Elexio Church Management Software Blog

Whiteboard: 3 Tips to Make Your Church Teaching More Engaging

In this whiteboard session, Rodney provides three tips to help teachers in the church be more successful at engaging any audience. White Board 8 from Elexio on Vimeo.

Video Transcription:

Hi, welcome to an Elexio Whiteboard. Today, things are different, flipped on their head. If you’ve watched any of our whiteboards before, you know we tend to focus on technology and how does technology need to impact the local church. But today, we’re flipping things around. We’re still talking about the local church. But we’re talking about something that happens pretty regularly there, and that’s speaking to large groups of people. We here at Elexio are volunteers in the churches that we go to, and many of us have the opportunity to speak to large groups of people. It could be 12 fifth graders that make up the large group. It could be the entire congregation.

We’ve put together some ideas of things that you can use to make those opportunities to speak to groups of people way more engaging than they potentially are right now. We’ve organized it into three simple tips that you could start using even this weekend if you have that opportunity to speak to some group of people. They’re all going to go under the big idea of threading.

When people listen to someone teaching, they’re looking to follow with you. We have an inherent desire to want to follow along. The problem is sometimes when we’re sitting there, the speaker isn’t helping us with that follow along too very well. So if we can help people find threads that they can follow throughout the speaking, we’ll be better off. Our teaching will be more engaging. So again, we’re going to look at three tips to help your large group teaching be a bit more engaging.

The first one, I call “anchors.” This can come in many forms, actually. They’re mainly talking about physical anchors, meaning things that people can see that are going to connect with whatever you’re teaching. So of course, we’ll use Bible stories as an example. That’s obviously what most of the teaching is in a large group or environment in the local church. Anchors involve things like you might split your entire stage in half, and I mean literally split it in half. Take a big piece of tape. I saw a guy do this one time, took a giant just roll of tape and split the entire—they went all the way through the entire congregation—split it in two halves. Then he used that as his anchors.

Now, we’ll talk about what you use the anchors for. You could make your anchors simply be two pieces of paper, or large if you’re talking to a large group of people that are different colors. You’re anchoring some concept to each of those two colors. Could be physical items on your stage. I’m holding two things in my hand right now. Maybe if you’re talking to 12 fifth graders, you might just have them in your hand. If you’re on a big stage, you might need them to be bigger than this, but they’re still on separate sides of the stage.

Okay, so that’s what an anchor is—maybe a physical split, maybe it’s as simple as a color switch, or it could be items. But the idea is that you’re anchoring a concept to each of the things. And normally, it’s a good/bad-type concept. Oftentimes, the teaching—especially as we think about children’s ministry—oftentimes the teaching talks about positive behaviors and potentially negative behaviors. And that’s why I challenge you on colors to don’t go with the ‘traditional black is bad, white is good.’ Try to be a little more creative but set up your anchors.

I’ll give you a very concrete example. I saw a guy do this and it was great. A guy was teaching the story of Moses leading the people out and parting the waters and that whole Exodus story. We’ve heard that story a lot, and it’s got cool things in it. You almost don’t need anything. That’s such an amazing story. But this guy created two awesome anchors that helped me stay engaged in the story through his whole thing. His anchors were on one side of the stage, he had a really ugly brown tweed jacket. It said, “nerd,” quite frankly. On the other side of the stage, and it’s neither one of these things, he had a really cool tie-dyed shirt and some sunglasses. Two total clichés for cool and free-thinking to conservative set-in-our-ways thinking.

So his anchors were this. You know the story of the Exodus. Some people ended up not wanting to leave and follow Moses. They were the square side of things. But other people were like, “Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s see what’s out there.” The anchors were great. And of course, the guy went into much more detail than what I have time for here. But I will tell you this: everybody who left there followed him from beginning to end because he had a thread that ran through the entire message that he gave.

Okay, let’s look at number two. This one is called “call-outs.” Call-outs also can come in a few different varieties. There can verbal call-outs or action-related call-outs. So here’s what I mean by that. You find something in your story that you know is going to be a repeating point you’re trying to make. And when you either point to something or, if you are reading scripture, when you say some particular word, you want the people out there that are listening to either say something back to you or do some action. Perhaps they say, “yeah” or “woo-hoo!” or they just tug on their ear. Whatever it is, it’s a way to do something that really all of these things do, which is to spike people’s interest.

Researchers say you need to spike adult interest when you’re speaking to them every seven minutes. Upper elementary, maybe getting down to third grade but certainly all the way up to high school, spike every five minutes. And down before third grade, you probably couldn’t spike too much but probably every two or three minutes. And a spike doesn’t have to be something wow and over the top. It can be something as simple as pointing back to the thread and keeping people engaged.

I’ll give you a great example. I saw this lady. She was teaching about being content. We’ve heard lessons about being content. If you grew up in the church, you hear them all the time. Well, this lady attached the concept of fat shoelaces to being content. Now stick with me. And if you’re my age, you can remember a time when fat shoelaces were really cool. Everybody wanted fat shoelaces. Well, she wanted them when she was younger, and her mom wouldn’t let her get them. She established that beautiful story. And the people who she was teaching, every time she talked about somebody being discontent in the Bible story, she had gotten the kids to say, “That’s just fat shoelaces.” Meaning, those things don’t matter; that’s not what’s going to bring you real contentment.

It was a beautiful example of a thread that she wove through the entire lesson that was just a simple call-out. She didn’t have to bring anything to her lesson. She basically stood up and just started doing it. It was a beautiful thing.

