Are Dual Signatures Required for my Church?

church banking

Are Dual Signatures Required for my Church?

This is a question we run into quite often.

If not as a question, we have churches all the time telling us that they have dual signatures required on their checks.

While I understand that dual signatures may provide the appearance of security, I’d contend that it does very little to protect your church’s money.

I’ve been around several organizations myself and even served as treasurer of a few.  In those, we required dual signatures on the checks and at the surface, it seemed fine.  The problem was, dual signatures often caused more issues than they solved.

Now, I’m not trying to do away or say that you don’t need to have dual signatures on your checks.  I’m not even saying that it’s a completely bad idea.  However I could contend that with modern digital banking, online bill-pay and e-commerce, the days of requiring dual signatures are dwindling.

For most churches, dual signatures are setup only because that’s the way its presumably always been done.  Nothing requires dual signatures inherently just because it’s a church.  That is usually a requirement that gets put in the church’s Bi-Laws and that is usually only because “everyone else does it”.

Requiring dual signatures on checks can be a hinderance to your ministry.

Dual Signatures Can Be Problematic. Here’s Why:

1. I have never seen a dual signor say no

Usually, I see dual signatures as more of a formality to give the appearance of security.  In most cases, when a check requires dual signatures, the second signor barely gives a look even to the amount of the check they are signing.

2. Banks often overlook signatures

Most banks are going through checks so quickly that catching a check that doesn’t have dual signatures is often missed.  I’ve seen several checks clear the bank even when dual signatures were required.

3. Dual Signatures creates unnecessary bottlenecks

Often, when dual signatures are required, waiting for the second person to sign can slow things down for no reason.

Again, my intent

How Should We Measure Church Success?

Church Success

Pre-pandemic, this was already a controversial topic for churches. But in an era where fewer people are choosing to attend physical church services, more pastors are asking the question: “What should success at my church look like?”

For many years, a large number of churches in the United States focused on one singular number – the number of weekly attendees. They asked the questions, “How many people do we have and how can we get more people in the doors?”

Our culture in America naturally celebrates “big.” It’s easy for us to approach church with the same mentality…that “bigger is better.”

We often equate the size of the church with the success of the church.

Or at least many of us did prior to the pandemic. Now, many churches are relying on digital services, or limiting the number of physical attendees in accordance with health and safety guidelines. The shift has caused many pastors to question their approach and what these changes means for the success and effectiveness of their church and ministry.

Numbers Aren’t Everything

The first thing to remember is that while numbers can be a helpful tool, they are not the only measure of success.

Did you know that even pre-pandemic, the average church had less than 100 in attendance? While there is something to be said for analyzing why a church isn’t growing, numbers definitely don’t paint the entire picture.

So as we move forward in an era of social distancing and pandemic uncertainty, how should we measure success in church?

Here are four things to consider as we re-evaluate the matrix we use to measure church growth.

1. Begin with Your Mission and Vision

What specific purpose has God given your church? Are you being faithful to that mission? What elements of your mission or vision remain true and what elements need to shift in this season?

2. Examine Your Growth Engines

These are usually the things your church does to either reach new people or that help your people grow spiritually. In what ways are you reaching new people? In what ways are you helping your members grow? Are your current methods effective in this season or do you need to try something different?

3. Measure Against Your Goals

What goals did you set for your church this year? As circumstances shifted, did you recalibrate those goals? If not, take some time to rethink your goals and adjust as needed. Then look at what practical action steps will move you closer to your goals. Are you taking these steps?

4. Think Big Picture


Ultimately how is your church doing at loving God and loving others? How are you doing at fulfilling the Great Commission? Our mandate to love God and others remains constant regardless of where or when or how we gather together.

Ultimately, there is no one right way to measure success in church. But my hope is that you find encouragement in knowing that small does not equal ineffective. The number of people physically coming into your building is not an accurate measure of spiritual health, growth or success, especially in these times.

Do you have a specific way that you measure success or maintain an analysis of your church activities? Have those measures shifted this year?

Growing Your Church Staff: Should You Hire or Rely on Volunteers?

Small Churches With Big Vision Can Have Big Impact.

But it takes more than one person to bring that vision to life.

Perhaps you are a visionary pastor. Your greatest desire is to see more lives changed by the power of the gospel. You went into ministry because you had a God-given calling and a passion for people. You have a vision to see God use your church to accomplish His mission. But there is only so much you can do alone.

Too many pastors and church planters try to save money by trying to do everything themselves. But it’s too much. And it’s not the most effective way to accomplish the vision. And in the end it can end up costing you more time, money, and diminishing your impact.

Big impact can only happen when a strong team is in place to execute the vision. And the challenge for pastors is figuring out how to build that team.

Should Your Church Staff be Made Up of Volunteers or Employees?

Perhaps the scenario we see most often in small and growing churches is the all-volunteer church staff. If you are in the early stages of planting a church, you simply may not have the funds to hire any help. In this case, you must rely on a team of volunteers to make things happen. This is sustainable for a season.

But eventually there will come a point where the current level of growth, effort and impact of your church will not sustainable through the efforts of volunteers alone. Either you, and/or your volunteer team will burn out. And the last thing your church needs is for you to get burned out and quit the ministry. We’ve seen this happen way too many times. 

Before you ever reach this point, you and your leadership team need to think hard about what type of church you want to be and the long-term investment that will be required to accomplish the vision of the church. You will need to determine what kind of church you want to be, and which leadership structure is right for your church.

But before we dig into the details of how to build your church staff, we need to address a common misnomer.

Cheap Doesn’t Equal Stewardship

It can be tempting to continue to rely on a team of volunteers to execute the mission of the church. After all, this feels familiar and it is obviously the cheapest option. Isn’t cheap the same thing as good stewardship?

Absolutely not. I’m not sure where these two ideas got intertwined. Just because something is cheap, doesn’t guarantee that it is the most cost-effective, valuable or the right choice for long-term sustainability and health. Cheap doesn’t always equal good stewardship. 

Building an All-Volunteer Staff

While volunteers are a vital part of the functioning of every church organization, there are some challenges that come with relying solely on volunteers to accomplish key ministry tasks:

  • Your volunteer may be willing, but not in the right position. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stories about volunteers who were very willing to serve in a role, yet they were not suited or qualified for the given role. What’s more, the under-qualified individual may prevent the right individual from serving where they are most gifted.  

    This can lead to an uncomfortable situation if the volunteer needs to be removed from the role. Often pastors will avoid this confrontation and just work around the situation. This creates more work for everyone involved and is not healthy for the entire organization.

  • Volunteer responsibilities need to be managed differently. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has specific guidelines regarding the differences between employees and volunteers. While the guidelines for non-profit organizations can be interpreted broadly, this is something to keep in mind. Essentially the more say you have in what and how a person performs specific tasks, the more likely they are to be seen as an employee in the eyes of the law.
  • You are relying on their time commitment. Often, the volunteer’s schedule will dictate when things can get done. It is easy for the needs of the church to get put on the back burner. Things that are critical to ministry growth and success might not get done.

The biggest challenge to the all-volunteer staff approach is that the impact potential of the church gets limited. While we have seen a few churches sustain health and growth with only a team of volunteers, most churches eventually plateau (or begin to decline) unless they choose to invest in church staff. 

