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?

8 Ways To Prepare For Easter With Mobile Technology

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In a 2012 poll by LifeWay Research, 93 percent of pastors reported that Easter topped the list of holidays with the highest church attendance.

Each spring churches see Chreasters pile into these services, but they still struggle to prepare and communicate effectively. Your church can gear up for the busiest Sunday of the year by making wise use of mobile technology in 8 ways:

  1. Don’t make people pinch or scroll.

Google searches for “church” peak each year around Easter, and 56 percent of millennials will scope out churches online before visiting. Most of them will do their research via smartphone. What are they going to find when they get to your website? If your church website isn’t responsive, mobile visitors won’t be able to easily find the information they need and probably won’t visit your church.

  1. Make your mobile app easy-to-find.

You need to keep your regular church community in the know this time of year, too. Customize your mobile app so people can readily find it in the App Store or Google Play and encourage everyone in your church community to install it if they haven’t already.

  1. Keep your mobile information current.

Because of the influx of guests, many churches need to add or adjust service times at Easter. Make sure all these details and any contact information is up-to-date within your mobile app so people don’t show up to an empty building.

  1. Secure volunteers in seconds.

Your church will probably need a few extra greeters and children’s ministry workers on Easter Sunday. Recruit help this week during the morning announcements and encourage people to sign up immediately via a link within your mobile app.

  1. Get your RSVPs.

If you’re hosting any special holiday events that require people to register ahead of time, allow them to sign up from your mobile app while it’s fresh in their minds.

  1. Expedite the check-in process.

Entire families of visitors will be packing into your church Easter weekend which means even more kid’s ministry check-ins. Encourage your church community to utilize mobile check-in to reduce congestion and shorten lines for your guests.

  1. Foster generosity.

Both your regular church community and guests might exhibit extra generosity at Easter, so provide convenient options for them to give. Giving from your mobile app is simple for regulars, and text to give allows first-time givers to make a contribution without setting up an account.

  1. Upload resources.

People might want to catch the service they missed, and guests might want to hear more after Easter, so stock your mobile media center with plenty of audio, video, and notes.

How does your church use mobile technology when preparing for holiday services?

 

Check out these other resources as you prepare for Easter:

7 Suggestions for Easter Preparation

How to Engage Church Attendees…Easter and Beyond

7 Church Tech Tips for Easter Sunday Services

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

8 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Church Mobile App

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It shouldn’t just be a mobile version of your church website. While your website will primarily provide information to potential visitors, a mobile app should offer more engaging content and tools for your church community.

And mobile apps aren’t for every church. If you see more checkbooks than iPhones being used each Sunday, a mobile app probably won’t serve your church well. But if your church community is quick to adopt new technology, a mobile app could be the perfect tool. And here’s how to make sure you’re getting the most out of it:

1. Integrate with your church database

Make sure your mobile app is integrated with your church management software. It will save your staff time and increase the usability for your church community.

2. Provide another giving option

If most people in your church don’t carry cash and have never written a check, mobile giving could provide convenience for your church community and consistency to your giving. The ability to make contributions to different funds and view giving history right on their smartphones will encourage people to be generous and wise stewards.

3. Allow people to check in

If your check-in stations are congested each Sunday morning, including a check-in option on your mobile app could make the process faster, easier, and more organized.

4. Expedite event registration

People might not remember to register for the next conference or retreat once they get home. Encourage them to sign up from their pews and even pay while it’s still on their minds. Mobile registration could lead to a better turn out for your church events.

5. Make the latest sermon series available

A mobile media center will allow people to catch up on services they’ve missed or access relevant resources wherever they are.

6. Simplify connection

Include a church directory in your mobile app so members of your church community can easily connect with each other throughout the week. Look for options that allow staff to take notes and include follow-up tasks so they can stay organized on the go. And consider providing an option for people to get plugged into a small group at their fingertips.

7. Customize

Make your mobile app stand out in the App Store and Google Play with a custom name and unique icon that reflects your church’s branding strategy.  Include other customized content relevant to individual ministries or campaigns so your mobile app isn’t generic—it’s tailored to your church community’s needs.

