Inside Tithe.ly: Meet Barn Sweetman, Co-Founder of Tithe.ly
Get to know Barn Sweetman, the master architect of digital church giving.
November 27, 2019
Pastor, feel overwhelmed by the number of apps and services online? Not sure what to use? Check out these list of 15 must-use apps and toos.
November 9, 2018
You’re likely swimming in a sea of apps.
According to one study, the average person …
In the United States, the average app user spends two hours and 15 minutes per day on apps. If you’re doing the math, that works out to nearly one month per year spent on an app.
Here’s what you need to know:
People are using apps to manage their life (maybe you?).
From banking, mobile giving, and connecting with family and friends on social media, apps are a way of life for many people.
In this post, we’re going to help you navigate more than 4 million apps available for iOS and Android devices, and point out some other helpful tools in the following categories:
Let’s get started!
Pastor, here’s one reality you face in your work:
Your schedule is unpredictable.
During a regular workweek, you’ll have predictable tasks to accomplish—preparing your sermon, leading your staff, board, or session, and administrative stuff. Based on a couple of studies, there’s a good chance your average workweek consists of 50 hours of work.
But let’s be honest:
How many of your workweeks are “normal?”
From hospital visitations, weddings, and counseling, your weekly schedule can explode with unplanned tasks. Needless to say, it's challenging to keep track of your priorities.
Thankfully, there are a ton of apps you can use to help you stay on track. Here are a few of my favorites:
Google Calendar is one of the best tools you can use to manage your schedule.
It seamlessly sync’s with Gmail, and you can easily add meetings, as well as reservations for restaurants, flights, or hotels.
Google Calendar also has a clean and bright interface that’s easy to navigate, which is an added bonus.
To manage your time, you need to know how you’re spending your time.
Like the vast majority of people in the United States, you probably spend a lot of time on your mobile phone, computer, or tablet. This isn’t a judgment, just an observation.
To help you see how you spend your time online, check out RescueTime. RescueTime will review your computer and mobile devices and let you know how you’re spending time online.
After you have an accurate picture of how you spend time online, you’ll be able to adjust your digital habits. If you have a difficult time making changes, then take a look at the next app.
“Look, a squirrel!”
Even though I live in Tennessee, I haven’t seen a squirrel in months. But, like you, I do have to fight countless distractions online.
Before you resolve to only use a pen and paper and “dumb phone” to take control of your digital habits, consider using an app to disable your ability to browse … anything.
With SelfControl, you can disable access to select websites or deny your access to everything for a set period of time.
Need to focus on a task? Then use SelfControl to disable your access to everything or your favorite websites (ESPN, anyone?).
Do you want to hear something depressing?
Probably not, but here you go anyway:
The average employee spends 28 percent of their workweek on email, which is equivalent to 11 hours per week.
In your inbox, you have a variety of messages from your staff, volunteers, church members, family, friends, and subscriptions.
Before you burn relational bridges by not responding to someone’s email, use Unroll.Me to clean up your inbox and take control of the number of emails you receive.
You can thank me later.
Do you keep track of your “to-do’s” with Sticky Notes? Or, do you use a variety of tools to manage your workweek?
Instead of using paper or several calendars, consider using cloud-based project management software to stay on top of things.
Here’s a list of several options to choose from:
To manage your projects and tasks, consider using one of these tools.
For me, I find it best to manage my tasks with the same project management tool the company I work for uses. At Tithe.ly, we currently use Asana to manage our projects and tasks.
Preaching every week is exhaustive.
It’s spiritually demanding.
It’s mentally challenging.
It’s emotionally taxing.
It’s physically difficult.
Despite the difficulties, preaching is one of the most rewarding privileges of your position.
To maximize your sermon preparation time, there are a variety tools you can use.
To help identify the best sermon preparation resources, we turned to our good friends at Church Fuel for insight. For help with taking notes, researching your sermon, and writing your sermon, they recommend the following three tools:
Let’s take a look at what they had to say.
When preaching, there will be times when you have to “wing it” or share something impromptu. But for the most part, you’ll have to prepare your heart, mind, and soul every Sunday.
To get yourself ready, you have to be able to capture your thoughts and notes. This is where a good note-taking app comes into place.
