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?

Should Your Church Print Weekly Bulletins?

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The bulletin. Worship guide. Or whatever your church calls those Bible stuffers that leak fluorescent pink sign-up cards all over the foyer.

What’s the purpose? Does your church really need a bulletin?

Many churches have been printing and distributing hundreds of bulletins each week for years without ever considering why. It’s just what they’ve always done. Typically church bulletins keep people informed of what’s going on in the church and include lists of upcoming events, recent giving and attendance stats, and some notes to accompany the sermon. Bulletins might also provide information for visitors and an opportunity for greeters to connect with these guests.

Why are some churches abandoning bulletins?

Even though printed weekly bulletins have effectively communicated these details for years, some churches are shifting away from them for a few reasons:

  • Printing hundreds or thousands of quality bulletins each week can become time-consuming or costly for churches.
  • Printed bulletins don’t allow for much flexibility and can’t be corrected of any errors without additional costs.
  • In some cases, they’re growing obsolete as people embrace new technology. Many people simply grab one because a greeter was there handing out bulletins. But they barely skim it then toss it in the trash.

What are some alternatives to printing a weekly bulletin?

  • Some churches that still want a physical paper bulletin without the hassle and cost of weekly printing opt for a monthly bulletin. This method can save the church money but must be planned even further in advance, so content isn’t as timely.
  • Video announcements have already replaced bulletins in many churches. While more engaging than a piece of paper, they’re also more limited in the amount they can communicate and only reach the people who are in the worship area as they play.
  • Weekly email newsletters have taken the place of bulletins in some churches. Even though most people now have email addresses, these messages often go unread and a portion of the church community never learns about important updates and opportunities.
  • Many churches make the information that would be included in a printed bulletin available through a mobile app. Although this is convenient for most of the church community, visitors probably won’t download an app just to access sermon notes or check out upcoming events.
  • To maintain the hospitality aspect, some churches place volunteers at a welcome station to provide the information that would normally be found in a bulletin. But most guests will be too timid to walk up and ask questions.

If you’re sticking with the traditional bulletin, how can you make it better?

  • Consider your audience. This bulletin will be handed to both guests and regular attendees. While it should keep your church community informed, a bulletin could serve as the first impression of your church and should be conducive to guests. Avoid church lingo and ministry acronyms. Provide the contact information that visitors need to connect and take the next step. Don’t just tell them to talk to Brother Bill after the service—they have no idea who that is!
  • Include the necessary information—no more, no less. If your bulletin would benefit from a table of contents, it’s too long. People are more likely to read and remember your important announcements if there are fewer distractions. Eliminate the stagnant content and cut down on the amount of announcements. It might leave ministries fighting for inclusion, but you’ll create a more effective bulletin.
  • If you’re going to do it, do it right. Produce a quality bulletin that follows your church branding, contains no grammar or spelling mistakes, and reflects your church well.

So what’s the right choice?

Well, it depends on your individual church. Consider the culture and demographics of your church. And see how many bulletins are just left crumpled in the auditorium after a service.

If you find a way to more effectively disseminate information, don’t be afraid to make a change to the way you’ve always done things. There’s no perfect solution, and you might leave people dissatisfied no matter what you choose.

What do you think—bulletin or no bulletin?

Check out these other resources for more helpful tips and ideas:

Simple Guidelines for Better Bulletins

4 Technology Options that Might Kill the Church Bulletin

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

How To Repurpose Content For Your Church

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Does your church recycle?

No, I’m not talking cashing in soda cans for nickels or going green—I mean recycling content.

Your church probably has limited resources to work with, so spending several hours each week developing completely new content isn’t practical. But you’ve still got blog posts to create and emails to crank out and social channels to fill. The good news is you already have plenty of great content lying around, waiting to be repurposed. You just need to get a little creative.

Sermons

Pastors invest hours studying, researching, and preparing for their sermons. Why not get some extra mileage out of all that work? Post audio or video of the service on your online media center, in your mobile app, and on sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Pull some standout quotes from the message for a simple graphic on social media. Post slides of the major points. Create an infographic from any staggering statistics. Quickly assemble a blog post from further study notes, additional Scripture reading, or anything that couldn’t fit into that Sunday morning timeslot.

