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.

Resources to Check Out

Kent Shaffer —  May 31, 2014

Two new resources have been added to our sponsors to check out – Rock RMS (a free church management software) and the Digital Bible Platform (a free Bible API with over 1,600 volumes).

Bible
Digital Bible Platform

Church Management Software:
Active Faith // Church Community Builder // Church Office Online // Elexio // Shelby Systems // Rock RMS

Church Websites:
Ekklesia 360 // FaithWebsites

Communication Tools:
Call-Em-All

Education:
Leaders Book Summaries

Media Resources:
Graceway Media // Open Church

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

The Geneva Bible: 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

Kent Shaffer —  May 26, 2014

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

Touted as the Bible of the Protestant Reformation, Hendrickson Bible Publishers offers a facsimile of the University of Wisconsin’s edition of the 1560 Geneva Bible.

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

The Geneva Bible was the first English Bible to fully be translated from the original languages. It includes the Apocrapha and also includes extensive commentary and annotations in the margins from the scholars who translated it. Such benefits made it the preferred Bible among the English settlers who voyaged to the New World in the early 1600s.

S. Iohn 3:16
For God fo loued the worlde, that he hathe giuen his onely begotten Sone, that whofoeuer beleuveth in him, fhulde not perifh, but have euerlafting life.

Iames 1:27
Pure religion & vndefiled before God, euen the Father, is this, to vifite the fatheries, and widdowes in their aduerfitie, and to kepe him felf vnfpotted of the worlde.

What is gained in novelty and academic value by having an exact copy of the 1560 Geneva Bible comes at the cost of it being more difficult to read. While the all black type is an average 7 pt size, the age and crude printing of this original edition lacks crispness. Add in the challenge of over 440 years of linguistic evolution, and most readers will be forced to slow their reading pace considerably.

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

As with many Hendrickson Bible, this Bible is beautifully crafted with a rugged blach genuine leather cover, Smyth-sewn binding, gold-gilded page edges, and a black ribbon marker. This is a very thick Bible at 2.5 inches, but its Smyth-sewn binding allows it to still lay flat.

The paper is much thicker and waxier than typical Bible paper.

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

Because this is a facsimile, you get to enjoy the original artisanship of maps, woodcut illustrations, and drop cap letters from 1560. This original edition also includes study resources such as a concordance of proper names, a concordance of principal things, a genealogical timeline from Adam to Christ, and a timeline of God. Added to the facsimile is a lengthy introduction to the Bible’s history written by Lloyd E. Berry.

Translation: The Geneva Bible
Publisher: Hendrickson Bible Publishers
ISBN: 9781598562132
Language: English
Cost: $119.95

Cover: genuine leather (black)
Binding: Smyth-sewn with 1 black ribbon marker
Pages: 1,280 pages with gold gilded edges
Type: 7 point black text
Dimensions: 2.5″ x 7.8″ x 10″
Special Features: original facsimile copy of the Geneva Bible’s text, art, and resources

This post features a complimentary review copy and Amazon affiliate links.

Those Who Make It Possible

Kent Shaffer —  April 30, 2014

Special thanks to April’s sponsors:

Church Management Software:
Active Faith // Church Community Builder // Church Office Online // Elexio //
Shelby Systems

Church Websites:
Ekklesia 360 // FaithWebsites

Communication Tools:
Call-Em-All

Education:
Leaders Book Summaries

Media Resources:
Graceway Media // Open Church

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

6 Ways Technology Helps Make Disciples

Kent Shaffer —  April 14, 2014

Technology is a tool that when used well extends our natural reach and ability. In fact, these words are an example of how the internet and text can extend far beyond the reach of my voice. At the same time, when used poorly, technology can enslave its users. We’ve all seen people become obsessed with checking their phones or taking on more tech than they can handle. I’ve been that person.

So how do we use technology well for ministry?
How do we discover that sweet tension between doing just enough to reach our full potential but not so much it bogs us down?

Software like Church Community Builder is designed to extend your ministry’s reach. They aim to keep the cost and usability simple without compromising performance. But the real value is in how you choose to use it. So as you begin to think about how you use technology for ministry, consider the following 6 ways that tech can extend your reach and help make disciples.

(1) Identifying people’s gifts.

Church management software makes it much easier to easily identify people’s unique gifts and then equip them with opportunities to use them. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul calls us all to live according to our gifts. Don’t pursue someone else’s spiritual gift but rather pursue what God has called you to be. Ideally, church leadership should be educating their individual congregants about their spiritual gifts, empowering them use their gifts, and holding them accountable in using their gifts well.

At the same time, church management software can also be used to track your congregation’s weak areas. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul also explains how the church is like a body with many different yet equally important parts. What parts is your church body missing? It is easy to get comfortable in a sea of people wired just like you, but software can make it much easier to track and pinpoint needed roles and gifts.

(2) Creating a connection.

The gospel spreads best through relationship. Discipleship thrives under a mentorship role. While most would agree that one-on-one, face-to-face relationships are ideal, there are still many ways that technology can extend our reach to connect with people throughout each week. In fact, Nielsen reports that a surprising 91% of adults have their cell phone within arm’s reach 24/7. Keep in mind that while the technology exists to connect with church members throughout the week, its effectiveness is all in how you use it. Be prayerfully wise in what is the best way to digitally connect with the people you are called to reach.

(3) Following up with volunteers. & (4) Engaging newcomers.

Intending to do something doesn’t matter if it never gets done or gets done too late. I’ve seen too many visitors and too many potential volunteers slip through the cracks at churches because the leadership intended to follow up but became too busy. Personally, I need management software to keep track of newcomers and prospective volunteers. In both cases, quick follow up is a great way to make people very valued and wanted.

