5 Step Checklist to Prepare for Natural Disasters Infographic

As your community and church prepares for Hurricane Florence to make landfall, know that we stand with you in love and prayer. We realize how important it is to rally support following a disaster. To assist, we have made a quick infographic to give you some guidance.

Continue reading “5 Step Checklist to Prepare for Natural Disasters Infographic”

2018 GAAP Reporting Standards: What You Need to Know

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Is your ministry prepared for the new GAAP reporting changes that take affect for this filing season? If your church files reports according to these GAAP standards and you haven’t made the necessary changes in your accounting practices, you could be looking at a larger bill from your auditors and a scramble at the end of the year. Join the team from FellowshipOne along with our partners at Arlington, Texas accounting firm PSK CPA as we discuss these changes and talk about ways you can be sure you are in compliance.

BONUS: Get a preview of the new tool coming to ShelbyFinancials that will help make pulling together records for GAAP a breeze.

To register, click here.

5 Steps to Prepare for Natural Disasters

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During a crisis, communities tend to turn to churches for support. If ministries don’t plan for the worst, they may find themselves unprepared, overwhelmed, and unable to provide the necessary assistance for members of their congregation and their community. Without proper preparation, a church might risk exhausting its resources, responding inadequately, or — worst-case scenario — failing to respond at all.

Join the team at FellowshipOne for our webinar, “5 Steps to Prepare for Natural Disasters” where we will outline some of the most important elements you need to consider when preparing for a natural disaster.

BONUS: Those who register will get a copy of our FREE e-guide also titled, ‘5 Steps to Prepare for Natural Disasters”.

To register, click here.

Our Top 7 Cringe-Worthy Church Website Design Mistakes

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Are there certain websites you dread going to? Like your local library’s website that hasn’t been updated since 2003 or your son’s little league website that makes it impossible to find the schedule?

Bad designs lead to bad user experience. And if someone is frustrated with your website, they’ll leave—it’s as simple as that. Don’t let your poorly designed church website scare away potential visitors. Avoid these seven cringe-worthy design mistakes:

1. Designing Your Website For the Wrong Audience

If someone reaches your website and they don’t feel like they belong, they will leave—which is why determining your audiences and catering your content to them is so important.

Your church members aren’t the only one using your website. If it’s all about community groups and Sunday service and everything for only church members, new visitors may feel disinterested or like they don’t belong.

As important as it is to make newcomers welcome inside your church building, it’s equally important to make them feel welcome in your virtual church.

When you’re designing for visitors, you’ll want to ensure the following information is clearly visible and easy to find on your website:

  • Service times
  • New visitors section
  • Location
  • Contact information

Because you and your church members already know this information, it can be easy to overlook. However, if you want new visitors to your site to also be visitors to your church building, you’ll need to make sure this information is easy to access.

2. Not Having Mobile Optimization

77 percent of adults own smartphones, and many of them use their phone to access the Internet. Since most people will use their phones to access your church website, don’t make them have to squint at their screens or zoom in! If your website is not optimized for mobile users, you risk losing visitors on your website, which could translate into losing visitors at your church services. In addition, a mobile-friendly website will help:

  • Your website will get a higher Google ranking
  • Decrease your bounce rate, which means once people find your site, they will stay there
  • By going mobile, your website will be much more convenient to use while offering a friendly user experience.

3. It Looks Like It Came from the 90’s

As much as we all love Fresh Prince and Full House, who wants to be stuck in the 90’s? If your church website contains 8-bit icons and too much white-space with terrible Photoshop, it could look like it was designed in 1998, not 2018!  If you want a modern-looking website, you’ll want to check out these 7 Innovative Church Website Design Trends.

4. Too Many Special Effects

Animation and special effects are great for websites as they can increase user engagement. Beware of too many special effects, however, as it can get tacky really quickly. Instead of bombarding visitors to your website with a ton of special effects, use them sparingly and use them wisely.

Here are some advantages of using just the right amount of special effects on your church website:

  • A slideshow can be extremely useful for websites with multiple images
  • The special effect of motion can really catch the user’s attention
  • While these are some great ways to use special effects, you probably don’t want to use all of them on the same page.

5. Inaccurate Images

If your youth ministry staff wears jeans and a t-shirt normally, don’t show pictures of them in slacks, ties, and dresses. Your photos should reflect your true identity. Images of your staff should also be up-to-date. If your worship leader once had a beard with black hair but is now clean-shaven and blonde, you’ll want to get the picture updated. This will help your visitors recognize your staff when they meet.

While stock images can be good options occasionally, you’ll want to include as many real-life photos as possible. Too many stock photos can be a deterrent for potential visitors. If you use royalty-free images and stock photos, you’ll want to double check the copyright. If the copyright does allow you to use the photograph, you may need to give proper credit.

6. Slow Load Time

While this is more of a user experience mistake than a design mistake, it can still dictate your design. Using images or videos that are too large can affect your website loading time. Most consumers expect a website to load in under two seconds, and if it doesn’t, they may get impatient and leave. Making sure your website is quick-to-load can help increase your Google Ranking and increase your conversion rate. Check out these ways you can increase your website’s load time.

