Archives For Miscellaneous

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Some Resources to Consider

Kent Shaffer —  March 31, 2014

Special thanks to March’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.