The Road Less Traveled

scottandIfinal

As some of you know Scott (my hubby) and I are selling our home, moving into our RV and plan on kicking it for some time. We are retiring (at least from one way of life toward another…)

At first we will venture southeast to Shaver Lake where we will be campground hosts (check out: Camp Edison. We’re hosts of area 10a) while we enter a time of prayer, study and reflection.

“Our hope is for God to speak into where we find ourselves.”

We ask for your prayers including prayers that we are at peace with what we have chosen and when we have chosen it…. (Oh the restlessness associated with trading one way of life for another while leaving behind the comfort of a home, a job, friends and family) and wisdom. Yes. Please prayer for wisdom. Wisdom to see and act upon that which God longs for.

So far, here are the possibilities we are kicking the tires on:

1) Traveling from here to there to help where help is needed. Perhaps it is OK where a tornado hits or MI where families need clean water. Who knows… Go where we can when we can because we can.

2) Blogging!

  • simple and frugal living with the purpose of lowering our carbon footprint while joining the ‘tiny’ revolution, (our RV is 24 feet with an add-on screen room. It will be us, 2 dogs and 1 cat….cozy, am I right?)
  • spiritual awakenings and theological discoveries while on the road, (nature speaks to me, I am sure some of this will make its way to my blog. Likely not very good but nevertheless it will be faithful to my journey.)
  • information and resources around social media, marketing and strategic management as it pertains to church (can’t help it, I have a strange mind. I like to read a lot of things and things inspire things to share. Hopefully of use to any one who reads it).

3) Provide sacred space and prayer for travelers we meet. We envision being available to who God sends our way. We cannot explain it but we get a sense there are people on the road feeling the weight of life on their shoulders. Truth is as we all know, we take ourselves and our circumstances with us everywhere we go and for some of us that is a lot to carry. Perhaps, with God’s guidance, we will be blessed to be a blessing. Maybe.

Of course, all this is in its infancy stage awaiting …God’.

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In all, we’re taking off and opening ourselves to discover what’s on the other side. We ask for your prayers and any words of wisdom that arise. We’re open to your ideas too. Blow them past us. We are a blank slate doing something we have never done before and are open to the adventure that awaits.

I imagine our connection to you all through Facebook, twitter, through blogging and such will increase in its value to us. The further we move away from all the things we have come to rely, I imagine our virtual connections will be a source to us.

We will continue to hold your ministries and lives in our prayers and who knows maybe we’ll roll up beside you someday. God willing.

We leave May 7.

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Tsunami(s) and the Church

waveThe other day I read an article named, “Death Tsunami Threatens Church” (article) which states that the only way for the church to survive the impending numbers of people dying is to transform itself as rapidly as it can.
While the statistical premise is correct, the article is written with a dose of implication that every church, regardless of where its located, who it serves and what is strengths are needs immediately to re-envision and transform itself in order to reach the younger, not dying, demographic.
While I appreciate the statistical reality of a ‘dying tsunami’ and I agree transformation is needed among most church communities, I wish the article reached further and offered more insight into the impending tsunami.
After all, the author states one of the truest statements … We are getting hit by a tsunami and its death toll will be high.
Soon, if it is not already occurring within your congregation, every week it seems, another member dies. Grief, if not already present will be a common experience among all your members and the number of funerals clergy will deliver will numerically outpace all other rituals for the year combined.
But this is not the only tsunami.
The other one goes with this one and has already started hitting us. It is the ‘aging tsunami’. Yes. For the next 10-15 years EVERY DAY another 10,000 people throughout United States turn 65 years old.
Given this, I wish the article had offered another, additional perspective. One that is not offered as routinely as this one generally given. I believe we need to encourage churches to embrace the demographic, the aging demographic. So much of the time we hear about transforming to reach the millennials and un-churched we loose sight of or not realize the opportunity sitting right in front of us – reaching and serving the elderly.
What could it look like to seek the aging population? What would it mean to build upon their needs, offer programming and resources that most particularly address their immediate and coming life situations and changes?

