We are nearing the start of 2021. For most churches, it will truly be the beginning of the “new normal.” Most of us still struggle to know exactly what the “new normal” will look like. However, we are getting a sense that it will involve a lot of technology in our church services and other programming throughout the week.
Here are some of the top technology developments you may want to incorporate into your overall annual plan to reach out to your community and church members more effectively:
Mobile Apps. Every church has a website. Is your website truly compatible as a mobile app that people can use quickly and easily on their phones? The technology is different for mobile apps and this difference is essential to the effective use for your members. People want to access everything on their phones or tablets. The next imperative step for church technology is transitioning their websites to mobile apps. This will help not only in online service use when people want to watch the service from wherever they are, but it will also open up opportunities for interaction during in-person services as well, whether for sermon notes, Bible references, or online giving.
Live Streaming. Most churches offered some kind of online service during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many of those services were pre-recorded and played later. The key to maintaining consistency across all platforms will be making the move from produced video replays to live-streaming. This requires more advanced technology, expertise, and internet capability, but in the long run this will pay big dividends for the cohesiveness of congregational unity.
Chatbox Assistance. Most churches list an email contact address on their websites; some offer a form that users can fill out if they have questions or concerns. However, 2021 is the year of the Chatbox Assistant for church websites. Starting small, someone can be available during church office hours to answer questions in real time, and then as popularity of the function grows, additional staff can be resourced to offer 24/7 informational assistance as well as pastoral care. Monitoring the types of questions or prayer requests or counseling issues that most often come in will give the best information on what kind of staff member is best equipped to staff this function.
Virtual Staff Working Hours. As churches face the pandemic and social distancing concerns, along with lower operational budgets due to decreased overall giving, churches may want to consider the possibility of permanent virtual office hours. Those churches with active on-site ministries throughout the week may not be able to operate this way, but those with fewer weekday visitors could easily make the transition. Staff meetings can continue through video conferencing, while personal meetings could be done off-site as well.
Online Giving. Gone are the days of passing the offering plate. 2021 will likely be the year when online giving becomes the main way that people give to the church. This will take a great deal of intentionality for casual in-person attenders to make online gifts rather than placing cash or checks in the plate as it goes by. This is a major challenge churches will have to solve by making online giving easy and quick. Options for credit card giving, in addition to other financial transfer apps, should all be considered. This will, of course, help in the tracking of individual giving throughout the year and the production of financial statements for tax purposes at year-end.
Church Engagement Through Texting. Millennials and beyond rarely make a voice call. Texting is a way churches can communicate with congregants. Whether it is texting in services as feedback to the pastor or it is texting during an online service as a method of engagement, texting can be used effectively by the church. How can churches, therefore, embrace and maximize text messaging? This is a major challenge and opportunity for 2021.
What will your church do to push technological advances through into 2021?