How to Be a More Relevant Church Using Technology with Nathan Artt

Modern Church Leader feat. Nathan Artt
How to Be a More Relevant Church Using Technology feat. Nathan Artt on Modern Church Leader

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How to Be a More Relevant Church Using Technology

In today's world, you don't just have to know how to use technology; you need to be able to use it in a way that is relevant and meaningful to other people.

All organizations—religious or secular—should consider how technology can help them connect with their communities. If an organization wants to stand out and be relevant, it shouldn't leave technology out of the picture.

Some companies have done a great job of integrating technology into their business. Target is one of the best examples that uses technology to improve how people interact with its brand, increase the frequency of interactions, and better tailor its message to customers' needs. 

If Target can do it without sacrificing what makes them unique or compromising its mission—so can the church.

Churches that use technology effectively are positioned to be more relevant and impactful in their communities, and this requires more than just posting content online or having a Facebook page. 

It must go beyond surface-level engagement to build relationships and impact people's lives. It's about developing relationships with people by going deeper and connecting them in ways they value. 

All of these require an intentional, strategic approach to technology, one that is not limited to using it in a single area or function. Rather, it requires a holistic understanding of how churches can use technology to serve the people in the community better.

We know that this topic is exceptionally critical for the church’s growth, but we also know that sometimes it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to technology in our churches. So we invited someone who can help us unpack the topic and guide us through practical ways to use technology intentionally and efficiently!

Our guest, Nathan Artt, principal and founder of Ministry Solutions and Executive Leadership Solutions, joins us to elaborate on how we may take advantage of technological innovations to serve the community better.  

He will also highlight some ideas presented in his ebook "Target Corp and the Flexible Church," which can help us rethink how we apply technology in the church.

Our mission has not changed, but the way that we're reaching people and our methods have changed. I feel like the church of the future is the one who is going to be more in love with their mission than they are with their methods.
-Nathan Artt

Nathan is the principal and founder of Ministry Solutions and Executive Leadership Solutions, organizations located in Atlanta, GA focused on equipping leaders for the Church of the Future. In the last 10 years, Ministry Solutions has assisted hundreds of churches in navigating the complexities of growth with finances, multisite, and building projects.

Whether you're looking for ways to improve your ministry or are simply interested in learning more about how technology is changing how we do things at church, this episode is for you!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • The role of the digital platform in driving in-person engagement
  • The difference between convenience and relevance when it comes to using technology
  • How to get people back into the church building
  • Why technology is an essential part of the church
  • Ways churches can be relevant in a digital age
  • Some helpful concepts from his ebook Target Corp & The Flexible Church 

Resources Mentioned:

Follow Ministry Solution on Instagram:  min_solutions
Follow Ministry Solution on LinkedIn: Ministry Solutions
Visit Ministry Solution’s website: Ministry Solutions
Check out Nathan’s ebook: Target Corp & The Flexible Church

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

How to Impact the Community with Ministry Resources with John Craft
The Secret to Church Revitalization with Cody Evans
How Churches Can Become More Effective Online with Trey Van Camp

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[00:08] Our mission has not changed, but the way that we're reaching people and our methods have changed. I feel like the Church of the future is the one who is going to be more in love with their mission than they are with their methods.

[08:40] COVID did not change, really anything. What it did was it took 20 years of change that was already in place.

[17:29] We actually have to focus on creating engagement to get people to attend. So attendance is not driving engagement. Now, engagement is actually driving attendance.

[18:25] Convenience is taking something you may or may not want, and then making it more accessible. Relevance really is getting people exactly what they're looking for at the time. 

podcast transcript

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Nathan Artt (00:00):

Our mission is to reach people, to make disciples of all nations, to take the word of God to the end of the earth, reach the lost. And we have to separate, in some ways, because our mission has not changed, but the way that we're reaching people and our methods have changed. And I feel like the church of the future is the one who is going to be more in love with their mission than they are with their methods.

Narrator (00:24):

Welcome to the Modern Church Leader, where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Barry.

Frank Barry (00:38):

Hey guys, Frank here with another episode of Modern Church Leader. Excited to talk to Nathan Artt today. Nathan, thanks for joining the show.

Nathan Artt (00:45):

Oh, Frank, thank you so much for being here. I'm excited.

Frank Barry (00:48):

Where are you actually at? Where are you physically located?

Nathan Artt (00:51):

In the ATL man? I'm actually in the city of Atlanta. Yes, sir.

