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.

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?

How To Choose The Right ChMS For Your Church

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If your church is in the market for church management software, you’re probably overwhelmed by the wide variety of solutions out there. From open source options to paid solutions, you’ve got a lot of information to wade through.

But before you dive in head first, consider a few questions:

1. What are you trying to accomplish through a ChMS?

Consider your ministry goals and the processes that you’ve established in order to meet them. If your church hasn’t already determined these important factors, you may need to take a step back—name the things you’d like to accomplish and determine the steps you must follow to do so.

Church management software is designed to simplify the administrative tasks so staff can focus on ministry, but it’s not a magic solution that will fix every problem your church faces. Keep in mind that ChMS can’t repair broken processes, but it can help you optimize them and facilitate discipleship.

2. What are the details of the switch?

  • What are you switching from?

Is your church currently using another ChMS, making do with spreadsheets, or just winging it with no real form of organization? Your transition—including data conversion and training—will vary based on what you’re using now. This will also affect your expectations of a ChMS. Do you realize how robust some solutions are? Will you be using your ChMS to its fullest potential?

  • What is your motivation for switching?

Why is your church looking to make a switch? Do you want to save time or money? Are you unhappy with your current customer service or lack of new updates? Do you want to work with a well-established company that understands ministry?

3. What features and functions do you need?

Not all church management software is created equal. Each will have its strengths and areas for improvement, and each church will have different needs. Who will be using the software and what will they rely on from the data you put into it? Based on your ministry, you might prioritize reporting capability above resource planning. You might need a tool with strong contribution or event management capabilities. Determine what functions your church must accomplish through a ChMS and what features aren’t your highest priorities but will stay on the wish list. Not sure what to look for? Download this feature checklist to get started.

Beyond the basic features of the software, you might also consider:

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is it cloud-based or locally-hosted?
  • Can it integrate with your website, mobile app, or check-in kiosks?
  • Is support available?

Once you know what you’re looking for, you have options:

Open source software

Although open source software might be right for some churches, don’t forget to consider some of the associated costs that come with a free solution.

  • The software might not be as robust and offer all the features of a paid solution—or be as efficient.
  • The solution might not have been fully tested, so all the bugs haven’t been worked out yet.
  • The amount of resources spent on bug fixes and future development is typically limited.
  • Training and implementation resources may not be available.
  • Support might not be available—especially without a fee.
  • Security issues are often a concern.

Proprietary software

Most ministries have limited budgets, but that doesn’t mean they can’t afford church management software. Paid solutions typically offer stronger support, greater longevity, and more advanced features. Still not sure which route is right for your church? Check out this comparison of open source and proprietary software.

Making the final decision

Once you decide the tools and features that your church will need, you should be able to narrow down your list of prospects to a handful of providers. You’ll likely have some phone or email correspondence with them, then schedule demos with those that make the cut.

ChMS providers should be able to connect you with references—other churches in your region, of the same size, or in the same denomination—that face similar challenges in ministry.

Get your entire team involved and take the time to consider your options. You don’t want to make a hasty decision because you could end up putting in more time and money when you need to shop around again next year.

Download this feature checklist now so you can evaluate and compare ChMS providers and learn more about the Elexio Database!

Check out these other helpful resources:

The Smart Guide to Buying Church Management Software

Why Is Church Software So Expensive?

Collaborating With Other Churches Using ChMS

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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.

  • Get ideas and innovate.

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.

  • Find encouragement.

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.

Collaboration Opportunities:

  • Engage online

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.

  • Attend conferences

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!

Does Your Small Church Need ChMS?

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While most discussions surrounding modern ministry turn to packed megachurches, not much attention is given to those that make up the majority of churches in America. According to the National Congregations Study, the average Christian church has 186 regular attendees. And 59% of US churches have 99 or fewer in weekly attendance.

Although small churches may not have the same number of resources and members as a larger church, technology like church management software can still be a valuable tool for them. But taking the step to a ChMS is a major decision. If your small church is considering the move, check out the answers to these four common questions:

1. Does my small church really need a ChMS?

Many small churches may think that a ChMS is unnecessary because of their size—they only have 75 members, so why would they need the same technology as a church of 7,500? But the basic processes that shape how the church operates are the same whether you’re a small congregation or a megachurch.

