Tag Archives: Church

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How to include all staff members in financial stewardship

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Talking about financial budgets isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite subject. When it comes to your church, however, it’s a discussion to engage in with more than just top leaders of your congregation.

Depending on how your church is structured, department or ministry leaders might have some involvement in the annual budgeting process. You may also have a finance committee consisting of church elders who are involved as well.

Also, inviting church staff to participate in developing the budget can prove beneficial long term. By allowing employees to help create the budget, they’re able to better understand the decision-making process and the challenges that come with it. Another bonus: It can also show them how to be better financial stewards.

As you begin planning for your next annual budget, here are some ways to get employees engaged in the budgeting process.

Step No.1: Ask each department to provide their ideal budget for the upcoming year

Have staff members consider the following factors:

  • What events do we want to host this year, and what are the anticipated expenses for each?
  • Do we need to hire additional staff or add more contractors?
  • What conferences or training do we need to be more effective?
  • Do we need to upgrade or replace computers, software, or other technology?
  • How does this budget align with the church’s overarching vision and goals for the year?
  • How does this budget align with our department’s efforts in supporting the church’s vision?

Step No. 2: Request explanations

For budget line items over a set dollar amount, ask for an explanation on why that item is needed and how they arrived at that dollar amount.

Step No. 3: Consolidate and evaluate

Once you’ve consolidated these into a single budget for the church, decide whether that budget is realistic.

For example, does past church income from donations indicate you’d have enough money to cover these expenses? If not, ask each department to prioritize and identify areas to cut.

Step No. 4: Implement accountability

Once you have a final budget that’s approved by church leadership, hold each department accountable to that monthly budget.

  • When an employee submits a Purchase Request, he/she should reference whether this expense is within the budget or not (and if not, why).
  • Provide a monthly budget vs. actual report to each department leader and request explanations for any significant variances.
  • Ensure the person(s) responsible for planning events have the appropriate budget information and monitor spending for each event.

This plan to engaging employees can guide your staff toward a better understanding of the church budget and their role in financial stewardship. It may at first seem a bit out of their comfort zone, but the rewards of financial accountability are worth the effort.

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7 tips for creating a print handout that works

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The church loves print materials! Historically, church communication revolved around the bulletin. When announcements were made, often a bulletin was referred to. Why? Because it was the only way for families to be reminded of ministry activity.

But problems come with print materials: they take a lot of time to prepare, they cost a lot to reproduce, they get misplaced easily, and they get outdated quickly.

And when they do? It’s impossible to supply a corrected substitute to replace the original. Another more obscure issue with print materials? You can’t track if they’re read — or even how much time is spent with them. We often fall into an unfounded confidence of “because I gave them a print handout, they will know.”

Today, most people prefer to go to the internet and discover the information rather than find where they put the handout. But the problem with websites? Older demographics resist them.

So, since most churches are comprised of many older people, print handouts are around for at least another 10+ years. So, let’s discuss ways to create effective print handouts:

1. Know who the intended audience is.

Understand who you want to pick up and digest the content of your handout. Imagine they’re in front of you with very little time.

2. Discuss what the purpose of the handout is.

Since your audience has mere seconds of attention span, know the most important information and what they need to know. It all goes back to who the handout is intended for and what they would be attracted to.

3. Collect the required materials to serve the purpose.

Now, think of everything you’ll need to fulfill the purpose of the handout and ensure it is high quality.

4. Professionally layout the material.

Don’t have layout or design skills? Be careful. If something looks badly, it’ll reflect on the quality of the ministry behind the handout.

Other solutions? Ask a freelancer, hire a designer, or use prepackaged templates for a desired computer program.

5. Know foundational brand elements and use them.

This is critical! Every communication piece should build your church’s brand (what you’re known for). Know how logos should be used, color restrictions, and font restrictions. No restrictions? Then you don’t have a church brand (so fix that!).

6. Edit. Edit. Edit. Calm everything down.

The calmer it is, the more time someone is likely to spend on it. Since most have little time, they risk missing important information. Do whatever it takes to get them to spend more time.

Like great pictures that extend the story and captivate attention. Allow white space so nothing feels cramped. Don’t have any unnecessary word or concept. Keep things simple.