6 reasons this growing segment is worth targeting

1) This segment of the population is growing faster than other age segments
2) This segment has a higher, built-in familiarity with propensity to engage the church
3) This segment has present and emerging needs that church communities are suited to address
4) This segment has a legacy understanding of tithing and giving (including planned) to organizations
5) This segment is not dead yet and are eager, talented and able to volunteer and participate
6) This segment have particular needs and expectations that need meaningful spiritual attention that include:
a) aging in place, b) grief work, c) good death planning, d) navigation of resources and community service offerings, e) provides inter-generational opportunities.
So often we read what amounts to “out with the old, in with the new” without realizing the advantage already in place. Where not everybody wants to be a church for the aging, fine but for those who are seeking a growing target market with built-in needs suited for faith communities – perhaps you need look no further than the community already around you.
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Possible considerations, questions to find answers…as you explore.
1. What percent of your current congregation’s member-base is 55 years and older today?
2. What percent of your current market area’s population is 55 years and older? Is this growing?
3. Of the building going on in your market area; are there a number of new assisted living, independent living, senior housing communities going in? What needs are those developers developing for?
4. Are you connected to your communities’ Senior Centers? Meals-On-Wheels? Perhaps their needs are changing or growing?
5. What connections is your community making within your market area around palliative care and hospice programs, resources and services? Does your church offer grief workshops?
6. Of the community churches in your area, do any of them have a Senior’s Ministry? What does their offering include?
As the needs of this population segment is vast there exists plenty of room and opportunity to deliver value and compassionate care. Too often articles today point to transforming to reach the un-churched and millennials. As many younger families find themselves saddled with caring for their elderly parents (because more people live longer than previously); perhaps the way to truly reach them is to help them help their parents.
Just something to think about. At least I know I do.
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Top 12 Site Must Haves

top 12ChurchSite Musts

Today’s faith seekers seek first online. In fact, 85% of today’s church attendees first looked for the church they attend online. From the comfort of their home or office they are able to discretely seek answers to their pressing questions while gaining a sense of the community their interested in.

Many churches today struggle with their online presence. Some think it takes programming skills to provide an effective site where others think it costs a lot.

I have good news!

  • Programming skills are no longer required
  • Building, hosting and maintaining a site is ‘cheap’. Today there are a number of host solutions with free templates to use (some specifically geared for churches) making the process of getting a website up and running fast and at very affordable prices.

But what are people seeking when they go online? What do they expect of a site?

Today’s busy seekers are very discerning. In fact, they will determine the credibility of an organization (including churches) upon the availability and quality of the organizations online presence. It is no longer good enough to have something but the something you have must meet or exceed their expectations. To help you I gathered a list of ‘must haves.’

Here is a list of the Top-12 must haves an online seeker seeks:

  1. Can I learn about the church and its community through a number of online channels or only one? (i.e. facebook, twitter, website, blog, pinterest, instagram)
  2. Is their site contemporary? As I prefer using my smartphone for researching my options, is their site mobile-friendly?
  3. When is Worship?
  4. What Can I expect in worship, will I be welcomed?
  5. Can I participate or watch only? Can I receive communion, can I opt out of it?
  6. What about my children, can they come or is there childcare provided?
  7. How do I find the church? Address, directions, google maps? (Make this info. front and center as much as possible. Don’t make me search for it.)
  8. What do they believe in? Since I don’t know their jargon my hope is that it is simple and clear for me to understand.
  9. Can I donate online? I really don’t like people looking at me when I donate.
  10. Will they accept my kind of people?
  11. Can I listen to (watch even better) a sermon?
  12. Is there a blog I can read to get a feel for the pastor?

Given that 94% of people cite that poor web design is their primary reason for mistrusting or rejecting an organization,  it is important to work through a use a web-hosting solution that supports being mobile friendly?

Since some of us may not know what that means I grabbed this image. Here is an image of a site being viewed on a handheld device. It is the same site but only one, as you can see, is mobile-friendly.

RegularVsMobileWebsite_BlogImage

Today people require the sites they visit to be easily viewed and navigated from their handheld device. As this chart shows from ComScore mobile search has surpassed Desktop users and this happened back in 2014…

Mobile-stats-vs-desktop-users-global-550x405

Conclusion

In today’s fast-pace often over-worked communities it is a matter of simple convenience and good pastoral care to provide information members and seekers need. Anything you can do to make their lives easier can only better your ministry.