Every church still needs an organized method for managing membership records, events, and communication. Small churches have donations to record and ministry roles to fill. Just because your country church sees humble attendance numbers doesn’t mean your ministry is any less important than the large urban churches.

In an effort to save money and resources, many smaller churches will turn to a program like Excel for managing all of their church data. But as more and more information is added to the mix, records can become overwhelming to manage in this format.

By streamlining processes with a ChMS, churches can better care for visitors, members, and volunteers. They can easily follow up and monitor the discipleship process. So people aren’t just visiting your church—they’re staying and getting connected. And your church starts to grow.

2. Can my small church afford a ChMS?

Don’t be scared away by confusing pricing pyramids and numbers that seem to exhaust your church budget. The price you pay typically depends on the size of your church—average weekly attendance, for example. So the cost for your small church would be much less than your large counterpart. And many providers, like Elexio, offer special pricing for church plants.

While an added cost each month could seem like a drain on your finances, consider the time your staff and volunteers will save on one-time data entry. When everything is in the same place, you can work efficiently and dedicate more resources to discipleship.

Many churches that adopt church management software and its added giving options also see an increase in donations. People are more inclined to give when it’s easier for them, so the ChMS often begins to pay for itself.

Open source software has become popular among smaller churches because free sounds like a great price. But understand that these products can cost the church in the long run—in more than just financial ways. They often don’t have the funds or manpower to keep the technology current, make bug fixes, or provide support. If you opt for an open source software now, you may eventually need to make the switch to a paid ChMS.

3. How do I know which ChMS is right for my church?

While cost is certainly going to come into play when selecting a ChMS, the price tag should not be the only determining factor. Church management software is not one-size-fits-all. As a small church, you should look for a solution that’s simple enough to use for the basic functions you need right now but can still grow with you. Will it integrate with other solutions when the church grows, yet allow you to engage and connect as you do now?

Some other important questions to consider—especially if a non-tech staff person or volunteer will be managing the system—are: Can they offer the personal support you need? Can you contact them in a variety of ways and expect a timely response? Is it easy for staff and volunteers to use, yet powerful?

4. How can my small church get started?

  • Make sure you have the resources to effectively manage a ChMS database. Even the best solutions will have a learning curve and require substantial time to manage. Recruit the help you’ll need to get started—staff or volunteers who can dedicate the energy needed to effectively use this tool for your ministry.
  • Do your research and take advantage of free demos to find the best fit for your church. Ask questions. Read the reviews. Choosing a ChMS for your church is an important decision.
  • Pray and seek advice as you narrow down the list of contenders. Hopefully you will stick with your ChMS for years to come, so you want to find a good match for your ministry.
Would you like to learn about how Elexio can help the small church? Get started now!

Check out some other great resources for the small church:

Stretchy Software: ChMS that Grows with Your Small Church

The Innovative Small Church

Too Small to Buy Church Management Software?

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

Why You Should Integrate Your Church Database And Website

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If you’re utilizing the right ChMS for your church, you already know what a huge time—and headache—saver you’ve got on your hands. A database that allows you to manage everything from contributions to people to events already cuts your work load in half. But did you know that integrating your church database with your website could save you even more time? And did I mention that it’s simple and will help get your church community involved?

Scratch a few items off your to-do list and let your church community do the following online:

1. Give

Online giving not only makes it quick and easy for your people to make their weekly contributions from home any day of the week, but it can also lead to an increase in giving for your church. Donors can save their payment information—whether it’s a credit card, debit card, or bank account—and set up recurring giving. Allowing them to set up an account online will likely result in more consistent giving for your church. They can even view their giving history online and print their own statements—saving your staff a significant amount of time come tax season!

2. Update personal information

No matter the size of your church, managing the details of each person in your database can be tedious and time-consuming. Remembering to change an address or update a phone number could easily slip your mind while working with so many people. But when your website is integrated with the church database, your people can log into a portal and make those changes on their own in minutes. As an administrator, set controls to monitor who sees these details, and your people can access this information to engage with others in the church family.

3. Find and connect with a small group

One of the best ways to ensure that people don’t just come to your church but they stay is to help them get connected. You can make it easy for your people to find the right small groupwhen it’s convenient for them. They can search for groups based on a variety of criteria and see where those groups meet on a map. Group leaders can share links to online study materials or meeting location details. They can also enter group attendance here rather than keeping a printed record to be entered into the database manually later.