8. Promote

All these tools will go to waste if your church community doesn’t know that they’re available, so actively promote your mobile app and all the convenience it offers. Demonstrate a feature from the pulpit. Include details in your church newsletter. Place an informational card in the bulletin. Mention it during announcements. Throw a slide up. Plug it on Facebook and your website. And don’t stop after one week. Continue to remind people about your mobile app and show them all it can do.

Check out these other resources to determine if a mobile app is right for your church:

Is Your Church Ready for a Mobile App?

Why and How to Use a Mobile App for Your Church

Does Your Church Need a Mobile App?

Image Credits: istockphoto

Whiteboard: Assimilation Lessons From Toy Story

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Some churches struggle to incorporate technology into their assimilation processes. In this whiteboard session, Rodney explains how you can simplify assimilation—drawing from Toy Story.

Video Transcription

Hi. Welcome to Elexio Whiteboard. If there was a top ten list of Christian buzzwords, I feel certain ‘assimilation’ would make the list. It’s something that most churches are talking about, strategizing about, thinking about, maybe keeping pastors up at night.

Today in the Elexio Whiteboard we’re going to talk about how you can use technology to leverage the assimilation process.

When I think assimilation, I think Toy Story. Now stay with me. Toy Story is actually, in my opinion, a movie in many ways about assimilation. You’ve got this guy, Buzz Lightyear, who joins a group of toys and he feels like a foreigner.

We’re going to talk about three scenes from Toy Story that can help us see how technology could leverage the assimilation process.

The first one is Apps. As we look at it, actually the second one’s Apps, and the third one is Apps. We’ll get to that. It looks like I don’t know how to spell, but stick with me.

The first one is Get A Process. I think of the scene where Woody calls all the toys together and he’s got this crucial concern that the family is moving and he doesn’t want any toy to be left behind.

I love it because in his speech he just says, “If you don’t have a buddy, get one” and I would say the same thing as a church. Before you can use technology to leverage the assimilation process, you have to get a process.

The next thing I would say, once you get a process, is to Document a Process. This is, again, also not technology necessarily, but it’s getting down on paper with the key leaders at your church not just big ideas about what we’re going to do in generalities, but very specific things that we are going to do as a church and as a church leadership to make efforts towards assimilation.

Get a process, document a process.

Now, it’s Automate a Process. Really, I say that comes in three main ways. Automated communication in the form of letters, emails and phone calls.

You may be thinking we’re doing all those things right now, but if your process heavily depends on somebody, church staff or church volunteer, remembering to do these things, if you’ve documented that you want to make sure we send a letter in the first week, an email in the second week and a phone call somewhere in between, but you don’t have any automation supporting that, you certainly run the risk of the best intentions not happening.

If we think in our Toy Story terms somebody’s going to get left behind simply because automation didn’t help you in the process.

This really does start to speak to what technology does your church have to be able to automate the processes you’ve come up with? Again, letters, emails, phone calls.

The automation process is going to depend on having technology that is flexible. Some software packages you may have or other technologies you have at your church, you may hit brick walls where you’ve got this wonderfully documented process, but you’re not able to really translate it into automation because you’re stuck with potentially terminology that is foreign to your church or processes that are very rigid in the technology.

The ability to automate it and then avoid those brick walls is going to be a real key to being able to leverage technology to serve assimilation.

Finally, the final thing says App and I’m reminded of the scene in Toy Story where Buzz arrives for the first time. As I said, that’s the whole concept of the movie, there’s this new toy, he comes.

When he first arrives, he’s looking around and everything is very different to what he’s used to and the other toys are looking at him and thinking you’re very different. I can’t help but think about how that is for people who visit churches.

Churches themselves are different. Your church may be very different than what this person grew up with if they didn’t grow up in a church at all, and your church is serving communion and reciting prayers. There’s a foreignness that has to be bridged and really that is at the heart of the assimilation process.

We have our documented, our automated, now a real enhancement to that can be and now I’m using the term properly here, gaving a church app. Having a church app is going to help you be, by default, relevant.

The degree and quality of your app is going to certainly say more and more, but just having one alone is going to help you in our culture be relevant. Getting the church app in the first place is the first step. It’ll show some relevance.

I’d say the second thing that if your app, if you already have one or if you’re looking to have one, the thing that you want to look for is can we communicate who we are as a church through the app? Can it say something about our church culture?