Sunday School & Small Group Discussions

Small group leaders and Sunday school teachers also share a wealth of information and foster discussion throughout the week. Typically only a handful of people get to benefit from these lessons, but a lot of the content could be beneficial to anyone in your church community. Ask small group leaders to write blog posts covering a recent topic that struck a nerve and highlight some of these details in the church newsletter to encourage people to join a small group.

Church Photos

You’ve probably collected thousands of images from events like Easter cantatas and community activities but have no idea how to make use of them. Rather than incorporating stiff stock photos, showcase these (free) genuine images on your website. Create albums on Facebook so your church community can share them with friends. And you’re not limited to photos that were just shot at last week’s BBQ. Use photos from the annual Trunk or Treat in 2010 to promote this year’s event. Dust off a staff photo from 1987 and post to Instagram with #tbt—people will enjoy seeing a fun, relatable side of your church and laughing at the pastor’s choice in acid wash jeans.

Stories

Whether it’s a testimony to God’s faithfulness or a report on your church’s sponsored missionaries, repurpose stories to engage your church community and connect with potential visitors. Ask a volunteer youth leader to post that story she shared with your staff about the ministry’s impact on her own life on the church’s blog. It might encourage other people to get involved within the church. Or use that same story to promote your youth ministry to the local community from a unique perspective. Include the message of gratitude from a local shelter in your next newsletter so the church community can see the results of their prayers and financial gifts.

Whether you’re scrambling for an idea to boost social media engagement or some copy to complete content marketing efforts, next time try recycling content when racking your brain for a fresh idea.

Check out these other resources for some helpful tips:

How to Blog When You Don’t Have Time

An Intro to Content Marketing and Social Media for Churches

Your Church’s Problem in Social Media

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

6 Keys To Successful Church Event Management

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From cantatas to conferences to camps, churches typically host dozens of events each year. Hundreds of details need to align so these events can go off without a hitch—that’s where technology comes in and can simplify event management.

But before you even get started with planning, make sure the event is right for your church. Don’t just host a bunch of random events because that’s what you’ve always done. Ask these five questions to determine if the event has a real purpose and is right for your church.

Once you’ve ensured that a banquet or retreat or breakfast will serve your church community well, consider these 6 factors to successfully manage the event:

Communication and promotion

How are you going to get the word out about your next conference or outreach activity? You have plenty of opportunities to make sure people know what’s coming up; you just need to take advantage of them. Promote your event during the Sunday morning service. Use the information you’ve collected to send a mass email to the right audience. Include details on your website. Post on social media to keep your church community informed and allow them to invite guests. And integrate all calendars from your mobile app to your website so you can communicate consistently.

Registration and payment

Don’t let a complex registration process deter people from signing up for your event. Online registration forms provide convenience, and a mobile app option allows people to sign up from the pew as your staff announces the event. If your event has a fee, include payment options in the registration process. When all these elements are integrated with your church database, planning will be much simpler for your staff.

Volunteers

For most events that your church hosts, you’ll need some extra hands to get all the work done. When you’re recruiting help, make sure you find the right volunteers with the right talents for the right positions. Let your church community know that you need help and make signing up for these service opportunities easy—like from a kiosk or online. Once you’ve got the people you need, maintain communication with them and let volunteers know what you expect out of them. And after your event, express your gratitude for their service so they’ll be happy to lend a hand again.

Resource planning

Some events will be offsite or require nothing more than just standing room, but others require plenty of church resources like chairs, AV equipment, and designated rooms. Rather than learn at the last minute that the tables you need for the men’s breakfast are all being used for a seminar down the hall, plan and claim everything you’ll need in advance. Keep track of these resources within your church database, so everyone knows what items are up for grabs.

Check-in

Keep a record of everyone who arrives at your event while making the process a breeze for attendees. Allow guests to check in on a kiosk and encourage your church community to check in from their smartphones on the way to the event.

