How to Integrate Giving Into Your Worship Service with Nils Smith

How to Integrate Giving Into Your Worship Service with Nils Smith

This week on TV, Dean and Frank are joined by Nils Smith, chief strategist of social media and innovation at Dunham+Company. Nils has over 10 years of experience in full-time ministry, and his work maximizing web resources for furthering ministries has been highlighted in Church Executive Magazine, The Christian Post, Leadership Network, and more.

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Modern Church leader
Publish date
February 13, 2019

This week on TV, Dean and Frank are joined by Nils Smith, chief strategist of social media and innovation at Dunham+Company. Nils has over 10 years of experience in full-time ministry, and his work maximizing web resources for furthering ministries has been highlighted in Church Executive Magazine, The Christian Post, Leadership Network, and more.

During their conversation, they talk about:

  • The trend that is changing giving
  • The biggest mistake churches make about generosity on Sunday
  • Why church attendance leads to an increase in giving
  • Practical ways you can promote generosity during your worship service


Here’s a list of resources mentioned during the show:


This week on TV, Dean and Frank are joined by Nils Smith, chief strategist of social media and innovation at Dunham+Company. Nils has over 10 years of experience in full-time ministry, and his work maximizing web resources for furthering ministries has been highlighted in Church Executive Magazine, The Christian Post, Leadership Network, and more.

During their conversation, they talk about:

  • The trend that is changing giving
  • The biggest mistake churches make about generosity on Sunday
  • Why church attendance leads to an increase in giving
  • Practical ways you can promote generosity during your worship service


Here’s a list of resources mentioned during the show:

podcast transcript

(Scroll for more)

This week on TV, Dean and Frank are joined by Nils Smith, chief strategist of social media and innovation at Dunham+Company. Nils has over 10 years of experience in full-time ministry, and his work maximizing web resources for furthering ministries has been highlighted in Church Executive Magazine, The Christian Post, Leadership Network, and more.

During their conversation, they talk about:

  • The trend that is changing giving
  • The biggest mistake churches make about generosity on Sunday
  • Why church attendance leads to an increase in giving
  • Practical ways you can promote generosity during your worship service


Here’s a list of resources mentioned during the show:

VIDEO transcript

(Scroll for more)

Dean Sweetman:  Hey guys. Dean Sweetman here. Along with Frank Barry. Hey buddy, how you doing?

Frank Barry:  Hey, hey, doing well. Doing well. Good to see everybody.

Dean Sweetman:  Yep. Yep. We're surviving the cold here in Los Angeles at 43 degrees. But anywho, we got a great show coming up and I'm pretty excited to talk to Nils Smith in a moment from Dunham+Company.

Frank Barry:  Yes. Nils is with us already.

Dean Sweetman:  About what's experienced around ministry and giving and the whole nine yards.

Frank Barry:  Absolutely. Nils is actually on screen with us already. He was very prompt. He-

Dean Sweetman:  Hey Nils.

Nils Smith:   Hey guys. It's good to be on with you guys.

Dean Sweetman:  Welcome, man.

Nils Smith:   [inaudible 00:00:41]

Frank Barry:  All the way from New York City, we here.

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah.

Nils Smith:   Yeah. And the cold here in New York City. And I appreciate you guys letting me follow my boss, Rick Dunham.

Frank Barry:  That's right.

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah.

Frank Barry:  He was on just a couple weeks ago. That's right.

Dean Sweetman:  Yep.

Nils Smith:   Yep.

Dean Sweetman:  He was great man. You got a lot to live up to there. He was a smart guy.

Nils Smith:   He's the best. There's no doubt about that.

Frank Barry:  He's got all the data, right? He's a wealth of knowledge around giving and generosity data for churches, so you could just-

Nils Smith:   I think when he came, when he was birthed, he just started doing research on day one of life in different ways. He loves research and data, and just soaks it in.

Frank Barry:  Yeah, totally. I know, we could keep talking forever. And he's also involved in all that other industry reporting stuff. I forget the names of the organization, but the big research project that he's involved with too, so ...

Nils Smith:   The Giving Institute.

Frank Barry:  Yeah. The Giving Institute. That's right.

Dean Sweetman:  Cool beans. All right. So before we get into ... we're gonna talk just around some really practical things, around building giving into the worship service, but maybe just a little intro, Nils. A little bit about yourself, your history. I know you've been in ministry. You worked for Dunham for a while, so yeah, give us the two minute drill on Nils Smith.

Nils Smith:   So my role at Dunham+Company is Chief Strategist of Social Media and Innovation. And what that ... what Rick Dunham will tell you, is that it's my job to run ahead of our clients. So, looking at social media, podcasting, live streaming, even things like crypto currency. What are some things that might be coming, or might not be coming, to advise our clients. That's what I do at Dunham+Company.

