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?

Whiteboard: Google’s Changing The Rules For Websites

Video Transcription:

Hi, welcome to an Elexio Whiteboard. In 1935, the company Parker Brothers created the game Monopoly, and they say, if you believe their website, one billion people have played that game since 1935. I bet some of you are some of that one billion. I know I am. It’s been many years for me, and I started thinking about it. I don’t even own a game of Monopoly anymore. If I went to the store and bought it, took it home, started playing, I would jump right in and start playing without reading the rules, which is probably a bad idea. What if Parker Brothers had changed the rules and I didn’t even know about it? There was a way they made the game more fun, or maybe there’s a new way that you actually win at the game.

Today in our Whiteboard, we are talking about a rule change that’s potentially way more important than the rules of a game changing. And that is a change by Google in how they rank search results. If you know anything about Google, they have a variety of algorithms out there, that when you search on their browser, they rank their results. Have you ever wondered why some things come up first and then something else is second and on down? Of course, you can pay Google and you can pay to be on top, but I am talking about the true, organic search results that are returned to you. These algorithms that Google has do a ranking off of a lot of criteria, the criteria way too detailed for us to go into in this particular Whiteboard. What we are really talking about is search engine optimization. But back to the rule change.

Google has announced a new rule that could impact your church. The rule relates to whether or not your site is mobile-friendly, and the rule only applies to search results delivered on mobile devices so think smartphones, think tablets. Okay, let’s talk about a real world example of what I mean. When this rule goes into effect, which if you are scoring at home, the rule goes into effect on April 21st of 2015. Well, for interest, I Googled the word church on my smartphone today, the day we are taping this video. It delivered several results to me, and one of the things that I noticed that Google noted for me is that some of the sites that it came back and told me it put a word in front of the description that said they were mobile-friendly. These are some church names although I changed the names so it’s not anybody who is local to me, but let’s just pretend that the Ascension Church came up first and it notes, “Hey, it’s mobile-friendly.” Engage Church came up second, not mobile-friendly so there isn’t this little indication. Wikipedia entry came up as third and it did say that they were mobile-friendly. We’ll just abbreviate it as mobile. Bethel Church came up fourth, not mobile-friendly. Park City Church, mobile-friendly.

Okay, so what does all this mean? With the rule change that’s coming, right now, Google is being kind. They are giving the browser information so if you are using your smartphone, you can know, hey I am going to have a really good experience on Ascension Church’s website through my phone because it is mobile-friendly. When the rule change goes into effect, it’s going to cause the results to reorder. So Engage Church coming up second right now, probably not. I am going to say they are going to move down, certainly into fifth place in this example but maybe even further down because I only am listing one through five. The sixth result could have also been mobile friendly and that might push Engage Church down to second page which you certainly don’t want to be on a second page of Google’s results. That’s the rule change that it is coming so now the question is what do I do about it? What do you mean by mobile-friendly?

Well, the first thing I would suggest is you got to figure out whether you are mobile-friendly or not. There’s a great tool that Google has created. If you’ll just simply go on to the internet and Google mobile-friendly tester or mobile-friendly check. A lot of searches will get you ultimately to a page created by Google, and they will tell you whether they think your site is mobile-friendly. All you have to do is put in the church’s website address and push go, and it comes back and it tells you the results. So my encouragement to you is the first thing you need to do is find out is your site mobile-friendly and I also encourage you don’t just do your homepage. Look at your other pages that might make sense. So you can test any of the URLs from your church’s website. Ultimately you are going to get results mobile-friendly or not and then you come to the point at which you got to do something.

You know we have used the example here of the rules changing in Monopoly. Well, if you just ignore it, you are going to play that game all wrong. You can’t afford to ignore this. Well, once you find out mobile-friendly or not, then you got to look for help. And that really starts with where is your current website coming from? If you are using a third party, a guy in the church or some marketing agency, you need to contact them and talk about the word responsive. That’s really what you want to look for. You want your site to be responsive. Elexio can help with that if you are kind of lost and you don’t have a place, Elexio is a provider of a CMS tool. That’s content management system or software, and we can help you change your church’s website. But there are other companies as well. The important point is find out first and then develop a game plan. We actually have another Whiteboard that we talk a little bit about responsive website and what some of those solutions are there.

Now, you may be listening to all this and talking about rule changes and even the comparison to a game makes you just sort of feel like aw, church stuff like this shouldn’t be a competition. You know maybe you think well, let’s just let it all kind of just happen naturally. So what if Engage Church ends up down here? Well, I would suggest that maybe you’re right. Maybe you shouldn’t think of it like a competition, but let me challenge you with this. Let’s pretend this is your church’s building and you probably, I am going to guess like most churches, you certainly care whether or not it looks good. So what if the window broke, you would of course, immediately fix it. I mean, there’s a lot of reasons why you would probably fix it, but aesthetics could certainly be one of them. What if the paint in the front was sort of crackling and you are like that doesn’t look very good, you do something about it or really drastic things. What if a gutter fell off? Well, you are going to fix those things because you want your church building to look good, and I would say the same thing about your web presence. If it doesn’t look good, it says something about who your church is.