Is it Time to Hire or Outsource?

A great first step to increasing the impact of your church is to hire part-time help or outsource time-consuming tasks.

Think through how you currently spend the hours in your week. According to the Harvard Business Review, you can free up to 20% of your day by either eliminating or delegating unimportant and time-consuming tasks. What kind of impact could your church have when you are able to focus more on the mission and less on the administrative details?

Some of the most common tasks to outsource include:

What Happens Next?

We can’t tell you specifically what role you should hire for first and what you should prioritize because this is unique to each church. It depends on the specific giftings and weaknesses of the lead pastor, along with the vision and goals of the church. But here are some of the most common church staff roles that help churches make big impact:

  • Associate Pastor and/or Executive Pastor
  • Children’s Minister
  • Student Pastor
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Groups/Equipping Coordinator
  • Worship Pastor
  • Missions/Outreach Coordinator

We recommend sitting down with your core leadership team to dream together about the vision of your church and then sketch out a strategic plan and timelines to bring on paid support to help accomplish this vision. This will not happen overnight, but through setting goals, making informed decisions based on accurate numbers, prayerfully pursuing the vision God has given your church, and building a healthy leadership team, you will move towards big impact much more quickly.

Are you a small church who wants to have big impact? Give us a call so we can chat about how we can partner with you to grow your reach and impact. 

Before You Hire Your First Church Staff Member…Do This

If you are the pastor of a small church, you probably already know that there is a limit to what one staff member can accomplish for a church (at least without eventually burning out).

You’ve realized that there is a finite amount of time, but more tasks that need to be accomplished than can fit into that finite amount of time. Eventually there will come a point – if it hasn’t already – where you will need to consider whether to bring on additional help.

Many small churches and church plants will first try to make do with volunteer staff, but there are additional challenges that come with relying on volunteer staff for key ministry functions.

If you truly want to be a church that flourishes and experiences long-term health and impact, you will at some point need to invest in paid help. But before you bring on an additional paid staff member, there are a few things you need to consider:

1. Make sure you hire a church staff member for the right reasons  

Hiring that first employee is something that needs to be done with some forethought.

I’ve met several pastors that hired their first employee and in hindsight realized they did it for the wrong reasons. Yes, there probably was more work than one person could handle, but their motivation for hiring someone was really the belief that hiring an employee would mean that the church plant had somehow now “made it”.

In reality, when not done right, hiring that first employee can actually be a detriment to the church. After all, there are a whole new set of responsibilities and requirements that need to be considered once your church is designated an employer (more on this in a moment).

2. Make sure you hire the right church staff person for the right role

I’m sure you already know this, but never hire someone simply because you are desperate, and they are available. Conversely, don’t hire someone just because they are a good friend or a “good person”.

In the words of Jim Collins, “Leaders of companies that go from good to great start with getting the right people on the bus…and the right people in the right seats.”

The same is true for your church. If someone is not the right fit for the church or for a specific position, it can cause a great deal of harm. Before you hire someone, first think through the needs of the church. Then consider your responsibilities, giftings and skillset. Ask yourself:

  • What is currently missing/lacking?
  • What responsibilities should I offload?
  • Could I effectively solve these problem areas with volunteer help or by outsourcing? Or should I bring someone on in a paid capacity?
  • What are my areas of weakness and how could an additional staff person offset this?

If you determine that your church would be best served by an additional paid staff person, consider what characteristics would complement your gifts and personality traits. For example, if you are a visionary/dreamer, consider bringing on someone who is more detailed-oriented and gifted at turning dreams into executable plans.

3. Recognize that you will now also be a boss

Chances are you went into ministry because your life was changed by the gospel. You expected that life in ministry would involve preaching the word, discipling and encouraging others in their faith, and spreading the message of Jesus with your community.

My guess is that you didn’t go into ministry with the expectation that you would be operating the equivalent of a small business. And yet, as a church grows, the administrative responsibilities increase as well. Being a lead pastor involves not just shepherding people, but also leading the organization. When you hire additional staff, you become both a pastor and a boss.

In some cases, pastors specifically hire someone to oversee all the administrative areas of the church. They assume that by hiring an executive pastor, they will be able to solely focus on ministry.

However, as the lead pastor, you need to be aware of the health of your organization. Even if you aren’t managing the day-to-day details, you still need to have a pulse on how the organization is doing. And you are still ultimately the person that sets the vision for your church and that all other staff members answer to.

Besides, as a non-profit organization, there will ultimately be one person the IRS or state and local government looks to as the “manager” of the organization. As much as many lead pastors try to say they’ve delegated this role to someone else, at the end of the day it falls on them.

My encouragement to you is to not let this new role scare you. View it as an opportunity to grow in your skills as a leader and a disciple-maker.

4. Learn to lead your church staff team well

Even if you hire the right person for the right role, it does not guarantee ministry health and success. You will need to grow in how you lead and communicate with your team.

The moment you hire someone else, the structure of the organization changes. How you operate, make decisions and structure your day will need to change.

You will need to provide your staff members with consistent, intentional communication. This goes beyond just talking about job responsibilities and assigning tasks, but an ongoing dialogue that includes expectations and feedback.

Church staff check-ins

Set up a time to have a routine, intentional chat with each of your employees. In our company, I push to have a weekly “check-in” chat with every employee. Usually it only lasts 10-20 minutes, but these chats allow me to maintain the pulse of our organization. I get to know what’s going on personally with each person, while also keeping a handle on their workload and how they are doing. 

Church staff performance reviews

Secondly, you should have routine performance reviews. This is an area where many churches see problems arise. Let me describe a common scenario:

You hire a new staff member who excels at their job. Because they are a go-getter, as time goes on, they take on many additional responsibilities. As a boss, you are excited because it keeps more tasks off your plate.

Months go on and, because the work just keeps getting done, you never take the time to revisit the scope of responsibilities or hold a job performance review with the person.

Sounds great right?

It is. Until there is a problem.

I’ve seen things go poorly for churches in this situation several times. Either the staff member eventually burns out, or they begin to lead people toward a different vision. Instead of moving towards a united church vision under the leadership of the senior pastor, they end up sowing seeds of discord because the pastor and staff member are no longer on the same page.

Without consistent feedback, vision casting and dialogue with you, your staff members will eventually develop their own vision of where they think things need to go.

To grow a healthy church, you need a healthy leadership team pursuing the same goals. And a healthy team begins with how you lead your team.

5. Understand any new legal requirements and filings your church may be responsible for now that you have a church staff

In most, if not every situation, you as pastor are a “dual-status” employee. This means that you are considered a church employee for federal withholdings; but considered self-employed for SECA (Social Security and Medicare) withholdings.

Since you are already on the payroll, your church should already be filing proper documentation with state and federal authorities. However, if your church has not yet set up proper documentation because you’re the only person on staff, you will need to make sure you take care of all legal obligations before bringing on any additional staff members.

At a minimum, you should be submitting monthly or quarterly forms that detail payroll information for all paid staff members. This requirement starts the day your church begins compensating a person in an employment relationship.