I’d say one of the great ways to do that is with video content. I think when people like Buzz, when he arrives in the room and he doesn’t know what’s going on, if he could pull up a video and watch and see, here’s how these people interact. Here’s Woody giving a speech. I would say the same thing about the people who come to your church.

If they can pull up a video that says, “There’s the pastor, and here’s what he speaks about,” it will help communicate your culture through a device that people are already very comfortable with. You’ve bridged the gap in many by simply having the app in the first place.

The final thing I would say that an app should have, if it’s going to really help with the assimilation process, is to have your church directory accessible through the app.

You may not want that to be available for everybody who downloads your app, so maybe it’s something that has to be given permission to get there, but once somebody is a part of your church being able to pull up a church directory is a great way for them to feel more comfortable.

Three ways. Relevance, culture, directory. Those are possible ways to have an app affect assimilation. In general I would say, the whole process related to assimilation, it can get a bad feeling associated with it.

When we think of assimilation we sometimes think of that movie, the Star Trek movie from back in the 1990s, I think it was called First Contact and there was this alien race called the Borg. The Borg said they were going to assimilate everyone and their general theme was your individuality will no longer be important and you’ll be part of the collective. If that term starts to lean that way it could not be something you really want your church to be associated with.

When we think assimilation what we really want to think about, what I like to think about, is really one of the final scenes from Toy Story which is Buzz has been through, pretty much been through the assimilation process. He really is part of the toys. There is a scene in the end where he and Woody end up flying through the sky and there’s fear, they think they’re going to fall, but they utilize an individuality that Buzz brings by the wings that pop out and they’re able to drift right where they want to be.

I would say that’s the beautiful thing about assimilation. All of these people coming to your church, shepherded through the process that you’ve developed, enhanced by the app that you potentially have, so that they can take what is individual about them and make your church what it’s supposed to be which is something that is pleasing to God.

Thanks for watching The Elexio Whiteboard. We’ll talk to you later.

Want to learn more about a mobile app for your church? Get started! 

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

How Technology Can Increase Church Giving

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It used to be as simple as passing the offering plate down the pew, and the church would exceed its budget twofold. But many factors—an uncertain economy, fluctuating attendance, and growing obsoleteness of checkbooks—have made giving a challenge for both members and the church.

Although contributions may take a dip, people still expect premium coffee in the foyer, and staff still need to be paid. This can lead to a difficult balance of covering costs without being perceived as a financially-driven church.

While you can pick and choose what expenses are important to your church and where you can cut corners, why not give your church the best chance to thrive financially so you can focus on ministry?

Here are a few ways to make it easy for your church community to give and practice good stewardship:

1. Giving Kiosks

Giving kiosks are increasing in popularity as people continue to trade in their cash and paper checks for plastic.

Many solutions allow users to designate contributions to a specific fund and pay with either a credit or debit card. They can log into their account to give, and when integrated with the church database, their giving record will be updated. Or someone who is visiting from out-of-town or does not want to be identified can quickly give anonymously.

Touch-screen kiosks are easy for anyone to use and can make connecting with the younger generation much simpler.

2. Mobile Giving

Always on the go and looking for the easiest way to accomplish every task, people are now paying for even their morning Starbucks through a mobile app. If they want such convenience for the sake of a macchiato, certainly they’d like the option to tithe from their smartphones.

A mobile app can allow your church community to give to the fund of their choosing as well as pay for an event upon registration. They can give whenever they remember from wherever they are—even from their seats during the offertory.

3. Online Giving

Many people now pay their bills online and would prefer to take care of their tithing the same way. Online giving allows donors to save their payment information—whether it’s a debit card, credit card, or bank account—and even set up recurring giving. Allowing people to set up an online account can mean more consistent giving for your church.

Online giving can also save a significant amount of time for your staff. When integrated with the church database, your people can view their giving history online and even print their own statements.

4. Recurring Giving & Bank Account Withdrawal

It’s easy for your people to remember to drop their offering in the plate as it passes, but what about when they’re sick at home or on vacation?

When they set up recurring giving, contributions will be consistent even if summer attendance isn’t. And while many people prefer to give with a credit card, you may want to encourage them to sign up for auto withdrawal from a bank account instead—it will allow your church to retain a higher percentage of those financial gifts.