Nils Smith:   Before joining Dunham+Company, I was in full-time ministry for about 14 years. Started as a youth pastor, and then started doing online ministry. So I was at Community Bible Church, was my last church role. I was their innovation pastor, and I was hired to launch We took our physical church online and doing our online church services, and then it was my role to oversee everything on the internet. So that was our church website. It was our mobile app. It was our donation form. It was database systems. So, all of those technologies and how they all integrated into our communication systems. So that's a little bit about my background and what I'm doing today with Dunham+Company.

Frank Barry:  And I need to know, as just a random side note, how many innovation pastors there are in America. Just because. It's gotta be the coolest pastoral title on the planet.

Nils Smith:   I felt like it was my primary job to imitate Bobby Greenwald in every way [inaudible 00:03:11] LifeChurch, so I imitated him to the point of even copying his title. I think there're maybe half a dozen. At the same time, Kenny Jahng, who is a good friend of mine. He was at Liquid Church.

Dean Sweetman:  We love Kenny.

Nils Smith:   He was their innovation pastor. And so yeah, those guys. But yeah, there's not many. Now, they gave me that title, I was also ... I kind of had word ... Like many pastors, I was the online/young adult/website ... They started just calling me the Slash. Pastor innovation gave it a cooler, funner title that made me happier, I think. So ... yeah, more in the initiative of vagueness was our core goal. And I oversaw multi-site at the same time. So it was all kind of those multiple hats and lots of fun.

Frank Barry:  We had Kenny on the show a few weeks back as well. We'll have to get Bobby on the show just to round it out.

Nils Smith:   You've got to. He's-

Frank Barry:  And we'll have all the innovation pastors that started it.

Nils Smith:   Bobby's a great guy.

Dean Sweetman:  Awesome, man. So we're talking about some trends that are changing in the whole giving space and some real practical ways that you can increase giving during the worship experience, so I know that's in your wheelhouse and that's right in our wheelhouse too, so we're pretty pumped for today.

Frank Barry:  Yeah, yeah. And you run a podcast, right? On social media for churches?

Nils Smith:   I do.

Frank Barry:  You've been outside for a while.

Nils Smith:   Yeah, so about for three and half years, four years now, I've hosted the Social Media Church Podcast. It was founded by DJ Chuang, primarily starting the conversation around online church, and we've expanded it to talk about general social media things and how we're just gonna use social media and the internet to accomplish their goals. So it's been fun to be a part of that conversation for a while.

Frank Barry:  Yeah, very cool. Well I guess we'll just jump into it. So instead of going right into the innovation side of things, or maybe some innovation is involved here to, but a big part of what churches want to accomplish is actually getting people into the building. So physical relationships and connections. So can you speak a little bit about that? Kind of like what are churches doing ... what are one or two things churches are doing on the innovation side today that are getting more people in the building?

Nils Smith:   You know, I ... when you think about just content, in general, of ... the church is investing so much, and just what ... a pastor is, every Sunday, creating 30 minutes or an hour worth of content in a sermon, and so how churches are using that content to take the video and put it on YouTube. Or take the audio and put in Apple Podcast. And so, what we see really working well is you don't have to wait until somebody walks into your door to minister to them. The internet, now, allows us, through social media, to take content ... and you can use micro pieces of that sermon and upload that to Facebook. And what that also allows your congregation to do, is it gives them an evangelism tool to then share that to their Facebook community, or share that privately with their friends.

Nils Smith:   So, at the end of the day, what I see working most effectively, is churches that are prioritizing creating online content, primarily video, resourcing their congregation to then allow the viral effect of social media to then share that out and using that in an engaging way. And then, even ... where Dunham+Company, where we've come alongside some churches in some interesting ways, is using that advertising. So using YouTube ads, Facebook ads, to take that content and bring it directly to people to get it further, faster, with the power of these advertising engines that are really so inexpensive when you compare it to historical TV and radio ads. And we actually do both. We'll do TV and radio ads simultaneously with a YouTube and a Facebook campaign, and those two can also work together really nicely.

Frank Barry:  Are ... Well I guess I have two kind of follow up questions. How are churches using those different media creatively, and kind of tracking that it's driving ... and I know that building the online attendance is important, but tracking that it's also bringing people in the doors? And maybe who's doing it well. Do you have any good examples that people could go follow and look at?

Nils Smith:   Yeah, that's a good ... that it is often a challenge and it's easier today to track engagement with the content, where, in TV and radio ads, or newspaper ads, you never knew. You just trusted what the newspaper told you. How many saw that newspaper. And so, what we've historically done is just said, "Well how many people got here 'cause you saw a newspaper ad? How many got here because you saw a television commercial?"

Nils Smith:   And I think the reality is, probably when it still comes to tracking physical attendance related to online engagement, a lot churches are using a plan your visit type of tool. And so they can use a tool like that to basically click this button on our website, plan your visit, we get an email address, we can follow up with you after your visit to see how it went. And so churches that are using both those tools and their database systems to be very proactive from an ad that tracks to the website, which tracks the plan your visit, to people coming, are very forward thinking. I don't know that I could tell you an example of one that's doing it. I think about my friends at CCV in Southern California, are doing a pretty good job with that. The first church that comes to mind.