NOTE: Before we move on, please know that it is NOT OKAY to circumvent filing payroll by paying someone as an independent contractor. The IRS has very clear guidelines and a person must meet specific criteria to qualify getting paid in this manner. Many churches mess up in this area of payroll. We don’t want you to get flagged by the IRS for mishandling payroll. 

Conclusion

We believe that churches are healthier and more effective when they have a strong leadership team. And a strong leadership team is made possible when your church is able to hire additional staff. 

If you’re concerned about managing the records and legal requirements as an employer, consider using our Simplify Payroll system. We’ll take care of all your filings and paperwork, so you never have to worry about doing it wrong. Our goal is to break down all the barriers that prevent pastors and churches from thriving. 

Bringing on staff members is an entirely new level of ministry that needs to be handled with forethought and planning. But when done well, hiring that next staff member will enable your church to impact more lives, while keeping you from burning yourself and your family out.


Finding Peace in the Pandemic

finding peace in leading in chaos

From time to time we ask a fellow pastor in the Oasis pastor support network to share a word of encouragement. Today’s post comes from Shayne Robinson, pastor of Redeemer Church Waterloo.

If we have not quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a golden slipper on a gouty foot.”

John Bunyan

I assume that we have found similar experiences pastoring through this Covid-19 season.

My heart has fluctuated from hope and anticipation for the future, to crushing uncertainty with discouraging rapidity. A heavy mix of emotions and weight stand on the shoulders of every decision. The lack or conflicting nature of information mix with my personality, struggles, and a healthy dose of input from every direction, and leave me feeling like I’ve just been choked out in an MMA bout… laying on the mat with my head spinning, gasping for oxygen, and looking for my opponent so I can rejoin the battle.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one looking for a little peace in this pandemic ministry.

Finding peace in pandemic ministry

We have this tendency to buy into a concept that peace is the absence of war. We tend to think that if the war would just end there would be peace.

That’s simply untrue and we know it. We know there is something working far more insidiously against our peace than simply the outward circumstances of life, even if those circumstances include a pandemic.

No, the heart of the struggle is not the war but something which manifests itself emotionally as worry and anxiety, and physically as fight or flight. The heart of our struggle is fear and unbelief.

Two passages help us gain a better view of the peace we’ve been extended in Christ. The first, Matthew 6:25-34, deals with those things which affect our peace in the immediate sphere of everyday life; such as food, shelter, and time.

The second, Matthew 10:16-28, deals with wolves, betrayal, answering before rulers, persecution, and even death. I encourage you to go and look at these texts. Note which things threaten your peace and consider the peace that is offered in Jesus’ words.

We find a profoundly helpful framework in these texts and it revolves around this question: How does the Spirit of God work peace when our heart wants to buckle?

Here are three brief observations from Jesus’ words:

  • Peace is found in the knowledge of God’s character and nature
  • Peace grows as we apply that knowledge to the promises we find in scripture
  • Peace strengthens as we remember His greater purposes and work in this world

How are you doing, fellow pastor?

  • Is your lack of peace because you’ve been so busy living off of old knowledge of God?
  • When was the last time you spent time in the Word experiencing wonder at God?
  • Are you drowning in anxiety and frustration because you’ve not considered the promises of God?
  • Have you neglected looking to God’s purposes in light of who He is and what He has promised?

God’s peace is available both to you and the sheep you shepherd, regardless of season or circumstance.

I won’t pretend to have some mystically clear answer for what God is doing in this season, but I know He is at work. I cannot counsel on how and what to do for the church and people God has entrusted to your care. Yet, I do know that peace is a fruit of the Spirit which God has promised to work in the heart and life of everyone He has redeemed. It is available both to you and the sheep you shepherd, regardless of the circumstance or season.

I’ll leave you with a quote and my great hope that you would look to Christ and find peace in the midst of the remarkably valuable work God has called you to in this season. Grace and peace to you in Christ.

The fountain of Christ’s peace is everlasting; it is what no time, no change can destroy. It will remain when the body dies; it will remain when the mountains depart and the hills shall be removed, and when the heaven shall be rolled together as a scroll. The fountain of His comfort shall never be diminished, and the stream shall never be dried. His comfort and joy is a living spring in the soul, a well of water springing up to everlasting life.”

Jonathan Edwards

4 Keys to Manage Your Church Budget in a Crisis

church budget planning

One of these two things are true.  
 
You’ve seen a shift in your giving amounts over the last few weeks. You haven’t seen a shift in your giving amounts, but you need a plan for the potential economic recession that is coming. 

The fact is that the unemployment rate across the country is at an all-time high. A huge percentage of businesses, business owners and employees have been affected by this pandemic and we will see how those numbers play out for the economy over the next several months. This is why – regardless of what giving at your church looks like today – you need to have a plan for how you will handle a potential financial impact to your church.  
 
Here are four keys to help you analyze and manage your budget in a time of crisis:  

Have a good understanding of what your numbers look like 

With any roadmap, unless you have a good understanding of where you’re currently at, you’ll have a really hard time coming up with a route that gets you to your destination. The same is true for your church budget.

In order to make smart budget decisions, you really need to have a good understanding of your current situation. This includes knowing your current numbers, trends and balances.  If you don’t know your financial numbers, you really don’t know your church. 

 Yes, I will admit that there are some guys that focus too much on numbers and completely miss their mission. But what we see more often is the reverse – pastors that have lots of big ideas and passion, but just guess when it comes to church finances.

Without keeping a pulse on the financial health of your church, there is no way to make wise financial decisions, plan for the future, or determine how and where you can actually save the church money. Knowing your numbers is simply good stewardship.  

What does this look like practically?  

If you’re a Simplify Church Bookkeeping partner, this part is easy. Just by looking at the monthly reports we send you, you should have a good handle on how your church is doing financially. Additionally, your account manager is available to provide you more detailed information, answer questions and alert you to potential problem areas. We can also generate year-to-date (YTD) reports to help you better understand the story your numbers are telling. Using this service can save you lots of valuable time and effort!

Okay, but what if you’re trying to manage things yourself? Well the most important report you need to analyze is your Statement of Accounts (Profit and Loss) Report. This will show you in detail what you took in last month and what you spent.  Some financial software solutions also offer the ability to match those numbers against your budget, so you can see how that your actual expenses are trending against your budgeted plan. 

You will want to review these reports for the last couple months, as well as look at your YTD trend. If you budget on a calendar year, you can look at the amounts from your first quarter as well. Obviously a lot has changed in the past several weeks as far as giving and income goes, but you want to understand what your expenses and income looked like before the crisis, so you can begin tracking any changes to that trend. Ask yourself, “What story are these numbers trying to tell me?

Analyze your critical expenses  

There is a very real chance that giving and income will go down for your church, either now or in the coming months. The good news is that without meeting physically, there are quite a few operational costs that should go down as well.  

Renters: If your meeting space is no longer open to public gatherings, you may be able to save on some rent expenses. Contact your landlord to discuss your options. 

Property Owners: If you own your building, you can keep the thermostat down and not heat or cool the worship center. 

Maybe you provide snacks, donuts and coffee during Sunday morning worship. While probably not a huge expense line in your budget, this is one place you can save a few dollars when cash flow gets tight. 