For the most part, your church community does want to give, but it has to be easy and they need to remember. Help them give generously by suggesting these changes.

5. Financial Processing Services (FPS)

Another way your church may be able to keep more of the contributions it receives is by making a change to your merchant account. Your members may be giving ten percent, but how much of that is actually coming back to your church?

If you’re an Elexio client, switching to our Financial Processing Services (FPS) could save your church a significant amount on monthly processing fees. Cutting out the third party, Elexio can offer churches great rates and make reporting much faster and easier. It’s simple to sign up and make the switch, and your information is secure.

 

As technology advances, churches are adapting to maximize giving opportunities for their communities.

How is your church getting creative to foster consistent giving?

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

Getting The Most Out Of Sermons With SparkNotes App

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Have you ever panicked just before it’s time to get together with your small group to discuss the current sermon series?  You went to church, you tried your best to stay awake, but you just couldn’t keep up with all the twists and turns of the message.

Anyone who has experienced the frustration of trying to make sense of a disjointed sermon that rambles from the Old Testament to current events to the Middle Ages to the Oscars will appreciate what I am talking about.  Especially those who stayed up late Saturday night to watch the Midwest Regional of the NCAA tournament (was that painful or what?).  Thankfully, Elexio has provided a great solution: the Sermon SparkNotes Mobile App.

Perfect for anyone who needs a little help deciphering the latest sermon – and who hasn’t needed a little help from time to time – Elexio’s Sermon SparkNotes App records the sermon and breaks it down into talking points you can remember.

Points like:

  • The topic – Let’s face it, sometimes even that is hard to figure out.
  • Who Said What.
  • Biblical References (who can keep up?).
  • “The Top 5/7/10/20 Things God Wants You to Do” after hearing the message.
  • The pastor’s favorite sports team.

You are probably asking yourself, can an app really do this? Yes, it can!

As someone who participated in the Beta trial, I was able to secretly test out the app for 3 weeks.  The results were impressive.  My small group had no idea I was cheating, er, getting help.

Please tell us how you kept up with the message this week!” they begged. “I couldn’t figure out WHAT he was talking about – how did you?” “Pastor Paul said there were ‘5 Things God Wants You to Remember’ but I only counted 3.”

Results, however, were slightly suspect at times.  I have to say, the App seemed to overreach a bit and came up with a few study guide extras that made my group a little suspicious.

I don’t get how Pastor Paul’s reference to his favorite flavor of ice cream was a metaphor for Moses’ mad dash to Midian,” said my group leader Mark.  And, “How did you come up with a list of 20 literary devices found in this week’s message?”

Look, the App isn’t perfect but it sure beats showing up at small group meetings unprepared.  The App is also a great crutch for people who’ve always wanted to lead a small group but let their fear of not “getting” the sermon hold them back.

Some of my favorite features of the App include:

  • Full translation of the sermon into Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek (for the over achievers among us).
  • Optimized Offerings – let the pastor know you appreciated the shorter sermon this week with a little extra giving via the in-app contributions feature.
  • Optional homework completion – this is a paid feature but SO worth it.  Never show up to your small group meeting again without your homework done.
  • Lists of the pastor’s favorite Bible passages, authors, historical events, sports teams, etc.
  • Sample summaries to help you boil down the sermon into 10 words or less.

Interested in impressing your small group with Elexio’s Sermon SparkNotes App? It’s free. Download it now.

 

10 Ways To Encourage Church Volunteers Easter And Beyond

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Volunteers are a precious commodity for most non-profit organizations, including churches.  Anyone who has spent significant time volunteering knows the stats:  roughly 20% volunteer (do all the work) while the other 80% do not.  We begin to feel like Martha, complaining about our work load while Mary gets to enjoy listening to the message.

How do we find the balance between Martha and Mary?  How do we encourage more people to volunteer, not only at the busiest of times like Easter but throughout the year?

10 Ways to Encourage Volunteers

1.    Encourage and thank your existing volunteers.

The fastest way to lose the 20% who faithfully volunteer is to make them feel underappreciated.   Send a hand-written thank you note.  Host a volunteer appreciation breakfast, lunch or brunch.  Thank with a gift certificate for above and beyond service or hold a monthly drawing to select a winner for the month.  It is important to do something to make your volunteers feel appreciated.  Encourage them by taking the time to recognize their contributions.