If you find you could use some help in understanding your website hosting options and needs. Whether it is designing or improving I can give you a hand if you would like. As always, what I don’t know I’ll find out. What I know is yours for the taking.

Peace,

Hope

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Facebook Ministry

Mmm...warm_fresh_bread_w_butter_(4163806801)Facebook is by far the greatest gift to church ministry since someone sliced bread.

Among the social media options available Facebook has the largest engaged audience. People regularly go to Facebook to see what people are sharing and saying. They share what is happening in their lives. They engage.

If a church is not online (including Facebook), then it is not engaging the culture!

Simply put, it is not relevant to the community in which it is called to serve. It may as well take down its sign, close its doors and allow entry only to those who know the special handshake.

A church needs to be where the people gather and they are online and on social media sites.

My church has Facebook

As good and important as Facebook is many church communities have yet to leverage its capabilities in order to expand their brand footprint and grow their community. Most use their Facebook presence to post pictures, upload small videos and links to announcements, messages, articles and blogs – all good things.

Personal vs. Business Facebook

Many have set up their Facebook as a ‘profile’ over a ‘page’ account thereby limiting their ability to assess visitor behavior information and leverage Facebook’s campaign capabilities.

Simply put “profile”accounts are personal accounts where “page” accounts are business accounts. Not only does Facebook require any entity (not an actual person) to set up as a business page but they are free to delete any account they realize is operating a business under a personal set-up. So, if you don’t have yours set-up correctly do so soon. Here is Facebook’s help link to do so seamlessly.

Top 10 Reasons to set-up a ‘Business Facebook page’ rather than use ‘Personal Facebook profile’ for your church…

Today’s serious church communities take the business of their communities’ seriously and people today expect the communities they’re associated with to be a) relevant, b) timely and, c) insightful; providing an experience that meets (or exceeds) their expectations. Successful communities are doing this by getting to know their members deeply and they’re doing this by leveraging data insights and demographic (and psycho-graphic) profiles available.

Facebook provides this kind of information – FREE!

Facebook provides additional places for content about your community. Rather than relying on the limited ‘bio-profile’ area tab, Facebook enables Page accounts to add intro. videos, newsletter opt-in forms and areas to highlight more about your church community – who you are, what you believe in, who you serve….

Facebook provides ‘page’ accounts access to advertising. Within the console is the ability to set-up a small budget (i.e. $20) which tells you the audience reach your spend will generate based on the parameters you set. The parameters you have to work with are:

  1. Location – select the target area you want to see your post?
  2. Age – what age range is your post most suited for?
  3. Gender – is subject matter or event most designed for a particular group?
  4. Interests – what kind of interests does the audience have that fits with the ‘interests’ of your post?

Facebook allows ‘pages’ to create offers. In the traditional sense these would be     discounts for a site visitor’s purchase. In our context, church communities could use this functionality to offer:

  1. Lenten readers FREE if visitor brings in the offer coupon.
  2. Discounts on Tickets for Fundraising events
  3. Discounts on formatted and produced CD for a sermon series they might like.

Facebook ‘page’ accounts permit the owner to assign administrative roles. Depending on the size of your online footprint, your community may want to establish a ‘Social Ministry Team.’ Their charge is all things digital including:

  1. Website and its content including graphic designer, video.
  2. Email marketing landing pages and redirects
  3. Analytics and tracking campaigns, click-throughs, impressions, etc. for site, FB page and other social media channels.
  4. Content and curation of resources for: site, page, newsletter, blog, twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.
  5. Manager who oversees the integration and helps define the strategic approach to effectively leverage all channels working in concert as well as monitors visitor (member) responses and issues.

Using a Facebook ‘page’ account over a ‘personal’ account is regarded as more professional; increasing your communities’ credibility. With every fly-by-night allowed on the internet it becomes more important to establish and guard your online brand and presence. With 85% of the people considering a church, first looking online; the need to ensure our best is presented is an imperative.

Within Facebook ‘page’ accounts you are provided scheduling functionality that frees you to set up what and when something will post automatically.