Well again, just a quick summary. Google is changing the rules. April 21st mobile friendly matters a whole lot more than it used to. Used to be something they presented as a, “Oh, by the way, this site is mobile-friendly.” In the future, when this algorithm goes into effect, it’s going to change the way they rank results. So thanks for watching an Elexio Whiteboard. If you need help, we are glad to help. But get somebody to help you solve a lack of mobile-friendliness in your church’s website.

Check out How to Make Your Website 100% Mobile-Friendly Before Google’s Update on April 21st for more details!

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Why Your Church Should Make The Switch To A Responsive Website

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Did you know that 25% of Americans will only access the internet from mobile devices? By the end of 2014, 79% of all online traffic is expected to go through mobile devices. And it’s not just teenagers—56% of American adults own a smartphone. Does your church have a responsive website to accommodate all that mobile traffic?

What is responsive design?

Responsive web design refers to a website that will automatically adjust to fit the device a viewer is using—“one site for every screen.” So whether you’re pulling up your church website on an iPhone or a desktop, you’ll largely see the same content, but in the ideal format for that particular screen size.

But we have a mobile app!

A mobile app typically provides tools like event registration, giving, and check-in for the church community. As Steve Fogg explains, church apps “are for insiders, mobile web is for outsiders. That means that if a church is on a mission it should also create an experience crafted for the great commission.”

So while a mobile app is a wise investment for your church, it’s your website that will make the first impression to potential visitors. If they’re just trying to learn more about you before they attend a service, why would they install your app—or even know you have one?

Why Responsive Design?

Some churches are sticking to their regular websites and are not adjusting to the shift toward mobile. Others are opting for mobile websites. But responsive design is still the best option for most churches.

  • FOR VISITORS

If a website is not responsive and requires a lot of pinching or scrolling, 99.5% of mobile userswill not proceed past the homepage.

A responsive design usually renders the best experience for mobile users. Mobile sites require a redirect which will slow down load speeds—and most people won’t wait. But they’ll probably stick around longer with the improved usability of a responsive website.

And with only one URL—rather than a separate URL for a mobile website—responsive websites offer simplicity to potential visitors.

A responsive site will also provide a more consistent and fluid user experience.

  • FOR YOUR CHURCH

Although a responsive website could mean some extra work or cost for your church in the beginning, it will be much easier to manage in the long run. You’ll only have to manage and maintain one website—rather than two separate sites—and duplicate content won’t be an issue.

It also means only one SEO campaign to monitor. If you’re sending people to both a desktop site and a mobile site, you’ll do twice the work to get people there. With a responsive website, all links will go to that single site rather than splitting traffic, and your organic search traffic won’t be negatively impacted.

Responsive design is also Google’s recommended configuration. Googlebots will only need to crawl your responsive website once (rather than multiple times with different agents for a mobile site). According to Google’s Webmasters, “this improvement in crawling efficiency can indirectly help Google index more of the site’s contents and keep it fresh.”

In fact, your website could be penalized if you don’t adjust. Google is currently testing a variety of methods to help mobile users identify mobile-friendly websites in search results. But these changes could also negatively impact websites that don’t respond well to mobile devices.

With 67.5% of search engine queries coming through Google, you’ll want to keep them happy.

With one URL, one set of content, one code, and one experience for all devices, responsive design is probably the best option for your church.

 

Check out these resources for more information on responsive websites:

Mobile Responsive Church Website Design 101

Responsive Mobile Design for Your Church 

Whiteboard: Ugly Church Websites

A lot of churches struggle to create websites with great design and function. In today’s Whiteboard session, Elexio team member Rodney discusses what makes a church website ugly and what you can do if your church is making those mistakes.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to an Elexio Whiteboard. Today we are talking about ugly which can be a bit of a sensitive topic. If I’m saying your baby is ugly, or your shirt is ugly, you might feel a little offended by that. Hopefully, you won’t be offended today when we talk about ugly church websites. And before you turn off the video thinking that, “Hey, my site looks great,” we’re going to talk about how sites can be ugly on the outside and ugly on the inside. Let’s get started with outside ugliness.

One of the fastest ways you can make your site ugly on the outside is an overuse of kingdom color. What I mean by that is there are colors that the church uses: royal blue, purple, maroon, deep red. Those are some of the colors that we sometimes associate with Jesus. It’s a great thing for the Easter cantata, not such a good thing for your church website. If you’ve overused or exclusively used kingdom colors on your site, it’s a great way to get started down the path of an ugly church website.

Let’s look at number two, warped faces. You know, I love it when I go to a church’s website and they’ve chosen to put the staff directory on the site. It’s a great way to connect and feel like you maybe know these people and really get used to who the pastors are, but it can really go wrong if those faces look like this or like this. They’re all stretched out one way or another, or maybe they’re a little fuzzy. Well, that’s a sign that when you loaded up the picture it didn’t fit properly. And things go wrong when we don’t pay attention to the quality of our photographs on our site. So if you’re looking for ways to make sure that your church website isn’t ugly on the outside, take a hard look at the photos that you are using. Are they fuzzy? Are they warped? You’re down a path of ugliness if they are.