Nils Smith:   But yeah, it's ... for the most part, people are still doing it the same way they used to, they're just using the more efficient means of social media to build awareness, and then counting the effectiveness based on, how many people at membership first heard about us on social media? How many people first did Google search? Or, in their first-time visit card, if they have a follow-up card, how did you find out about us? So I think it kind of goes together.

Nils Smith:   What I still believe, from the data I'm hearing from churches, is that the number one reason people still come to your church is somebody invited them, but you're making it easier for people to invite people when you're giving them content to share. Basically ... It's like if you have a friend and you invite 'em to a restaurant with you and if you could give 'em a menu before they come. Does that make sense? Or, you gotta taste this cookie from this restaurant. Let's go get the whole meal later. And it's almost like you give 'em a taste of it. This isn't gonna be weird. This isn't gonna be awkward. This is our church in a micro tasting so that you can come experience the full thing.

Frank Barry:  Yeah. So good.

Dean Sweetman:  Love it. Mate, let's talk attendance and how that affects giving. I know there's research out there. I know Giving USA did a report on ... people are more likely to give if they're attending as opposed to less attendance or even just online. What's the case? What's the connection between attendance and giving?

Nils Smith:   Well I think ... and it's interesting that you ask that question. Rick really dives into the depth of those numbers. But I think the reality is you see the more engaged people are with your church ... and we see this with all non-profits. The more engaged they are with your non-profit, the more they're likely to give. And that will vary, obviously. Sometimes that varies by their capacity to give, but we see this with churches. The more somebody attends, the more they're likely giving. And I ... as pastors, we like to assume, sometimes, that "Well everyone's just gonna give 10%. 'Cause that's just what they're gonna do." And the reality is that the data says the average church giver is giving somewhere like 2.9% of their income, or somewhere in there.

Nils Smith:   So, everyone attending is giving 10%. And I think what ministry leaders often need to focus on is how do we drive people to their deepest level of engagement and also understanding that 100% attendance isn't realistic today. And that's just where I think online can really come alongside of, well you can't attend, let's make sure that they have the media that they can stay connected to the sermon. Or that they can better stay connected to their small group even when they're not able to attend on a week to week basis. And so, I don't know that I have specific data as to this is [crosstalk 00:11:01]

Dean Sweetman:  No that's good. I'm in.

Nils Smith:   But we know a depth of engagement deepens effective giving. [inaudible 00:11:07]

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah, definitely. So what's your experience with ... I'm actually trying to convince my son. I go to my son's church here in LA and I'm trying to convince him to get an online, kind of ... They're producing a couple ... two camera shoot, and their production value's going up, and I'm like ... There's free software from Life.Church and other places, to do it well. What's the conversion rate, that you've seen, from a great ... even from snippet, or a full online presentation of the church as a campus, what do you see as people drifting from that into attendance?

Nils Smith:   Well, I would say what I continue to hear from pastors ... So, it's ... I'm two and a half years from being in the church on a day to day basis. So I'm sitting in a consulting seat now, so I'm asking more people than I'm actually living in it. And what I continue to hear from those pastors is that the percentage of people ... when they're asked, or when they're prodded in some way. Did you come ... did you experience our sermons or any media from our church before you came? And I'll say it's at least 90% have experienced some form of media from that church before they attend that church. So whether that's a song from their worship band on YouTube. They watch ... and particularly I watch some kind of sermon clip, or I went to your website.

Nils Smith:   And it's ... the reality is this is a behavior outside of just church. I don't remember the last time I went to a restaurant that I hadn't been to before that I didn't go look at the menu on their website or Yelp before I went. It's our behavior. We go online to check something out to see if it's going to be worth our time and energy. And then the more you can give them to experience that, I think the more likely they're gonna receive it, especially if you have a good experience. And if you've got a bad experience, it's not gonna be worth them coming 'cause they're not gonna come back. So you wanna put your best foot forward, though, on your website. It's in many ways your new lobby. You've got your sign, you wanna have a good sign, you wanna have a good lobby where they walk in and you create that whole experience. So your web presence, across Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, your website, it's all a path that's a part of that experience that you've gotta bring in.

Nils Smith:   I would say though, every church needs to be thinking "How can we better our website? How can we better our media? How could we go from two cameras to three cameras? Or go from 1080p to 4k?" But I think too often we say "I'm gonna wait 'til I'm at 4k before I even put the video out." And then they get some stuff out there and in moments you start thinking how you gonna make the next one better. And just continue to get better, but don't wait 'til you've got it perfect 'til you ... so you start pushing stuff out there.