Follow-up

Use those check-in records to send follow up communication to the people that attended your event. You might send them a general thank you, a feedback survey, or complimentary resources. You can also invite them to related events in the future.

Looking for church software that will simplify these elements of event management? Contact us!

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

Thanksgiving Church Communication—Throughout The Entire Year

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It’s easy to be thankful when you’ve got a stomach full of turkey and pumpkin pie while watching football surrounded by family.

But expressing gratitude shouldn’t be limited to Turkey Day. Especially in the church, we should have a Thanksgiving mindset all year round. And that attitude of gratitude should be incorporated into your communication strategy.

Volunteers

Most churches depend on a team of volunteers to keep ministries running each week. You probably shoot them an email when you need help, but is recognizing their efforts a part of your regular communication strategy?

Although people don’t serve in order to receive praise, gratitude will leave volunteers more inclined to continue serving because their efforts are recognized and appreciated.

  • Personally thank volunteers while they’re in action. If you’re passing by the nursery on Sunday morning, take a few seconds to thank the volunteers who are changing diapers and handing out snacks.
  • Highlight a volunteer in your newsletter, on your blog, or with a Facebook post. Thank Sarah for her 12 years of selfless dedication to the youth group with a brief story of her experience in ministry.
  • Recognize volunteer efforts during church announcements. Give credit to the team that organized your Trunk or Treat outreach and feature a few snapshots from the event.
  • Turn the tables and host a thank you event where the typical volunteers are honored guests.
  • Automate. Sometimes you can’t personally thank every single volunteer, so schedule an email to participants following the Christmas cantata.
  • Send a handwritten card. Whether it’s a birthday wish or a simple thank you, the personal touch will go a long way in making volunteers feel appreciated.
  • Say thank you—without actually saying thank you. Sometimes actions speak louder than words, so show your gratitude by finding value in volunteers’ experience and understanding. Make it easy for them to communicate any needs or concerns with church leadership. Actively seek their input and take it to heart. Provide all the tools and training they need and work to accommodate their schedules.

Check out 33 Ways to Show Appreciation to Volunteers at Your Church for more ideas.

Visitors

You probably work hard to bring new people into your church, but do you thank them for coming once they visit?

  • Thank them from the pulpit. Don’t embarrass visitors by making them stand up or raise a hand, but tell them that you appreciate them joining you in worship.
  • Offer them a visitor gift in exchange for some basic contact information. Check out these ideas to make an irresistible gift bag.
  • Follow up with them. Whether it’s a letter, a phone call, or a personal visit, express your gratitude by following up with each person that visits your church for the first time or attends an event—and make sure it’s timely.

Visit 5 Ways to Keep Visitors from Coming Back to Your Church for more tips on visitor care.

Staff

Some people think that since church staff members are getting paid for their service, they don’t need to be thanked or encouraged. But pastors and other church staff typically make some kind of sacrifice in order to work in ministry—and many will end up suffering from ministry burnout. So make sure you’re expressing gratitude to your entire team.

  • Stop by their offices to say thank you—especially after they just completed a major project. Show them that you see their accomplishments as important too.
  • Encourage the church community to thank them—and not just those in leadership positions. The secretary and IT person should be recognized too.
  • Automate some thank you communication. After the busyness of the holiday season, send out some emails thanking your church staff for all their hard work preparing for the musical, outreach event, and Christmas Eve service.
  • Make sure you’re not grossly underpaying church staff if you can afford to give them a decent wage. Just because someone is dedicated to ministry doesn’t mean his family should live in squalor.

Check out Employees Need Appreciation in Churches Too for more information.

Donors

While it takes staff and volunteers to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of your church, they couldn’t get much done without the financial support of your church community. Are you thanking the people that faithfully give?