Go through your expenses line-by-line and see what you do not need or any expenses/services that can easily be cut out. Perhaps you have some subscriptions to a service that you aren’t really using. 

This is the time to determine which church budget expenses are critical and which ones are nice-to-haves. Understanding your critical expenses will help you analyze where savings can be found in your church budget. 

Things like payroll, insurance, and other fixed ministry costs will be much more difficult to cut during this time. If you haven’t already applied for the Payroll Protection Program to help offset payroll costs, watch this video to see if this might be a good option for your church.  (Yes, I know the funding ran out…but more funding will hopefully be available soon).

Pro Tip: if you own and have a mortgage on your building talk to your bank. They may have options available to you to help offset your payment during difficult times. Many banks offer interest only payments to churches during slow giving times.  Remember, you never know until you ask. 

Call your congregation to generosity 

Talking about generosity is one of those areas many pastors shy away from. Now is not the time to neglect talking about generosity. In fact, it is a disservice to both your people and your organization if you don’t talk about generosity in this season.  
 
It is much easier for us all to prioritize giving in seasons of abundance. Prioritizing giving to God in seasons of uncertainty and turmoil requires more faith and trust, but often leads to more opportunities to experience God’s faithfulness along with greater freedom and joy.  

Remind people each week how they can give – via online giving, text to give, or by mailing a payment to your church. You can also make it easy for people to drop off payments if you don’t have online giving options. Let people know that you have setup a convenient drop box to drop off their tithe payments.   

If you haven’t yet set up online giving at your church, now is the time to get started. And once people set up recurring giving, it makes it simple for them to continue to give generously (and it makes it much easier to predict your monthly income). Setting up online giving is quick and easy to do, especially if you use a system like Simplify Give. 

Beyond explaining the various ways to give, part of the discussion needs to be a reminder of why giving is crucial to the church, especially during a time when you’re not meeting together corporately. Explain how the funds are being used and how the church still is able to continue to function and to meet tangible needs through the generous donations of members.  

For a more in-depth discussion of this topic, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on How to Talk About Giving & Create a Culture of Generosity in your church. You can access your FREE copy here. 

Prepare a church emergency budget 

Once you’ve analyzed your numbers and you know where things are at, it’s time to put together an emergency or contingency budget that will help you navigate through the next few months.   

  • What purchases were you planning to make in the next few months? Can any of those be delayed? 
  • Which expenses will help you move your church forward during this digital season?  
  • Which expenses are not serving your church right now? 

As you evaluate your expenses, think through you church vision/mission and strategic goals. Which expenses will help your church continue to grow? Which items fund your growth engines? Do you need to reevaluate any of your growth engines or goals?  

If you’re not sure why I’m bringing up the topic of growth engines and goals, check out this post on the seven “deadly sins” of church budgeting (and what to do about them) or this post on church budgeting 101.  

Now put your emergency budget together.  This is your financial plan to help your church not only survive this crisis, but to be ready for what comes next. You may never experience a dip in giving, but now you have a plan in place. As I’ve said many times, a budget is just a plan. But it’s an important one.  
 
It is fear of the unknown and uncertainty that breeds stress. When you put a plan in place, you relieve stress and better position yourself and your church to ministry to people during this very uncertain time.  

Look to the future 

In this season, many people are feeling confused and afraid. What better way for the church to show up than as people who are not operating out of fear, but out of faith and as good stewards of the resources God has given them. When your church has a solid financial foundation, you can focus your time and energy on being a light and a beacon of hope in this season.  

Not only that, you can position your church for whatever comes next. We don’t know when this season will end. What we do know is that once the guidelines on social distancing relax, there will be great need, but also an open door of opportunity. Will you be a church prepared to lead and serve and love through recovery and revitalization? Or will your church be focused on recovery yourself?  

Here’s another question: Do you want to figure this all out on your own? Or do you want to partner with a team of church financial experts to help you manage your church finances and plan for the days ahead?  

Our done-for-you payroll, bookkeeping and online giving services will take the financial burden off your shoulders and give you peace of mind. If you’re not confident in your numbers or you’re wasting valuable time trying to figure it all out, schedule you free consultation call today.  

Because this is also true: Taking time to make wise strategic and financial decisions now will help you navigate the days, weeks and months to come.  

Your COVID-19 Guide to Church Communication

In How to Help Your Church Go Digital, Part 2, we discussed the importance of keeping your congregation connected. Today we’re diving deeper into the topic of digital communication and keeping your church digitally connected in this season. 

Church Communication in a Digital World

Over the last few weeks churches across the globe have been forced to rethink what it means to “do church.” And while that can be unsettling, it is also an unprecedented opportunity. 

Perhaps one of the biggest blessings of this pandemic is that it happened at this moment in history. Even a decade ago, digital tools and resources would not be readily available to most churches and maintaining connection would be significantly more challenging.

From online giving platforms, to live streaming, to social and digital connection platforms, we are living at a time in history that allows us to continue to gather together as followers of Christ, to grow together and to reach out to those in need…with or without a building (and regardless of church size).

And as this season of social distancing continues, it is essential that we take time to examine how we are digitally connecting with our congregation – not just on a Sunday morning, but throughout the week. 

It is essential that we take time to examine how we digitally connect with our congregation – not just on a Sunday morning, but throughout the week. 

A digital communication plan will guide you both for this season and for the future of your church. So let’s dig into how you can optimize your digital church communication strategy…or get started creating one.

Start With Your Goals

Let me begin by asking, “What are your goals for this season?”

Is it to simply survive as a church until you can “return to normal?” Or is it to thrive during this season? 

Because I know it is possible for your church to thrive. In fact, with a little intentionality, you may even see your church grow (even if you aren’t meeting together and don’t consider yourself a “techy person.”)   

We’ve already heard from churches across the country that are continuing to engage with people during this time, that are continuing to see people come to Christ, and that are continuing to grow. We’ve heard from churches that have not seen any dip in giving, and churches whose donations have actually increased during this time. 

So if you want to be a church that not only survives, but thrives, then I encourage you to keep reading. Here are some big picture goals to consider:

Connection & Engagement

If you want to be a healthy church at the end of this crisis, at the very least, you need to keep your community engaged and connected during this season. The thing that will separate churches that thrive from those that struggle will be their level of engagement during this time.

You’ll need to come up with creative ways to stay engaged with your attendees and help them feel like they really are a part of a local body of believers. We’ll talk about some ways you can do that below.

Encourage Spiritual Growth

If your baseline goal is to maintain connection & engagement, then a next-level goal is to encourage and equip your members to grow during this time. 

Yes, there is an abundance of pain, loss and hardship during this season. We must acknowledge that fact. But simply because we cannot physically gather together does not mean that our mission and calling to go and make disciples has changed.

You do not need to put your efforts to equip your members on the back burner. The church has never been dependent on a building. You can help people on their spiritual journey, even in a season of turmoil. 

Engage New People 

Finally, consider how your church can engage with people not already connected to your congregation. 

Right now more people are spending time online, more people are feeling disoriented, and more people are looking for connection, hope and meaning right now. The opportunity to engage with people who might never visit a church is extremely high. Can you be intentional about stepping into that opportunity? 