The final one is “unprops.” I grew up in the church. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the story of Adam and Eve. And what are the typical props that you would pull out to teach Adam and Eve? It’s an apple, a vine, maybe a snake if you really want to be wild and crazy. If you’re teaching kids who’ve heard that story before, they checked out the minute you pulled the apple out because they know the story. Unprops aren’t expected. They’re not the things you would typically think of using when you’re teaching that particular story. So the challenge comes up here is, “Well, how in the world do I come up with what unprops are? I don’t think that way. I think very linearly.” I get it. It’s fine. Here’s the challenge. It’s actually a game I used to play.

I was a large group teacher at one point in my life, and I used to play this game with the other large group teachers where we would come to church for our planning session and everybody had to bring a prop. We all knew what we were teaching for the weekend. You had to bring a prop, you handed it to the other person, and that was the challenge. You’ve got to use this to teach that. It had no logical concept but it pushes your creative mind to really make a difference. And then the other really cool thing. You don’t even get this until you feel it actually happen. If you come up with what it is, it clicks your passion level and how you deliver the material way, way up.

That’s a quick thing I’ll say about. If you’re somebody who has to teach a curriculum that’s handed to you, try to find some way to build your own thread to whatever your comfort level is so that you feel real ownership to the whole thing.

Well, thank you so much for watching this Elexio Whiteboard. We did things differently. You’re going to see this happen periodically as we do our whiteboards where we want to be partners with you. We want to partner with the local church in many different ways—certainly in technology but also just as fellow members of the church as a whole. Hey, thanks for watching this Elexio Whiteboard.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

How to Get People to Use Your Church Mobile App

Church Mobile AppYour church just launched—or re-launched—its mobile app, but no one seems to be taking advantage of this new tool. Maybe your church community isn’t quite as tech-savvy as you thought they were. Or maybe you’re just having a difficult time getting everyone on board to actually use it. So how do you make sure your church community utilizes this new technology at their fingertips?

1. Explain why they should use it

Don’t just tell people that they should use your new mobile app. Tell them why they should use it. Let them know that it will make event registration or giving much faster and easier for them—and for the staff and volunteers who manage these processes. Explain that it is uniquely available to them anytime, anywhere. If they’re on vacation a thousand miles away, they can catch up on the sermon they missed through your mobile media center. Tell them that it includes some tools like mobile check-in that are only available through your app. And let them know that it will make staying connected with their church family easier with a mobile church directory.

2. Demonstrate it

Don’t just tell people about your mobile app. Show them how to use it. During the Sunday morning announcements, let your pastor demonstrate the basics and encourage people to install it from their seats. First Church of God in Columbia City, Indiana started off right by dedicating time to show the church community their mobile app. Check out their well-executed demonstration for some ideas.

3. Continually promote it

Don’t just plug your mobile app once. Continue to promote it regularly—especially as you add new elements or gain access to additional features. If you demonstrate the app during announcements, get video of the presentation and place it on your website like First Church of God did or create a simple video that will generate interest. Include all the details about your church mobile app in your monthly newsletter, like how to find it in the App Store or Google Play Store. Insert a slide during the pre-service loop that showcases this new tool. Place a promo in your bulletin or even send a printed piece to your congregation. Post details to social media to increase the buzz around the app. Your mobile app provider should be able to provide some helpful resources to simplify promotion.

A mobile app can be a great tool to keep your church connected, but it won’t create engagement if no one’s using it. Ensure you get the most mileage out of this technology with a strong strategy to get people on board.

What has your church done to successfully launch its mobile app? 

4 Tips for a Successful Mother’s Day at Your Church

Mother's Day at Church Mother’s Day is just around the corner—is your church ready? Beyond the flowers and chocolates and poems and tearjerker videos, you can do plenty to celebrate moms and make the holiday a success.

1. Recognize the outreach opportunity

Behind only Christmas and Easter, Mother’s Day brings the third highest church attendance each year. People who haven’t been to church for a couple months or several years are looking for a place to visit this weekend. Take advantage of this special opportunity and invite your local community to celebrate with you. Advertise any special Mother’s Day events and utilize Facebook to promote and get your congregation involved in spreading the word. Send an e-blast to your contacts who haven’t attended recently and encourage everyone to bring their families. Make sure your team is prepared for an influx of visitors and keep this detail in mind when planning every element of the service. But don’t stop there. Follow up with visiting families so they keep coming back.

2. Make the morning routine simple

Moms don’t take a break even on Mother’s Day, but you can make sure that they aren’t completely burned out by lunchtime. Provide easy-to-use tools like mobile check-in that will help them minimize the chaos and get children where they need to be fast so they can enjoy the service.

3. Put your technology to work

Take advantage of all the communication tools and information in your ChMS database to recognize mothers in an appropriate way. Rather than alienating women without children and making mothers feel uncomfortable by making them stand up during announcements, send an email or printed piece in addition to any other special gifts or events. Many of the mothers in your church will likely be serving in some capacity that day, so this will ensure they aren’t overlooked by your efforts.

4. Make the experience great for kids

Even on a day dedicated to showing appreciation for them, moms are more focused on their children. So make sure that your youth and kids ministries provide an experience that is safe, fun, and focused on age-appropriate discipleship. If you do, families will be more likely to return to your church.

How does your church celebrate mothers each year?

Check out these other resources for Mother’s Day ideas:

6 High-Impact Outreach Ideas for Mother’s Day

Honoring Moms in Your Sunday Service

Mother’s Day: Third Most Popular Sunday

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