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Free Christmas Graphics And 8 Ways To Use Them

Free Christmas Graphics And 8 Ways To Use Them

Advent is one of those special times in the year when we get to stop and appreciate a unique kind of beauty and hopefulness around us. The leaves have changed colors, the sun rises earlier, and Thanksgiving and Christmas services bring out the best in all of us. We get to decorate, celebrate, and generally rejoice in this good news that cannot be contained. It’s a time of year when we welcome many new visitors to the church––and we want the beauty of our services to shine.

That’s why we created these free Christmas graphics to help you incorporate excellent artwork in all that you do this season. Our three sets of Christmas graphics will help you choose the design that best reflects your church and your members.

The gifts don’t stop there! Along with these graphics, you will receive a free Advent devotional. Download or print this devotional to share with your members. The design of the devotional will match the design you choose for your Christmas graphics.

Continue reading “Free Christmas Graphics And 8 Ways To Use Them”

Three Problems with Anonymous Feedback

Years ago, I heard someone say, “Any anonymous notes or feedback should be thrown away and not even considered. If someone doesn’t have the guts to put their name on it, disregard it.” Frankly, I was uncomfortable with that, and I still am. Sometimes people fear they’ll be rejected because of their feedback, and so won’t put their name on it. Does that mean their feedback doesn’t matter? I don’t think so.

So guess what I do when I receive anonymous feedback or comments? I throw it away. If it is intended for someone I work with, they never receive it, because I don’t bother passing it on. “Wait a minute…” you’re wondering. Didn’t I just say I was uncomfortable with what I’d heard about anonymous feedback? Yep – and I still feel that way. I don’t throw anonymous feedback away because of the whole “someone should have the guts to put their name on it!” reasoning. I’ve simply come to learn that anonymous feedback just isn’t helpful – in fact, it’s usually detrimental.

Here’s why.

  1. When we receive anonymous feedback, we don’t know who it’s from.

Yes, I’m stating the obvious, but it’s important to recognize this. We don’t know the context of the person who wrote it. We don’t know what experiences shaped their feedback. And so we end up assuming things about the person, most of which are probably false. For example, let’s say someone is critical of how a church handles check-in for children’s ministry, and they say so “anonymously.” We don’t know the ages of their children. We don’t even know if they have children. What is it about check-in that they don’t feel is working? We can’t even ask, because we don’t know who provided the feedback. So then we “assume” things and make tweaks based on our assumptions, having no idea if we assumed the right things. If the person had provided their name, we would know more about the situation, and what needs improvement.

  1. We can’t dialogue.

When someone writes one or two sentences (or even a full page) of feedback, it probably is not an exhaustive explanation of everything that person is experiencing. If we could have a conversation, we could truly discover more about the feedback and what we can learn from it. For example, if someone is critical of a video clip used during worship, it might be helpful to know that it was because it brought back painful childhood memories. That would help us understand the situation. But the anonymous comment, “That video clip made me uncomfortable” doesn’t allow us to have a dialogue to learn more about what’s really taking place.

  1. Credibility is tied to relationships.

If a stranger passing by on the street gave me the same advice as someone with whom I’ve had a close friendship since high school, I’m much more likely to listen the person with whom I have a relationship. They have credibility, because I know and trust them. But anonymous feedback has even less credibility than a stranger on the street – at least I can put a face on the stranger on the street! Anonymous feedback will always be the feedback of strangers, who don’t have much credibility (and rightly so).

Feedback can be great – in fact, it’s necessary for facilitating continued growth and development. I frequently solicit feedback from others, for the sake of seeing opportunities to improve! But I’ve learned over the years that anonymous feedback doesn’t actually help you improve anything – it’s just makes you a slave to strangers.

Jerod Walker began serving as a pastor at the age of 19 while in Bible college in rural Missouri. Since then he’s served in churches from 35 to 1800, as a children’s pastor, family ministries pastor, and lead pastor. In 2011 he started Legacy Christian Church in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Jerod currently serves as a ministry coach and resides in Wisconsin with his wife and 6 children.

Four Ways to Get More Info Cards from Guests

So, you still have guests fill out a card…

Don’t worry! You’re not alone and it’s actually still the most reliable way to get information for solid follow-up.

You’ve got your checklist of follow-up materials for first-time guests after your Saturday/Sunday worship service(s).

  • You’ve purchased postcards (complete with your church logo and a hipster couple in a coffee shop), so someone can send them a handwritten postcard on Monday morning.

  • You’ve set up a system so that they receive a follow-up email from the lead pastor (automatically), also on Monday morning.

  • You’ve created a workflow that ensures someone has been asked to make a phone call to them by Thursday.

  • You’ve set up a sequential email campaign, so that additional follow-up emails go out at 2, 3, and 4 weeks after their first visit.

