Leadership

The 5 Biggest Church Tech Trends for 2019

Here are five trends in church tech to keep an eye out for this year.

The 5 Biggest Church Tech Trends for 2019
by

Jesse Wisnewski

"The Times They Are a Changin."

This is the title of one of folksinger Bob Dylan’s most famous songs. 

In penning these words, Dylan identified with the social turmoil that existed at that time in the United States. But this song has enjoyed a lasting legacy by capturing one of the constant realities of our life and church: change. 

Change isn't something that’s happening “out there.”

Change is something regularly occurring in your community.

Not necessarily in new, bright and shiny gadgets and technological breakthroughs.

Instead, the growth of mobile phone usage, the adoption of social media, and the continual rise of online shopping practically affect people in your church and community. These three sweeping changes influence the way people build relationships, connect with businesses and churches, and give.

As a church leader, you must have your finger on the pulse of these changes.

The evolution of the digital age practically influences how you, as a local church, reach people with the gospel and make disciples.

Are you ready?

Below are five trends in church tech to keep an eye out for this year. The list is in no particular order, and what you find may surprise you.

#1. Focus on YouTube

“This is the year of YouTube for churches,” shared Nils Smith, the Chief Strategists of Social Media and Innovation at Dunham and Company. Nils went on to say, "We’ll see a lot of attention shifted to this platform as we saw for Instagram in 2018.”

YouTube presents a lot of promise for the church.

As a social media channel, YouTube has a ton of content, it’s a place where people search for answers and find solutions to their problems, and it’s continually growing.

Wrap your brain around these YouTube stats:

  • Over one billion users
  • One billion hours watched daily
  • More than 70% of YouTube watch-time comes from mobile devices

Kenny Jahng, a marketing consultant, expects to see a significant increase in videos created by churches for YouTube this year. But he thinks many churches will struggle with figuring out exactly how to use this tool proactively for outreach.

Here’s the deal:

Before your church jumps head first into YouTube, take time to develop a plan on how you’ll use your videos as an outreach tool. When it comes to creating videos, it’s easy to get laser-focused on production. But with the countless hours of video content already on YouTube, you need to be strategic in helping viewers find your video content.

To help your church get started on YouTube, we recommend YouTube for Churches Training Series.

#2. The rise of done-for-you services

Every church encounters the same two limitations:

  • Time
  • Money

Time is a finite resource.

After you spend time preparing for your sermon, counseling people, or preparing for a meeting, it’s gone.

As for money, it’s a limited resource.

Regardless of the size of your church’s budget, you only have so much money to pay for salaries, facilities, and to put toward local or foreign missions.

For churches to make the most of their time and money, they are continuing to look at outsourcing work versus hiring part- or full-time staff members. This internal shift in the church has led to the rise of done-for-you services.

Done-for-you services are specific services you can pay someone or an organization to do for you. For example, your church is probably using this type of service for landscaping or maintenance.

In light of the rise of remote workers, many additional done-for-you services have taken off, including:

This year, we expect to see an increase in the number of done-for-you service providers, as well as an increase in churches using these services as a way to make the most of their time and money. 

#3. Shift to micro-marketing

This year, churches will increasingly adopt micro-marketing tactics.

This may sound complicated on the surface.

But this strategy is easy to grasp.

Micro-marketing is merely focusing your advertising on a small (micro) group of people. Instead of sharing your message with a general audience through flyers, direct mail, or billboards, you can connect with a highly-targeted group of people. By using micro-marketing or location-based marketing, you can ensure that people in your community will hear about your church or church event.

With the rise of social media advertising, in particular, Facebook ads, people in your community desire to see personalized promotions and advertisements relevant to them.

What is more, with the increasing accessibility, proven results, and cost-efficiency of digital advertising, churches will continue to adopt these methods of advertising.

Practically speaking, expect to see more churches using:

  • Social media advertising
  • Beacon ads
  • Geo-targeting

For example, at Tithe.ly, we’re in the process of providing our church app customers with the ability to use a geofence that will trigger a notification when someone with your app passes through your geo-barrier.

John Holtkamp, a Church Apps Senior Engineer for Tithe.ly, foresees churches using this technology in two ways. First, you can use geofences to promote a special event. Second, your church can also create reoccurring messages that will welcome people to your worship service, and even include links to view the sermon notes, give, and more.

#4. Integration of software

The number of tools you can use to organize your life and church is countless.

Think about it for a moment.

There’s an online tool for nearly everything:

  • Emails
  • Team communication
  • Online giving
  • Video callsBanking
  • Websites
  • Church management
  • Entertainment
  • File sharing
  • Marketing
  • Project management

The growing number of online tools available is creating a sense of fatigue among users. Managing multiple tools to accomplish different tasks is proving to be too much, which is why you’ll see a continued emphasis among software companies to add seamless integrations and offer comprehensive solutions for churches.

Regarding this last point, at Tithe.ly, we recently joined forces with Elvanto to provide digital giving, church apps, and church management software in one easy-to-use platform, which reduces the number of online tools church leaders need to use to manage the life of their church.

This year, we expect to see more online software companies move in this direction through partnerships, acquisition, or adding new software to their existing services.

#5. An increase in email marketing

Your church’s website is your new front door.

Before visiting your church’s worship service, most people will visit your church’s website. But churches have observed over the years that it's difficult leading a website visitor to visit your church.

In light of this reality, churches will begin to place more of an emphasis on building their email list, which isn’t anything new per se. However, Kenny Jahng shared, “What’s new is that more and more churches will create landing pages and lead magnets to capture email addresses.”

This may sound like a business marketing tactic.

But here’s the deal:

Most potential first-time guests visiting your church’s website are not ready to visit your church.

By capturing the email address of a website visitor, you can place yourself in a better position to nurture a relationship and lead someone to attend your church. This is why we expect to see more churches experiment with email marketing.

What church tech trends do you foresee?

‍This list is not exhaustive.

There are several other exciting church tech trends taking place, and it will only be a matter of time before we see how things unfold.

What church tech trends do you see taking place in 2019?

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

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:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

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.

Church Donation Letter Samples

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.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

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]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

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:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

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.

What’s next?

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?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

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.

Blog

The 5 Biggest Church Tech Trends for 2019