Open Church is Hiring a Program Director

Kent Shaffer —  November 5, 2014

Open Church helps Christians collaborate, learn from each other, and share resources. We accomplish this in 2 ways:

  1. Manage a database directory of people, resources, & research.
  2. Increase access to the database with standardized approaches to cataloging, licensing, archiving, distributing, & technology.

The Program Director’s Role

Program Director is a full-time, telecommuting position responsible for the early stage implementation of Open Church’s ecosystem. Core responsibilities include:

  • In-depth research of global Christianity.
  • Nurture relationships with strategic partners.
  • Facilitate acquisition of data & resources.
  • Train & manage volunteers and interns.
  • Assist in adding content to the Open Church database.
  • Oversee quality control and project management of all programs.

This is a versatile role that will grow and evolve as Open Church grows. You are a jack of all trades, master of some. You thrive with both people and spreadsheets. And you have a deep love for both culture and God’s Kingdom.

To learn more about Open Church, read our 2014 Vision Blueprint.

To apply, email a resume to apply [AT] openchurch.com

8 Ways Churches Can Use SMS Text Messaging

Kent Shaffer —  October 20, 2014

What is the best way for a church to communicate with its congregation?

There is a good chance it is SMS text messaging. It is a fast way to reach almost anyone.

Consider the alternatives. Postcards and direct mail also reach almost anyone but at slow pace. Phone trees are annoying and impersonal. Email is quick but only reaches the digitally inclined. Social media is like email but with the added handicap of fighting through the clutter. Announcements at church are quite successful but only if it can wait until the next church service.

So how can a church use SMS text messaging?

TextMarks has put together a list of 8 ways churches can use texting.

  1. Inform your entire congregation.
    Send out congregation-wide alerts about events, services, cancellations, room changes, and anything else you need to communicate.
  2. Communicate with a specific group.
    Reach a specific group within your church, such as volunteers, administrative staff, parents, pastors, students, or a Bible study. For example, TextMarks allows each group or ministry to have their own keyword yet still be part of a parent group. This way you can text alerts about upcoming events to the entire congregation but add extra details for the volunteers.
  3. Boost community service.
    One of the most beautiful things about the Body of Christ is the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ. When a natural disaster strikes, a food pantry needs filled, or some other need requires attention, text messaging is a great way to rally support and service from church goers.
  4. Request donations.
    Many churches are beginning to learn that offering mobile giving can both increase giving and attract new givers. For example, TextMarks allows you to configure a keyword that users can text to a short code like “41411″, which will then text them a hyperlinked url to your church’s donation page.
  5. Inspire your congregation.
    Text Bible verses or meaningful quotes on a regular or even daily basis to those who subscribe.
  6. Conduct a poll.
    Engage your congregation by taking a poll. Get a pulse on how congregants think and feel. Or even let them help you prepare your next sermon by texting their vote from a list of topics.
  7. Increase attendance.
    Want to make sure people remember to register for classes or even remember to come? Simply add participants to your SMS group and schedule text reminders to go out before the event. Research shows that 97% of people read a text immediately.
  8. Reinforce the sermon.
    Text a Scripture reading the day before a sermon, so that your congregation can prime their hearts for the teaching. And ripple the sermon’s theme throughout the week with timely snippets, quotes, and reminders.

To learn more about what text messaging can do, visit TextMarks.com.

Special thanks to TextMarks for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

Measuring the Intangible with 6 Symptoms of Discipleship

Ben Savage —  September 16, 2014
Guest Writer: Ben Savage

When you work with church leaders for long enough, you begin to identify common themes and challenges. I have been involved in lay leadership in several churches and have worked with hundreds of pastors over the years, and one thing they all have in common is the desire for people to engage with their church and be transformed by an encounter with Jesus.

Setting the stage for these encounters takes many forms. Each church is unique, but all face a similar challenge:

How do we measure the intangible with the observable?

Spiritual growth and engagement is largely intangible. You can’t measure someone’s growing love for and connection to God using a yardstick. So we look for the outward signs of a disciple. This is not a foolproof plan either; we all know stories of individuals who have outwardly lived “as they should” only to reveal later that there was little to no real connection to the Father.

But one big reason that this approach breaks down is simply that churches don’t have the right tools to get a full picture of someone’s engagement and connection to the church.There are many ways people can live out their faith, but here are six common signs of discipleship:

  • Connection through Prayer
    1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 – Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  • Engagement in Scripture
    Joshua 1:8 – Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
  • Being Present
    Hebrews 10:25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  • Acts of Service
    Isaiah 58:6-8 – Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness the LORD will be your rear guard.
  • Investment in Others
    Ephesians 4:11-13 – So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
  • Worship through Generosity
    Deuteronomy 16:17 – Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.

Arundel Christian Church, through the use of effective processes and a unifying church management system, measures people’s engagement and discovers effective ways to deepen their involvement.