All that’s great! Except, how do you capture that information from first-time guests so that you can do any of that follow-up?

We’re going to look at a classic method of capturing guest information, the communication card (also known as a connect card, next steps card, or the tear-off flap). You may be thinking, “We tried that, but we couldn’t get guests to fill it out.” Well, that’s what these next steps are all about. You’ll likely never be able to get every single guest to fill out a card, but your chances improve greatly using the suggestions below.

  1. Mention the card multiple times.

“If you insert it, they will fill it out” simply doesn’t apply here. If you want guests filling out the cards, you need to mention them, from the stage, more than once every single Sunday. Will your regulars get tired of hearing about it? Yes. But, frankly, it’s not all about them! I digress, though. At a minimum, make reference to it early in the service, during some kind of welcome; and then refer to it again after the message or before giving time.

  1. Train your “regulars” to all fill out the card.

Notice we didn’t mention “guest card” at all in this post. If you have a special card that is only for guests, you’re doing it wrong. Guests typically want to avoid standing out. Anything they are asked to do that is different from everyone else will likely be ignored. The flip side of that – “If everyone else is doing it, I’d better do it, too, so that I don’t stand out.” So if I don’t see anyone near me filling out a card, I feel awkward if I do so; but if I’m the only one not filling it out, I’ll go ahead and do it so that I’m not “the weird one.” Include in your welcome some reason that everyone in the room should be filling out a card.

  1. Ask for something unique each week.

If the card never changes, my reasons for filling it out are reduced (whether a guest or regular attendee). So, ask for at least one thing different every week. One great example – on the back of the card, suggest some “next steps” that people can commit to, based on the message that day (which very naturally gives you a second time to mention the card, right after the message). Or, change the opportunities to serve each week, highlighting just a couple of areas of greatest need. If I’ve checked a box or written in a blank, I’m more likely to feel I need to do something with it, like turn it in.

  1. Collect during giving.

Conventional wisdom in churches is that guests feel awkward during giving time, especially if baskets (buckets, bags, plates – I was part of a church plant that used planter pots because they were cheap!) are passed through the rows of seats. Asking everyone to put their cards in those baskets is great in 2 ways: (1) It passes by every person, making it much easier to turn in compared to expecting guests to find some special welcome area (believe me – they care less about that great gift you promise than you think); and (2) It gives guests something to put in the bucket, so they don’t feel awkward passing the basket by and not putting anything in (yes, that’s motivation to put a card in the basket).

Get your follow-up team ready! If you’ll implement all four of these suggestions, you might find they’re a little busier than before.

Watch for future posts about recommended follow-up practices, and using language in our services that includes the first-time guest. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you.  Email me your process for following up with first-time guests (jwalker@elexio.com).

Jerod Walker began serving as a pastor at the age of 19 while in Bible college in rural Missouri.  Since then he’s served in churches from 35 to 1800, as a children’s pastor, family ministries pastor, and lead pastor.  In 2011 he started Legacy Christian Church in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.  Jerod currently serves as a ministry coach and resides in Wisconsin with his wife and 6 children.

Update: Deluxe Suite Website & Database

A few minor fixes will be applied overnight to resolve a few bugs that were reported after the major release last week. The fixes will resolve an issue with selecting available page designs in Website, and a modification to web forms in Database to provide more details around payments in the automated emails.

As always if you are having any issues, please contact our support team immediately.

Just Released: Responsive User Portal

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Elexio is proud to announce the release of the new responsive user portal. The updated responsive interface is available for free as part of the Elexio Deluxe Suite (formerly Elexio Database). New features include:

  • Updated colors and styles
  • Dynamically adjusts on any device
  • Easily add family members
  • New filters & search for the online directory
  • Giving history & pledges now available

The portal features the same great tried and true features like:

  • Integrated online giving included with Deluxe Suite
  • User-editable member profiles
  • Small group search tools, notes, and other resources
  • Event registration & payment

If your church is using Deluxe Suite and has not yet experienced the benefits of the online portal, take a look at portal resources in our help center designed to make it easy for your church launch the responsive online portal, and be sure to take a look through our online help center for how to add the portal to your church website.

5 Tips And Tools Every Community Pastor Should Know

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In a 2015 blog report by Google it was reported that internet searches via mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) have now surpassed desktop access. This
may seem like a foregone conclusion in today’s culture, but this means everything to those of you attempting to reach your community.