Dean Sweetman:  Right. That's like ... those of us who are in the software business, entrepreneurs, it's like you can wait to have a perfect app and wait to have a perfect software, but meanwhile your seven competitors have come in and started gobbling up market share and you come with perfection, and you're two years behind 'cause you didn't get in the market.

Nils Smith:   That's right, and then you're far from perfection because you're two years behind.

Dean Sweetman:  Exactly.

Nils Smith:   Yep, it's just the way ... We have to constantly iterate and constantly improve and constantly look better. And it's frustrating. I ... as a consultant, I will have pastors tell me "We did what you said and it's not working." I'm like, "Well I said that a year ago, and you just now adopted it. Facebook Live is a good tool in a lot of ways, but it was a whole lot better of a tool a year ago when I told you about it than when you came to adopt it." And so we have to constantly adapt to these changes on these platforms. And you know that. In the world of mobile apps, Apple's changing the rules. Android's-

Dean Sweetman:  Yep, all the time.

Nils Smith:   Our mobile devices are getting better, they're getting faster. We have to adapt to those things. And at the end of the day, they're changing, most of the time, in better ways. And so it pushes us outside of our comfort zones but it creates new opportunities every day.

Frank Barry:  Can I throw one in real quick? 'Cause it's like just get started, just do something, all these things. And often times I think the big churches can do that. 'Cause they're staffed for it, they're forward thinking, they have innovation pastors, right?

Nils Smith:   Yep.

Frank Barry:  But it's usually the average, 200 member church or smaller that struggles with this kind of stuff. So, I guess related to that particular question Dean asked, how do you help smaller churches? Even if you may not consult with them, how have you seen them do some of this stuff and do it well? Like leveraging technology, online, social, to sort of drive engagement?

Nils Smith:   Well I think it's way harder, in my opinion, for a bigger church ... When I made a change to our website ... We had 18,000 people who visited our website every day. And I was moving a lot of people's cheese when I changed that website. Then when you have [inaudible 00:15:56] people visiting your website and maybe a couple people get upset. Or you change your database system. You make a change in any of your technology systems. People get used to certain things, so it is, from my perspective, it's way harder for a big church to go after something new because you've gotta think of the ... who that might affect. Especially if it's a change, rather than something new ... a new initiative.

Nils Smith:   So, from my perspective, every church has somebody with one of these. This is ... that's a great camera. Splice is a great video editing app that's free. There's a lot of other things out there. I heard about another tool today that's like $20 a month. I could create those fancy memes like Elevation Church and you can look real cool. And it's $20 and I guarantee you there's a 14 year old in your church that can do that. [crosstalk 00:16:43]

Frank Barry:  Who's good at it.

Dean Sweetman:  All day.

Nils Smith:   And so, there are opportunities at every church, every size. And this has changed the game of everything. When we started, it was right at the beginning of iPhones. And we ... And it was 90% of the people that viewed our sermons was on a website. And then ... This world is changing, but the opportunities ... And I think the opportunities for those smaller churches is where it's really becoming more and more realistic to innovate and innovate quickly and not feel like "I can never keep up with Elevation Church." What you can't keep up with is probably the budget of advertising spend or maybe they have a certain number of video editors. But I think if you've got good content ... and I say good content. If you've got a good communicator or preacher, that's really all you need to get going.

Dean Sweetman:  Yep. Awesome. Totally love it.

Frank Barry:  Yeah, so good. I think there was one in here about the change taking place that we wanted to talk about, Dean.

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah, just the shift taking place and what's going on as far as people that are attending worship services. Just some practical advice on some of the things ... I think you've touched on this online first strategy, where people like ... that's a gateway now, rather than the old days, you put a sign up, right? Or you have one of those funky church signs and say goofy things to people driving by.

Frank Barry:  Those still exist though, and they're some of the best pictures on the internet.

Dean Sweetman:  They ... No, no, this website ... There's a website, I can't remember, that has classic church signs and it's hilarious. It's an hour worth of laughing.

Frank Barry:  It's so good.

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah. But obviously, a mobile ... a digital first presentation, I think what you keep coming back on, that's ... And for so many pastors that we deal with, which is the whole gambit, you can see them. They're just grinding with it because everything's been done the same way for 100 years and we're saying ... you're saying, "Get your iPhone out, preferably an iPhone 10, put it on a little tripod, stick a little external mic on it, and you're almost in business right there."

Nils Smith:   Well, and I think ... My dad is the pastor of a Methodist church outside of Houston, Texas, and he ... I got him ... and I just pulled this out of my drawer. I got him one of these. It's a little tripod. It's cost me about $10 on Amazon. And he literally sets that up and he is live-streaming his church from the front row.

Dean Sweetman:  So good.

Nils Smith:   Of ... I'm trying to think of the name of it, Old River Terrace Methodist Church in Channelview, Texas and there's 60 people that attending that church. And, you know what? There's about 20 people that are streaming in.

Dean Sweetman:  Yep, there you go.