Finally, because you have set-up a Facebook pages account you are able to locate your church on the front page of your page. This is an important thing for any visitor who has come to visit your page and wonders where you are. Just like your website, having your location  – FRONT and CENTER – takes the guesswork of how to find you out of the visitors hands. The easier you make it for them to find you online and offline the better their experience of you is.

A $20 buy

Does spending $20 sound like a lot? Compare what is currently spent on printing and mailing? When was the last time we asked our members if they would prefer to receive their newsletter via email over receiving it in the mail? The answer might surprise us and the added savings might be what is needed to spend in areas that could grow our church communities.

Trending

Video. Move as much of your content as you can to video for presenting on your Facebook page. Why? 1) Makes more impressions. More people click on and view content over reading text, 2) Facebook supporting (preferring?) video, image driven content. Some speculate its their response to Google+. Perhaps, 3) Pictures tell a 1,000 stories? video’s tell brings it alive! Have FUN!

Love extravagantly,

Hope

 

 

 

 

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500 and counting

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That is how many people attended the online webinar that discussed, “Social Media to Grow Your Church fast”.

More than 500 from all across the countryfrom all sorts of churches, big and small.

The facilitator, Alejandro, was overwhelmed by the response. He couldn’t keep up with the number of participants signing in and the number of questions he was receiving. The organization sponsoring the webinar had been getting requests for help about how best to use Social Media so they decided to put together a webinar to begin sharing knowledge.

Roughly 80% of those participating stated they currently use Facebook for their church communities. When asked about their use, nearly 100% stated their use was sporadic and mostly relied on posting announcements.

“What’s possible is Social Media starts talking for you when you talk about you.”

Time and Consistency

A walk away point drilled in again and again was to make sure your church gives social media the time to build a following and that it is consistent. One of the worst things to do is to start posting some things and then give up or stop posting as often. Whether people click through or not they grow to expect you on their feeds. Whether they comment or attend, they prefer your presence than have you fall silent. Time and consistency become the foundation to build your brand.

Social Channels

The channels discussed included: eMail (as a marketing strategy), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Periscope

The suggestion was to master 1 or 2 and then add the additional channels once you’ve got your feet wet. Some questioned the amount of time needed to be effective. It was stated to develop a communication plan where the communications and things shared are integrated and complimentary to other weekly, monthly communications already underway. This is something blogged about before. For more detail see:  listening plan.

Quick Tips

Of the things shared during this webinar here is a list of 6 quick tips:

  1. Post 1 to 2 times per day, every day (minimum).
  2. There is a 39% increase in attention given if what is posted has an image.
  3. When posting on Facebook, keep post to 80 characters or less (Twitter has limit to 140) to get more engagement. If need more use 80 character as a teaser with linking to more content.
  4. Ask questions, post scripture, quotes that compliment message – seek ‘engagement
  5. All week, every week Pastors work to write a great message. In it is great content. Don’t hide it or hold it just Sunday’s Sermon, leverage it to drive interest and traction.
  6. Organic reach (those who ‘like’ you) is easily 4-16% non-paid. The more activity your page has the more people will see and as we have already said in another post…..

On social media friends beget friends and so on and so forth.

Based on the response and the flood of questions gathered, I got to thinking….

Questions

What questions might you all have? What of the social media channels mentioned here do you use and how? Do you feel equipped to leverage social media or would you like me to continue writing about it?

Love extravagantly,

Hope

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Just how big is your welcome?

churchdoors

I remember when I first felt the call to return to church. After 30 years away I really didn’t know where to begin or what to expect.

Given the time I’d been away I was nervous about coming back. I knew I needed to find a church that was less legalistic or bible thumping and more grace and love filled than my memory told me existed.

I determined the best way for me to find a church was to go online (entering through their virtual doors). I knew going online would give me the chance to secretly test-drive them without being bombarded by their people or needing to traipse all over town. By going online, before ever setting a foot in their door, I could figure out, “just how big is their welcome?” I didn’t realize at the time, but the way I went about selecting a church was what a lot of people do. In fact, I have come to learn that…

 85% of people thinking of going to church first go to the church’s website.

Given the requirements of today’s seekers I think there are 4 important questions to ask:

  1. What does a site need to have for today’s seekers?
  2. Do all the congregations within out region have a website?
  3. Does having an online presence lead to growth?
  4. Of the sites our congregations have, are they mobile-friendly (enabled)?