Reexamine Your Systems

Once you’ve thought through your goals for this season, it’s time to look at your systems and processes. Do you need to change anything about your current systems to help move toward your goals? 

Your Church Database

In this season of digital church communication, you need an up-to-date church database. If you’re like many church leaders, your database might need a little bit of work. It’s typically not high on a church priority list. 

If you have the time, start going through your database to make sure it’s updated with current contact information for all of your attendees. Or if your plate is too full, ask a volunteer to help you with this project. Here are some questions you’ll need to answer:

  • How many people are actually connected to/a part of your church? 
  • Do you have a good way to contact them?
  •  What percentage of your contacts can you reach through email? 
  • Through text message? 
  • Do you have current physical addresses for your members?

Consider sending out a letter in the mail to every contact in your database, or at least those you know are active members. 

In this letter you can:

  • Encourage & reassure people 
  • Ask them to update any changes to their contact info
  • Reiterate how to watch services
  • Explain all the ways to stay connected 
  • Remind them to be faithful in giving (and explain how the church is using those funds)
  • Encourage them to stay connected with friends and family and invite others to watch your services online

PRO TIP: Simplify Community is a church management system (ChMS) without a learning curve. It can help you keep track of and communicate with your members and visitors. It is a cloud-based solution, so you can access your church information from anywhere. Click here for a free demo of the software.

Your Online Giving Platform 

First, if you haven’t yet set up online giving for your church, it’s quick and easy to get started. Using Simplify Give’s quick, no-fee sign up process, we can have your church accepting donations online in just a few minutes.

Before COVID, churches that started accepting donations online increased overall donations by 32%. My guess is that this number is currently skyrocketing. 

Second, if you already have an online giving platform, do you know what percentage of your members are currently using it?

You may need to provide some guidance to your members that are less tech-savvy and show just how easy it can be to give online via your church website or through text-to-give. 

Choose Your Digital Church Communication Platforms

Now you’ll want to think through the digital platforms you use to communicate and engage with your church. Here are the most common platforms: 

Your Website

These days most churches have a website of some sort. However, the capabilities of church websites tend to be all over the map, depending on whether you have a tech-savvy webmaster. 

Regardless of how simple or complex your site is, there are two things every church should keep in mind:

  1. Your primary website visitor is someone not connected to your church. That’s why in general we recommend that your website be designed for a potential visitor.
  • Your church members will often turn to your website first for updates. In this season, unless someone is actively engaged with you on social media, they will first visit your website for more info on how your church is responding during this season.

What does this mean for you?

You need to update your website and let people know how you’re doing “church” during this season. Where can they go to watch your services? Is it at the same time or a different time? Where do they need to go for more updates?

If you can stream your services from your website, fantastic! But if you’re not super techy and that feels complicated, that’s okay. Just make sure you update your site and let people know the best ways to stay in touch with you.

Email 

If you don’t regularly send out a church email newsletter, now is a great time to start! Send a quick email to your members each week and include information you might regularly put  in your church bulletin. Start with a helpful tip or a devotional message and make sure to include reminders of how and when to watch your service, how to give online, and maybe a link to a replay of last week’s service. 

Using email is important because it shows that you are making an effort to stay connected with everyone, especially because you will have a percentage of people who are either not on social media or are intentionally avoiding it right now. I’ve seen many churches turn to Facebook as their primary means of staying connected with people. However, if you rely on Facebook as your sole means of regular communication, you might be overlooking a good portion of your members. 

Facebook

I say Facebook rather than all social media because if you are going to pick one social platform, it should be Facebook.

You’ll reach smaller groups of people on other platforms, but Facebook is the most wide-reaching. It also is designed to help people engage and connect with one another. 

There are so many ways to connect with your congregation through your church Facebook page and in Facebook groups.

Post frequently on your Facebook page (at least once a day) and encourage people to engage with your content. Have someone from the church leadership team go live on Facebook or upload a recorded video on a regular basis. This is a great opportunity to lead a daily devotional, to encourage connection and emotional health, and to help people learn how to grow spiritually. 

Get Creative 

Now for the fun part. You know your congregation best. Have a brainstorming session with your leadership team and come up with specific ideas to engage people during this season. Here are some great ideas that a number of churches are implementing:

  • Offer a daily devotional or start a new church Bible reading plan together
  • Go live daily on Facebook to offer encouragement and connection
  • Share activities that families can do together
  • Continue to have your small groups meet together on Zoom
  •  Ask your members to invite friends to your online services 
  • Host a mid-week prayer or worship service via Facebook or Zoom
  • Provide specific content for kids, teens or families
  • Create a family scavenger hunt and have members post pictures of their finds
  • Provide a place for people to submit prayer requests and specific needs that the church can pray for

Focus Your Content on the Whole Person

It can be easy for us to silo ourselves as just providers of spiritual support and guidance, but the truth is that this crisis impacts the entire wellbeing of a person – body, mind and spirit. Think about creating content that supports people’s spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, financial and relational wellness.

There is a lot of anxiety right now. A lot of added stress. Financial strain. Relationship strain. Isolation. Grief. Fear. Loss. All of those things take a toll on people. My guess is that when this crisis blows over, the need for counseling will be higher than ever. 

There is no way that you as a church leader will be able to offer individual counseling for everyone dealing with issues that stem from this crisis. But you can be proactive now by offering resources and suggestions to help them process their circumstances, feelings and emotions in healthy ways.

Think about what support you can provide during this season, such as sharing this emotional health tool from Saddleback Church.

Follow Up 

If you want to use this season to engage and reach more people, you will need a digital engagement and connection plan. Check out this post for more suggestions about how to engage with and follow up with first-time viewers. 

Embrace The Opportunity

I heard this statement from multiple people today, “The rules of the game have changed.” This applies to how we as people conduct business, how we socialize, and yes, how we do church. 

For so long the church (at least in America) has followed a series of established norms and expectations. All of that is currently upended. This creates uncertainty, but also unprecedented opportunity. 

COVID-19 has given churches across the globe a chance to demonstrate what it means to “be the church” apart from any building or set of norms and expectations. In a very short period of time, churches have radically shifted the ways in which they communicate and interact with members. 

Does going back to the “way things were” really serve the mission of the church?

It’s time to give a more serious look at how digital communication tools can help the church spread the gospel in new ways. Perhaps it’s time to lean into new strategies and prayerfully consider ways in which these technologies might serve your church both for this season and beyond.  

How are you engaging with your congregation in this season? What are your big wins? What are you struggling with?

The Easter Opportunity: How to Create an Impactful Easter Service amid COVID-19

I’m sure you’ve checked your calendar and seen that Easter Sunday is a little over a week away.  

On Easter Sunday, most churches typically see a spike in attendance. For many churches, it is their most attended Sunday of the year. 

You may have been planning for your Easter service for weeks or months already. And now it’s time to throw out those plans and completely shift gears. 

But before you give up on reaching new people this Easter consider this:

  • More people are facing high levels of stress and anxiety right now
  • More people are feeling isolated right now
  • More people are actively looking for ways to deal with their stress and anxiety
  • More people are considering either their own mortality or the mortality of a loved one

They are looking for something that can bring them a sense of joy, hope and peace in a season of fear and uncertainty. 