Nils Smith:   And when somebody said ... It's not as good as Live.Church's production, but it's everything those people that can't be there have [crosstalk 00:19:32]

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah, that's a 25% jump in attendance.

Nils Smith:   It is. It's ... but what's happening ... and this is across the board. [Jake Caranda 00:19:43] is one of my good friends. He's at Saddleback Church. He did a study of 100 online churches, churches that do online ministry, and said, "How many of you have seen a decrease in physical attendance because of online church?" And I think what a lot of pastors have this fear factor of when we go online, people are gonna start skipping church. And it was 1 of those 100 said they had to decline. Now, that one had to decline for other reasons that did not involve the online campus. The internet is a front door. It is not a back door. And it's a way, actually, to create deeper engagements.

Nils Smith:   So those people that can't be ... we've got two young kids. There are lots of ... I used to always judge people when I was a pastor, of like "You're lazy, not getting into church every Sunday. There's a spiritual issue with you to not be here." But the reality is ... boy, a six year old can make it so challenging to get to church some weeks. In New York City, the weather, of ... there's a snow blizzard and it's brutal. So there's good reasons not to physically go this Sunday. And it doesn't mean I'm less committed, or less engaged. We weren't physically able to get there this Sunday. And so, I think I've come to see life on the other side of not being a pastor and being a church attendee.

Nils Smith:   But at the end of the day, the internet helps us create a new front door. It helps us create the evangelism opportunity. It's a discipleship opportunity. More people are engaged through Facebook groups. They're a unique fellowship. You think about the community that's happening between Sundays on social media or digital communication. The internet's creating new opportunities. It is not ... From my perspective, it's when we don't [inaudible 00:21:25] how we use it strategically. When we use it strategically, it is helping us further our goals.

Nils Smith:   But I think what we see too many ... and it's happening less and less. But ... I remember, I wrote my book, Social Media Guide for Ministry, my first book, it was like seven years ago. And I felt like I didn't have most pastors ... I got hate emails. Why would you do this? I remember getting one email saying, "Why do you want people to have affairs?" And I was like, "I don't remember that being in my book!" People have perceived ... because somebody had an affair that was ... they used Facebook so they just correlate the two that the internet is the Devil. Technology is the Devil. And it's not the Devil. It's a resource that the Devil uses. [crosstalk 00:22:09]

Dean Sweetman:  That's leading out of fear. We get the same thing. It's like, "Oh you're making it easy for people to give and they don't have to be in church anymore and that's evil." And I'm like, "What are you talking about? Giving goes up, dude!"

Frank Barry:  Yeah, people get scared of the unknown.

Nils Smith:   Yes. And I think it goes back to theology or even this ecclesiology of church being a building that you go to. And at the end of the day, I believe ... and I was ... I ran But I believe that the most healthy spiritual community happens face-to-face.

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah. Of course.

Nils Smith:   [crosstalk 00:22:39] But I believe the internet augments that in a really powerful way. And there are some, but it's an outlier that aren't going to engage and only are going to engage digitally, but for the most part it's an augmented aspect that's gonna further your ministry goals in just about every single way.

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah. Awesome.

Frank Barry:  Yeah, yeah. Can we ... 'cause I guess we could keep talking about that actual thing right there for the rest of the show, but maybe to touch on another topic. So when you're using digital well and it's bringing people around, so that it is actually creating more face-to-face connections and things like that over time. What are some of the maybe digital things you're seeing do in church? Like maybe newer things, innovative things. Could be around content creation, could be around how they're using their space and using digital in their lobbies and other kind of shared spaces. Are you seeing anything cool happening there?

Nils Smith:   I think that the trend that I have seen over the last two or three years, more significant, is the integration of SMS communication into a lot of calls to action. And so understanding sometimes SMS ... Especially for those that don't have a mobile app yet. So at Community Bible Church, we were very focused on our mobile app being our community for members and our website [inaudible 00:23:57] basically being our brochure for attenders. And so we looked at ... we were constantly looking at how can we use this mobile app for kids to check in, or how can we use this mobile app for a map around the campus. So really understanding how those utilities can function within the experience. But I would say, probably the most consistent trend that I've seen around new technology engagement in church services and on church campuses is around SMS of ... even just seeing posters on campuses of if you're interested in this event ... At Hillsong, it's 99000. That's our code. And so everything is "baptism" to 99000. Everything is you text "steps" to 99000. And so how that technology is being integrated, which is, at the end of the day, pretty simple technology. It's what you're saying, where it doesn't have to be rocket science.

Dean Sweetman:  Shameless plug, watch this space. Watch the website. You never know what's coming here in the next month.

Nils Smith:   That's awesome.