Frank Barry (00:55):

Are you downtown Atlanta?

Nathan Artt (00:57):

I am. Yeah. There's a little area called Inman Park, Cabbagetown. So if you're from Atlanta, you know where that is by the belt line. I'm trying to be-

Frank Barry (01:07):

I've been there enough to know, I don't know it super well but I have a general idea. But it's a good spot, it's a fun place to live.

Nathan Artt (01:15):

It is a great place to live. The kids love it and it's my way of tricking myself into thinking I'm younger than I am. So it's great.

Frank Barry (01:21):

Yeah. Living downtown, living in the city kind of thing, that I don't know how you do. I don't know, I like being in the city, I've never lived in the city, and with kids and space and all the things that we definitely enjoy I could see, I don't know, is that challenging?

Nathan Artt (01:38):

There's lots of parks so I literally live next door. Atlanta's actually known, well, people know it for its traffic but if you live in the city, you don't really deal with the traffic. But the other thing Atlanta's known for is parks. We literally live within walking distance of three different parks and so it's nice.

Frank Barry (01:52):

You can just get out and do your thing, but you can't go outside the entire summer because it's too humid.

Nathan Artt (01:58):

No, it's way too hot. You throw them in the pool. You just take them to the community pool and just throw them in and go read a book, that's how it works.

Frank Barry (02:04):

Yeah. I grew up in Vegas, which is also very hot. It's a different kind of hot but it's also very hot, and when you're a kid you don't really care but when you're an adult, you're like, this is hot. I can't hang out outside

Nathan Artt (02:15):

100%. Yeah. And the mosquitoes.

Frank Barry (02:19):

Too good, too good. Well, man, this is going to be a fun conversation. There's lots of connection between what you guys are doing at Ministry Solutions and this stuff you've been studying, the eBooks that you've written and just what Tithely works on, helping churches digitally. So should be fun. And I think it'll apply to basically every church on the planet so excited. Why don't you start off with a little bit about yourself and how you got into ministry, doing Ministry Solutions, the work you guys do there. But what's your story? How'd you get into the church work?

Nathan Artt (02:52):

Well, and what's interesting, and one of the reasons I'm just so passionate about this subject is that my pathway to the church was through the digital platform. I have a mentor for years who was a believer and just modeled so much of what I wanted in my life, his marriage and the way that he treated people and just his ov- just his integrity. But I had zero interest in church and he brought it up a lot and invited me all the time and just, I'm not a church person. I did not identify-

Frank Barry (03:20):

You didn't grow up going to church or no connectivity there or anything?

Nathan Artt (03:25):

None, at all. None at all. If anything, it was more bad experiences that got me there. But he introduced me to Annie Stanley through a DVD series. I watched the thing, I said, man, this guy is not actually crazy. He's not asking me for money. I like some of the things he's saying and I was curious, and that's something that I think we need to create and foster more of is curiosity. But got into what I now know as a small group, didn't know it then, became a Christian and then started attending Buckhead church. And in that, my background was in private equity and commercial real estate development, started working with some North Point churches and I accidentally started a business that this past year, we just crossed over a billion dollars worth of churches that we have managed and funded.

Nathan Artt (04:09):

But in that time too, just working with a lot of the larger innovative churches, started growing a network for executive pastors where we were introducing the business community to groups of executive pastors and just trying to learn how we can be more effective in reaching the people that may not come to our buildings. And so the past couple years we launched executive leadership solutions and been doing a lot of that work, which is where this target resource comes from.

Frank Barry (04:38):

Yeah. And is Ministry Solutions and Executive Leadership Resources the same thing within the same company or is it two different things that you guys are doing or what's the connection there?

Nathan Artt (04:51):

Yeah. Two different companies. So the Genesis of this was that as we were focusing on multi-site strategy, we do a lot of mixed use projects which we'll talk about in the target study, which is how do we create buildings that are as relevant as they are reverent. We just started working with a lot of executive pastors who were looking for tools and resources outside of the buildings. And so we actually launched a separate company just strategically focused on equipping executive leaders for the church of the future and that was putting them in rooms with each other and the best thought leaders we could find in the business world.

Frank Barry (05:26):

Yeah. Very cool. And I know Andy, he's actually been on the show which is fun. I know him super, super well. But man, is he a smart dude. He is a pastor and does ministry, but his business thinking is also pretty awesome. So he crosses over.