2.    Ask

How often do you ask for volunteers?  Do you ask everyone at once during worship or do you assign lead volunteers to create a more personal invitation?  Do you encourage small groups to sign up to volunteer?  Sometimes getting more volunteers is simply a matter of asking.  Those of us with a Martha complex know deep down that often we take on too much by choice.  To encourage discipleship we must be willing to share the responsibility.

3.    Tell them your needs

How often do you keep your membership up-to-date on volunteer needs?  Are you updating your website, mobile app or self-service kiosk regularly with a list of current volunteer requests? Let your members and visitors know how they can access this information and make it readily available to them.

4.    Provide the right opportunity

Volunteers enjoy using their unique gifts to serve.  Whether it is a work skill (e.g. management/organization), a recreational talent they enjoy (e.g., photography), or something they simply have an aptitude for (e.g., carpentry), provide volunteers with opportunities best suited to their gifts and their personalities.   Some people like serving out front and have the perfect personality for greeting people and making them feel welcome.  Others prefer to work behind the scenes and prefer to be assigned specific tasks.  Whether you need to tap into someone’s artistic ability to design a new worship set or simply need people to set up tables and chairs, provide a variety of opportunities that volunteers can choose from and enjoy.

5.    Let them grow

Give volunteers an opportunity to try something new and learn from others.  Maybe someone has always wanted to help build a worship set but was too afraid to try.  If this is their first time helping, ease them into it by assigning a partner or mentor who can guide them or help them develop their talents.

6.    Make it Meaningful

A Barna Group study found that “the most positive church experiences among Millennials are relational.”  Of Millennials who remain active in church, 59% had a close adult friend at church and 28% had an adult mentor at church who was not a pastor or staff member.  Through these relationships, 46% learned that Christians can have a positive outcome on society.  Developing a volunteer mentor program can have a positive outcome on deepening faith for the next generation.

Millennials also want to contribute.  The same study found that 33% of Millennials who are active in church found a cause or issue at church that motivated them.  Do you know what motivates Millennials or anyone at your church to volunteer?

7.    Give them an opportunity to provide input

What do members and visitors feel most passionate about? Perhaps they’ve identified a need you haven’t.  Give them an opportunity to provide feedback.  There are numerous ways to do this: via social media, a comment form on your website, through small group leaders, or during worship (have fun asking people to text their thoughts and share as part of a sermon message on the topic).   Ask and respond by providing opportunities for people to get involved.

8.    Track participation

Intentions and reality are two different things.  Do you know which volunteer opportunities resulted in the most participation?  Did the time of year make a difference?  Which age groups participated?  Did some events attract entire groups – e.g., families, small groups, boy/girl scouts, etc. – to participate?  Track and evaluate participation then adapt your volunteer opportunities accordingly.

9.    Plan ahead

Yes, too many of us are overscheduled and overcommitted.  Accept it and work with it.  Plan ahead.  Ministry leaders need to work together to plan volunteer opportunities tied to its mission.  They need to coordinate calendars to understand church-wide needs for the year.  Avoid scheduling major events close together.  Both staff and volunteers suffer from burnout when asked to do too much in too short of a period.  Be considerate of their time and give them sufficient time to coordinate and balance their work schedule, family time and volunteer service.

10.     Give them a break

We all deserve time off.  A shallow volunteer pool is not sufficient reason to exhaust your most faithful and dedicated helpers.  Reward them by insisting that they schedule time off from their regular volunteer schedule.  Resist the temptation to ask them to participate in every big event at the church.  Encourage them to each enlist one new person to serve.

Developing discipleship through volunteers is critical to church growth.  Take a step back and consider if a fresh approach to attracting and retaining volunteers is required.

Need help connecting with volunteers?  Contact us.

Mobile Technology And The Church

Americans are now using smartphones and tablets more than PCs to access the Internet. During January 2014, mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States and 12% of America’s media consumption.  By the end of 2014 it is expected that more than 79% of Internet users worldwide will access the Web from a mobile device.