Frank Barry:  I think ... Text messaging, SMS, is so simple but so powerful. Even the other day, my kids, they just started playing rookie's baseball and I'm one of the assistant coaches. The head coach is ... There's some software that lets him communicate with the whole team and put out schedules and all this kind of stuff, and I said, "Ditch the software and start a WhatsApp group or an SMS group. That's all we need." Because I don't wanna go check my email or look at this other thing, I just want you to text me. Please. Right? That's how simple yet powerful SMS and yeah, I think watching churches use it effectively is pretty cool.

Nils Smith:   The other thing that is interesting to me that I feel like I'm just now seeing more ... and I pay more attention to it, now that I have kids. Is kid's check-in information or then how they alert parents. When our kids were babies, we were alerted because they put a big flashing sign on the [crosstalk 00:25:54] screens-

Dean Sweetman:  I remember that.

Frank Barry:  Yep.

Nils Smith:   That would say "Go to this." Well, there was one person in a room of 3,500, at Community Bible Church, that needed to see that announcement. They had to put it up, that was our system, but it was so distracting for every single person in the room when we all have an announcement system in our pocket. And so now at Hillsong, when there's an announcement, they text message that family first and they get the announcement. And then, the last minute resort, is they put it on the screen, and so, I think it's-

Dean Sweetman:  How bad do you feel when, in front of thousands of people, you're the parent that has to get up.

Nils Smith:   Because everybody sees who-

Frank Barry:  Frank.

Nils Smith:   Everybody sees who stands up and walks back.

Dean Sweetman:  I used to get up every week.

Nils Smith:   Yes.

Frank Barry:  Frank Barry, please come get your kids. They are being disruptive. Get them outta here.

Nils Smith:   Yeah. And I would say the last thing that I have not seen a lot of but I expect to see more of ... And I don't know that I've seen this from the church, but churches that are using the mobile apps and push notifications of once you come onto campus. Kind of alerting. I think people have perceived that's creepy technology. But I think, in reality, we're all getting used to having creepy technology around us all the time, with Alexa and all the other things. And so, by being more intentional to use the technology to its limits creates a better on-campus church experience.

Nils Smith:   So, there's some just interesting technology trends, but I don't know. And then you see things like 4k video and some high definition video that's enhancing, but some of it is just being ... it's less about technology innovation, more about just smart uses of technology. And maybe behind-the-scenes data. Now that's not maybe on the ... in the weekend experiences, but how churches are beginning to use data and getting smarter with data. That's the big deal. That's the trend that I expect to see for the next five years, is some real powerful data optimization.

Frank Barry:  One of the things we think about now that we're in the church management space. We're thinking about text messaging, we obviously do church apps, or ... Every church tracks attendance, or would like to track attendance effectively. And so, what if just when people walked onto campus, this thing tracked your attendance? And so there was no more counting, there was no more using all these ancillary ways to know if somebody was there, it's just ... Now, that is a big creepy and people ... there's gonna be a debate about all that kind of stuff, but certainly from the church administration side, just automatically tracking people's attendance because they walked on campus with their phone would be pretty cool.

Nils Smith:   I think as you take that a step further and begin thinking about okay, this person was consistent and we know that they came on average twice a month and then we see an eight week gap and your kind of AI systems in the background can almost then alert ... Anybody who has these trends and it moves to this trend, we follow up. Or just how can you really monitor data trends to then be able to communicate in a very personalized way to an individual rather than "I need to go look for this, I need to go find ... What did John Smith do?" But ... And I think those opportunities really open up for larger churches that don't necessarily know every individual that's there and notice it.

Nils Smith:   But I think it can happen in the smaller churches as well. That you might not even realize it, and your data will sometimes tell you something that you didn't otherwise notice, or know. So yeah, fascinating opportunities around data moving forward. Big opportunity.

Dean Sweetman:  Absolutely. Yeah, it's just so mind blowing for people to try and get their heads around this. And I was always a little bit of a ... pretty progressive, as far as technology goes, and the Giving App, right? I ... Back in 2012, when the App Store happened, I'm like, "Oh, this is a no-brainer, giving with your phone," but fast-forward like seven years, we have hundreds and hundreds of churches a month just still getting it now, so it's a journey, right?

Nils Smith:   Yep.

Dean Sweetman:  So, many church leaders kind of wrongly assume everyone in the church knows what's going on. That's one of the brutal things about being a pastor. You think you can make one announcement and "Oh, we're good now." Well guess what. Probably a quarter to a third of your church isn't there, number one, so you gotta do it at least two weeks in a row. And then you have some weather affected ... or the Super Bowl, or some other reason for people not to be there. So ... But people ... And then you've got people not paying attention. They're just [inaudible 00:30:15] out. So they're not there and they're not listening. How does the church connect the work of the church to people in the pew?

Nils Smith:   There's a lot of ... It's good communication. Part of that is being very creative to get their attention with the messaging you put in front of them. Part of that's being consistent. Is knowing they're not gonna hear it one time and remember everything you communicated in that message. Part of that is communicating in different platforms. Communicating on social media and via email and from the pulpit. I think the ... And so it really is consistency of communication [inaudible 00:30:53] and what's possible with data solutions is being able to communicate to people what's important to them.