7. Concentrate on “what now?”

Your audience will skim over the handout quickly. If they’re interested at all, they’ll want to do something. Know what that is and make sure you’re clear.

Examples of call to actions? Register on our website. Call the church. Or bring a friend!

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4 tips to simplify planning for Christmas

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You see it year after year: More people filling in your pews for the Christmas service. Some are coming to make their obligatory annual church appearance, while others are faithful members who are eager to participate in the traditions of a Christmas Eve service.

Though having more people fill the sanctuary is a good thing; seeing a noticeable decline in attendance after the holiday can be discouraging.

However, this attendance spike at Christmas is an opportunity to turn your unchurched guests into active church members.

One way to do this is by planning a memorable Christmas service that motivates and inspires. Through preparation and prayer, pulling off such a service is not only possible but enjoyable.

Here are four tips on how to make planning for Christmas easier and less stressful:

Tip No. 1: Start Now

It’s summer, and you’re knee deep in Vacation Bible School, back-to-school events, and summer camp activities. Christmas in July is a fun phrase to throw around, but never one you thought to take seriously.

However, if you wait until November to start planning your Christmas service, you’ll be mired in Christmas burnout come Thanksgiving. Trying to plan last minute can lead to long evening hours, excessive time away from family, and a harder time securing volunteers.

That’s why setting aside time now — when the holiday decor is still tucked away in a back room somewhere — to plan Christmas celebrations is the ideal way to smoothly plan a memorable service. After all, it’s Christmas, and being so stressed, we forget its importance doesn’t make for a great atmosphere in which to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Tip No. 2: Reflect on Prior Years

Since this probably isn’t your first Christmas rodeo, reflecting on last year’s service will help you know how to improve for this year. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team as you look at prior years:

  • How did you, your team, and your volunteers feel in December and once Christmas was over? Were you exhausted and irritated with each other? If so, why and how can you prevent those issues this year?
  • How did the Christmas events turn out? Was your attendance as high as you expected?
  • What feedback did you receive from church members?

Also, if you had a lessons learned meeting afterward, refer to those notes and see what the team mentioned during those sessions. Reviewing your team’s immediate feedback will be much more valuable than trying to reflect months later.

Based on this information, move to Tip No. 3 and decide what’s most important.

Tip No. 3: Decide What’s Most Important

Did your church hold a Christmas outreach in mid-December, a Christmas children’s play, a concert, a nativity production, and multiple services on Christmas Eve? If you answered yes to most of the above, then perhaps reducing the number of Christmas events can help you stay focused on creating fewer, yet more meaningful ones.

In addition to the reflection you did in Tip No. 2, ask yourself these questions:

  • As a church, what are you trying to accomplish in December?
  • Do you want to serve the community and invite them to attend Christmas services?
  • Does a big Christmas production make sense for your congregation and budget?

Once you know what you want to accomplish, narrow down your event list accordingly. Be brutally honest as a team about which events were successful versus which ones are simply “what we’ve always done.”

Tip No. 4: Gather an Event Planning Team

An event planner can be the difference between a successful event and a failed one. Designate an event planner to coordinate all the detailed tasks, deadlines, and communication between the church departments that will be involved with Christmas celebrations.

For churchwide holiday events, make sure you have a representative on the team from each department, including finance, communications, facilities, and other behind-the-scenes groups.

Also, invite volunteers to be a part of the planning process instead of just day-of responsibilities. Last but not least, make sure to track progress and hold people accountable to deadlines set by the event planner. And no, the fact that “Christmas is months away” isn’t a good excuse for missing a deadline.

The opportunity to turn non-church-goers into active members is a mission worth planning for. Summer preparation sessions will go a long way in helping you create a Christmas service to remember — and it’ll give a whole new meaning to Christmas in July.

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10 do’s and don’ts for church communicators’ sanity

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Summer’s winding down and the fall is taking over discussions. In this short lull before the chaos of programs starting back up, it’s a good time to decide you’ll do certain things and put others on a don’t list.

The church communicator juggles a ton of responsibilities, and our personalities are different from others we work with. That means we can go crazy if we aren’t careful!