Nathan Artt (05:54):

Well, he's just a leader. And one of the things in the church, I feel like coming from the business world and not being a Christian that's interesting, is we almost separate those two areas of life but honestly, so much of it is in human behavior and just the way that people think and feel and his leadership and a lot of these resources cross over because at the end of the day, what we're trying to effectively do is engage people and lead people. And there's a lot of commonalities between those two arenas so he is the best, there's no question. He's had a tremendous impact on my life.

Frank Barry (06:28):

Totally. Probably lots of people. I think this topic, especially because of COVID and it feels weird even using that framing, because it's three years old almost, it feels like, but because of COVID every church on the planet was forced to go digital. And prior to that, you had lots of churches like in America there's 300 plus thousand churches and you had lots of them that had no digital presence, didn't think about online anything, didn't care to ride it and it was okay, maybe, at that point. But COVID forced everyone to go figure at least something out, so every church had to go get a website, learn how to stream something, maybe get an app, get online giving, they had to do all these things and then they had to go figure out how do I...for at least a solid year, how do I connect with people even more so online than I could in person.

Frank Barry (07:29):

And so they were trying to figure that out, they were forced into it and man, that's a hard way to have to go figure it out. But I think the church got better because of it but is still in this mode of figuring out what... You hear people talking about hybrid church and church in person and church online, and how do you mix the two together well and so I think it's a struggle. I think there's a lot like the really big guys, I feel like have a leg up because they have the resources and the staff and the people that are thinking about it. But not that they've all got it perfect but they at least had the ability to go there first. But your average church is a 100, 200 members and they're trying to figure this stuff out and it's pretty difficult.

Frank Barry (08:10):

So all that's just a little primer on, I think the research you've done and what's it called Target Corp and The Flexible Church. So that ebook people should go download it and we're going to talk about it. But I think its fascinating, I think it's such a fascinating set of research that you did to connect some dots for the church so let's jump in.

Nathan Artt (08:32):

Yeah. And I think something you said, Frank, that is really important though is what COVID did... COVID did not change really anything. What it did was it took 20 years of change that was already in place and it condensed it into a two to three year period. And so the way that people were engaging with companies and with churches and really in just their everyday life, those changes were already taking place and we were hanging on in it. What COVID did was force us almost to face the new reality of what people are looking for and how they interact with church and other areas of life and-

Frank Barry (09:10):

Yeah. And churches, I don't know the right way to phrase it, but even as being a business that operates, serving churches through technology, we just know that churches predominantly lag way behind everything else. So what you see happening in the for-profit tech world is 10 years ahead and churches are 10 years behind that and churches are just slow to adopt stuff, most of them. There's some that aren't-

Nathan Artt (09:40):

Sometimes, I agree.

Frank Barry (09:42):

But most of them are slow. And so COVID just condensed it all really fast. And some people figured some stuff out and some people went back to their old ways and now we're in this weird... things change. I think every church I've ever talked to post COVID are like things are different, period. There's less people in the building, attendants might be back, it might not be back. We're doing a bunch more things online. We're still struggling with how to figure this whole thing out.

Nathan Artt (10:10):

Well, and that is what we're here to talk about. The good news for us and we had a chance to talk about this a little bit before, but the reason I was excited about this resource too is when COVID hit and the church got totally disrupted in their model, I got very curious because the digital platform and digitization overall has been impacting industry for 20 years now. And so you hear the stories of JCPenney and Sears going out of business and you also see the companies like Target and Home Depot and others that have this meteoric rise out of irrelevancy,, they had the same exact set of problems that the church did. We can't get people in our stores, or we can't get people in our buildings and we're losing relevance with the market that we're trying to reach and so, hey, what was the reason that Target and Home Depot took off and that Sears and JCPenney went out of business?

Nathan Artt (11:02):

For me, it's not about copying and pasting a corporate model. And I know that comes up and that's a scary thing, we're talking about Target and we look at their political stance but the reality is last year they sold 83 billion of perishable goods. And I want to know how we can leverage their experience and their learnings to reach people with the imperishable message of Jesus Christ. So that's the thing that we're excited about and Target is an unbelievably relevant case study in just that.

Frank Barry (11:33):

And just to make sure we hit the point, JCPenney's and Sears, Target and Home Depot, all physical retail stores, you had to go to the store to buy the stuff from the stores and Sears and JCPenney, back in the day even when I was young, they were big operations [inaudible 00:11:55] big, but they were, I would see way more of them than I would see a Target or a Walmart or any of that even a home Depot but they all died. It's crazy. But you're saying they just didn't figure out the shift to digital. They just got stuck there, didn't figure it out and eventually that goes to a zero.