Apps comprised nearly half (47%) of all Internet traffic during January 2014 and mobile browsers accounted for 8% of traffic.  In contrast to mobile websites, which are accessed within a browser, mobile apps are downloaded and installed on smartphones and tablets.  They can access information from the Internet or they enable a user to download content so that it can be retrieved without an Internet connection.  Mobile apps are preferred over mobile websites by an overwhelming majority of users (85%) because they are perceived as:

  • Faster (48%)
  • Easier (40%)
  • More convenient (55%)

So what does faith in a mobile world look like?

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Need help identifying mobile solutions? Elexio has an integrated suite of solutions that will help your staff be more efficient, connect with your community, grow, and relate to a constantly changing demographic. Contact us!

3 Ways Mobile Technology Helps Missionaries

Brian was absent from our small group one night this past February. He was in Nepal, 7,700 miles away, helping a leprosy clinic with some technology needs. But he still showed up at our meeting halfway through.

Using FaceTime on his iPad, Brian called our small-group leader’s iPhone. As the leader held up his phone so we could all see the screen, we had a face-to-face, real-time conversation with Brian.

This kind of event has quickly become commonplace, and thank God for it. Missionaries who are traveling can now maintain connection as their trip unfolds with their stateside church family through their church’s mobile app.  Significant resources are provided by Elexio to all its database customers with an iPhone/Android native mobile app. With it they can research their church directory and find contact information. They can make online contributions. And soon they’ll be able to review the latest church media and other relevant event information.

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photo credit: iStockphoto

This is exciting! This is amazing! This is Star Wars stuff!

Now, I may or may not be old enough to have been amazed at the physical possibility of hologram messages and hovering speeder bikes. Today’s generation is more blasé about what technology makes possible; it’s been part of their everyday lives for years.

But regardless of our age, all of us who care about missionaries can be excited about the new possibilities mobile technology has opened up for these servants around the world.

The new tools of the trade

The first missionaries (St. Paul and friends) had some technology available to them—mostly parchment, boats, sandals, and Roman roads. Compared to those things, the tools in the hands of today’s missionaries are almost breathtaking.

What technologies are we talking about?

•    Phones (satellite, smart phones)

•    Digital video/webcams

•    Web, including VoIP—Voice Over Internet Protocol

•    iPad/tablets/laptops/netbooks

•    Pocket-sized video projectors

•    E-readers/Cloud-based document sources

•    Web-based funds management

What might Paul have done with all of that!

Tech helps missionaries to communicate

Instant communication is probably the capability we are most aware of. Missionaries can post photos of the environment they’re living in and the people they’re working with. They can give real-time reports to missions committees and church gatherings. They can send out urgent prayer requests and updates instantly via email and text messages. They can receive urgent security notifications and updates on the field.

They also can:

•    Post status updates to social media

•    Chat via video apps with supporters, friends, and family

•    Share testimonies instantly with a virtual worldwide audience. (No more waiting for a quarterly newsletter or furlough!)

Tech helps them to learn and teach

Free apps like YouVersion (www.youversion.com) provide a growing number of Bible versions and other study tools. With the massive amounts of data storage on e-readers, tablets, and smart phones, a missionary can carry his or her entire library everywhere.

With web access, their research options are almost unlimited. Distance learning and distance teaching, impossible not all that long ago, are common on more and more mission fields. Highly portable video and audio allow them to train, to communicate, and to document their work wherever they go.

Tech helps to broaden their support

A family health issue required a missionary friend of mine to return to the States for several years. By using a VPN (Virtual Private Network), he had the same access to his mission agency’s computer network as he’d had when he was living on the Pacific Rim. He was able to continue his language support to the teammates he’d worked alongside on the field.

Digital technology has made it possible for missionaries to report needs and raise funds for special projects faster than ever before, since they can easily send photos and video updates to all of their supporters. With a decent Internet connection, these servants of Christ have access to supplies and resources of all kinds, both material and spiritual.

Power tools

To paraphrase the Apostle John, “Behold what manner of technology the Father has lavished upon us!” Now, as every missionary would attest, the power is not in the tools, but in God’s Spirit, and in our prayers for them. Yet when our prayers and God’s Spirit energize their use, these tools are mighty in the hands of Christ’s servants around the world.

How has your church equipped your missionaries with the technology they need?