Here are do’s and don’ts to remain sane in our crazy communication world:

Do stop trying to please everyone.

While producing creative materials, you can convince yourself that you can make everyone happy. But it can’t be done.

Instead, concentrate on audience response as your goal. And focus on pleasing yourself with the satisfaction of doing the best you can.

Do establish organization and schedule.

Set realistic expectations for deliverables and commit to being on time. Develop a regular, personal schedule and understand when you’re most productive and protect that time.

And organize everything! Name Photoshop layers, create easy to find folder systems, and never put something down (in your office or on the desktop); always put things away.

Do set boundaries.

You (with a friend or spouse) need to decide reasonable parameters, or else you’ll risk losing yourself in your job.

Next? Discuss them kindly with your boss. Agree or compromise with the plan — or perhaps (sadly) you should be looking for another job (or career).

Do show interest in others and be kind.

You probably think about your job 24/7 (I even dream about it!). Stop.

Instead, think about ministries all around you. Pray for them. Ask their leaders questions. Get involved. Make your job about serving them. And in the hectic pace; always, always be kind.

Do know why you exist in the church.

Not in the local church you serve; instead, know how you help the Kingdom. What would happen if you didn’t exist? You do have value!

God has uniquely gifted you to be part of His plan — understand it and write it down. Review it regularly.

Don’t let your job affect your faith.

Many become disillusioned in their role to the point that they want to leave their job and the church. Your faith is more important than your job.

Be willing to walk away from the job, but not your faith. Work as much on your faith as you do your job.

Don’t be negative.

Ever. You can say no without being negative. If you can’t, you need to adjust your thoughts.

Don’t think you’re alone.

Work as a team with everyone and seek collaboration often. Realize there are thousands doing what you’re doing. Learn from them and others.

Don’t allow others to rob your joy.

This required mindset is more about seeking to understand others rather than to be offended by them. Most don’t do it vindictively!

Don’t compare.

Nothing good comes from comparison. You either get prideful or fall into despair. Do the best with what you have and check audience responses (to realize success).

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Every church needs this type of calendar

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When our kids got busy in sports, school, church, and with friends, events would regularly pop up at the last minute. The confusion of having necessary and optional meetings, coupled with our already busy lives, drove us to developing a family calendar that everyone shared on computers and phones.

This very simple addition calmed our family’s chaos and created a simple go-to area for planning — plus it gave us the ability to say no to something because of conflicts on the calendar.

Your church needs this, too. Except the church’s “family calendar” is called a “communication calendar.” It’s the building block of a communication strategy. Here are five criteria for a successful church communication calendar.

Internal.

Your calendar is intentionally for inside eyes. Sure, many of the things on this calendar will be promoted on an external calendar eventually, but I’d suggest that because of the inclusivity and tiering, you probably want it to be available for only those who are creating events in your church. This way you never have to be scared at what gets listed in the notes.

Inclusive.

All events that are conducted for your members or greater community need to be on this calendar. All! When someone decides to omit something, the system breaks down. It’s good to list other, nonchurch events that affect your members and community, too!

Timely.

When should the event be added to the calendar? This is up to you, but the earlier the better for events intended for “all church members” or “almost everyone.”

Certainly, based on the tier, your members, and your communication requirements, you need to make sure that the event is added to the calendar early to give your church time to adequately plan and promote the event.

Tiered.

Every event needs to be tiered based on how large the potential audience is. The more people that need to be reached, the more it’s a Tier 1 event.

The smaller the audience, the more it decreases in priority. Events can contain a T1 (T2 or T3) or a color code so people quickly know if the event is “all church,” “all ministry,” or a tertiary event for smaller segments.

The all-church events (T1) get the loudest voice and therefore the most promotion (more channels and materials).

Accessible.

The calendar must be available to everyone who creates church events. It helps them determine timing, so they don’t compete with other ministries. Most importantly, it helps ease the load on busy families in your church.

We must stop adding stress to our families when they’re trying to juggle their nonchurch lives with a busy church calendar! Should the calendar be digital? Google, Outlook or Apple offer possibilities that make a lot of sense — but it could be a physical calendar that is kept by an assistant, or a large whiteboard that people come and look at.