This Easter, more than any other, more people are looking for what can only be found in Jesus Christ. 

In other words, the Easter opportunity still exists! 

Yes, you will need to completely rethink your strategy, but Easter is still a significant opportunity. I believe that if you choose to seize this moment, you’ll be amazed at what God can do through your church to reach people that might never otherwise darken the doors of a church. 

But You Must Seize the Easter moment.

By this I mean you cannot simply do “church” as normal (whatever that means anymore). You need a new plan to reach people on this particular Easter. 

So how do you prepare for an online Easter service in the middle a global pandemic that reaches MORE people for Jesus? 

BOOST AWARENESS

Your Goal: To get someone who is not connected to a church to watch your Easter service online. 

In many ways, this is much simpler than asking someone to get dressed up and drive to a building with a bunch of people they don’t know. They never have to leave home or even get out of their pajamas. They just need to know that you exist and that you have something that can help them out. 

Clarify Your Message

Let’s start with the second part – they need to know that you have something that can help them out.

Here’s the honest truth: If someone isn’t connected to a church, they won’t care about the story of your church, or even the story of Jesus. What they will care about is if what you have to offer can help them survive or thrive.

When you create content that invites people to watch your Easter service, keep this important fact in mind. Create content that addresses the pain you know people are in, and how you have a solution to that pain. And please don’t use “churchy” words. 

Before you sit down to write anything, pretend that you’re having a conversation with someone that has never been to church and has just lost their job due to economic impacts of COVID-19. What would you say to that person to get them to watch to your service?

Now create an inviting social media post based on that idea.

Encourage People to Share

Once you’ve thought through what you want to communicate, the next step is to let people know that you exist. The easiest way to boost awareness is to enlist the help of your current attenders. Create a post about your upcoming Easter service on your social media pages. Ask your current attenders to share your posts to their own pages. 

This works even better if instead of just hitting the “share” button, they add a personal anecdote about their experience with your church. 

Boost Your Visibility on Facebook

If you have some money in your budget, I’d recommend boosting your post as a Facebook and Instagram ad. Once you make a post on your Facebook page, you’ll see a “boost post” button. Click the button and Facebook will give you a series of options to promote your service. You can specify who you want your ad to appear to (such as people in your local area or friends of those who like your page), how long you want the ad to run, and how much you want to spend to reach people.

Engage with People on your Church Facebook Page

Begin now by posting regular content on your social media pages. This will help both keep your regular attenders connected and growing AND help engage new viewers with your content. Have someone from your church leadership team go live on Facebook each day for a daily dose of encouragement, or to share ideas for staying connected and growing spiritually.

Another idea is to create a holy week journey for your members with specific content, scriptures and prayer points posted daily in the week leading up to Easter Sunday.  

Encourage Members to Host a Facebook Watch Party on Easter Sunday 

A watch party is a co-watching video experience. A host creates a Facebook watch party and invites friends to join him or her. Everyone in a watch party watches the same moment in the video at the same time, and group members can comment on and react to the content in the video.

Let’s say you go live with your Easter service on your Facebook page. A member can navigate to the video, click share and choose the drop-down option “watch party.” From there the member can start a watch party on their own Facebook page or share it to a group page that they are a part of. 

The more your members interact with and post about your online service and personally invite friends to join them, the more people scrolling the Facebook news feed will see your service. 

PLAN YOUR EASTER SERVICE 

Your Goal: To get someone that watches your service to make contact with you  

Now is the time to begin planning your Easter service. As much as you want to equip and encourage your church members, choose this service and create it specifically for someone that may be tuning in for the first time. 

As I mentioned above, what makes people curious about what you have to say is the belief that it can help them survive or thrive. Build your entire service – your worship, your announcements, your message – around this idea. 

For example, if you begin by talking about the fact that we all have a sin problem, you’ve probably already lost your audience. 

However, if you begin by talking about the stress and anxiety people are currently feeling and the need to resolve these feelings, then you’ve aroused curiosity and your audience is open to hearing more.

Author Ray Edwards provides a simple outline that he calls the P.A.S.T.O.R. framework. While his book is specifically about communication, this framework is exactly what you as a pastor are called to do!

Here’s the framework:

P – Pain. Begin by meeting people where they are at. Talk about the pain they feel and the problems they face in terms they can relate to

A – Amplify. What is the cost of not solving this problem? 

S – Solution. What is the solution to this problem? 

T – Transformation. Share a story of a life that has experienced positive change due to solving the problem

O – Offer. Explain the solution being offered

R – Response. Ask for a response

I have a sign in my home that reads, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” 

You probably know that just because you ask for a response, it doesn’t mean someone is ready to make a response. On average someone needs to hear the gospel 7.2 times before they are ready to respond. But you will get a response more often than if you never asked for a response. 

But asking someone to make a choice to follow Jesus isn’t the only response you can ask for.

Think about a response in terms of building a relationship. You probably wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on a first date. Instead, you might ask for a phone number or a second date.

So what is a logical next step to start building a relationship with that first-time viewer? Ideally you’d like to be able to reach out and start a dialogue.

As I mentioned in this post, every digital service should offer some type of digital connect card that people can fill out. You do not need fancy technology to make this happen! It can be as simple as posting a link to a free Google form you create.

You can encourage more people to fill out these forms by asking them to submit prayer requests that you will pray over. 

Or consider offering to donate a specific amount of money (e.g. $5) to your local food bank or some other COVID-19 response organization for every connection form that gets filled out.  

Another way to encourage a response, is by offering a free download that helps people further implement whatever you talked about in your message. This could be almost anything.

You could offer a prayer and meditation guide, or a list of people offering free online counseling, or a handout on how to rethink your budget in times of crisis, or a free ebook on overcoming fear. The possibilities are endless! 

For the next few weeks, you’ll need to be clear (and repetitive) about specific ways for people to plug into your digital community. Keep publishing encouraging content on your social media pages and keep seeking opportunities to connect with those who may be far from God. You might even consider starting a new preaching series on Easter and encourage people to come back the following week to hear the rest of the story.

PLAN YOUR FOLLOW UP

Your Goal: To turn a one-time viewer into a regular viewer and potential future visitor to your church.

I’ve talked with plenty of churches who theoretically had a “follow-up plan,” but their execution was lacking. Make sure you know: 

  • HOW you will follow up (text, email, card in the mail, etc)
  • WHO will follow up
  • WHAT TIME FRAME you will follow up

Last Christmas I was visiting family and we visited a local church on Christmas Eve (a Tuesday) because the service time worked well for our family. A few weeks went by and one morning I received an email from a church thanking me for “my visit last Sunday.” I knew that I had been at my home church the past Sunday and my first thought was, “Has someone been using my email address?” 

It took me a few moments to figure out that email was from the church we had visited on Christmas Eve. While I am glad that the church followed up, their follow up was neither timely (three weeks later) or accurate (I did not attend the past Sunday).

 I could make excuses for them and say that the person responsible for follow up was probably on vacation, but the truth is that their follow up would have been a lot more effective if they had simply tweaked their message and then either had someone else send the follow-up message or automated their follow up. 

A simple text or email might be the difference between someone never watching your service again and someone eventually becoming an active part of your congregation.