4. Register and pay for events

When you announce an upcoming event on Sunday, you don’t want people to go home to check their calendars and then try to remember to sign up next Sunday for the retreat or conference. They’ll probably forget. You can make it easy for them to register online for an event as soon as they know their availability. They can even pay for those events that have a cost associated with them right away from any device.

Integrating your church database and website will allow your people to take care of these functions and more to lighten the load on the shoulders of your staff.

Sounds great, but how do I get my church to use it?

As with any new system, it may take some time for your church community to adjust. The younger generation will likely be quicker to adopt these changes, but below are some tips for getting your people on board:

  • PROMOTE

Advertise this new tool to your congregation in the bulletin or within a screen announcement and remind them to take advantage of it periodically.

  • SHARE

Share information and links to help your people get started through email and social media.

  • START FROM THE TOP

Are you the pastor? Well, practice what you preach. Log in and make a contribution or update your address. Show them that it’s really that easy.

  • TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SOME GREAT RESOURCES

Already an Elexio client? We have plenty of resources to help you communicate these changes with your people.

How has your church benefited from integrating its ChMS and website?

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

Which CMS Is Right For Your Church?

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Churches have several choices today when it comes to content management systems (CMS). They can choose a low cost CMS for putting together a basic website with a few simple pages. They can use a CMS with add-on features such as event management. Or they can use a robust CMS integrated with church management software, check-in solutions and mobile apps. Which CMS is right for your church?

Choosing the right CMS for your church website depends on several factors.

Your website is your most valuable online asset.   It speaks volumes about your church.  It might say, “We’re growing, we’re relevant, and we care about the impression we make.”  Or it can say, “We’re small but we still take the time to look professional.”  Hopefully it doesn’t say, “We didn’t give our website much thought, it is managed by volunteers with no experience, and it shows.”  Sadly, an astonishing number of churches fall into the last category.

Define Your Website’s Purpose

Before you decide which CMS is right for your church, clearly define the purpose of your website. There are four basic purposes:

1. Be found

2. Provide information

3. Generate interest

4. Create a virtual church experience

You need to have a clear purpose in mind for your website to understand which CMS is best suited to your needs.

Decide Who Will Manage Your Website

This is one of the most important decisions you can make.  Your website is a marketing tool. It should be managed by an experienced digital marketing professional.  Just because nearly anyone can put together a basic website using free templates available from hosting companies doesn’t mean they will put together a good website.

What experience does the person have with websites?  They might be excellent at writing content but have no real website administration experience. Conversely, they might be good with the technical aspects of putting together a website but have no experience with creating content that engages visitors and gets found by search engines.  Again, just because someone is capable of putting together a basic website, doesn’t mean it is a good website.

Choose a Content Management System

Let’s look at the two most popular choices for churches:  church website CMS and WordPress

A church website CMS is designed specifically to address the unique requirements of churches.  A good church website CMS should be fairly simple to use, include standard templates or allow for custom design, integrate with your church database, and include features such as a media center and an event management tool.

WordPress is an open source blogging and website CMS.  It is based on themes and a plug-in software architecture.  Numerous designers sell templates for WordPress sites; these templates vary greatly in terms of functionality and ease of use.

There are a lot of factors to consider when comparing a church website CMS to WordPress:

1. Hosting

Whereas most church website CMS providers host the website on their servers, organizations using the WordPress CMS need to select a hosting company for their website.  Important hosting features to compare include routine site backup, security, data storage, number of emails, number of domains and subdomains included, and support.  Prices vary from provider to provider so it is important to compare apples-to-apples and research the reputation of the hosting company.

2. Security

Websites are constantly under attack from groups that want to inject the site with malware, steal personal information, or both.  Sadly, too many people fail to take security seriously.  Besides the basics of having secure passwords, website administrators need to understand security vulnerabilities of their site and how to safeguard against them.  You need to protect your data AND your members’ data.  One of the reasons websites based on open source CMS such as WordPress are under constant attack is because users fail to implement proper security measures.  Of course, even experienced site administrators can become victims of aggressive hackers, but you need to think very carefully about who will set up your website and manage it.

