In 2018, only 23% of churches said they were “proactively looking” for new technology.
Why does this stat matter?
Because two years later, many churches found themselves underprepared for a global pandemic that restricted in-person services and meetings and mandated social distancing–resulting in new, urgent needs for churches to level up their digital strategy.
“We had just a major influx of brand-new people wanting to learn this streaming thing and figure out how it’s going to work,” says StreamingChurch.tv founder Steve Lacy. “We kind of felt like there was a rush on toilet paper and we were the toilet paper providers.”
But as church leaders found out, going digital meant far more than streaming Sunday services.
All of a sudden, church members needed a way to engage, give, and learn online. Without regular prayer meetings, Bible studies, or even casual coffee meetups, many churches scrambled to shift their websites, create apps, and offer more online.
As many church leaders have discovered, leveling up your digital strategy is not just about offering a temporary way to connect, however. It’s also a wise strategy for the long haul–creating new ways for existing and potential members to engage with the church community, learn valuable information, and get involved and invested.
In the following article, we’ll talk about what to know about going digital at your church...whether you’re new to church online or a seasoned digital veteran.
What does it mean to “go digital”?
Before we dive into what you need to know about going digital at your church, let’s talk about what that actually means.
Going digital at your church means more than just having a website (although that’s certainly part of it!) Having a full digital strategy means that your church offers a range of ways to engage online and uses tools and technology to become more efficient.
A digital strategy isn’t about being cool or relevant; it’s ultimately about creating a better experience for both members and staff, so that everyone can focus on what’s most important–knowing, loving, and becoming like Jesus.
Here’s what a full digital strategy might involve:
- A clean-looking, user-friendly website that helps members learn more information about your church, register for events, give, and more…
- An app that helps members engage with you from anywhere at anytime…
- An easy way to give online–with multiple options for payment….
- A project management system to help church staff manage projects and move things forward….
- Financial management for tracking tithes and generating reports….
- And more.
Going digital can represent a significant shift for many churches. That’s why it’s important to be prepared and to think through what that shift could look like in your community.
5 Things to Know About Going Digital at Your Church
Before diving into asking people to give online, register for events through an app, and follow you on social media, here are five things you’ll want to know.
1. It will take a second for some church members to adjust.
Remember that some of your members will need time to adjust to digital platforms and processes at your church. Be patient with church members who aren’t used to online giving or registration, and continue to give clear steps on how to access your site, download your app, and more.
Keep giving vision for why you’re going digital–and why it’s going to make life better for everyone (We’ll learn more about getting everyone on board in just a minute).
2. You’ll save time–and energy.
One of the best parts about going digital is how much time and energy you’ll save. One study says that project management systems save the average employee an incredible 498 hours every year.
While work life may look different at your church than at a corporate organization, technology can still help deliver the same kinds of benefits.
Using a tool or technology to help manage projects, communicate with staff, send important messaging, and generate reporting can help you:
- Save hours of wasted time on tedious labor.
- Create faster, more efficient workflows and lines of communication.
- Prevent time-wasting mistakes and inaccuracies.
- And potentially spend less on paying for labor–freeing up financial resources for more valuable efforts (such as missions, reaching out to the community, or hiring a pastor).
Once you start adopting digital tools and platforms, you may quickly experience a considerable increase in how much time and capacity you have as a church.
3. Your membership will grow.
When you make it convenient for people to check out your church with an app or on a website, they may be more likely to check it out in person. And, when you make follow-up simple with multiple points of contact and ways to connect with you, they’re more likely to stick around.
As it becomes easier to engage with your church remotely, you may gain new church members–or at the very least, see more engagement from occasional visitors. Don’t be surprised to see new faces and new names pop up in your community, especially from younger, potentially more tech-savvy generations.
4. Everything will go online.
Don’t be surprised if going digital has a domino effect on all your workflows, modes of communications, processes, and systems at your church.
While you might keep a few things “old school” (such as personal phone calls and hand-written encouragements), you’ll quickly find that doing things digitally is just faster, easier, and more efficient.
That can have an impact on the way your staff communicates, plans, operates, and even resolves conflict. It can also shape expectations and habits of your members. Don’t be shocked to find long-time members communicating with you through DM’s on Instagram!
5. Giving will increase.
Technology has had a great impact on giving in general.
An article by the former CEO of DocuSign says that “technology and digitization have removed many logistical limitations in philanthropy, leading to a shift in how people think about charity.”
Among other benefits, the writer explains that the “options for anonymity,” “greater awareness of impact,” and “increased accountability” all provided by digital giving have had a positive impact on all sorts of giving.
In other words, the option to give online has encouraged more people to give, well, more. Digital forms of payment and gift-giving don’t just offer a more tailored experience, however, to the user. Digital giving also makes the experience more convenient and efficient.
“There’s so many reasons to give online,” says Monica Johnson, church member in San Diego, CA. “It’s the most convenient way to quickly give money.”