Nils Smith:   And so this is where the pulpit is probably announcements for everyone, or church service, but the reality is not everyone needs to know about your next women's gathering, or your next single moms event. All of your single moms need to know, so how do you make sure you communicate to the single moms? Or how do you communicate to the parents of teenagers? Those announcements that somebody whose kids are graduated, they don't need to know what's happening with the teenagers' events. Maybe you celebrate, "Here's what God's doing in our youth ministry." We wanna celebrate God's work to everyone, but they don't necessarily need to know about all the announcements. So, not everything is important to everyone. And so being able to prioritize your communication, create systems for communication, and then use your platforms in different ways is the key. But I think where churches miss in the communication is they communicate everything to everyone and everyone tunes out and they don't know what's the most important thing.

Dean Sweetman:  Yep. Very good.

Frank Barry:  So they all need text communication is basically what we just said here.

Nils Smith:   I think as you get practical though, is people often ... and I hear this from church leaders, of "I don't wanna get into SMS 'cause that's just annoying when people start sending me SMS messages." The reality is, I think it's a 97% open rate on SMS messages, and so-

Frank Barry:  I look at every one of my text messages. It doesn't ... Anybody with a phone just doesn't let those go by. You somehow look at them

Nils Smith:   I have 21,747 unread ... well it just popped to 21,748 unread emails. But I only have 6 unread text messages and these came in basically at the start of this call. Because I wanna [crosstalk 00:32:37] and the first thing I'm gonna do after this call is check those text messages. And that's not a new technology, it's what we do.

Nils Smith:   So ... But if somebody starts texting me every single announcement for ... If at Hillsong, started texting me every single announcement for every single ministry at Hillsong Church, I would unsubscribe so fast. But if they send me the things that are relevant to me? Like the [inaudible 00:32:59] Business Community or men's gatherings, it's got my attention every single time. And so the better we can communicate, use a tool efficiently but maximize those tools and then post it on social media and promote that to just men. Or post it on ... to an email list of just men and ... using your database, so you pull a list out of that.

Nils Smith:   So, there are different systems. And then at the end of the day, using those pulpit announcements wisely. Because they're still ... no one ... At Hillsong Church, where I go, I'm listening to Carl more than I'm listening to anyone else. So if Carl says it, it's important. But he's saying it because what he's talks about is for everyone. You gotta be systematic with your communications.

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah, church announcements are the abyss, man. We eventually ... Everyone wants an announcement, because they think their thing is more important. But we used to classify things as a one, two, or a three, as far as an event. And ones would get the announcement for sure, twos maybe, and threes probably didn't get it because we were too busy.

Nils Smith:   And it's not. Because you need it and I think what a church will often do is they'll just quit ... the pastor will quit doing church announcements because he's tired of the politics and everybody politicking for their event.

Dean Sweetman:  It's true.

Nils Smith:   Because people do know that that is probably the most valuable promotional opportunity that you can get, but when then you put everything into it and announce everything from that platform, then people tune out and its irrelevant [crosstalk 00:34:22]

Dean Sweetman:  It's 10 minutes.

Nils Smith:   Yeah.

Frank Barry:  Of announcements.

Nils Smith:   You just gotta balance it, it's a tough balance.

Dean Sweetman:  Yeah. True.

Frank Barry:  Well I feel like we've talked about a lot of techy, communicationy things. We haven't touched on giving too much. Maybe what ... Nils, what are your thoughts on just where church giving is headed or any tech that you're seeing in that part of the world? Just thoughts from your perspective.

Nils Smith:   I think ... and I'm sitting in a different seat today than I was two and a half years ago and the decade before that. I remember the tension of being a pastor and not wanting to talk about giving. And now I'm sitting on the side of a ... I work for a company that is a marketing communication and fundraising agency. We talk about giving. And I think, sometimes in the church, we will feel like ... well, it's different giving, because in a non-profit, it's kind of you choose which non-profit you give to, and then the church people are just supposed to tithe. And they give 10% to church and it's just what it is.

Nils Smith:   But at the end of the day, I think the biggest mistake ... and this is not a technology thing at all. The biggest mistake is we don't talk about giving enough. And some ... I said enough. That's a broad statement. And some churches, they maybe do push that too far, but [crosstalk 00:35:37]

Frank Barry:  They're good at it. Or maybe too much.

Nils Smith:   -churches aren't communicated with enough. This is discipleship. This is an important thing to talk about. And it's important to talk about what your giving is accomplishing. What your giving is doing. The ministry impact that your giving is having. And so, I think the biggest thing of ... when I think about the weekend experience or even just churches in general, is use your email communication to talk about giving. Use your pulpit platform opportunity to talk about giving. Make it a part of your weekend worship experiences.

