post to social media, certainly. Do mass texting or individual texting.

So looking at your church management software, it’s a good idea to see, what capabilities does it have and where do I need to supplement? There are people who can help in those areas. So an I volunteer is an informed volunteer, using many things. And one last thing about technology, we tend to think about technology about things that have little keypads and are modern. But technology is also printing a piece of paper and having a volunteer schedule available for somebody to pick up. So don’t forget those things.

Okay, an I Volunteer also feels important. Now, I’ve been a volunteer, and I still am. And sometimes, I’m in organizations where they choose to have like volunteer appreciation month, where I get like a little candy bar with a little note, like a little clever note, about volunteering. Those things are great. I don’t want to say that you shouldn’t do those. But if that is the sole way in which you are making volunteers feel important, you’re missing the mark. What I mean and what the ministry professional I talked to said is people feel important when you know them, meaning you know their family. You know what is going on in their family. You know about their life in the broader part of your church.

So where does technology fit in there? There are tools that you can utilize. We certainly have them at Elexio, where you can take a smart device, tablet, phone, and pull up instantaneously somebody’s record and double-check a couple of things. As your church grows, it’s going to be harder and harder to keep it all up here. So if you can quickly access it through a mobile app, a little bit about the person. Look to see, has there been a hospital visit in this person’s family. What’s their salvation story? All of those things, keeping track of it and having technology serve you in that way. You’ll go a long way to, again, meeting number one.

Okay, let’s talk a little bit, as we finish up here, what happens if you let yourself not follow the three laws. Again, the three laws are meant to be a circle. You’re constantly in check about your desire to grow your ministry but, oh, is that going to violate number one or number two? Well, as I said, it can happen that if you do let this and if you know the movie I, Robot, you know that things go wrong. And you may have noticed, I’m playing on something fun from that movie. There’s something called the three laws of robotics. And it all goes wrong in that movie. And the robots basically take over the world. So that’s certainly something you don’t want to happen. Well, it would be okay if volunteers took over the world. But what I mean by that is something goes wrong in your volunteer ministry. If you don’t pay attention to the three laws, it could happen, and you might not even know it. And all the sudden, you start seeing people drop out the back of your ministry.

Well, that’s all the time we have today for our Elexio Whiteboard. Thank you as always for watching.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com