Services like Text In Church are designed to help you effectively follow up either through text or email. (Note: They are currently offering 60 days free for new members). 

A simple text or email might be the difference between someone never watching your service again or someone eventually becoming an active part of your congregation.

However you choose to follow up, your plan should include MORE THAN ONE touchpoint. The goal is to build a relationship over time. That does not mean rushing to a commitment, but rather cultivating curiosity that leads them to want to hear and learn more. 

FOLLOW THROUGH 

Now that you and your team have developed an intentional process for connecting new people to your church digitally, follow through with it.

Remember, you are creating open doors for new relationships. As with any relationship, getting to a place of trust will take time. You may get discouraged because this method is not nearly as simple as counting the number of visitors who attended on an Easter Sunday and then counting how many visitors returned for another visit.

But the door to reach MORE people who would not normally visit a church is open to you. And if you are faithful in the slow path of building relationships over time, you may be surprised at how many visitors you do get, once you can physically begin meeting together again.

But you must seize the opportunity! 

Be intentional and consistent in your planning, execution and your follow up. I can’t wait to hear how God works through your church in the coming weeks and months!

How to Help Your Church Go Digital, Part 2

Congratulations! For many of you, you made it through your first week of doing church online!

It took some creativity and ingenuity, but you made it happen. And that’s something worth celebrating.

So my guess is your thinking, “What now?”

Many states and localities have now issued “shelter in place” orders, so you and your staff and volunteers are probably trying to navigate working from home. 

Are there best practices for church leaders seeking to work remotely? How do you stay connected? How do you collaborate? Manage projects? Communicate? 

Here are Simplify Church, we’ve been working as a remote team for more than a decade now. We partner with churches all over the country to provide financial management services, so it just made sense to allow our team of Simplify Account Managers to work remotely as well. The convenience and flexibility of this set up has truly served both our company and our employees, and I believe it has great potential for your church as well.

With this in mind, here are a few tips, ideas and best practices to help you navigate the next several weeks of working remotely with your ministry staff and leaders. 

KEEP YOUR STAFF AND LEADERS CONNECTED

Overnight, we’ve all gone to a virtual environment. Last week you may have chosen to cancel your staff meeting or your elders meeting or your Sunday planning meeting.

While this is okay for a week or two, it’s not a sustainable way to keep an organization connected. You still need to be in regular contact with those on your church leadership. You can do this via:

Slack – This free messaging service is a very popular way to communicate virtually via instant messaging and group chats. Instead of an email inbox, you have direct conversations with others in dedicated spaces called channels. Pro tip: organize chat channels into broad categories to keep the discussions relevant. 

Zoom – After using several tools and testing them out over the years we’ve landed on Zoom as our app of choice for video calls with those outside our organization Zoom makes the process simple and easy to setup a new call, invite others and collaborate together in a virtual meeting. Zoom offers a free option with time limitations or a simple single user price for $14.99/month.  Single user just means that you have one login. So long as that one individual can schedule the calls (even for others), then that option is viable for a church.

Microsoft Teams – If you already have Office 365, you have access to Microsoft’s chat and video conference tools via Microsoft Teams. In fact, here at Simplify Church, we recently made the switch from Slack to Teams for our internal communication, primarily for the ease of use of Teams Meetings. This system is very simple to use, but if you don’t already have Office 365, it’s probably not worth the subscription in lieu of using Zoom. 

GoToMeeting – A great tool, but not as easy-to-use as Zoom. They offer a similar service to other video conference options. Admittedly, I have not looked into their system after transitioning to Zoom from the simplicity they provide. 

Google Hangouts – If you’re a Google Apps user, then you have access to Google Hangouts. This is a viable option even without the Google Apps setup so long as all users have a Google ID (anyone can set up a google email address for free) and use that to login. Note: there is a bit of a learning curve for this option. 

Email – While I would absolutely recommend you incorporate one on the above tools, in the short term you can stay connected via email. You will just need to remember that it is important to err on the side of over-communicating rather than to under-communicate and risk miscommunication.

KEEP YOUR CONGREGATION CONNECTED

I was listening to a podcast targeted to small business owners the other day. But as soon as I heard this suggestion, I knew it was just as applicable to churches.

The podcast host made the statement: “The businesses that survive this pandemic will be the ones that find a way to stay connected to their audience.”

Now, replace business with the word church.  

This is exactly what will set apart the churches that come out of this crisis stronger from the ones that will end up closing their doors.

Yes, it will take creativity and ingenuity, but one of the best things you can do for your church is lean into this new era of digital connection.

You must find a way to keep your congregation connected. An easy way to do this is to encourage all of your small groups to continue meeting virtually via Zoom, or apps like WhatsApp or GroupMe. 

Stay tuned. We’ll be sharing some more ideas for creatively connecting with your congregation in the weeks to come!

HELP FACILITATE YOUR STAFF WORKING FROM HOME

Let me first address a common concern/myth I hear from those resistant to virtual workplaces. It’s the myth that given the opportunity to work from home, people won’t actually work. 

In over a decade of working with staff remotely I have found the opposite to be true. In fact, often remote staff work MORE than they’re supposed to (which is why it’s important to encourage your team to develop healthy work/life boundaries). 

To be fair, there have been a few instances where an employee took advantage of the situation. But I’ll be the first to admit that it was a hiring issue, rather than a virtual employment issue. I simply hired the wrong individual and they took advantage of the flexibility we offered. 

Working from home is not the issue; it is how we lead and facilitate a remote team that makes the difference. 

Communication

The best piece of advice I can give is to maintain intentional communication with your remote staff and team members. Being intentional means that you reach out to them periodically. Check in and see how things are going. Communicate with them even more frequently than you normally would in an office environment.  

Set up consistent video calls with the team. These calls may be project-related, or they may simply be a chance for people to connect with one another. It’s all about keeping people connected in this new reality, when they may not be used to working from home. 

Pro Tip: If you’re going to use a system like Slack or Teams, you can set up a “check in” channel so that people can let everyone know when they are available or stepping out. I'd also recommend setting up a “virtual water cooler” channel to give people a place for non-work-related discussions. This helps foster community, collaboration and helps people feel like it’s more than just a place for transactional discussions.  

While I’m sharing suggestions that we’ve learned from years of remote work, it is also important to keep in mind that this season is anything but ordinary. Many on your team will be home with children, since most schools are cancelled.

A virtual chat offers an outlet from that 5th episode of Wild Kratts playing in in the background. Also understand that your team members may be less productive and need additional flexibility and grace as they seek to both accomplish necessary tasks and teach/care for children. 

P. S. As the leader, your staff and volunteer leaders are looking to you for guidance and direction. In times of stress and uncertainty, it can be helpful to have a person or a group to process with. You also have the opportunity on calls with your team to help them navigate the days ahead and be the voice reminding them that our security is found in Christ alone! 

Tools

Beyond simple communication, you’ll need to find a system that works for your organization to manage projects and collaborate with team members. Here are some options:

Project, Task Management 

Trello – basically an online dashboard of post-it notes. You can share your Trello board with others and track project progress as you move cards along the lists that you have pre-defined. This is a very helpful tool for managing projects and other needs for your staff. 