  • Incorporate a thank you in the bulletin or on a slide along with your weekly giving report. This might also serve as a reminder for those who’ve neglected their giving.
  • Include a thank you message with year-end contribution statements. If people print their own statements online, you can send them an email recognizing their financial support over the past year.
  • When your church reaches a financial milestone—like paying off the mortgage or raising the funds for a special missions project—express your gratitude in an email or letter to the church community.
  • Make it easy for people to give. Invest in the technology that will allow your loyal donors to give when and where it’s convenient for them and make sure you’ve communicated how to use these different options.

See HOW TO: Thank Online Donors for more insight.

God

While you’re not going to send Him an email or tag Him on Facebook, isn’t God the one who deserves the bulk of our thanksgiving?

It’s easy to get caught up in the things we don’t have—megachurch attendance, hundreds of volunteers, unlimited resources—but we need to acknowledge all that He has given to us.

Share with your church community what God has already done for your ministry rather than solely focusing on your wants for the future. Set an example of gratitude. Regularly thank God for his provision as a church family.

Because you can’t automate those thank yous.

Is Your Church On Instagram?

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Most churches have a Facebook page. A lot are busy tweeting. But the number of churches on Instagram is growing, too. Should you jump on the bandwagon?

While Facebook is still the most widely used social network, numbers on the platform have been fluctuating recently—especially among teens and millennials. As grandparents finally begin to master likes and shares, their grandkids are flocking to new social networks where they hope to find a younger, hipper crowd. Enter Instagram.

As of March 2014, Instagram has over 200 million active monthly users, and 34% of US teens and millennials (ages 14-32) use the network. These numbers continue to grow.

Why Instagram?

The growing popularity of Instagram is partly due to its appeal to our visual culture. Most people would rather look at a flashy picture than read a post. After all, isn’t a picture worth a thousand words?

Instagram introduced video in 2013, so users can now share up to 15 seconds of video content with their followers. Sure, you can share images and even longer videos on Facebook, but Instagram is solely visual—no FarmVille invites!

Instagram is also popular with the tech-savvy generations because it’s almost exclusively mobile—you can’t post pictures or search hashtags from a desktop. It’s easy to use, and the filters will make any amateur photographer feel like Ansel Adams.

And although some large national companies are dabbling in paid advertising, Instagram is not completely pay to play like Facebook. Your posts will be visible to all of your followers when they log in.

Instagram—the right way

Just like with any other social network, you should keep some best practices in mind when using Instagram for your church:

  • Make it easy for people to find you. Include a link to your Instagram profile on your church website along with your other social pages.
  • Don’t feed into the selfie craze. The occasional goofy picture of staff is ok, but your church account shouldn’t look like it belongs to a teenage girl.
  • Use hashtags wisely. Much like Twitter, users can search for related posts based on hashtags within Instagram. Keep them simple, limit to two or three per post, and make sure you’ve spelled them correctly before hitting share.
  • Use the location feature within Instagram so people can find other photos that were taken at your church.
  • Consider sharing some of your Instagram posts directly to other accounts like Facebook and Twitter. You’ll get more mileage out of your photos and videos which could lead to more followers.
  • Remember that Instagram is a fun way to interact with your church community—in addition to your overall strategy. Not everyone will be on Instagram or see every post, so this shouldn’t be the only way you communicate.

Instagram for your church

Although many churches have seen success engaging their people on Instagram, it’s not right for every church. Consider the demographic of your church and whether or not they have smartphones. Will anyone even see the posts? Also remember that while Instagram is easy to use, it’s not the most convenient to manage. You’ll need to post from the app in real time as Instagram doesn’t allow you to schedule posts or share videos and images from a desktop.

If you’ve decided that Instagram is right for your church, try some of the ideas to engage your community:

  • Promote a special event coming up your church. You can also share photos and video during the event plus recap when it’s over.
  • Recruit volunteers and tell people where you have service needs.
  • Introduce new staff members to the church community.
  • Showcase individual ministries and their leaders within the church.
  • Highlight an upcoming sermon series at your church to build some interest and excitement.
  • Show people what goes on behind the scenes of your church each week.
  • Provide the information that visitors would want to know if they stumble upon your profile—service times and a sense of what to expect from your church.

