"The Times They Are a Changin."
This is the title of one of folk singer 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 need to 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 technology 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 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 technology 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
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 church app passes through your geo-barrier.
John Holtkamp, a Church Apps Senior Engineer for Tithe.ly, foresees the use of technology in the church in two ways. First, you can use geofences to promote a special event. Second, your church can also create recurring 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:
- Team communication
- Online giving
- Video callsBanking
- Church management
- File sharing
- Project management
The growing number of online tools available is creating a sense of fatigue among users. Managing many different 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 technology trends do you foresee?
This list is not exhaustive.
There are several other exciting church technology 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?
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 21, 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.