7. Not Having an Updated Website

All of these mistakes can be overcome by a diligent website visitor. However, the only mistake that you can’t overcome is summed up in the catch-all phrase “not up to date.” There can be nothing more frustrating than checking out a church website only to find outdated content. When someone visits your website, they want to know which small groups are taking place now, not last winter. It’s simply not enough anymore for the pastor to update their congregation by making announcements or by including changes in the weekly bulletin. It’s an absolute must for the website to be updated, especially for churches who are searching for more visitors.

Next Steps

Your church’s design speaks volumes about your church—you don’t want to have someone take a glance at your homepage and think, “Oh, my…” (in a bad way). Everybody has their own list of cringe-worthy design mistakes that we may have missed on this list. As you start designing you may think of your own, too.

Still feel like you need extra help? Take a look at our available templates here!

What is a Dynamic Church? Part Three

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Today we wrap up our series, “What is a Dynamic Church?” where we examine the traits of effective ministries. Today we end with part three. You can find part one here and part two here.

A dynamic church should have…

Excellent Communication

  • Leaders understand the importance of effective, creative, and timely communication with their members and visitors through the use of email, texting and social media.
  • The church has, or is seeking to have, a well-designed website that incorporates self-service features such as online giving and event registration.

Powerful Partnerships

  • The church seeks a church management software solution from a business partner who shares their passion for the Church, is committed to working with the church to reach their goals, and offers an array of resources to assist with process improvements.
  • The leaders of the church value the flexibility and benefits that a web-based, hosted solution provides over the alternatives. They understand that the risks and total cost of ownership are actually lower than hosting a solution themselves.

Accelerating the Dynamic Church In the interest of accelerating the growth of Dynamic Churches, FellowshipOne offers 100% web-based church management software products to help Dynamic Churches become more:

  • Effective in ministry
  • Efficient in administration
  • Engaged with the community

Dynamic Churches have FellowshipOne!

Making the Most of Every Ministry Contact: Part 3

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Service Level Agreements (SLA)

There is a new question that churches across the country are beginning ask themselves: “What is our SLA to our congregation?”

Does a first-time visitor get a call within one day, two days, a week of their visit?

What is the turnaround time from someone indicating interest in volunteering and them serving? This answer may change depending on the ministry, position, and training required. Hopefully, you are beginning to see the need to determine (and document) these kinds of expectations and pieces to the process.

How can the church improve a process if the process is not documented? How can the senior staff hold their team accountable for making calls if there are no guidelines?

While working with a church staff, I asked, “Who handles the calls to first time visitors?”  The response I received was more like a Seinfield episode than you might expect. Each person pointed to someone else, and said he/she makes the calls. It was during that meeting that they realized there was no documentation for their process. One pastor asked, “Are we even calling people?”  No one could answer with 100% certainty.

When you start monitoring contact items and find contacts that have gone untouched for two weeks or longer, what should you do? If the SLA is one week then you can say, “Our commitment level to first time visitor contacts is one week. Is that time frame too short? Are you understaffed and unable to meet our current goal for contacting first time guests in one week? Are there any key volunteers that you can get to help you make these calls?”

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. And you can’t fix a process that isn’t documented and adhered to.

The most important thing that I want you to take away from this series is that God has brought people in contact with your church and how you respond to those people can have eternal consequences. Why take chances with half-baked processes or bad practices because you have always done it that way. Now is the time to evaluate, measure, and change for the better.    

To learn more about how FellowshipOne can help your church improve processes and make better connections with first time visitors, click here.

Making the Most of Every Ministry Contact: Part 2

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Process Documentation

Building on what we learned in Making the Most of Every Ministry Contact: Part 1 now we will see how to improve the paper only process that many churches currently employ to reach out to people who have asked for information from the church.

For the sake of this example, I want to introduce you to Mary the receptionist and Pastor Ricardo the executive pastor. Both are sold out believers doing all they can to grow the Kingdom. They have recently transitioned from a paper only process to one that involves a data management system. And since this is my example, they are using FellowshipOne.

Guest Registry Card Process with FellowshipOne:

  • Collect the cards either in the offering plates or at a guest registry desk
  • Cards are turned into the member services department at the church (or in this case, Mary the receptionist)
  • Mary then processes the cards
    • Mary never assumes that the person really is a first time visitor, she always searches for that person in the database.
    • After searching for that person and not finding them, then she adds them to the database.
    • Mary then checks off the same check boxes in FellowshipOne that are represented on the card. (There can be some variations of this that will be discussed in the First Time Visitor section below.)
    • The paper cards are then shredded after a week or two to make sure there were no mistakes in the data entry.

Because this church uses FellowshipOne and they took the time to set-up the workflows in their database, when Mary checks those boxes, the database automatically routes the contact to the right person on staff to handle the follow up. So while Mary’s work is done, Pastor Ricardo is just getting his Contact assignments for the week.

Process for Connecting with First Time Visitors:

Our example church has decided that every first time visitor will receive a letter from the church office as well as a phone call from Pastor Ricardo.