Should anyone have direct calendar access if they want to add an event? Many churches have restricted access so that someone helps them decide what’s acceptable before adding an event.

But it’s entirely up to you! The calendar should enable ministry to happen when its most beneficial to your members and not in a restrictive sense. Plus, it starts the process of promotion (which should be exciting!).

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Preparing for back-to-school and other fall events

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As the days of summer set in, you’re probably already thinking about the transition into the busy season ahead. Your summer calendars are most likely getting a nice break from constant activity, but now is the time to get your fall event schedules in order.

Here’s how to prepare for back-to-school and other fall events:

Step No. 1: Review the Church Calendar

Hopefully, church leadership has already decided which events to host this fall. If not, here are a few factors to consider when deciding what events will make the final cut.

·Have the events currently on the calendar been formally approved? If not, discuss whether those events will happen or not.

·Are there any additional events we should consider? What are they and when should we host them?

·Remember that white space on the calendar isn’t a bad thing. Don’t pack the schedule so tightly that you risk wearing out staff and volunteers in the process.

Step No. 2: Assign an Event Planner to Each Event

Once the event calendar is approved, assign someone to be the point person for each event. This role involves working with the hosting ministry department to clarify the purpose and goals for the event, gathering task information from each group that needs to be involved (facilities, communication, security, childcare, etc.), coordinating tasks, and keeping leadership up-to-date on the team’s progress.

Here’s a more detailed description of the role and value of an event planner.

Step No. 3: Create a Plan

In the same way a business plan is important to the success of a new business, an event plan is important to the success of an event. Experienced event planners know this and will be able to create a plan of execution not only for your event on the day it happens but for the entire planning process leading up to it.

This plan will include things like when to have meetings with the planning team, who will be in charge of certain items, and deadlines for all tasks.

Step No. 4: Invite Volunteers to Join the Team

What’s one of the necessary ingredients to pulling off a great church event? Volunteers. It is so crucial to recruit volunteers to support in planning, setup, and day-of efforts.

This will not only give your members an opportunity to get involved with church functions, making them more connected, but also help your event planner to stay within budget due to little or no labor costs.

One thing to consider when inviting volunteers to join your planning team is getting them committed early. Don’t wait until a few weeks or days before the event. Get on their schedules well in advance to avoid a last-minute scramble, which can lead to high volunteer turnover.

Step No. 5: Work the Plan

Though it may seem obvious, the final step to preparing for back-to-school and other fall events is to work the plan you’ve put in place. This is where the planning team will complete tasks assigned to them in order to prepare for a successful event day.

The event planner should be checking in periodically throughout this process to make sure everyone is on track with executing tasks and meeting deadlines.

The fall season is an exciting time for churches. With a new school year comes anticipation and renewed energy. If your congregation has lacked proper event planning processes in the past, make it your goal this summer to develop a more organized system for a smoother transition into the fall months to come.

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6 steps to great church video

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People love video. If your church communication does not contain video, you need to start considering how to add it to your mix. But it’s a difficult thing to do!

Writing is simple compared to good photography, but video adds even more complexity that’s very difficult to master.

In order to shoot and edit a great video it requires, at minimum, a smartphone, an external microphone, and some editing software. However, lighting must be considered if shooting indoors.

Many churches now have a few people who understand light, and edit and produce videos (either on staff, on a volunteer team, or under contract). However, great videos always start with a great story that needs to be discovered or written. Start small and work toward more complex videos as required!

For a great, basic video that tells a compelling story, here are six steps:

Know your audience.

Think about who will want (or need) to watch the video. Consider where it will play based on where the audience is. It can be in person, online, social media, or at a kiosk.

Once you know your audience, consider why they need to watch and the journey you must take them on (i.e., start where they are and what they need to understand or change during the video).

Focus on one need.

Sure, they’ll be a lot of needs in their lives, but a short-form video should only focus on one of them. In the journey you’re taking them on, you have to know the most important need. Resist focusing on two things.

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Like everything you do in communication, you must not post or print anything in its original (raw) form. Everything needs editing and especially a video. Think poetry and not prose.

Consider your half-listening, low attention-span audience and make videos as short as possible. Use just enough time to tell the story eliminating all unnecessary elements that extend the time or leads to complexity.