How is your church using Instagram? 

Check out these other resources for using Instagram at your church:

20 Great Ways to Use Instagram at Your Church

8 Creative Ways to Use Instagram Video for Your Church

Your Church Should Be Paying Attention to Instagram

Communication: Leadership Fundamentals From GLS 14

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Last week a group of our Elexio staff attended a satellite location of the 2014 Global Leadership Summit hosted by Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Community Church. One of the primary focuses of several speakers throughout the event was communication. Although a foundational element in leadership training, it is often overlooked or quickly forgotten in church leadership. But these three speakers contributed some unique thoughts and perspectives on communication in church (or business) leadership.

1. Joseph Grenny—author, speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance discussed the Crucial Conversations of leadership from his best-selling book. He pointed out that “when the stakes are high, emotions run strong, and opinions differ, masters of crucial conversations create alignment and agreement.” And why does that matter? “Because this can foster a culture of open dialogue, mistakes are caught earlier, decisions are implemented more effectively, and innovation flows more routinely.”

2. Similarly, Patrick Lencioni addressed a lack of vulnerability in communication as one of the most dangerous mistakes in leadership. He explained that this is a fear-driven response originating from embarrassment, loss, or inferiority that leads us to guard our communication. But when we are transparent and vulnerable, we often strengthen our relationships rather than break them down. If we’re vulnerable and the relationship still dissolves, we must question how strong the relationship really was.

3. Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesus, pastor of the Chicago-based New Life Covenant Church, challenged the reason we communicate, poignantly demanding, “if you’re not going to do anything about the answer, then don’t ask.” Challenged in his own ministry to become fully reliant on the work of the Holy Spirit, he’s learned to embrace the response of people when he engages them—regardless of how absurd it may be. He provided several practical examples and proposed that with revelation comes responsibility. So when we approach communication, we must ask if it’s for the personal benefit of getting our point across or if we’re truly prepared to respond to the answer we receive. It may seem like a great challenge, but that’s when we need to exercise faith in our all-powerful God.

These are just a few of the powerful words spoken at the Global Leadership Summit. We pray that if you attended, the Lord has already begun to work in you and your church to help you apply these learned traits in your ministry leadership. Our team here at Elexio has been equally challenged to implement these ideas in our business. We look forward to putting the communication principles into practice as we seek to serve you into the future!

We’d like to hear—what did you learn at GLS? 

5 Tech Tips To Simplify Small Group Management

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Small groups are often the glue that keep people in a church community connected—especially in large churches. But managing everything from meeting locations to group attendance can become tedious and time consuming. Try these tips to simplify your small group process by making creative use of technology:

1. Sign-up

Make it easy for people to find the right small group and get signed up. If the process is simple and convenient, more people will get involved.

  • Kiosks

Station kiosks within your church so people can quickly connect with a small group after the Sunday morning service.

  • Website Portal

Allow people to log into a member portal on your church website where they can update their information, give, and even join a small group. Include a map feature on the small group search so they can find one close to home. Leaders can also use this tool to share links to study materials and location details. Make sure it’s easy to navigate so people don’t get frustrated and leave your website without getting connected with a group.

  • Mobile

Whether on your church’s mobile app or a smartphone-friendly sign-up through your website, adjust to the shift toward mobile and allow people to find a small group on the technology that’s always by their side.

2. Attendance

Small group leaders can log into the website portal to enter attendance records from each meeting rather than jotting down names in a notebook. If your church utilizes a check-insystem for nursery, this same technology can help you quickly and easily manage attendance for your small groups.

3. Reporting

Run reports to find out how many of your people are involved and regularly attending a small group—this is crucial information for pastors and staff trying to gauge the spiritual growth and discipleship of their members. You can set goals for the percentage of people participating in a small group and monitor those statistics.

4. Mass communication

Rather than rushing to make phone calls to 15 people when you have to cancel this week’s small group, contact everyone immediately through mass communication tools. Shoot a quick text with last minute information or send an email to all participants so they know what to bring to the next meeting. Always consider a few important factors—who you’re trying to reach, what the message is, and when they need to know the information—to determine the best method of communicating with your small group.