3. Software Updates

Who is responsible for software updates?  Security threats often necessitate software updates.  New features or changes to existing ones also require software updates. A church website CMS provider is responsible for updates.  If you use an open source CMS, you have to track updates and decide whether or not to implement them.  Because many of the templates and plugins used for open source sites are free or low cost, you are depending on the programmer to update the template or plugin each time the CMS updates.   You have no way of knowing how a software update will affect the template or other plugins you are using. This is where reputation and experience really matter.  Sometimes an update is seamless.  Sometimes your site stops working until you figure out which software update caused the issue.  How experienced are you at managing software updates?

4. Content and Features

What do you want your website to include?  You need to look at this from two perspectives:  what your site visitors will see and what you will have access to in the CMS (in other words, what’s under the hood?).

Typical church website features for site visitors include an events calendar, media library, online giving, staff blogs, links to the church’s social media sites, and the ability for visitors to share content from the church’s website to their personal social networks.

The ease of setting all this up on the backend depends on the CMS, the template and plugins used if open-source CMS, and the experience of the website administrator.  A good church website CMS also allows for integration with church management software, mass communications, check-in solutions and mobile apps.

5. Training and Support

Training for setting up your church website comes in several forms:  personal training, documentation, and video libraries.  What type of initial and ongoing training do you and your staff require?  If personal training with Q&A sessions are required for your church, than make sure that option is available when purchasing a church website CMS.  An open source CMS such as WordPress does not include personal training.

What type of support is available for resolving issues? How quickly can you expect an answer?  Who is providing the support – the CMS provider, the hosting company, the template provider, or the plugin provider?  Who has ownership for resolving the issue?

Need help deciding which church website CMS is right for your church? Get a free trial.

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

8 Ways To Simplify Church Management

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Church management has evolved significantly over the past several years.  Changing demographics, use of technology, multi-site campuses, and social media all play a role in shaping the way churches connect and interact with their members and visitors.  Staff is challenged to stay focused on the mission of the church while constantly adapting to change and managing with fewer resources.

How can church staff stay engaged with members and visitors and work more efficiently?  Here’s a look at ways churches can simplify church management:

  1. Maintain a USEFUL database
    One of the best ways to simplify church management is to start with your database.  Your church database is only as good as the information you put into it.  Take the time to assess the information stored, identify areas for improvement (cleanup!), and establish clear guidelines for how information is collected, entered, and used.  All too often databases are poorly maintained and become a roadblock to ongoing communication.  If you have recently merged databases, take the time to purge duplicate records.  If you are converting from one database to another, take the time to clean up the database both before and after the conversion.  Ask your software provider if they offer support in migrating your old database to the new system.Next, identify the information you are going to collect and manage going forward.  Think about how you are going to use the information to grow fellowship, serve unique ministries, and identify opportunities to grow.  Do you know which small groups your members participate in?  What about their passions and spiritual gifts and how they relate to volunteer opportunities? Are there any special event requests from a member that need to be managed (e.g., wedding)?  How about tracking of contributions to thank faithful givers?
  2. Give Individuals the opportunity to update their own records
    Save time.  Decentralize your people record management by empowering individuals with secure web-based access via an online portal to your website or mobile apps.  These tools provide a way for attendees to access/update personal information. Church attendees can also update information with a Self-Service Kiosk.  Remind them while they are at church and give them the opportunity to update their information while they are thinking about it.
  3. Use Your Database to Target Communications
    Church databases should be more than a place to store information. Use data in combination with mass communication tools to assist with your discipleship process.  Send targeted email and text messages, post engaging content to your social networks, and send US mail only to those that prefer this communication method.  Targeted communication is far more efficient and cost effective than sending out information that is not matched to interests, duplicated to multiple household members, or not sent via a recipient’s preferred communication channel (e.g., email or social networks).
  4. Set up Automation
    Are you regularly communicating with members and visitors?  Identify opportunities to connect and engage with your audience and create email templates matched to these opportunities.  For example, create templates that thank first-time visitors, follow-up with people before and after an event, wish members a happy birthday or anniversary, remind people of small group opportunities, and thank them for their contributions.
  5. Engage Volunteers Wisely
    First, a word of caution.  Volunteers play a vital role in ministry.  They help with discipleship and extend limited church resources.   Volunteers deserve our ongoing appreciation.  They also need to be matched to the right opportunity and engaged at the right time or they will suffer burnout and withdraw from volunteering altogether.Church staff needs to work together to plan opportunities for volunteers that are tied to its mission and then coordinate calendars to understand church-wide volunteer needs for the year.  All too often the same small group of people is asked to volunteer for every need the church has.  Plan out volunteer needs across all ministries and then use personal relationships and your church database to identify opportunities specifically tied to interests and spiritual gifts.  People are more likely to volunteer for things they feel passionate about or feel confident they can add value to.  Set up .your automated email system to make sure volunteers are thanked regularly for their service.
  6. Save Time with Online Giving
    Reduce administrative costs with online giving.  Use web-based tools to efficiently collect contributions and extract data to make decisions based on trends. With online giving and access tools, the church office no longer has to send statements and giving becomes as easy as using the church mobile app or self-service kiosk.
  7. Use an Event Management Tool
    Simplify event management with a system that helps you plan resources and handles registration, payment, and promotion.   An effective event management tool should integrate with your church database to streamline marketing of the event and identify and request volunteers.  It should also allow you to save registration information for follow-up & future event participation.
  8. Simplify Check-In
    A secure church check-in system simplifies children’s ministry and event attendance. It can help manage registration and ticketing, print name tags and security receipts for parents dropping their kids off at the nursery or kids’ ministry, and maintain a room registry that is easily retrieved for room checks.  It can also be used to retain data for future events.   Simplify church management while keeping attendees happy with shorter lines and quicker, more secure processes.