Nils Smith:   And it's sometimes a little more awkward because there's not as much of a reason to pass the plates as there used to be. At Community Bible Church, we did and we had the box in the back and we had it there. But I think we need to incorporate it into our weekend worship experiences, from communications stand point. We need to incorporate it into our regular communication channels. And it ... a lot of times it's just kind of a tag on. "Oh by the way, you can give." But having direct, real communication around it ...

Nils Smith:   And then I think the other side is the ease of giving. This is where it hurts me, as a guy that cares a lot about technology, is it is so easy today to have a good, easy giving experience, and yet we complicate so much with so many options and so many layers. And we'll often even say, "We don't wanna give up the 3% transaction fees," or whatever that might be. It is ... What you're giving up when you're not giving up those 3% transaction fees is way more than 3%. I can guarantee you that.

Dean Sweetman:  Correct. Our numbers will bear that out.

Nils Smith:   And so I think creating a good, easy giving experience ... and even in church. I see ... most people in church, when they talk about it, is people pull out their phones and are giving right there on their phones. Make that giving experience easy and functional. And then the other side, one of the things I've learned at Dunham+Company, is how important the thank you is. A lot of times, we ... as a pastor, we'll just say, "Well that's just a part of church." It feels weird to say thank you. Say thank you. It's an important ... because you're allowing them to understand the impact of their gift. And in the church, people are gonna give ... or at least the goal is that they're giving in a recurring way, because they're committed to your church and the on-going nature of the church.

Nils Smith:   So, see, it's a process of make it clear why somebody should give and what they're giving towards and the impact their giving's having. Have a great giving experience, a simple giving experience. Make it clear, too, how to give. Can they give through text message? Through the mobile app? What are the opportunities? How do you do it in a very practical way? Your website, though, can be very simple. It is not so complicated. Also, I think the other side is make recurring giving easy, to set that up. And then say thank you after the gift. And I think just having intentional process ... And the reality is, review that process quarterly. Or monthly. And just say, "How is our giving ask? How well are we communicating giving? How good is our giving experience? What are the trends? How well are we saying thank you?" And just review that and continually get better at that. Because you're never done. And your giving experience, as technology continues to change, can continue to get better.

Nils Smith:   So yeah, just continue to work through those things and I think we're seeing churches ... We're seeing such progression of adoption of technology, which is exciting, but now we've gotta move into that phase of how do we maximize that technology? 'Cause just having it there but not having it messaging a line to it, it's a big miss.

Dean Sweetman:  Very good, man. Man, we could go on forever. You're a well of information and I think that we're so synced. When I look ... What you're saying is all the things we say just about on every podcast, so ...

Frank Barry:  Yeah, totally.

Dean Sweetman:  That's pretty cool. Well man, thanks, Nils. It's been super informative. And having someone with your kind of background, from the ministry side to the data side, it's just been a wealth of information, so ... Super appreciate it, man.

Nils Smith:   Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Dean Sweetman:  We're gonna have to catch up soon.

Nils Smith:   Yeah.

Frank Barry:  So where should people go to check out the podcast? I feel like that would be a good next step for folks. The Social Media Podcast.

Nils Smith:   So go to is our website and just search "Social Media Church" on Apple Podcast, or Stitcher, or Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Frank Barry:  Yeah, very cool.

Dean Sweetman:  Genius. Love it. Awesome, man. Okay Frank, so we've got a couple cool things happening next week on the show. Some guests.

Frank Barry:  We do. Who is here next week?

Dean Sweetman:  I see Brad and Drew Formsma.

Frank Barry:  Formsma. Yep.

Dean Sweetman:  From Everyday Generosity.

Frank Barry:  That's right. Authors of Everyday Generosity. It's gonna be a good show. I know [Jesse 00:40:27] lined those up. And anybody who wrote a book on generosity clearly thinks about it a ton, so ...

Dean Sweetman:  Like we do.

Frank Barry:  Yep, yep. So it's gonna be fun to talk to 'em.

Dean Sweetman:  Absolutely. Awesome, man. Hey, great show today. Really lots of info there. Appreciate everyone tuning in. And we're gonna be back next week, same bat time, bat channel, so it's gonna be awesome. God bless. Have a great week.

Frank Barry:  Thanks, y'all. See yah.

This week on TV, Dean and Frank are joined by Nils Smith, chief strategist of social media and innovation at Dunham+Company. Nils has over 10 years of experience in full-time ministry, and his work maximizing web resources for furthering ministries has been highlighted in Church Executive Magazine, The Christian Post, Leadership Network, and more.

During their conversation, they talk about:

  • The trend that is changing giving
  • The biggest mistake churches make about generosity on Sunday
  • Why church attendance leads to an increase in giving
  • Practical ways you can promote generosity during your worship service


Here’s a list of resources mentioned during the show:

Publish date
February 13, 2019

How to Integrate Giving Into Your Worship Service with Nils Smith

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