What does a site need to have for today’s seekers?

Does your church’s online presence communicate your welcome? With a little research and experience I have learned the following are the most important elements for church websites:

  1. When is Worship?
  2. What Can I expect in worship, will I be welcomed?
  3. Can I participate or watch only? Can I receive communion, can I opt out of it?
  4. What about my children, can they come or is there childcare provided?
  5. How do I find the church? Address, directions, google maps? (Make this info. front and center as much as possible. Don’t make me have to search for it.)
  6. What do they believe in? Since I don’t know their jargon my hope is that it is simple and clear for me to understand.
  7. Will they accept my kind of people?

Do all of our congregations within our region have a website?

Downloading a list of all our current congregations along with looking up their listed websites I found that although 32 (or 48%) of the 67 congregations have an ‘url’ address only …

  • 27 (or 40%) of our 67 congregations have a functional website
  • 59.9% do not. Forty of our congregations do not have a website today.

This surprised me. It seems to me every one of our congregations should at least be able to answer the bare questions mentioned above and do so online; at least to give themselves the best chance at getting seekers to come through their doors.

keyboard

But does being online lead to growth?

Although this is hard to determine with 100% accuracy since we don’t track answers to questions like: a) How did you come to know of us and, b) Did having an online presence help you make your decision to first choose us? So I needed to find  a way to back into seeing any correlation between growth and online presence.

To do so I took a look at those congregations within our region reporting new members and looked them up to see if they have an online presence. For the past 6 months of regional newsletters, I tracked what congregations reported any new members. I cross referenced their report with whether they have a website. Here is what I learned:

  • Eleven of our congregations within our region stated they gained new members.
  • Of the eleven, two (or 18%) do not have a website.One of the churches took their site down for revitalizing while the other has no evidence of ever having had a website.

Although we cannot conclude members joined because of a website we should expect to see the same ratio of members joining those churches with a website as those who join without a website. But that is not the case…

Here’s what was found

Where 27 of our 67 congregations (or 40%) have a website, 8 of the 11 (or 82%) congregations that report adding new members have a website. It seems if you have a website you’ve greatly increased your odds of attracting new members.

While having a website does not mean your congregation will grow, not having one will ensure you don’t.

The next question I began to ask is whether our sites met the requirements of those who go online seeking a church?

Are the sites our congregations have mobile-friendly (enabled)?

When looking at the various websites our congregations have there are differences in their layout and content. Some are better than others. Given that 94% of people cite that poor web design is their primary reason for mistrusting or rejecting an organization, I decided it was important to not only to see if our congregations have a site but are the sites they have – mobile friendly?

Here is an image of a site viewed on a handheld device. It is the same site but only one, as you can see, is mobile-friendly.

RegularVsMobileWebsite_BlogImage

Today people require the sites they visit to be easily viewed and navigated from their handheld device. As this chart shows from ComScore mobile search has surpassed Desktop users and this happened back in 2014…

 

Mobile-stats-vs-desktop-users-global-550x405

To see if the sites our congregations have are mobile-friendly (meaning the visitor doesn’t need to use their fingers to pinch and spread to move around the site via the small device), I keyed them into my smartphone and to check to how easy it was for me to find when and where worship was. Here is what I found:

Of the 27 congregations that have a website, 13 (or 48%) are mobile friendly (enabled). Although some of those are better designed than others. In all though, I was able to find what I was looking for. I highly recommend we visit our sites by visiting from our desktops, mobile devices (tablets, ipads, iphones, smartphones).

Conclusion

When I think of how much we rely on our phones to tell us where to go, what time to be there and any other numerous tidbits to make our lives easier it is a service requirement for church’s to make information available to our fingertips.

In today’s fast-pace often over-worked communities it is a matter of simple convenience and good discipleship to provide the information members and new visitors need to make the decision to choose our worship services. Anything we can do to make their lives easier can only better our ministries.

I know this is a lot of information. Perhaps some questions are coming to mind and an interest of checking out your site? If there is any help you need, don’t hesitate to holler. It is my privilege to help if I can. What I don’t know I will help you find a solution.

Peace,

Hope

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