Looking for ways to simplify church management?  Contact us.

Church Event Management: Christmas Edition

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Already?!

I’m pretty sure that was the reaction most people had upon seeing Christmas displays in retail stores just after Labor Day. That’s still summertime!

As chagrined as most of us might feel about merchants stocking the shelves for a season still three months away, these months are the home stretch for many ministry leaders. Church teams are already in high gear, planning for the upcoming Christmas season.

As a former worship pastor, I’ve planned a lot of Christmas events. Sometimes my team and I were already out of steam by the time the event came around. For too many ministry leaders, the Christmas season is less about celebrating and more about surviving.

A lot of the holiday frenzy can be avoided with thoughtful planning. Whether your church’s Christmas events are simple or complex, your leaders and volunteers can enjoy the season’s special occasions when they know that the details are being taken care of.

It’s not too late to begin planning meaningful Christmas events for your church. (But don’t wait too much longer, or you’ll be able to sum up in two words the plan you will have chosen: winging it.)

Christmas gatherings, like most church events, typically need planning in these categories:

  • Type of event. Will it be a concert? Worship service? Dinner? Party? Caroling?

Facility and resources. Where will your event be held? What rooms will you need to reserve? Will you need to rent facilities? Rent or purchase equipment? Will your event need extra funding? How will you raise the funds? Will you be selling tickets? How will you receive payment? How will you register attenders, particularly guests? Are online registration and payment an option?

  • Volunteer recruitment. Will your regular ministry teams be enough, or will you need additional volunteers? How will you recruit them? How will you train them? How will you thank them?
  • Publicity. How will you promote your event? How will you communicate with your teams?
  • Follow-up. Will your greeters need training? Will your regular assimilation process work? Will extra team members be needed to follow-up on more guests than usual? The congregations that do the best job of welcoming guests and drawing them into the life of the church are those that make it an essential part of the church’s life.

Many churches struggle to follow up with their guests. Does your church have an effective assimilation process? Elexio’s Fusion provides resources to assist you with assimilation. In fact, Fusion has features to help you with every aspect of event management and follow-up.

There’s no denying that a successful Christmas event takes a good deal of prayerful planning and effort. Even a labor of love is still labor. So above all, be sure to plan for regular rest and spiritual refreshment before, during, and after the Christmas season.

Walking in Christ every day is the most important preparation of all.

How is your church planning to celebrate our Savior’s birth this year?

Portable Church & The Technology That Makes It Work

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For multi-site churches and church plants, portable and church are synonymous. And portable technology tools make it possible for the portable church to have rich worship events each week despite lacking a building of their own.