Nathan Artt (12:19):

It goes to a zero and one of the things, and we're probably getting way too far ahead, one of the biggest differences between the people who made it and the people who didn't was the willingness to confront the brutal facts. Sears and JCPenney fell in love with their model more than they fell in love with their mission. And our mission is to reach people to make disciples of all nations. To take the word of God to the end of the earth, reach the lost. And we have to separate, in some ways, because our mission has not changed but the way that we're reaching people and our methods have changed.

Nathan Artt (12:51):

And I feel like the church of the future is the one who is going to be more in love with their mission than they are with their methods. And that was the big differentiator between Target and Home Depot as willing to say, hey, look, what we've done for 20 years no longer worked and we have to have the courage to turn and face the brutal facts of a changing economy and a changing market and find relevance with that group of people. Sears and JCPenney just wanted to be relevant to that group of people. And there's a huge difference in those two things and how they approached their model.

Frank Barry (13:21):

Yeah. Well, connect the dots to churches. So churches, how to model, you have Sunday service, you do it in the building. In person was the model, you might have Wednesday night things. You might have other programs going on, youth group activities on Fridays, all this stuff, but it was all geared around being in the building doing everything. Now, there's other parts of this so it's a little bit of a generalization, but it was in the building stuff and now that COVID condensed a bunch of stuff, made it all very obvious that we can't just keep doing that.

Nathan Artt (13:59):

Well, there's a lot on that. Honestly, we could talk about that for a long time. To give you the context of why we wrote the resource on Target, here was their situation, and this is why it's so astounding to me on what we can learn as a church, so in 2014, Target stock was considered distress. They were seeing fewer people in their buildings than they had in 15 years and that was their goal, we had to get people to our large buildings, which had become a destination away from the communities they were trying to serve. And Brian Cornwell steps in, and five years later they went from distress stock and closing stores to Bloomberg announcing them as the retail model of the future. And yes, that was exactly the year before COVID.

Nathan Artt (14:46):

Mr Cornwell was nominated as fortune CEO of the year and they announced, and here was the key part, they announced the opening of 500 stores and the focus was on the digital platform. And it seems counterintuitive, Frank, and this is what a lot of churches are struggling with is the idea that a focus or an adoption of a digital presence will cannibalize or take away from a commoditize or in person experience. Now, that can be true. That can be true if we just continue to copy and paste our Sunday morning service and put it online and call that a digital experience.

Frank Barry (15:24):

All right. I got to a camera in the back-

Nathan Artt (15:28):

It's not going to work. It's not going to work. And so the focus was, all right, so first of all why don't people shop in our stores? They wanted to truly understand why people don't shop in the store. They also knew that the existing customer needed to have a better shopping experience so it was really twofold. It was equipping people to have a better shopping experience and it was introducing themselves and making Target a part of people's everyday shopping. And what they found, this focus on digital did not take away from their in-store sales, it actually drove their in-store sales. And one of the things that stood out to me in doing the research, I found four brick and mortar retailers who are also in the top 10 online retailers in the country. So if you throw out Wayfair and Amazon and eBay, Home Depot, Target, and I hate to say Walmart, but Walmart and what's interesting is they're all in the top 10 online retailers in the country, but not one of them sees more than 10% of their sales online.

Nathan Artt (16:28):

Which means, again, I just can't emphasize this enough of focus on using the digital platform to reach new markets, drove people to the store. It did not compete with the store, it actually created an experience that ended with a tactile experience on location. And so we're battling through this as a church, that we're trying to get people in our buildings, but here's the biggest thing in my mind in doing this research and working with a lot of churches that we see that has changed. And we have to ask the question, why is attendance so important? Why do we want people in our building so badly? And if you think about it, and I'm not saying this is the answer for every church, but the model has been that attendance is the leading indicator of engagement. If I put a thousand people in the room, I know that there's X number of giving units and X number of people serving, and so many people in community groups and what's happened through the digitization of society is now we actually have to focus on creating engagement to get people to attend.

Nathan Artt (17:33):

So attendance is not driving engagement, no, engagement is actually driving attendance. And that is the focus and the shift that Target took and other retailers have taken in order to increase their in-store sales.

Frank Barry (17:45):

Right. That's fascinating. I don't know how deep the research goes, but what things did Target do that started giving them signs of life, like, oh yeah, this digital thing's important and here's some stuff that we're doing that's giving us that insight or showing us that it's working?