As a community pastor, the majority of your focus lies outside the proverbial four walls and your method of connection means everything. Whether it’s equipping your home group leaders or encouraging your congregants to engage, having the right tools will either make or break your volunteer and constituent experience. Here are 5 ways that you can ensure you’re connected with your people:

1. Adoption is everything

You can have every powerful product in the market, but if user’s find the experience cumbersome, it should come as no surprise that they won’t use it.
The best experience is leaning on modern web-based portal solutions that recognize the user through authorized access, even linking to their social accounts. But if you consider the earlier stat on how people access, browser-based access isn’t enough and mobile responsive access will contribute to a much higher use (or adoption) rate when there’s no more pinch and swipe to get to where they need to go.

2. Give the power to the people

If the expectation of real time information of all your congregants is left to you or a select few staff or super volunteers, you run a significant risk of information
growing stale and an even lower likelihood of contribution by your congregants. Providing a portal that allows each individual to manage their own information,
including household, contribution statements, group involvement, and more, engages and empowers your congregants. And since it’s behind authorization
you can project confidence to your congregation. Win/Win.

3. Knowledge is power

It’s no secret. Events are challenging to pull off, but it’s almost impossible when you don’t know how many will be in attendance. A portal designed to deliver the
right event to the targeted individual ensures that you’ve got a true gauge of what events are connecting with your community. And when you’re equipped with an
intuitive platform, you eliminate the struggles of a cluttered calendar filled with past due events.

4. Foster generosity

Generosity comes in several forms. One definition could imply generosity of time. If that’s the case, providing your volunteer leaders (small group, home group,
etc.) with a platform to facilitate small group management eases the burden of management and instead, keeps the focus on ministry. If generosity is in the way of financial, provide a way for your congregants to give generously through online tools found in the very same portal. But donations aren’t enough, these same tools should provide a way for those congregants to see their contributions – including pledge status – without having to interrupt your front office folks.

5. Upload resources

Today’s technology can mean the sharing of information and files is very fragmented. With the ability to append notes and curriculum excerpts to a small group, you can ensure that your small group leaders are resourced with the necessary contents for their upcoming sessions in an easy to access location.

And speaking of resources, using small group finder included within your mobile responsive portal leaves no question of what small groups are still open to new attendees, who’s leading them, and where they are hosted in proximity to a community member’s location.

Community pastors struggle to find ways to form, communicate, and equip home groups. Find the platform, like the Elexio Deluxe Suite ChMS, to manage these critical points of engagement.

How does your church use mobile technology to reach your community?

4 Tips To Help Prepare For VBS In 2016

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Well brothers and sisters it’s that time of year again! Summer is just around the corner and that means Vacation Bible School (VBS) is upon us. We’re adding some new planning tips and strategies to consider this year, as we have done with the past VBS planning posts, which will help make your VBS go smoothly!

Here are a few tips to help you prepare:

Prayerfully Consider Your Teams, Theme, & Timelines (6-12 months out)

As any church event should begin, start with prayer. Prayerfully consider your VBS program director and leaders, then select the best candidate that God has inspired for your church. Work with the new director to pull together a team of dedicated leaders and pray for them.

Once your team is ready you can choose a VBS curriculum and order a starter kit. Most publishers run sales on their kits starting early in the first quarter, and Christian bookstores like Lifeway often have the kits on hand so you can look through to help make a choice.

When your VBS kit arrives, you can get down to the real planning, such as recruitment, training, and requesting donations of money and supplies.

Recruiting & Registration (3-6 months out)

Finding dynamic, kid-friendly personalities can be a challenge. It’s also one of the reasons that the kids get used to seeing a lot of the same faces each year. Keep in mind that it’s always important to try and bring new volunteers into the fold, not only to avoid burnout, but often to reveal undiscovered spiritual gifts.

At this point, you should have a curriculum mapped out including supplies needed for each day & event, as well as how many volunteers you’ll need for each station. Communicating with the leadership of the church regarding any budgetary needs is also very important during this time.

Fundraising through events like trivia nights, silent auctions, and church meals is a great way to raise money for the program to cover costs that might exceed your church’s budgetary limitations. At our church we hold a trivia night and silent auction at the same time, where the questions relate to the theme of the VBS program. We register teams from the church members who then compete that night for an actual trophy that is displayed throughout the year in a common area of the church. This year we’re using Group Publishing’s Cave Quest theme, so all of the questions will relate to caves in some way based on Trivial Pursuit style categories.

Promoting the VBS program and keeping the community and the congregation in the loop is incredibly important. Churches vary on whether or not to charge for Vacation Bible School programs, so be sure to make your position clear from the beginning as it can help with fundraising.

Don’t forget to start allowing families to register their children around 3 months out. Today’s busy families start mapping out their summer plans in the spring, so be sure to allow registration – and make it easy! Consider using a system like Elexio Deluxe Suite or Essentials Giving that enable online event registration for programs like VBS. These systems can even process payments, if needed.

 

Training, Promotions, & Production (0-3 months out)

Don’t wait until the last minute on any of these. With the latest changes to law, at least where I’m at in Pennsylvania, requirements on volunteers for background checks and training are time-intensive and involved for whomever is coordinating VBS.