PORTABLE CHURCH CAN BE A GOOD OPTION FOR CHURCHES OF ANY SIZE

Portable churches meet in all kinds of temporary locations—movie theaters, schools, storefronts, fire halls, and community centers. No matter how well-equipped the facility may be, the church will most likely have furnishings and equipment it will have to transport to the site each weekend (and store during the week).

The weekly challenge of setting up and tearing down is part of the life of the portable church. After all, part of the appeal of owning a church building is having everything permanently in place.

But consider a few of the portable church’s advantages:

  • While they can be costly, portable churches tend to be much less expensive to launch and sustain than the traditional approach of purchasing land and building new facilities.
  • When a church begins to outgrow its current facility, adding portable sites can be an effective way to provide more space and put more volunteers to work.
  • When done correctly, the portable church is scalable and sustainable.

WHAT ARE THE TECH ESSENTIALS?

The success of a portable church doesn’t rise or fall on its technology, but on its leadership—having the right people in the right positions.

Diving into portable church without wise planning is, well, unwise. It’s vital that a congregation and its leaders think through their expectations and assumptions. Church planting expert Steve Pike has said, “At least ninety percent of problems that occur in multiplication efforts can be traced back to unclarified expectations and assumptions.” That said, once the leaders and volunteers are in place the technology takes on special importance.

With any portable church, staff and volunteers will put a great deal of effort into setting up and tearing down each week. Having reliable and smoothly functioning technology takes some of the burden off of preparing for the weekly gathering.

MUST-HAVE VS. NICE-TO-HAVE

Determine what is essential for your portable church versus what would merely be helpful. Make every dollar count.

These elements are essential:

  • Audio, video, projection, lighting
  • Signage or other information displays
  • Communication tools (and reliable support for those tools)
    • Safety—especially of children—is essential, and communication is a critical component of security. Ensure the safety of the parking area, entrances and exits, stairways, restrooms, stage, and seating area.
    • On-campus and especially during weekend services, all locations should be able to communicate with one another (e.g., nursery with auditorium or individual; portable church with the main campus; portable site to tech support, etc.).
    • Off-campus and during the week, the congregation needs a way to communicate. Leaders need a system to keep everyone informed.
  • A way to track information. Reliable support is needed here as well.
    • Portable church usually has growing the Kingdom as its mission. Therefore, a must-have is a reliable, easy-to-use, scalable system, such as Elexio’s Deluxe Suite ChMS, for keeping track of people’s data.

YOU MAY ENCOUNTER TECHNOLOGY HURDLES

Assess whether Wi-Fi accessibility is going to be an issue, as it often is with schools, movie theaters, and multi-use facilities. Make sure that your hardware and software can function with limited or nonexistent Internet access. Touch, Elexio’s check-in system, can operate offline, so even without a reliable Internet connection your volunteers can quickly and easily check everyone in.

Determine whether you will invest in owning the equipment or will use what’s already in place at the location (e.g., a movie theater’s lighting and sound system). While it may be cheaper to use the house systems, the church will be stuck if it loses the contract with the facility.

Multi-site churches should consider using the same equipment models (e.g., sound boards, keyboards, lighting controls) at all their locations. That way the tech director is familiar with all the equipment, regardless of where it’s being used, making troubleshooting and substituting much easier.

“For communities that rent [facilities for church], the biggest issue is set-up and take-down…Trying to create as simple a system as possible, as efficient as possible for the people who do the weekly set-up and take-down is, obviously, the most important thing.” Sandra Nicholas, Site-Support Pastor of The Meeting House in Ontario, Canada

As a system grows, so does its complexity. So keeping things as simple as possible, even while growing, will be a continual effort. An overly complex system is frustrating and draining for those caught in it. Keep it as simple as possible at every phase.

THE MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF THE PORTABLE CHURCH

Never lose sight of the mission—to help people know Jesus. Portable church is heavy on logistics and problem solving, and technology can play a major role in making it work. But don’t let that reality overshadow the bigger truth: the most important component of portable church is servant-hearted people who love Jesus and want to share him with others.

For more practical information on the portable church, check out these resources:

www.portablechurch.com
http://multisitesolutions.com/blog/multisite-must-read-list
http://multisitesolutions.com/blog/14-commandments-of-video-preaching (article removed)