Nathan Artt (18:07):

So there's a lot to say on that too. One of the things that we highlight in the book is that, and this is my opinion so take it for what it's worth, but what Target figured out was the difference between relevance and convenience. So convenience is just taking something you may or may not want and then making it more accessible but relevance really is giving people exactly what they're looking for at the time they need it most. Okay. So Frank Blake was the CEO of Home Depot, he is well known for transforming brick and mortar retail space with the digital platform. He was very much the leader of that movement. And he's here in Atlanta Buckhead church, actually, so we've done a lot of work together, but he talked about his experience and this is the difference, when Home Depot decided that their biggest competitor was not Lowe's it was actually Amazon, which was a big thing, they decided-

Frank Barry (19:01):

Totally different. They were like, oh wait, Amazon doesn't even exist physically, they're only digital, so now how do I think about that?

Nathan Artt (19:08):

Well, they're only digital and what's interesting and we could talk about this is that they didn't try to make Home Depot an Amazon experience. They just realized digital's not a strategy, they saw digital as a tool for their strategy. And so they named Amazon their biggest competitor, but didn't play Amazon's game. They used digital for a whole different reason and theirs was to drive-in store experience. But as he talked about his first days in the digital engagement, he said, look, all we really did was we took our Sunday morning circular and then we put it online and we called it a digital experience and here's the biggest problem with that, and this is the difference in convenience and relevance, if you think about the Sunday morning circular, the company, the marketing department, they sit down and they figure out faucets, which faucets, which price points, refrigerators and you get this list but if I open that circular and I'm looking for chainsaw, you're not relevant to me.

Frank Barry (20:01):

You might have to describe what a Sunday morning circular is, I don't know if everybody knows what that is.

Nathan Artt (20:10):

Well, if you remember the Sunday morning paper, all the advertisements you get from all the different retailers and their hope was they would put the right things in front of you and it was just blasting out a shotgun strategy and they're hoping for a one to 2% conversion rate.

Frank Barry (20:25):

Maybe it was seasonal at best, like seasonal an area of the country kind of thing.

Nathan Artt (20:29):

Yeah. Here's the difference that they ended up moving towards, which is, the TV, print and radio were huge advancements in our ability to communicate with people, but they're all one way communication mediums. And what's interesting about digital is it's really the first two way experience. And so what you'll find when you really study these companies and these leaders was that digital platform wasn't about you getting to know Target, it was about Target getting to know you and providing a curated, relevant experience. And here's an example of what I mean, and I think this isn't, so we mentioned I live in Atlanta, we have the highest gay population in the United States. I have really good friends of the lesbian couple and there's issues and things that they wrestle with. And they know I'm a believer and we talk about this stuff all the time but they have some, obviously some opinions of the church based on their experience. And I have another friend who really had some major anxiety issues through COVID, and I have another neighbor who is just experienced some issues in their marriage and they're navigating some things.

Nathan Artt (21:42):

If I invite are all those people to church this Sunday, what are the chances that the message is going to be relevant to them. You might be on generosity and might not reach any of them so when we think about relevance, we think about the church becoming a place where as people are struggling through whatever their specific issue is that we're able to meet them in their time of need, that's relevance. It's not come to our building, listen to a sermon and maybe next year we'll do, come to our marriage series that's in the fall, that's a year and a half away. Right now they're struggling with something so how do we meet them in their greatest area of need with the greatest message of hope in the world. That is the move of the church towards relevance to people. And the digital platform is not the 1990s version of TV ministry, it is the biggest opportunity we have to actually get to know the people that we're trying to serve and that's the mindset shift that we see these companies taking that I think we can learn the most from.

Frank Barry (22:33):

Right. I guess shifting into you helping churches in the work that you guys are doing, how are churches hearing that message? How are they responding?

Nathan Artt (22:48):

Yeah. That's what's fun, Frank, is and nobody has an answer, but I think one of the blessings that I have felt in my life, and I'm not sure why me, but we've had a chance to work with just some of the best business and some of the best ministry leaders out there and I wouldn't say anyone has an answer but we're a part of this huge innovation right now and just seeing church leaders think differently about how we're engaging and reaching people. And so we've built a team of truly just some of the best minds in ministry who have built successful ministries and they're partnering with churches and going through strategy and really getting back to what is our missional clarity and who are we trying to reach and how do we best reach them and putting those questions back on the table.

