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Preparing for the Next Generation Churchgoer

I like to say I’ve worked at ACS Technologies since I was 15 with a few breaks for things like going to college, transferring to another college, and an attempted career as a backup singer post-college. But officially, I am on the books as a 4-year full-time employee at ACS Technologies. My dad, Marvin Owen, gave me a job writing thank you notes to 25-year clients. So even my first job at ACS Technologies was focused on how much we love and appreciate the people who use our software.
My dad has worked at ACST longer than I’ve been alive, so I grew up watching the evolution of ACS Technologies as a company, and I’ve also witnessed the changes to the products and solutions we offer to churches. We had a version of ACS for Windows installed on our home computer, and my sister and I would set up pretend churches with make-believe families. I remember my dad coming home stressed when the company transitioned clients from the old DOS program to ACS for Windows, I remember that stress dissipating when OnDemand was introduced, and I am now experiencing the stress of transitioning our software again to a completely web-based experience. And while stressful, my job as a user experience designer for Realm – the next generation of software for ACST – is incredibly exciting and rewarding. And it’s something I’m extremely passionate about.
My husband and I attend a very traditional church – we were both baptized, married, and probably will be buried there. Our families have both attended this church for decades. We are third-generation churchgoers and are currently brewing the fourth generation – our first son is due right around the time you are reading this blog. As a third-generation churchgoer, I am fully aware of the differences between how my grandparents do church and how people my age do church.
Here are some of those key differences:

  1. My mother balances a checkbook; I have trouble locating mine. Checks are quickly becoming a thing of the past. We pay all of our bills online and are anxious for a way to set up a recurring online gift to satisfy our tithe. And while my mom finds comfort in writing those purchases in the back of her checkbook, even she has transitioned to paying her bills online.
    The next-generation ACS solution: Online Giving.
    Setting up online giving in Realm is free and easy. It allows your churchgoers to set up one-time or recurring online gifts using a credit/debit card or an electronic check. You can even allow churchgoers without a login to give online to your church. This year alone, more than 240 churches have signed up for our latest online giving solution, and we’ve processed more than $4.5 million in contributions. Online giving is a hot topic and can benefit your church tremendously.
  2. My mother-in-law receives the upcoming church bulletin via snail mail; I receive an online version in my email once a week. I check my email as it comes in – using my phone, my work computer, or the tablet at my house. When we receive an email on our phone, we can respond immediately – whether in a coffee shop, a meeting, or on the road. Don’t mail me paper – it just ends up in the recycling.
    The next-generation ACS solution: Mobile, mobile, mobile!
    Realm is 100% mobile. What does that mean? As a staff person, you can pull out your tablet or phone and do anything in Realm that you can do on your desktop computer. Staff people can look up an individual’s contact information, post contributions, check in a child for Sunday School, or mark attendance – all from their mobile device. Churchgoers can set up their annual pledge, give online, and browse groups. Everything is at their fingertips and no paper is necessary!
  3. My mom participates in a prayer chain where she calls other members of the church; I created a Facebook group for a church class and we posted prayer requests. Facebook is how I find out about everything – world events, what time rehearsal meets tonight, or how my sister’s family is doing. This is my primary source of all things social.
    The next-generation ACS solution: Social Engagement
    The City is the solution for achieving ultimate engagement through social media at your church. When they have an active account in The City, churchgoers can post prayer requests to their group members. Staff people can communicate announcements. Group leaders can create events, and individuals can sign up to bring items. Your churchgoers grow closer and are more informed using this online social tool, which will benefit their spiritual growth.

So, I can promise ACS Technologies is looking ahead to provide for the needs of your next-generation churchgoer. And while we are looking forward, we certainly aren’t forgetting the needs of your church’s less tech-savvy members. Realm provides several printable reports and you can still print labels for mailings. I encourage you to look into the benefits of using a completely web-based software tool to manage your church – the two web-based solutions ACS Technologies currently offers are Realm and The City. You may be surprised by the effect these two tools can have on the involvement of both younger and older generations at your church.
Kristen Hardaway is a UX Designer for Realm, but has worn many hats at ACS in the last 13 years. She has a degree in voice from Florida State University and enjoys singing in her church choir and in community theater shows. She and her husband are expecting their first child in late July.

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