Here’s what Church Fuel had to say:
Evernote is your personal filing system, your online notebook, your digital brain. It’s a desktop and mobile app that helps you take notes, organize files, keep up with task lists, and archive documents. Use it for productivity and decluttering.
As a pastor, you can use all the help you can get keeping track of important files. Your sermons, conference notes, saved article links to read later (thanks to the Evernote web clipper browser extension for Chrome), meeting notes, and more are all stored in one place.
Logos is an in-depth Bible study tool that helps you dig deep into the Word of God for personal study, preparing sermons, creating curriculum, counseling on specific issues, and everything else pastors consult the Bible for. There are free and paid versions that allow you to keep your notes in one digital Bible, consult commentaries, easily compare translations, do original language exegesis, and more.
Sermonary is a sermon editor, where you can work block-by-block to develop your message, your way. This is a huge step up from Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
Once your message is done, switch to Podium mode and preach from your favorite tablet and device. There’s a built-in clock overlay, too.
Sermonary comes with a library of free and paid commentaries, sermon illustrations, sermon series, and more.
It’s a tool that will help you write your sermons with more impact in less time.
For a list of additional apps, tools, and websites for pastors, check out this resource from Church Fuel: The New Pastor’s Toolbox.
Personal finances are a big issue for many pastors (possibly you?).
According to one study by LifeWay, more than half of the pastors polled said they were concerned about their financial situation. In fact, according to the same survey, many pastors cited finances as a reason for leaving vocational ministry.
To help you manage the money you earn, and to save a few dollars along the way, here are two tools you should use.
Mint is a free, web-based financial management system.
With Mint, you can:
The best part of all?
As a pastor, it’s essential to keep a record of your expenses.
One way you can easily track your spending is Expensify.
Whether you’re traveling or just out to lunch, Expensify makes it easy to scan your receipts and process business expenses.
Talking about money, you can easily donate money to your church with Tithe.ly’s Church App.
Pastor, make sure you hear this:
The demands of your workweek will take their toll on you.
Sure, you can get by for weeks, months, or maybe a few years without taking care of yourself. But after neglecting your well-being for too long, you’ll end up facing a short-term health problem or burnout.
When it comes to maintaining your well-being, there’s a lot that can be said about two essential things: Your sleeping and eating habits. These two habits are easy to neglect, but they’re necessary for you to maintain a healthy, vibrant lifestyle and ministry.
To keep track of your health, here are two apps for you to consider.
How well are you sleeping?
Do you get plenty of hours of rest?
What about the quality of your sleep? Are you interrupted often? Do you frequently snore?
With the Sleep Cycle alarm clock, you can analyze your sleep patterns to see how well you’re resting. It also uses a sleep cycle alarm to wake you up gradually, which can make you feel more refreshed.
At a minimum, it’s a good idea to see how well you’re sleeping.
MyFitnessPal is a free app you can use to track what you eat.
With this app, you can track the foods you eat, the number of calories you consume, your exercise, and even the nitty-gritty details of your, like the ingredients in your food.
Here’s what I love about this app:
It has over 6 million foods in its database.
In other words, when you want to eat out or snag a new food from your grocery store, there’s a good chance the food you want to eat has already been added to their database. Having access to so many foods makes it easy to track your diet.
Know what else?
MyFitNessPal is perfect to keep track of your health goals, too.
There are two things it’s difficult to do on the fly:
Let’s take a look at two apps to make these tasks easier.
LastPass is a secure password manager you can easily use to keep track of your passwords and login information for a ton of accounts. Think about it.
According to a study conducted by LastPass, the average employee who uses their services manages 191 passwords. You read that right: 191 passwords.
You may not have to manage this many passwords, but there’s a good chance you keep track of more than 20.
Pro tip: It’s best to write down your login information for LastPass. If you forget it, then it’s tough to get access to your account. This may or may not have happened to me.
Grammarly is a free writing app you can use to check your spelling nearly everywhere. Think about it as Microsoft’s spell check on steroids, and it works in Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
The free account is fantastic, but consider opting for the premium account. Grammarly Premium will scan your writing for common grammar mistakes, repetitive words, and technical English stuff we won’t get into now.
There are a ton of apps available, and I could have shared many more.
What apps have you found helpful in the following areas:
Let us know in the comments below what you like to use.
In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.
Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.
Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:
A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.
With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.
To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.
The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.
Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving. So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.
Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.
Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.
Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.
Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:
There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.
Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.
How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.