Nathan Artt (23:30):

And so now we're seeing a lot of really cool things happen in the church right now and then subsequently, God has opened amazing doors with... This past couple weeks, man, just interviewed the president of Google and people at Target and Apple and there's, believe it or not, there's actually Christians in corporate America. It's a crazy thing. And just in their experience and coming in and being a part also of doing events and other things with us that are helping church leaders think through some of those big concepts. And so I'm just sitting here in the middle learning all of this and being a part of all this. And it's pretty amazing.

Frank Barry (24:05):

Yeah. Are there things bubbling up? I'm trying to see how can we help someone that's listening to this show? Yes, go download the ebook and read through that, check out your guys' website, but are there things that you're seeing churches start to practically do to use digital to get to know the people around them that they're serving and build that connectivity and that two-way connection? What's shifting or what are churches starting to try to get better at that?

Nathan Artt (24:39):

Well, first, I think the biggest thing is that we are looking at digital and this opportunity almost as an additional program. The biggest mistake I would say that I see churches making is, oh yeah, that thing might be important. Let's take Sally, whom we've never really had a place for but we like her, and let's go throw her at it, give her no resources, no volunteers and then let's see what she can do. And that to me has been the biggest thing. And again, seeing it as an additional program or a threat to manage versus an integrated part of our strategy. [Triggers 00:25:23] are amazing at developing content.

Frank Barry (25:24):

They're machines, it's what they do.

Nathan Artt (25:28):

They're content machines. I think at the base of it, the first thing to do is just step back and just reevaluate the first questions. I remember reading about some of the first meetings at Target, Brian Cornwell was just asking questions. He said, "Hey, why are our stores so big?" I said, "Well, I don't know if you know this, sir, but people make lists and they do all their shopping one day a week." He's like, "Oh, do they still do that?" Why are we 20 minutes away from the people we're trying to serve? Oh, so we can have big stores. Oh, okay. Just begin to ask those questions of why are we doing these things? But getting back to just the core, and then from there, I would say, you will go, as far as your organization is aligned and budgeted for the success of this.

Nathan Artt (26:12):

And so looking at the resources you're willing to put towards this, those are fundamental things. And then if you're a church of 200, 300 people, you're like, I don't have the budget for most of this. Here's what I would ask of you to do is audit your communication and is everything you're sending out about you? I'm not picking on churches, but I will say this thing drives me nuts. Every Thursday I get blasted with emails from churches about what sermon they're preaching on Sunday as if I didn't know that they were preaching a sermon on Sunday. There's no way for me to respond to that. There's no opportunity to ask me questions or to respond to questions. They don't know if I'm married, they don't know anything about me, mostly because they've never asked.

Nathan Artt (27:03):

And even if they have the information, they don't do anything with it. They don't use it. And so the things that we have to start thinking about is does our communication make try to make us more significant to people or are we trying to make people more significant to us? You can look at that and audit it through the lens of social media, through email, through everything else. And those are the basic fundamental things that you'd do today and then from a more advanced perspective, there's lots of tools and there's lots of resources that we're beginning to integrate into those strategies.

Frank Barry (27:38):

Let me ask you this, because this is a little bit of connectivity to Tithely but all these guys, Home Depot, Target, Walmart, obviously the digital first ones like Amazon, eBay, they all have their app and that seems to be the thing. Even, I don't know if it was Chick-fil-A or In-N-Out or one of these, they're like, you go through the drive through and they're like, will you be ordering on your app today? You're in the drive through, you're at the physical place and they're asking you to use your app to order. So everybody in the retail or fast food or whatever, apps are like the thing. Is that a thing? Should churches be thinking about it that way or why? Because we do church apps for people listening, I'm not necessarily trying to sell it, I'm actually trying to get your perspective, having studied this stuff and what you're seeing in retail, but also how churches are starting to think about it. Is that a thing?

Nathan Artt (28:45):

There's some really good research on that question and let me frame your specific Christian chicken company here. So we do a lot of work with the Chick-fil-A executive team, we have an event even this fall with their whole executive team and some churches, and what was interesting and we've invited them because the average retail, their average fast food restaurant in America grosses $700,000 a year in sales. McDonald's is number two at 2.6 million in per store sales. Chick-fil-A pre COVID was 7 million per store, 10 times the average. Here's what's crazy. Now, think about this as a church, everything about Chick-fil-A is about the customer experience, really let's call it the lobby experience which was taken off the table. And during COVID their per store revenue went north of 10 million. 35% increase per store.