Asana – Free online project management software. Asana is a bit more robust than Trello in that it already has some pre-defined ways of doing things. You can setup projects, invite people, track progress and to-dos and set deadlines.   

Basecamp – a paid online project management tool, but at a nominal cost. Basecamp is great as the company itself has written several books about the concept of remote work. If you’re looking for some resources or tips, they have written extensively about it. Here is a piece they wrote about internal communication for remote workers. 

Online Collaboration 

Most of the project management tools listed above will have some cloud storage and collaboration systems built-in, but here are a few other options to help your team share files: 

One Drive – Part of Office 365, OneDrive allows you to share documents and work collaboratively on them. The benefit for many churches is to always have one version of the document so you can be sure you’re always working on the latest draft.  

Google Drive – very similar to One Drive except using Google’s infrastructure. 

Evernote – this is a little less robust from the features of Word or Docs, but still gives a method for cloud storage and collaboration. 

Dropbox, Box – both options are a cloud storage system.  These are great for times when you need to access a file from multiple locations. Neither of these system have online collaboration features, however, so you’d need to use Office 365, Word or Google Docs/Sheets to collaborate.  

REMEMBER THAT SPIRITUAL CONNECTION IS POSSIBLE, EVEN WHEN PHYSICAL CONNECTION IS NOT

Right now as a church leader, you should be encouraging your staff and congregation to stay home and help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

But as you do that, you may feel a sense of confusion or loss. The Church has always been about connection, community and reaching out to meet needs. What should the Church look like in this season? 

The good news is that this crisis is simply a reminder that the Church was never about a building; it was and always will be a movement of people. The even better news is that God is not at all limited by our physical distancing. 

A pastor in our Oasis pastor networking group shared recently that he was able to lead a member of his church to Christ over a Zoom call last week. The mission and the message of Jesus and the movement of his Church continues, regardless of what workspace we use or how we gather together. Isn’t that a wonderful thought! 

I’d love to hear how your church is navigating the move to collaborating remotely. If you have any questions or we can help your church out in any way, drop me a line Josh@simplifychurch.com

How to Help Your Church Go Digital

With the health crisis brought about by COVID-19, pastors across the United States are facing some significant questions right now. Questions like:

  • How do navigate our church through this season of crisis?
  • How should we respond?
  • How can we keep people connected?
  • How do we focus on the mission and keep momentum going? 

And perhaps the biggest question for many pastors:

How do I take my church online?

Many large churches already have robust online platforms in place. But if you’re the pastor of a small or growing church, your church may not have a strong digital presence. 

The good news: You don’t have to know technology well to have an online platform. 

What you do need is a well-thought out action plan. Here are a few steps you can take to help your church community go digital:

TAKE YOUR CHURCH SERVICE ONLINE

Begin with your weekly large group gathering. Think through the important elements of that gathering. How you can provide those same elements digitally? Are there creative ways to accomplish the same objectives?

Here are six service components to consider:

Worship

Will you have a worship leader lead worship solo or can you bring a small worship team together? Will this be pre-recorded, or recorded live?

Prayer

Will you include a time of prayer and reflection as part of your online service? Could you offer a weekly prayer guide for members?

Sermon 

Similar to your worship, will you pre-record a sermon or will you preach a sermon and stream it live? Could you offer digital sermon notes for people to download? Are there other resources you could provide to help them digest the sermon?

Giving 

What percentage of your congregation currently gives online vs. in the plate on Sunday morning? What steps could you take to help more people to give online?

Make sure your congregation knows how to set up online giving or text-to-give. If possible, have an easy-to-click link to your giving page close to wherever you are encouraging people to to to watch your service online. 

If you haven’t already done so, offer a guide or tutorial that explains how to give online and encourages people to set up reoccurring donations. 

It is also crucial during this time that you explain to your members the how and why of giving. As more people become financially strapped, having an understanding of WHY we give and HOW those funds will be used becomes even more important.

For more ideas on how to do this, download our free guide to Building a Culture of Generosity at Your Church. 

Families 

Let’s be honest, most churches usually offer separate activities for children during the main services. For many families, worshiping together at home can be a new (and somewhat distracting) experience. Think through how your service can become more family-friendly or how you can provide additional resources to engage families. 

Guests 

You may not physically be welcoming guests to a building, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with guests. Consider having a digital connection card for people to complete that watch your service online. 

This moment in time is unlike any of us have experienced in our lifetime. Now, more than ever, anxiety is high, and people are searching for something that will bring them peace. 

Encourage your members to invite their friends and family to watch your online service. And if someone does tune in for the first time, encourage them to complete the digital connect card. Then follow up with a text message or email thanking them for attending. Consider sending a letter or small welcome gift in the mail as well. 

For more specific suggestions on the nuts and bolts of setting up a digital church service, check out this video.

KEEP YOUR COMMUNITY CONNECTED

Connection 

As Hebrews 10:25 reminds us, “Do not neglect meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

So how do we keep connection? How do we “meet together” digitally?

Consider additional ways you can foster community and discussion online via your church website or perhaps a church Facebook group. 

If your small groups are not currently meeting in person, encourage those smaller groups to stay connected via email, Facebook or apps like GroupMe or WhatsApp.

Another benefit of having digital connect cards is that they can offer an opportunity for members to submit prayer requests and needs. Perhaps you can publish an anonymous list of requests and needs. Encourage your members to be praying over these requests and give members the opportunity to help meet one another’s needs. 

Communication 

Now more than ever, it’s important that your congregation knows how they will get information from you. Will you post updates to your church website? Will you communicate via email? Will you post via Facebook or Instagram?  Whichever methods you choose to use, be consistent and communicate updates regularly. 

BE A VOICE OF CALM IN A STORM

Almost every person that I’ve spoken with in the last several days has expressed feelings of heightened anxiety and uncertainty. As church leaders, we can either add to the noise and chaos or we can speak truth and joy into the void.

Be aware of how you interact with those you speak to. Do your words bring clarity or confusion? Do they add to people’s anxiety levels or do your words convey peace and hope? 

In addition to official church communication, use your personal social feed (if you have one) to remind people of the source of our hope, peace, courage and joy. As leaders, people are watching and taking cues from how we respond to this situation. 

This is an opportunity for the Church to be the Church in a moment of crisis. As a leader of your local church, you can help set the tone for this and role model the way. 

THE OPPORTUNITY

This is a moment in history where churches have the opportunity to lean into the uncertainty and develop creative solutions to meet both the current and future needs of those in our congregations and our communities

Regardless of the size of your church, this is an opportunity for your church to shine a light and spread life in the cloud of uncertainty and darkness. Now, more than ever, people are searching for comfort, for peace, for hope, for rest. All of these things are found in Jesus! 

Will you step into this opportunity?

CONCLUSION

As we navigate the days, weeks and months ahead, it is our intent to provide you with as much relevant resources, tips and encouragement as we can.

In our next post, we’ll share more about the impact of going digital on the operational side of your church and what you need to consider from an administrative and financial perspective. 

In the meantime, please reach out to us with any questions. We are here to be a resource to your church, and to help you navigate this unprecedented time in our history.  We are praying for you. And we are here to help in whatever way we can.