“I don’t even use checks anymore,” continues Johnson.
All that being said, shifting from the offering plate to an online portal can actually increase giving at your church. When you make it simple and accessible for members to tithe or make one-time donations, you increase the likelihood that they’ll follow through. They can even set up a recurring gift so that they don’t have to think about gift-giving twice.
Tithe.ly offers an online giving platform that can help your church easily transition to digital tithes and offerings. To learn more about Tithe.ly’s giving technology, click here.
Kick-Off Steps for Going Digital
You’ve learned what to expect when you go digital. Now, here are a few best practices for kicking off a digital transition with success.
Get everyone on board.
Whether you’re making a push for community outreach, a mission trip, or small group participation, you know that to get people on board with anything new at your church, you need to generate a little excitement.
The same goes for adopting new digital platforms or technologies. To get church members (and staff members) enthused about using new technologies, give them a vision for why going digital is beneficial for everyone.
Using online platforms, apps, and cloud technologies at church:
- Saves time on needless manual work….
- Helps people feel more connected through social media accounts, email marketing, private messaging, and more….
- Generates content that makes it easy to tell others about church….
- Helps members and visitors learn about new events and opportunities….
- And even creates new opportunities to serve through media creation, online ministry, and more.
Keep these benefits at the front of everyone’s mind and you’re far more likely to get buy-in across the board.
Equip people to use new technologies.
When you decide to take the leap into digital, make sure you’re teaching people to follow.
In other words, equip your staff and church members to actually use your new platforms, communication flows, and systems.
For church staff, equipping might look like:
- Establishing an onboarding process for new employees to use digital project management systems, communication platforms, marketing tools, and more.
- Running a one-time workshop on using new tools and technologies.
- Being willing and open to answering questions from staff members that may need a little extra help.
For church members, equipping might look like:
- Providing clear and easy-to-follow steps for using digital technologies (i.e. an easy to follow set of instructions for giving online).
- Frequent reminders to download your app, visit your website, follow your social media accounts, and more.
- Removing the option to do things “on paper,” and offering in-person assistance for church members who may need help with online tools and platforms.
Ultimately, equipping staff and church members to succeed with going digital will look different for everyone: Small churches may be able to rely on more personal, one-to-one interactions for technology adoption, while large churches may need to formalize training.
In any case, think creatively about how to help everyone learn to make the most of technology. At the end of the day, going digital is not meant to add an extra step. It’s meant to remove steps, so that everyone can get more out of church and spend more time focusing on what’s really important–a relationship with God.
Select the right tool.
The most important step in going digital? Selecting the right technology to use.
There are a lot of tools out there that churches might use to go digital–often, a mish-mash of different tools and platforms, patched together to meet the diverse needs of a church (marketing, management, communication, event planning, finances, reporting, etc.). For example, a church might use Excel spreadsheets, a PM system like Asana, a payment system like PushPal, and more.
While the “cobbled together” approach might work to some degree for churches, it can ultimately cause gaps in communication and even more frustration. A better solution is to use one streamlined platform for managing your church’s digital assets and communication.
When looking for a tool to help your church go digital, look for:
- A tool that’s tailored for churches–churches are a not-for-profit entity that perform a unique range of functions and seek to build individual relationships. That being said, they still need accounting tools, reporting, and other tools to help them thrive on an organizational level.
- An easy to use interface–your digital tools should be user friendly and intuitive. Look for tools that simplify, not complicate, everyday processes for both staff and members.
- A low cost–your digital tools and technology shouldn’t represent a massive additional cost. Look for a cost effective solution that allows you to funnel your financial resources elsewhere.
- Integrations–new tools and technologies should be able to integrate smoothly with existing technologies.
Finally, look for a technology with great reviews from existing users (preferably churches!) If other users have enjoyed using this tool, chances are that you will too.
Go Digital with Tithe.ly
Tithe.ly is an all in one online platform that has helped over 30,000 churches go digital by:
- Building a beautiful, user friendly website for your church members and visitors…
- Offering ChMS–a church management system to keep your administration, communication, and workflows organized….
- Providing a platform for easy online giving and tithing….
- Creating a made for you app so that members and visitors can access your church on the go….
- Offering private messaging so that your church members can communicate with you any time, anywhere….
- Generating reports on finances, keeping things organized and accountable.
If you’d like to learn more about how Tithe.ly can help your church in all these areas and more, start now with Tithe.ly All Access. In no time at all, your church will have an amazing online giving tool, beautiful new website, incredible church app, and way more. Now is the time to streamline all your digital resources and go with Tithe.ly’s All Access plan to get everything you need.
Still not sure? Schedule a demo now.
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Kelsey is a SaaS content writer, a Southern California native, and a follower of Christ. When she's not crafting content for up-and-coming tech companies, she's running, surfing, or exploring her adopted hometown of San Diego.
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The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.
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