Elexio’s integrated background check system can help reduce some of that workload, but you definitely don’t want to take this to the last minute. Finding volunteers can be a challenge for many churches.

Training is important, too. Not only can you begin to identify a volunteer’s strengths and weaknesses, training will help both of you identify the best station or place for that volunteer to help. Many programs offer training materials, but churches can and should also include their own guidelines that are required by both state and federal laws, as well as any additional requirements from within your own denominations.

Pre-registration should be well underway at this point, and you should be able to start building group rosters and assigning volunteers.

Depending on how involved your decorations will be, 3 months before launch can be a good time to start assessing your needs for decorations and any sets. Last year, we ran Group’s “Everest” program and we started planning and buying materials around 3 months out. Within 2 months of our program we began building our set pieces, like small mountains, holding routine set building days for a few hours each Saturday.

Finals & Follow-Up (Last few weeks & Program)

During the last few weeks you should be pretty much ready, just putting the finishing touches on training, set building and decorations, or any last minute volunteer recruitment.

The last week before is always a rush. Many decorations and set pieces cannot move into place until the day you launch the program, and many times our volunteers are turning in clearances and paperwork at the last second. That doesn’t even take into consideration the mass of registrations that will all happen the “day of”.

For these reasons, we recommend scheduling a time of group prayer before you enter into the fray and welcome all of those young souls into your fold.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Ensuring that you have the right tools will make VBS planning easier. Elexio offers the tools needed to track incredibly useful information, like:

  • Who have been our key donors?
  • Who has the spiritual gifts appropriate for this kind of ministry?
  • Who has volunteered in the past?
  • Who has registered in the past?
  • How much have we spent before, and on what?

Even better, when you can pre-register families through a web form and even take payment, you’ve effectively reduced the workload of your registration volunteers.

Take a closer look at Elexio church software solutions today and you’ll find out how you can focus on your ministry, not the management.

NEW: Elexio Financials

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Elexio is now proudly offering Elexio Financials, a web-based church accounting software package. Financials can be accessed from any computer as well as mobile devices, and is incredibly easy to use.

Church Accounting Software Just Got Real

Created specifically for the needs of churches, Elexio Church Accounting Software was designed to manage church accounting simply and powerfully. Fulfilling the needs of your financial committee and providing scaleable add-ons to create the financial and accounting software package that works for you is easy with this cloud-based software solution.

Learn more about Elexio Financials church accounting software here, watch the overview video, and don’t forget to sign up for a webinar!

 

Elexio Launches Essentials Suite Of Church Software

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Elexio is proud to announce the new Essentials Suite, featuring two new products in the Elexio lineup: Essentials Community and Essentials Giving.

Essentials Community

Community is a new a-la-carte, web-based church management software package that enables churches of any size to manage their church from any device. The Community ChMS was developed to serve the churches that want to ramp up quickly by taking our out of the box solution and begin managing and engaging members immediately.

Learn more about this new church management software (ChMS).

Essentials Giving

Giving, another a-la-carte piece of the Essentials Suite,  is a standalone online giving solution for churches. The Essentials Suite Giving tool empowers churches to leverage technology that can increase giving and make it easy for church goers to give from any device, anywhere, at any time.

Learn more about this new online giving tool.

Not Done Yet

Elexio will be adding more products in the near future, both to the Essentials Suite and some new standalone products. Subscribe to the Elexio Insider Intel newsletter, or follow our blog for coming announcements.

ELEXICON Orlando: April 19 & 20

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Event Information

Are you new to Elexio? Has your church just hired staff that need to learn the basics? Or perhaps you’ve been using the Elexio Database software for years and you want to take your implementation to the next level.

Regardless of your starting point, ELEXICON Regional Orlando, is a hands-on training event that will benefit you and your ministry. Join us on April 19th – 20th at Church in the Son in Orlando, FL. Beyond the instruction provided by our team of experts, you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with other churches.

This multi-level education event will enable you to:

  • Enter, manage, and use people data
  • Send mass emails, texts, and letters from the Elexio Database
  • Create automated follow-up triggers
  • Create and manage events with the Elexio event wizard
  • Operate Elexio Check-in
  • Collect and use data with Elexio web forms
  • Enter and report contribution data
  • Connect to and utilize data via Elexio Mobile and Portal
  • Customize reports
  • Manage duplication

With two content tracks, this training event is designed for novice to advanced level users. We anticipate attendee variations in skills and knowledge within each track, so we’ll employ a variety of training methods to ensure all attendees can move at a pace that’s best for them. We look forward to seeing you at ELEXICON Regional – Orlando.

To see the schedule and register

CLICK HERE