Based on where it’ll be viewed, decide how much time to allow. For most venues, a short-form video is less than 3 minutes. That’s about all the time most church services will allow and social media/website is about the same. It takes a VERY riveting storyline (and large budget) to get people to watch longer.

Let it rest.

Don’t rush releasing/posting a video. Once it’s been worked on, let some time go by, then watch it with a fresh set of eyes.

Even better? Let someone from your audience watch it and comment on it. If they have questions or concerns, re-edit.

Caption it.

And because most people watch videos on their phones during office hours, on the go, or in the bathroom (yes, it’s true), they don’t want sound. So, caption it using YouTube tools or a 3rd party app like rev.com — just proof them carefully!

Post it carefully.

Even if the video is intended primarily for live viewing, it’s wise to post it on Vimeo or YouTube since people will stumble upon them and be interested in the content or even share them!

Since it’s critical for being discovered, spend time writing a good keyword-rich description, meta-tags, and provide your website so they can find out more about your church!

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What to look for in church management software

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Leveraging church management software (ChMS) is how many churches keep up with first-time guests, members, volunteers, and all the data associated with ministry follow-up.

In fact, a ChMS tool — which automates daily operations to assist in membership, donations, event planning, marketing processes, etc. — streamlines the back-office side of things so church leaders can support ministry with an efficient and useful tool. There are, however, a lot of ChMS options to choose from. So, how do you know which one is best for your church?

To help you decide, here are three tips on what to look for in church management software.

Tip No. 1: Determine What You Need a ChMS To Do

As you think about your needs in a ChMS, it’s always good to write it out. Create a list of the processes you want the software to facilitate, such as:

  • Accounting (There aren’t many ChMS vendors who have accounting capabilities within their tool, although most do provide some integration or data transfer from the ChMS to an accounting solution.)
  • Membership directory
  • Coordinate volunteers
  • Manage small groups
  • Children’s check-in
  • Event registration and check-in
  • Service planning
  • Facility management

Be prepared to discuss these processes with potential vendors. Ask how their software would handle each process and see if they can walk you through a demo of how that process would look in their ChMS.

Tip No. 2: Identify Who Will Use the Software

Will staff members and volunteers need access to this tool? Will you provide members of the congregation access to update their contact information and view their donation records?

Once you determine who will use the system, consider their unique needs to anticipate what they’ll want from the ChMS. If you already have a church management tool and are thinking about switching, find out what these groups like/dislike about it.

Tip No. 3: Research Vendors

Before deciding on a ChMS tool, it’s essential to research the companies behind each one. Within the last few years, we’ve seen a great deal of merger and acquisition activity in the ChMS space.

Some of those purchases have gone well for customers while others haven’t. Implementing a new tool involves the initial purchase, possibly a long-term contract, migrating data, training your team, and more. After all that effort, you want this to be a long-term relationship with a vendor you like and trust.

Here are a few items to consider when researching potential vendors:

  • Is their main clientele the church market or is that one of the many industries they serve?
  • Has this vendor been acquired by another company within the last five to 10 years? If so, search Capterra for reviews on the software. Tip: sort the list to see the most recent reviews first. Scan through the reviews to see if there are any comments about the acquisition and how it impacted users.
  • Start contacting your favorite vendors to gather pricing information, find out about their onboarding and setup process, and discuss technical support (and if they provide that on the weekends).
  • Request a demo version to use for a limited period to get a better grasp of how the software works.
  • Ask for client references. Talk with those church leaders and seek out others on your own to get their insights on the tool and the vendor.

Church management software can make all the difference in how your church runs its day-to-day operations. Investing in one should save your church money — and precious time — in the long run.

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How to get started with digital giving

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With fewer people using checks for purchases (or even carrying a checkbook with them), it’s time to consider providing additional giving options.

By creating a digital giving platform where your members can donate online through their phone or on a kiosk, you may actually see an increase in donations. If technology is where people are hanging out anyway, why not meet them there?

