By Valerie Russell
Every church is unique in how and when they’ll reopen. States are moving at a pace set by their governors, and it differs from state to state. Even within states, you’ll find cities and counties have their own set of reopening guidelines.
And, your congregation probably disagrees about whether it’s too soon to reopen or not soon enough. It’s enough to make your head spin.
But churches are stepping up as they always do in times of crisis, pivoting where needed, and continuing to be pillars in their communities as they reopen the doors.
As you plan your church’s reopening, know that tech will play a role. It will help you clearly communicate with your congregation what they can expect and keep everyone ready for the next phase.
Here’s a quick look at 6 must-know tech trends that you can apply or expand on now or when the time is right for your church to reopen.
- Live streaming here to stay
Thousands of churches are emerging from the pandemic placing a higher value on live streaming their services. Many are continuing to make sermons available online, even as they reopen. They realize some people have underlying health conditions within their family, others are caring for small children or elderly parents, and their life isn’t conducive to weekly in-person services.
Live streaming also broadens a church’s reach beyond the local community, and in-turn, can help grow attendance and giving. It’s a trend that isn’t going away, even once COVID-19 has passed.
- A move to mobile apps
Data shows 70% of Internet users worldwide prefer their smartphone to get online as a direct result of COVID-19. Mobile has quickly become the No. 1 way to connect, and many churches are adopting a mobile app as a result.
With an app, churches can send push notifications and updates to keep their congregants in-the-know about changing events and services. People can watch live streams, listen to sermons, send prayer requests, give, and engage wherever they are, all from one app.
- More communication channels to reach more people
Churches are communicating through multiple channels for those that aren’t ready for physical gatherings and for those that are. Updating their website with information about changes and expectations, using their church management platform to send targeted emails, offering online giving, and sending mass text messages have all been effective tools to reach people quickly.
- New roles and responsibilities for staff and volunteers
Churches are conducting sessions in advance of reopening to train their teams on social distancing guidelines used for running a service. That way, volunteers know if they need to wear face masks, maintain proper distances, and avoid contact by waving rather than shaking hands.
Beyond that, staff and volunteers are taking on new roles to learn how to use tech so that they can walk congregants through the steps to watch a live stream or give online. They assist those that aren’t tech savvy, whether they’re attending a service or at home.
Plus, churches that are new to connecting online assist with live streaming production, social media strategies, and updating websites.
- Check-in and scheduled service times
Another trend is giving people the option to choose service times and reserve their seat by registering online. With some states limiting the capacity of in-person gatherings, an RSVP registration is a smart way to encourage people to sign up and follow guidelines.
If your church provides multiple service times or is adding Saturday services, list each on your website and let people register. Once the service is at capacity, it will be closed so that no one else can join in-person. Even with a system in place, make sure you have a plan (like an overflow room) for those that show up unexpectedly.
- Clear attendee requirements
Churches are more diligent about letting people know what’s required of them before they come to a service. They’re creating dedicated landing pages on their website and routinely updating them based on new information.
They’re encouraging people to use their phones for a touchless offering by texting a gift or using a mobile app, rather than passing around an offering plate that could spread germs. Churches that are temporarily removing Bibles and note cards from the seats are asking people to bring their own or use a Bible app.
To help increase giving, churches are providing a clear call to action and displaying their text giving number and online giving options on-screen, and leaving them up for longer than normal so people can continue to be generous throughout the service.
A Final Thought
Some people simply won’t be ready to physically come back just yet—even with a reopening plan in place. Churches across the country are ensuring that everyone knows it’s okay to participate from home.
That’s why they’re providing tech solutions that make it easier to social distance in the seats and participate remotely whether it’s through live streaming, a church app, online giving, or their website.
Valerie Russell is the senior content marketing specialist for Ministry Brands, a software company dedicated to empowering faith-based organizations in a digital world, www.ministrybrands.com.
If your church needs tech advice to reopen, Ministry Brands stands ready to help. Visit Ministry Online, where you’ll find webinars, tech offers, and more so you can continue sharing God’s Word and being the Church to your community during this season of unknowns.