The letter varies throughout the year and by the family based on demographic information and what church events are coming up. If the summer is just beginning, vacation bible school is just around the corner, and the family has kids that are the right age, a first time visitor letter would include information about VBS and how to register online.

The family dynamics can easily be tracked even if they didn’t mention their kids on the Guest Registry Card in FellowshipOne to check-in the kids in for Sunday school or Children’s Church. Keeping the contact items together on one contact is essential to proper routing of the contact item.

Even though “My age group is X – Y” seems like a bad data element to track because it is quickly obsolete, it is key to making the best possible connection between that visitor and the proper staff member.

Churches should step their game up when it comes to first time visitors. Just because Pastor Ricardo has always made the first time visitor calls doesn’t mean he should always make every first time visitor call. For instance, if “My age group is 18 – 25” was checked on the Guest Registry Card, Pastor Ricardo (who is 67 years old and thinks youth is wasted on the young) may not be the best person call. Age, marital status, ages of children, could all be better indicators of how to route this contact to improve the connection experience for the first time visitor.

With the ability to track family dynamics in FellowshipOne and the functionality to transfer a contact from one staff person to another, Pastor Ricardo begins to manage the first time visitor contacts in a whole new way.

To learn more about FellowshipOne, click here.

Making the Most of Every Ministry Contact: Part 1

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Our blog today comes from Matt McMaster, our Senior Professional Services Manager who has been with FellowshipOne since 2004. As one of FellowshipOne’s most experienced team members, he’s an expert on how churches can maximize their ministry with our software. Today is part one of a three part series from Matt.

In anticipation of Easter weekend, I will be sharing a short 3-part series on the processes that accompany the various contact points in the church. A contact could be a first-time visitor card, a prayer request card, a communication card, or even a phone call. Each of these contacts needs to be handled, but they may need to be handled differently.

Let’s start with a couple of definitions:

Contact:  We’ve established that a contact could be either a card or phone call, but we also need to be aware that a single contact may contain multiple “contact items” requiring follow up.

Contact Item:  A contact item is any information provided on a Contact that requires a response from the church staff. For example, a communication card might indicate first time visitor, age group is 18-25, and an interest in volunteering… that’s three responses.

One thing churches often struggle with is the proper way to handle the processing of contact items. Many churches that I work with have what they consider to be a “tried and true” process. They make as many copies of the contact as necessary to distribute to all of the ministers who will be working the contact items. Here is an example of the list of ministries responsible for the contact items as well as what they are expected to do with the card:

  • First Time Visitor (Member Services – Send Form Letter)
  • First Time Visitor (Member Services – Update Database)
  • First Time Visitor (Executive Pastor – First Time Visitor Phone Call)
  • First Time Visitor (Welcome Ministry – Deliver Bread to Visitor’s Home)
  • My age Group is 18 – 25 (College Ministry – no process defined)
  • I would like to know more about Volunteering (Children’s Ministry – Phone Call)

Note:  in the above example one contact item has initiated FOUR actions!

Now most churches that I visit say that they are performing all of the above tasks to the best of their knowledge. The problem is that they have no way to be sure.

My challenge to you is to start thinking about the current process(es) your church is using when it comes to Contacts and Contact Items. If possible, write out a list like the example provided. The first step to improving any process is documenting each step. Stay tuned for what comes next!

How to Capture Visitor Information Online

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One of the most common problems we hear at FellowshipOne is church leaders wanting more information about visitors to their church. If you’re not intentional about engaging visitors, they can slip in and out of your services completely unnoticed. But what about on your website? These days, your website is most often the first point of contact for potential visitors. How can you build a site that will encourage people to give you a heads up that they are interested in attending? Or need some sort of outreach?

Our friends at Clover have addressed this common problem, and you can read some tips from them here.

Grow and Empower Community with Small Groups

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Helping people find the right group

Getting individuals connected into a small group is a proven way to help build community among believers and improve their spiritual growth. Using FellowshipOne’s group features, visitors and members can search for a group online through your existing website and submit an interest form for one or more groups. An email notification is sent immediately to the selected volunteers serving as group leaders. Group leaders can then respond with information about the small group and, if there is a fit, add that person to the leader’s small group.

Empowering lay leaders

Churches that offer a Groups ministry often rely on volunteer leaders to manage and report on the groups in their care. Some churches have hundreds, or even thousands, of groups to monitor and keep track of, which can make the administrative burden seem insurmountable without the proper tools.

FellowshipOne can handle everything from a few home groups to thousands of groups focused on different subject areas. You can enable lay leaders to manage and report on the activities   of their small groups. The leaders can quickly and easily take attendance, respond to contact requests, update individual information, communicate with the group, and more, all without burdening the church staff with additional administrative responsibilities.

Safely connecting group members

Some groups fall into the social media trap. With FellowshipOne, the congregational portal provides a private, central location for each group, where members can submit prayer requests, get status updates and communicate with each other. Only the group members and the church staff can access the groups’ private communications.

To learn more about all FellowshipOne has to offer for Groups ministries, click here.