Here’s an introduction on how to get started with digital giving:

Step No. 1: Research Vendors

Since there are so many digital options out there, start by researching various vendors to see which one best aligns with your church’s goals. Here are several things to consider as you research:

  • How will this service integrate with our church website?
  • What digital giving options do they offer (text, mobile, app, online, kiosk)?
  • What are the fees (per transaction, monthly, setup fee)?
  • Do they specialize in working with churches?
  • Will their service easily transport data to our church management software and/or accounting software?
  • Do they offer consulting on successfully launching a digital giving program?
  • What assistance do they offer (and at what price) to set up digital giving with your church?
  • Is there customer service or technical support available on the weekends?

Don’t forget to bring your bookkeeper or finance director into this process since he/she will have to live with the behind-the-scenes details of this decision.

Step No. 2: Prepare to Launch

Now that you’ve chosen a vendor, do a “soft launch” first. To do this, ask a few staff members and volunteer leaders to try out the various digital giving options before opening it up to everyone.

It’s important to include a few people who aren’t known for being tech-savvy in this soft launch. This is supposed to be an easier way to give, so you want to make sure it’s intuitive and user-friendly for all.

Ask how their experience went and get their feedback. Incorporate their input into any instructions you provide when launching to the rest of the congregation.

Once you’ve conducted this first round of staff/volunteer trials, get a few people who are well-respected in the church to try the new digital giving options. Get their input as well and ask if they’d be willing to help endorse or promote this new giving method during small group or volunteer meetings.

Step No. 3: Decide How to Promote Digital Giving

Promoting your new digital giving platform is key to success in those initial weeks. Here are three ways to get the word out to church members:

  • Create an email series to send to your church’s email list. These emails should introduce digital giving, give details on getting started, and provide donation links.
  • Design slides and write a script for an on-stage or video introduction during a church service.
  • Have staff or volunteers available the first few weeks to help people set up digital giving and answer questions.

Step No. 4: Roll Out Digital Giving

Once you’ve completed each of the previous steps, it’s now time to execute your digital giving plan. First, go live with a Give Page on the church website. As mentioned above, promotion is key. Make sure to announce this new initiative during weekend services, on your church’s social media channels, and send out the first email of your email series.

Developing a digital giving plan doesn’t have to be complicated. This plan will help you stay organized as you guide your congregation through this new system of giving.

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How to transition from a print hub to a digital hub

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The church has notoriously created a bulletin (or worship guide) that is the collection of anything important to the congregation. It may have the order of service, scripture that will be discussed in service, obituaries, offering totals, upcoming events, flyers, stories, sermon notes and many other things.

Some are a simple, folded one-page flyer while many others are a printed folder stuffed with inserts of various sizes cascading from within. They take time and money to produce.

Normally, one person’s in charge of the bulletin process to ensure accuracy. And verbal announcements often remind the congregation that they have it in print, too, since the usher has given it to them for their convenience.

All is well, except most people don’t read it.

Why? Because in our world, print materials are disappearing because of the ease of smartphones connecting to up-to-date content. Also, there are many reasons to move from print: quick changes, easy formatting, and cost savings to name a few.

Every church needs to consider switching from a print hub to a digital hub where all communication revolves around the website. Here are the seven steps to make the switch:

1. Ensure your website has a stringent process to make sure content can be easily found, that the content is correct and timely, and it’s mobile-friendly. If not? Don’t make the switch.

2. Start reducing the size of your bulletin and limiting details. Your bulletin this year should be smaller than it was last year.

3. Make sure that your pastor instills confidence in the website from the stage. Everyone must build confidence in your website. For older people? Consider a fun training session for them to access your web content on their phone or computer. It’s easier than they think.

4. Incorporate other digital channels to point to your website (social media, email, texting, etc.). Even your print materials should assure people that everything is on the website too.

5. Stop ushers from handing out the bulletin but have it available to pick up. You’ll be surprised at how few are taken. But if they’re not read, don’t fret! They’ll start understanding that the website and social media has all the events easily found.

6. After a reasonable amount of time, consider only having them available at Guest Services. This has to happen in tandem to announcements referring to the website, social media, or email.

7. Consider adding a Guest/Connect Card only. Visitors can fill it out (in service) or take with them to be reminded of their visit and how to get to your website. You should also have a registration page on your website, too — so guests can pre-register before a visit and members can give requests or add/change information.

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