Number three, I’ve seen that guy. What I mean by that is in my line of work I have an opportunity to visit a lot of church websites. I’ll notice that the same photos are used on different sites. And it’s the use of stock photography, which certainly has its place, but if you take a look at your site and it’s exclusively using stock photography, you may have a problem. Also, I would say, take a look at the churches in your area. Look at their sites. If you see some of the same pictures being used, you have the potential of ugliness on your website because you overused stock photography.

The last way that you might make your church website ugly on the outside really relates to content as opposed to design. Most of these things are about design. Papa Bear here is a way that you can make your site ugly on the outside because it has too much content. Or I might say in Papa Bear terms, it’s hot with content, because we know Papa Bear’s porridge was just too hot. Your home page can get in that same way if you’ve tried to put everything there. You’re talking about upcoming events, and what your church’s methods are, and beliefs are, and you’ve got a thousand pictures, and all those things, and you’ve overloaded your home page. You may have good choices here but a bad choice here, you’ve got Papa Bear syndrome and your website has stepped over into the world of ugly.

Well, there are potentially other ways that your site could be ugly. Here’s what I would say to fix it. Gather a team of people who are willing to speak frankly about what the site looks like. Take a hard look. Look at other sites of churches in your community across the nation and then get help of some sort. There are professional organizations that can help you. Find a pathway to solve these problems. It’s really not that hard.

Now, let’s look at something that is a little bit harder, though. What if your church website is ugly on the inside? Now, what I mean by that is, first of all, Web 2.0, and it came and you missed it. Now, I know what some of you are doing, because you’re that kind of folks. You’re out looking for some update you were supposed to install to the internet that is Web 2.0. That’s not what that means. It’s simply a phrase to refer to a movement in websites that would make them more interactive. Think Facebook. I mean, that’s the poster child of Web 2.0.

But church websites can do it as well. I’ll give you an example. Wouldn’t it be great if your regular attenders could hit your website and not only do online donations but be able to run their own contribution statement right from your site, and not just for things they’ve given online, for all types of gifts. That’s a great way to simply make your website 2.0 compatible.

There’s others. How about small groups? Could you give your small group leaders the ability to take attendance from your website for the small group meeting that’s happening at their house? That’s also a great way to make your site lovely on the inside, because it has functionality for the people who attend your church. Web 2.0 strategies, those are some things. And there are many more. Dream up what could our site be as a resource for our church. Web 2.0.

The third way, I think, your site can be or could be ugly on the inside is one size fits some. In other words, your site is one size fits some. Now, you may have already noticed on the video that I have an extremely large head. When I go to buy hats, I’ll sometimes pick up a hat that says one size fits all. And I pick up the hat thinking it’s going to fit great, and I put it on, and it doesn’t, because it’s really one size fits some. And I would say the same thing about some of your website. If your site doesn’t respond well to mobile device traffic, in other words somebody visits your site through a mobile device and they have to do a lot of pinching and scrolling to make it look right and even see what the content is, your site isn’t responding well to mobile devices. You can solve that problem. You can make your site, have design that fixes that problem.

The third thing that I would say could make your site be ugly on the inside is Fernando’s Hideaway. Now, stick with me here. There was a skit on Saturday Night Live done by Billy Crystal, and the guy’s name was Fernando. He hosted a show, and he was over the top, he spoke with an Argentinian accent, and he had a catchphrase at the end of his show. And the catchphrase was this, “I’d rather look good than feel good any day.”

And I would say that the same thing happens with some websites, and it’s actually the opposite of the problems we talked about over here. You’ve gone so far down the path of great design that you’ve forgotten that 43% of the people who visit your site, any site, all church sites, those people are looking for your service times. If you’ve made it so cool that they don’t see this quickly, you may have a site that has gone ugly on the inside because it’s not helping the people who visit it.

There’s other ways that you could make an ugly on the inside mistake. There are other ways you can make an ugly on the outside mistake. We’ve just mentioned some of them here today. The key point for all of these is you need to be the hero at your church. And I would say that you can do that simply by gathering a group of people together, taking that frank look, and then finally get some help. There are ways to help here. These are potentially a little more complex. This is one of those areas you’ve got to look at your church management softwareand see does it connect potentially with our website, and if it doesn’t what are we going to do about that.

Well, I want to close by just simply saying this is Biblical. Now, I may be out there a little bit, because I know what you’re thinking, “There’s nothing in the Bible about good design or websites at all,” and I agree, there’s certainly not. But there are things that talk about that the folks who are singers in any service where we’re honoring and worshiping God, that those people should be well trained. The Old Testament specifically talks about that.

And I would say the same thing about these. This is the modern world, and if your site has ugliness in one way or another, and you’re just trying to solve it on your own, you could be in danger of not having a fix. So, again, be the hero at your church. Thanks for watching an Elexio Whiteboard.

Need help with your church website? We can help! 

Video transcription by Speechpad.com