Measuring the intangible can be tough — especially without the right tools. If you are using disconnected systems to track giving, attendance, and engagement, you might be making it harder than it needs to be. Eliminating data silos in your church can help you gain a fuller picture of an individual’s personal journey and involvement. How are you measuring individual spiritual growth within your church?

For more on this, read the story of three churches that eliminated data silos and increased their ability to engage people, invest in their spiritual maturity, and empower them to participate in ministry.

Special thanks to Church Community Builder for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

How to Increase Spiritual Fruit in a Digital World

Kent Shaffer —  July 31, 2014

In June 2014, I spoke at Biola Digital Conference about how can we increase spiritual fruit in a digital world. Biola University has been kind enough to make this video free for you. View it and my notes below.

How do we increase spiritual fruit in a digital world?

Now we could talk about…

  • The importance of branding, design, and first impressions.
  • Digital atmospherics and how to nudge users in the direction you want them to go.
  • Emerging technologies and what these shifts mean for the future of ministry.
  • Or even results-based strategy.

I’ve taught about that, but it guarantees nothing! And there are plenty of books and blogs and lectures that can teach you today’s leading strategies and best practices.

I’ve spent the past decade studying the ministry models and best practices of global Christianity. Reality is I could spend 50 more years and still hardly grasp the depth and complexity of 43,000 denominations spread across 196 countries.

But what I do know – what I am confident of is that there is one model – there is one approach – that is essential to increasing your spiritual fruit.

Abide in Christ. Pursue God’s wisdom. And obey.

I used to say there is no golden formula, but I disagree now. For years I watched mighty moves of God in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. And I marveled, what is it? What is it that makes them thrive? It is not their ministry models. It’s not their denominations. It is not their theologies. These movements transcend all of that. And then one day I realized it is their hunger and obedience!

There is an essential formula and it echoes throughout Scripture. There is an essential formula that should serve as the foundation of what we do.

Abide in Christ. Pursue God’s wisdom. And obey.

Abide in Christ, and you will flourish.
And out of the overflow of your relationship with Jesus, pursue the foolish wisdom of God.
And then simply obey His guidance to the best of your abilities.

Now this doesn’t throw talent and intelligence out the window. It is in that last step of obedience. We need to use our brains and our bodies for the Kingdom, too. But a relationship with Christ is a filter that removes our self-reliance, that removes the wisdom of the world, and leaves us with the wisdom of God if we’re willing to listen. Continue Reading…

Real Thread

Growing up most church t-shirts I saw were simply wearable souvenirs commemorating the last youth retreat or something you attended. While this souvenir approach isn’t going away, the potential of a custom church t-shirt has grown to be a valuable tool used for identification, security, professionalism, and promotion.

Let’s look in depth at these 4 areas, sizing tips, and the benefits of using water based printing like Real Thread.

Identification

The larger a church grows the more important it is that attendees are able to identify who can help. Using custom t-shirts helps attendees more easily identify who can answer questions or assist them. This works well for big events, children’s ministry, first-time guests, and emergency situations. A uniform, particularly in a less common color, lets people scan the crowd and instantly know who’s in charge. Or in the case of a youth ministry doing community service, a unified t-shirt lets leaders identify and keep track of their students. But be careful not to get a shirt color that pops at the expense of nobody wanting to wear it.

Security & Professionalism

Particularly in children’s ministry, custom t-shirts provide an extra layer of security. Although improbable, there are rare cases where a predator or parent in a custody battle might try to fake looking a children’s ministry worker. This is easy to do with handwritten, self-adhesive nametags, more difficult with custom printed worker nametags, and very difficult with a custom t-shirt and nametag for workers. Having layers of security is a deterrent in itself. A children’s worker uniform also communicates a sense of control and safety, which is comforting to parents.

Custom t-shirts also provide terrific security and professionalism for church production crews. Behind the scenes of worship services are audio, video, lighting, and stage workers orchestrating the little details and the big picture. While valuable, their role is one to go unnoticed. A black shirt with gray lettering is an excellent way to blend into the shadows while still providing a uniform that says you’re allowed to be running around backstage.

Promotion

A custom t-shirt is a compelling walking billboard when used well. It is a tool worth considering but only with caution. The challenge with using a shirt to build awareness is that the wearer himself will actually influence the message for better or worse. It is a similar effect to churches using window stickers on cars – it builds awareness but coupled with negative feelings if a driver is a jerk. So take care in choosing who will represent you as a walking diplomat.

Real Thread

Sizing

When printing church t-shirts, be sure to get the right sizes of shirts. Going one size fits all by getting all XL shirts for your children’s ministry workers isn’t a good strategy. I’ve seen it done, and it leaves a large portion of your team frustrated that they have to wear a poncho each time they serve. Ideally you can ask each individual what size they prefer, but in the case of unknowns, consider using a tool like Real Thread’s shirt size calculator.

