Keeping on top of technology trends in the church market can be hard to do, to say the least! This year, I�ve assembled a list of hot trends to help your church wade through the new advancements in church management and Internet technology. The goal is to best assist your church in selecting technology products and services that can aid in deepening relationships and reaching people for Christ.
1) Customizable Church Management Software
One of the most interesting trends I�ve noticed this year is the trend toward customizable ChMS. More than your average desktop application, or even Web application, innovative technology companies are building in ways for churches to edit and customize management tools to fit within the organization�s needs.
For church plants, multi-campus churches and organizations that transcend the four walls of the church, organizations can add features they need and make them their own. Through a shared-source platform and Web 2.0 applications, this type of customization will soon set a new standard in the ChMS industry.
2) Secure Online Communities
Integrating a secure way for people to communicate with one another within your church website can be an extremely powerful tool in building relationships within your membership. Web 2.0 technology is allowing for more community to be experienced through online gated communities where people can login and extend their physical communities that already exist to the online world through personalized profile pages, individual blogs, photo sharing, conversation forums (similar to chat rooms), and online 24/7 prayer. Small groups can easily set up their own forums and have a safe place to stay connected in real time; youth groups can offer an alternative to the dangers of MySpace and other open social community sites.
3) Online Ticketing, Registration and Giving
Outreach is perhaps the most important call of any church. This being said, Web-based services such as online ticketing for events, online reservations for classes, and online payments for tithing and registration fees are critical to caring for the members of your church and reaching outside the church to draw others to Christ. Providing online tickets can be a convenient way to reserve seats for Christmas events, concerts, conferences, and even a way to make sure you have enough seating for large holiday services such as Easter or Christmas Eve.
4) Volunteer Ministry Management
Volunteer Ministry Management applications allow the church to manage their volunteer teams and be able to let people sign up online to volunteer for ministries and teams and events. It also allows the members to enter their skills, talents, passions and other attributes into the system so that they can match up with the right serving opportunities for them. Many assessment sites out there such as PLACE Ministries or Strengths Finder are being used by churches to help their members discover their personal talents and skills. These same talents and skills can then be put into the database to use for searching out the right ministry opportunity for the right person.
5) Integrated Communications
While most churches make use of e-mail to communicate with staff and members individually, other technologies can be used to increase communication and get the word out about events, prayer requests, special requests, and more. E-mail newsletters are perhaps the most effective tool to keep up with your congregation on a regular basis. Combined with an informative website with current and interesting content, creating a blog written by your pastor, offering sermon podcast downloads, and incorporating social community functionality into your existing website � all adds value for members. Using multiple communication methods is the best way to get people involved.
6) Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM is more than sharing the data about a member and allowing everyone to view and edit their parts of it; it is about creating processes and workflows inside the software. For example, with a good CRM, the church can set up a process for connecting new visitors and assimilating them into the church. Their process might include the pastor sending a welcome e-mail or letter, a team member calling them to invite them to a small group, another team member calling them to invite them to volunteer for some activity, etc.
Each person who is involved can track their part of the process and edit the CRM system or make comments as needed. Depending on the workflows of the church, various contact points can be set up and tracked this way. This is what a true CRM does � it goes beyond storing the data to let various people see it, it reminds people of activities they must perform in relation to contacting people.
7) Child Security Software
In the past year, it has�become increasingly obvious that churches need to get on board with child security check-in/check-out software. In churches�with more than�300 members, putting a system into place to electronically check children in and ensure that they are being picked up by the correct guardian is very important. Several ChMS providers are providing wonderful systems from the software and computer systems right down to customized touchscreens to label printers. Making sure that children are safe at church is critical, and is quickly becoming a top priority for churches.
8) Benevolence Tracking
For many churches, benevolence has become a thing of the past because of rampant fraud and difficulty in managing the process. New Internet technologies have made it possible to create online shared tracking systems that can be used in local communities as well as nationally to curb fraud and resume benevolent giving as a significant church ministry. Applications can be deployed throughout multiple charitable organizations banding together the community to share resources and give freely.
# # #
Lauren Hunter is a freelance writer and public relations consultant dedicated to the faith-based technology market. For more information on how Internet technology can improve your organization, contact�her at�[email protected] or visit www.laurenhunter.net.