Frank Barry (29:47):

I know one thing they did locally, I know it's not your point, but I'm going to share one thing they did it to the local one right by my house, they added a second lane in the drive through. They were the only ones to do it and I'm like, why did not everybody else do this? This is a brilliant idea. Anyways.

Nathan Artt (30:04):

Well, there's some answers to that. So some of it was, they did not feel that the innovation that was required for them was in the boardroom. So one of the things that they did was they actually went to their operators and they said, here's the issue we're all trying to solve. They put some carrots out there, some incentives and made it a competition amongst the operators to solve the problems. And so a lot of the things that you saw about using police as traffic cops, literally traffic cops widening the lanes. But the big question that they put on the operators to solve was how do we create a lobby experience in the drive through? So the answer to your question goes to that. How do we create an excellent experience? There's a lot of research on apps and why do people use Target and Home Depot? And it's because it's not a standalone asset. It is a part of an integrated strategy. So the reason Chick-fil-A's app works so great is ease of use so great customer user experience.

Nathan Artt (30:56):

I can find what I'm looking for when I need it most, but they're also tracking that to understand what it is you like. Chick-fil-A knows I'm down for some spicy chicken, they know that. That's right. So when I log in, the first thing I see is not nuggets. They're focused on getting to know you and your experience, what you're looking for, and they put that up there front and foremost as the primary options. And the app becomes a part of just an overall integrated approach that makes me know I'm going to have a good experience at Chick-fil-A. They're not going to mess up my food. I'm going to get it quickly even if there's a long line in the drive through, it'll be faster than a short line somewhere else. So I hope that answers your question. But the app is a very successful instrument when it's not a separate standalone almost destination asset when it's really a part of an integrated approach to you and me.

Frank Barry (31:52):

That's great. I would tend to agree, just in general, it can't just be this thing that churches have, it's got to be part of a much bigger strategy and you're in person and you're online and however you're doing online, whether you have an app or just your website or social media, you have to think about it all together, and they work hand in hand. Yeah, man, this is good. We could probably keep chatting all day because I could keep coming up with questions because I'm interested in this stuff, but I want to be respectful of your time and the audience and not go on forever. Is there anything that, I'll just leave it at this, have we glossed over any of the biggest learnings that [inaudible 00:32:31] you been talking with churches or the things they really grab onto?

Nathan Artt (32:35):

Yeah, I think there's one more thing in this. And again, one of the things that stood out to me the most in the study on Target was some comments that came from Bruce Starnes who oversees Target's digital marketing strategies, their VP of digital strategy, something like that. He made two comments and the first one was, our digital strategy is rooted in the local store. And then the second thing he said that was really interesting to me, he said, what we realized is that it's not the value of our buildings that are changing, it's the role. Buildings are still valuable, they still have a use, the question is, are we using them for their highest and best use? And that question from the guy that runs digital, which is so interesting is why they opened 500 new or why they announce opening 500 new physical locations because of the demand for physical locations at digital created. Digital's not a threat, but we have to begin to ask ourselves the questions.

Nathan Artt (33:40):

What can we do in person that we cannot do online? And what can we do and who can we reach online that we cannot reach in person? But right now, the idea of recording a sermon and putting it online is no different than recording a play and calling it a movie. We have to think about how we use these mediums to reach the audience that is on the other side of those mediums. And secondly, stop using it as a broadcast mechanism and look to these as opportunities to actually get to know the people who are engaging with us so that we can create relevance to them.

Frank Barry (34:21):

Right. One, I love all that and it made me think of like, clearly there's something to this whole digital and in person physical, because even Amazon now has physical stores. One just popped up in my neighborhood so they crush online, but eventually they got to the point where they were like, Hey, we're going to put some physical stores in place too because they do work together. So you're getting even guys like Amazon that were all digital understanding that.

Nathan Artt (34:53):

Yeah. And something Frank Blake said that they learned at Home Depot was a good digital experience will always create an interest for an in person tactile experience. So just remember that.

Frank Barry (35:02):

Yeah. Love that. Well, Nathan, this has been great, man. Where can folks go to download the ebook?

Nathan Artt (35:06):

Yeah. So our website executive leadership solutions go to el.solutions and download the Target ebook and it's same thing guys, there's team questions in there. So we've worked in some questions for you guys to wrestle with and even some surveys and honestly would love to hear back from you on what's impacting you, what you're thinking through and we'll give you some opportunities to do that as well, but we'd be very grateful to have the opportunity to connect with you.