Water Based Printing

Lastly, consider using water based and discharge inks for printing your custom t-shirts.

Traditional t-shirt printing uses plastisol inks that print a plastic ink over the fabric, which limits breathability and is prone to cracking. Water based inks sink into the fabric leaving a long-lasting print that is still vibrant but also breathable, doesn’t crack, and is free of toxic chemicals.

Best of all, water based printing doesn’t have to cost more. Real Thread is streamlined and large enough to be able to offer clients like churches, Google, and VSCO rates on water based printing that are competitive with shops using the cheap plastisol inks. Real Thread has a 15,000 square-foot warehouse in downtown Orlando that handles everything from customer support to product creation under one roof. They’re actually one of the only exclusive water based and discharge ink screen printers in the world.

But where it really gets cool is Real Thread offers specialty printing services like glow in the dark ink, over zipper printing, 4 color processing, tag printing, foil, inside out printing, tonal printing, burnout, and about 90 ink colors.

So the next time you need some custom church t-shirts, remember: design well, print well.

real-thread-shop

Special thanks to Real Thread for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

Texting Your Way to Healthier Church Communication

Kent Shaffer —  July 11, 2014

What’s the best way for your church to communicate to your congregation?

Well, it depends on the church.

The world is increasingly a complex melting pot of subcultures. Some churches thrive using social media while other churches need more traditional communication channels. There are hundreds of options.

And text messaging may actually be one of the best tools you can use.

Why texting?

Text messaging (SMS) is as popular as email was a decade ago. According to Pew Internet Project, 90% of American adults have a cell phone, and 79% of them use text messaging in 2014.

In other words, 7 in 10 church goers use text messaging. And this number is growing.

In most cases, the nature of texting is more effective at communicating than email, service announcements, and voice messages. It is 160 characters delivered within 7 seconds.

Tools for Texting

Of course, you don’t want to send out 200 individual messages from your phone. There is software for that.

Some solutions, like Church Office Online, even integrate mass text messaging into church management software (ChMS). In fact, Church Office Online actually includes text messaging in every subscription package at no extra cost. Users can easily send text messages to specific individuals, ministry groups, or their entire congregation.

Texting Your Way to a Healthy Church

Churches can use text messaging in a variety of ways. There are clear benefits to its ability to communicate the urgent – weather cancellations, emergency notifications, and calls to action for community service. It is administratively versatile with its convenience of volunteer communication, event reminders, announcements, and schedule changes.

But text messaging’s real value is in how churches can explore using it to spiritually strengthen the health of their community. The fuel that drives a church’s health is each individual’s personal relationship with Jesus. Abiding in Christ prunes and refines us to be more like Christ. And it is out of the overflow of this relationship with God that the most powerful ministry is done.

So how can text massaging be used for spiritual growth?

  • Prayer
    Your church can use texting to communicate urgent prayer needs or even just every day prayer requests. However, the real potential lies in developing weekly or even daily prayer guides to help church members practice and cultivate the habit of prayer.
  • Scripture
    Scripture illiteracy is still a problem. As we’ve seen with the emergence of Bible apps and audio Bibles, technology is providing new avenues of engagement that can be the first format that suits certain types of learners. Perhaps text messaging is the channel that some need to finally jumpstart a habit of Bible reading. This could be a weekly or daily devotional with one text being Scripture and a 2nd text being a thought-provoking question. One of my favorite examples is using text messaging to share the Scripture text for the sermon the day before. What a wonderful way to extend the sermon beyond the service and prepare hearts to receive more.

Think about how your church can turn text messaging into weekly devotionals of prayer and Scripture. Tools like Church Office Online are perfectly suited to help you get started, explore the potential, and manage the full spectrum of church texting.

Special thanks to Church Office Online for supporting Church relevance by sponsoring this post.

Thank You June Supporters

Kent Shaffer —  June 30, 2014

Special thanks to Church Relevance’s June supporters. They help fund the work and research that goes into the reference lists that Church Relevance has come to be known for.

Call-Em-All // Church Community Builder // Church Office Online
Digital Bible Platform // Ekklesia 360 // Elexio // eResources
FaithWebsites // Graceway Media // Leaders Book Summaries
Open Church //
 
Shelby Systems // Rock RMS

If you would like to learn more about sponsoring Church Relevance, check out our sponsors page for the latest rates, options, and traffic stats.

What Ministry Conferences Are You Attending in 2014 & 2015?

Kent Shaffer —  June 10, 2014

Church Relevance’s list of 2014 & 2015 church conference recommendations has been updated to over 80 ministry conferences throughout 2014, 2015, and even 2016. It is not too early to start planning which ones you can attend.

So check out the list, and please leave a comment letting us know which conferences we forgot and which ones you’ll be attending.