This is key particularly with newcomers. Hopefully, your church is healthy and friendly enough to engage newcomers with sincere hospitality during their first visit. Regardless, reaching out to newcomers a few days later is a great way to take the relationship to the next step.

(5) Measuring the ministry.

Only God can measure heart attitudes and real spiritual fruit. Yet man-made metrics can play a role in helping churches identify ministry needs, ministry engagement, and the probability of spiritual fruit.

Tracking good attendance, baptisms, and giving numbers do not guarantee of a healthy church, but it does hint at the probability of health. Tracking involvement hints at health and unmet needs, too. If attendance tracking identifies that single parents are struggling to bring their families to church, you are now aware of an opportunity to figure out how to serve them – be it making changes to church programs or even raising up leaders like Acts 6 to minister to them beyond the church walls.

Technology helps you define the key areas of engagement and measure that for individuals. Disciples are people engaged in ministry, so it’s important to remember that you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

(6) Informing decision-making.

Wise counsel is key for ministry. For 2,000 years, church leaders have benefited from the guidance of scripture and prayer and the advice of elders and overseers. Now we live in an era where we can leverage technology to gain insights into opportunities for improvement and unmet needs. Done well, analyzing data from church management software can reveal what efforts are likely most fruitful and which are not.

For more information about how technology can help your church, visit ChurchCommunityBuilder.com.

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

9 New Focuses of Open Church

Kent Shaffer —  April 10, 2014

As I mentioned in Open Church’s 2013 Recap, the direction of Open Church took several dramatic turns this past fall. Originally, Open Church was intended to be a platform that aggregates and distributes free resources. Now after much prayer and traveling to listen to needs around the world, Open Church has identified 9 needs that would change how resources are created, distributed, and accessed.

Moving forward requires better relationships with each other. Open Church is not so much its own platform but rather 9 collaborative initiatives working behind-the-scenes to empower other causes and help Christians work together more easily.

It is just enough infrastructure to build momentum and remove historic inefficiencies while not having so much structure that it quenches the Holy Spirit or hinders scalability. So let us work together to help true disciples of Jesus collaborate, learn from each other, and share resources for the good of God’s Kingdom.

1 :: A Collaborative Ecosystem

A network for resource creators and distributors that (1) creates awareness for each other’s initiatives, (2) connects participants that might work well together, and (3) offers support in the collaboration process.

2 :: Standardized Licenses

A common approach to resource licensing that (1) eases legal understanding through standardization, (2) streamlines logistics by removing unnecessary legal restrictions, and (3) accommodates opposing theological convictions by offering multiple licenses.

3 :: Crowdsourced Sharing Platform

A low-overhead resource sharing platform that is crowd moderated and not hindered by censorship and curation limitations. With the right standardized licensing the best resources can be easily added to archival libraries for preservation and increased distribution.

4 :: Archival Libraries

Archives of curated resources preserved and standardized for future generations. Multiple libraries are needed to accommodate theological differences. These archives will seek to digitize public domain works, acquire copyrighted works, and support indigenous in creating resources for their culture by their culture.

5 :: Distribution Channels

Distribution engines that tap into archival libraries and distribute resources to end users or to other distributors. Many platforms already exist that can be retrofitted to become distribution channels, particularly with the right resource licensing.

6 :: Discipleship Platforms

Christian training ranging from Western culture’s academic approach to Eastern culture’s apprenticeship approach. Free resources are good, but discipleship platforms cultivate much deeper potential.

7 :: Open Field Research

Combined research efforts that report the spiritual, physical, emotional, economic, and educational needs of the globe. By combining data from thousands of ministries in the trenches, a better global pulse can be taken.

8 :: Open ID & User Data

Shared databases that excel digital platforms’ ability to provide convenience, tailor content experiences, and offer new features to users.

9 :: Development Standards

Standardizing the creation ministry technology allows for greater compatibility and digital collaboration.

These concepts aren’t new ideas. In fact, pockets of Christianity have been discussing them for about a decade, but the concepts often stall due to a lack of bandwidth, lack of trust, or preferential treatment. These concepts need an umbrella organization that is a safe, neutral, and unaffiliated guardian of the initiatives. It must accommodate a broad scope of unique needs from collaborators while simultaneously serving all contributing individuals, cultures, and groups equally.

This is Holy Spirit dependent. We plan deeply within the parameters set by Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but we will eagerly narrow the scope, tweak details, or even overhaul the core of this blueprint as He leads. Kingdom fruit is accomplished not by our own strength and wisdom but by obedience to God and a right heart attitude.

Christians have become fragmented and territorial. We’ve greatly departed from the Acts 4 lifestyle of sharing all things in common. If we have the means to share resources, then let’s share with the rest of the Body of Christ. In John 17, Christ prayed that we might be unified in one heart and mind by His words, God’s Word. This isn’t a haphazard acceptance of all things claiming to be Christian or all things branded with the labels of denominations, theologies, and ministry models. Rather Christ appealed that we individually be one with the Father as Christ modeled for us, and I believe that generosity with each other is a natural byproduct of uniting around the heart of His words, the heart of the Father.

Thus far, Open Church has acquired 501c3 status, trademarked branding, launched a beta testing website, scouted content creators, researched necessary global logistics and challenges, sought overlapping initiatives for learning and collaborative talks, begun initial stages on several of the 9 focuses, and most importantly, learned to humbled ourselves, pray, and seek God’s face.

Ideally, Open Church will be 100% funded by donations. Revenue-generating models can hinder collaboration by giving preferential treatment to specific groups or by limiting access to only those who can afford it.

In order to reach the next stages, partnership is needed. Infrastructure for the 9 initiatives needs developed, and manpower needs added for administration and volunteer training and management.