Frank Barry (35:32):

Yeah. Love it. Love it. Well, we'll get it out. Everyone go check it out. If you're just Googling it, it's Target Corp in the Flexible Church. I think that's right. And man, this has been great. Thanks for joining us today, Nathan. And we'll see you online soon.

Nathan Artt (35:47):

Yes, sir. Thank you, Frank. I appreciate the opportunity.

Frank Barry (35:49):

Yeah, definitely. Thanks everybody. We'll see you next week on another episode of Modern Church Leader, we'll see ya.

Narrator (35:55):

If you enjoyed this episode of the Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to modernchurchleader.com or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple podcast or Spotify so you never miss an episode and we'll see you again next week with another conversation here on the Modern Church Leader.

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How to Be a More Relevant Church Using Technology with Nathan Artt

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How to Be a More Relevant Church Using Technology with Nathan Artt

Whether you're looking for ways to improve your ministry or are simply interested in learning more about how technology is changing how we do things at church, this episode is for you!

Show notes

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How to Be a More Relevant Church Using Technology

In today's world, you don't just have to know how to use technology; you need to be able to use it in a way that is relevant and meaningful to other people.

All organizations—religious or secular—should consider how technology can help them connect with their communities. If an organization wants to stand out and be relevant, it shouldn't leave technology out of the picture.

Some companies have done a great job of integrating technology into their business. Target is one of the best examples that uses technology to improve how people interact with its brand, increase the frequency of interactions, and better tailor its message to customers' needs. 

If Target can do it without sacrificing what makes them unique or compromising its mission—so can the church.

Churches that use technology effectively are positioned to be more relevant and impactful in their communities, and this requires more than just posting content online or having a Facebook page. 

It must go beyond surface-level engagement to build relationships and impact people's lives. It's about developing relationships with people by going deeper and connecting them in ways they value. 

All of these require an intentional, strategic approach to technology, one that is not limited to using it in a single area or function. Rather, it requires a holistic understanding of how churches can use technology to serve the people in the community better.

We know that this topic is exceptionally critical for the church’s growth, but we also know that sometimes it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to technology in our churches. So we invited someone who can help us unpack the topic and guide us through practical ways to use technology intentionally and efficiently!

Our guest, Nathan Artt, principal and founder of Ministry Solutions and Executive Leadership Solutions, joins us to elaborate on how we may take advantage of technological innovations to serve the community better.  

He will also highlight some ideas presented in his ebook "Target Corp and the Flexible Church," which can help us rethink how we apply technology in the church.

Our mission has not changed, but the way that we're reaching people and our methods have changed. I feel like the church of the future is the one who is going to be more in love with their mission than they are with their methods.
-Nathan Artt

Nathan is the principal and founder of Ministry Solutions and Executive Leadership Solutions, organizations located in Atlanta, GA focused on equipping leaders for the Church of the Future. In the last 10 years, Ministry Solutions has assisted hundreds of churches in navigating the complexities of growth with finances, multisite, and building projects.

Whether you're looking for ways to improve your ministry or are simply interested in learning more about how technology is changing how we do things at church, this episode is for you!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • The role of the digital platform in driving in-person engagement
  • The difference between convenience and relevance when it comes to using technology
  • How to get people back into the church building
  • Why technology is an essential part of the church
  • Ways churches can be relevant in a digital age
  • Some helpful concepts from his ebook Target Corp & The Flexible Church 

Resources Mentioned:

Follow Ministry Solution on Instagram:  min_solutions
Follow Ministry Solution on LinkedIn: Ministry Solutions
Visit Ministry Solution’s website: Ministry Solutions
Check out Nathan’s ebook: Target Corp & The Flexible Church

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

How to Impact the Community with Ministry Resources with John Craft
The Secret to Church Revitalization with Cody Evans
How Churches Can Become More Effective Online with Trey Van Camp

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[00:08] Our mission has not changed, but the way that we're reaching people and our methods have changed. I feel like the Church of the future is the one who is going to be more in love with their mission than they are with their methods.

[08:40] COVID did not change, really anything. What it did was it took 20 years of change that was already in place.

[17:29] We actually have to focus on creating engagement to get people to attend. So attendance is not driving engagement. Now, engagement is actually driving attendance.

[18:25] Convenience is taking something you may or may not want, and then making it more accessible. Relevance really is getting people exactly what they're looking for at the time. 

video transcript

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