Technology has revolutionized the ways churches (i) internally operate, (ii) collect donations and (iii) grow and serve members.
Behind every Sunday sermon is a full-time operation. Church leaders are utilizing technology to operate more efficiently and to improve communication with their congregants. There are more than 200 dedicated church software platforms that help leaders manage and automate tasks from donor tracking to membership management to payroll [See Figure 1]. As a result of this increased efficiency, church leaders can focus on important initiatives like writing sermons and relationship building. For a per month fee of ~$150-$300, churches can access a variety of operation-enhancing features such as:
- Online and social communication tools
– Website design and social media management
– Mass e-mail distributions
– Small group facilitation
- Member and donor data analytics
– Weekly donor and contribution reports
– Attendance history and demographic reports
- Administrative essentials
– Automated background checks
– Room bookings
– Volunteer management
- Financial accounting tools
- Member services
– Event registration and management
– Digital check-in for child-care services
DIGITALIZING THE “REVENUE” / DONATION PROCESS:
Before the digital age, traditional donation methods consisted of cash envelopes and offering plates during services. As consumer preferences continue to shift away from paper to online and mobile bill pay (42% of people with smartphones paid at least one bill via mobile), churches have had to adapt to match how congregants want to give.
Technology has improved the donation process in several ways:
- Donor flexibility: Through online, mobile and text options, donors can now choose when and where to give.
- Donor visibility and retention: Automatic recurring donation options can help smooth out donations spikes typically experienced by non-profits during the holidays. This also helps
with both forecasting and donor retention. EasyTithe, a leading online donation platform, conducted customer surveys that indicated clients have seen a 95% retention rate with monthly recurring donors.
- Data for churches: Donor tracking tools and automated contribution reports allow churches to analyze giving patterns and target congregants depending on their giving levels. These reports can help with budget planning for large investme
nts like mission trips and new buildings.
- Potential uplift in giving amounts: The monetary benefits of offering digital giving solutions can be seen in other non-profit cases such as when $43 million was collected using text after the January 2010 Haiti earthquake. According to Blackbaud, a leading non-profit donation platform, organizations that use online tools for fundraising raise six times more than those who use offline tools. EasyTithe’s surveys indicated that churches using their platform see a 32% uplift in donation amounts from utilizing online and mobile solutions.
SPREADING THE MISSION DIGITALLY:
Technology has also enabled churches to engage more worshippers – and more frequently.
- (i) Engaging the Millennial Worshipper: A key challenge for churches is how to engage millennials and youth. Millennials are not only more likely to not belong to a faith, but those who belong to a faith are less likely to attend religious services [Figure 2]. Technology has helped churches relate to and communicate with more tech-savvy millennial worshippers. Congregations that have attracted more young adults tend to use and offer the most technology.
- (ii) Teaching beyond Sunday services: The digital age has provided new ways for people to worship and learn outside of the church.” Members can now access live service-streaming, video-based curriculum, online scriptures and even Bible phone applications. 54% of practicing Christian millennials use online videos to learn and 70% of practicing millennials say they read Scripture on a screen. YouVersion, a free Bible phone app, has more than 180 million downloads.
REALIZING DIGITAL POTENTIAL:
Despite huge technological leaps, churches still lag behind in many ways. Only 42% of churches offer online giving vs. 70% of non-profits. All churches should make it a priority to invest in quality software programs to help grow and engage their membership bases. Other potential avenues of digitization include:
- Re-create biblical stories using virtual reality platforms
- Attend and host technology workshops and conferences such as http://digitalchurchconference.com/
- Share daily devotionals via wearable technology like smart watches
- Promote peer-to-peer fundraising through social media posts. Just the act of sharing with your church community that you donated could improve donation rates.
- Increase online uploads to reach worshippers in remote areas that may not have access to churches
SPIRITUAL FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Technology clearly offers benefits for both churches and its members. But are there downsides to this rapid digital expansion into the world of religion? Is pulling out your phone during services to give a mobile donation appropriate? Are YouTube sermons the same as in-person services? Has technology de-humanized religion – or is it helping to facilitate stronger religious ties?
Word Count: 799 excluding citations.
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