5. Integrated ChMS

An integrated church management software will incorporate all of these features and provide you with some great insight when planning for future small groups. If you’re taking full advantage of the software, you can use the information you’ve collected to find new people to lead small groups based on their gifts and the ministry roles they’ve served in the past. You can also reference notes to choose topics that match the needs of your people—if you find that several people are struggling with addiction, it may be a good focus for a small group.

Ready to get started? Check out these other resources for more small group tips:

5 Steps for Starting a Small Group Ministry

You Know You Have the Right Small Group System When…

Top 5 Keys to Starting New Groups—Lots of New Groups

Should You Text Your Church Community?

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As of this January, 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and 81% use their phones to send or receive text messages.

Most people keep those phones within arm’s reach all day—and night. On average, they look at their phones 150 times each day—whether or not a call, message, or alert has come through. In fact, 75% of Americans won’t even make a trip to the restroom without that connection to the world.

While this reliance on technology can be a challenge to overcome when leading a worship service or teaching a room full of teens, churches can take advantage of the texting craze to communicate with their people.

Why texting?

Texting can be quick—for both the sender and the receiver. Traditionally limited to 160 characters, texts can communicate a brief message in a matter of seconds. And unlike emails that may go unnoticed for hours or days, they’re usually read within 5 seconds.

That’s why text messages are ideal for short, timely alerts like cancellations, reminders, and emergency notifications. If a service is cancelled due to icy roads or a small group has to switch its meeting location last minute, shoot a quick text to all participants. The timeliness of these mobile communications can prevent the frustration of people showing up to an empty building because they didn’t get the memo.

Texting doesn’t have to replace all other methods of reaching people—it can complement your existing communication process. For years Facebook stood as one of the greatest ways to notify people of urgent information. But with recent algorithm changes, your updates are getting through to fewer and fewer people. So adding a text to the mix will increase the number of people you can reach in just a short time.

While texts should be concise, sometimes you might want to expand upon the message. You can include links to more detailed information on your website—and now that 58% of cell phone owners have a smart phone, many people can easily access those links. They’re actually almost five times as likely to follow that link in a text message rather than an email.

Whether you’re contacting 7,000 church attendees or 15 small group members, mass texting can simplify the communication process. This tool is available as a free resource from Elexio for churches that use our ChMS. You can text everyone in the church who has a mobile phone number listed, or communicate with a smaller group or list of people based on certain criteria. It’s a fast and flexible way to stay connected with your community.

Before you get started…

  • Have people opt in to receive your texts or at least inform them that providing a mobile phone number will automatically sign them up for those alerts unless they opt out. Some people don’t have unlimited texting and could be faced with unexpected fees if you don’t give them proper notice.
  • Although you want to maintain this form of communication, make it easy for people to opt out of texts if they prefer other contact methods.
  • Properly manage the phone numbers in your database so you’re not trying to text a landline or a phone that can’t receive text messages.
  • Don’t spam people with repetitive, unimportant text messages. People will quickly opt out to avoid these annoying texts.
  • Avoid the junior high text talk—TTYL, LOL, JK—but do get to the point and keep messages as brief as possible. Always proofread before you hit send and look for any spelling errors.
  • Remember that texting is ideal for brief, time-sensitive alerts that don’t require a personal interaction. Don’t send long texts that might break into multiple messages or discuss serious issues that demand a face-to-face conversation.
  • Consider the demographics and technical ability of your individual church community before implementing this strategy. Texting is probably not the best solution if your congregation still prefers rotary phones. Do they own cell phones and know how to text? Is mobile the best way to reach them?

When you’re in a pinch and need to reach your church community fast, why not send the message directly to their fingertips?

Check out some more information on texting and mobile technology for the church:

5 Reasons Your Church Should Consider SMS Text Messaging for Outreach

How to Engage Your Church Community through Mobile

Mobile Technology and the Church 

 

Image Credits: istockphoto