I read a blog from Steven Kryger where he did a survey 2 weeks before Christmas. He asked churches, via email, about their Christmas service times. His idea came from an earlier blog where he reviewed 100 church websites and found the majority missing their Christmas service hours. He decided to contact churches that did or didn’t have their hours listed for holiday service via email and inquire about their Christmas service times.
Below are some of the survey’s findings.
- 4% of the emails bounced – probably invalid email on the church’s website.
- 57% responses – a little over half.
- 39% failed to respond to his email.
- 31% failed twice – they failed to display the information on their website and to send a reply email.
- Churches that displayed the service times on their websites were more likely to respond to an email.
It’s interesting to note that Steven also had replies that were less than helpful. If you would like to read the full blog post, please visit the blog. After reading through the two replies listed, I don’t believe many of us would entertain the idea of attending the churches that left those responses.
Societal technological changes have demanded more than just an organizational website. It requires having a dedicated team to communicate to visitor’s questions via email. Today, people are more than likely to visit a website to contact them before coming to a church service. In one survey, 76% of the responses said the church’s website was how they found the church, which was 3 times more likely than the second highest response – ‘personally invited’ (multiple options were allowed in the survey). In other words about 3X the potential visitors found church via their website than word of mouth from friends or family.
How important is the communication to visitors that visit your website? Aren’t website visitors as important as the ones attending church on a Sunday? How many people didn’t attend church because their email went unanswered? Communicating electronically today with a wider audience is essential.
To illustrate, how many businesses lose revenue because they didn’t respond to an email inquiry? I know in my case it’s many. If I send an email to a business and they don’t respond – do you think I am going to purchase anything with my hard earned dollars? Probably Not. Although we don’t think of churches as businesses, it appears there’s a lack of responding to email in the church sector, which adversely affects church attendance.
What’s does the 4% bounce rate represent? More than likely, this would indicate that the email on the website is incorrect or no longer in use. Most people won’t call an organization for their hours as they should be visible on the website. When a website doesn’t include the hours, then email is typically the next best option. Why do people prefer email over a phone conversation? If you’re like me, I talk to a lot of people each day, therefore, I can’t recall each conversation’s detail like service times for Christmas that happens once a year. However, if it’s in my email, I can refer to it any time or send it to my calendar. In other words, I don’t have to rely on my memory.
Let’s look at church response rate of 57%. In school this would be a failure, but let’s approach it differently. If an email was sent to the churches, with the following statement ‘I would like to donate to your organization, please reply with how I can do that’, what would the results be? Do you believe the response rate would be lower, higher, or about the same as the responses from the Christmas service time survey? Why?
What does lack of communication with visitors cause? Some thoughts would be explaining the ministry’s work, people coming to church, small group participation, and so on. For the other survey results, I’ll let you come to your own conclusion. The last thought on this is that many churches pray to have more visitors come to their church. But, given the above results, a better question might be, ‘are you presently handling the inquiries that arrive in your inbox?’
I am sure most people would agree that they’ve been on good and bad teams at some point in their life. In churches, most activities are made up of teams like, your small group study, stewardship, worship service, and so on. There are many attributes that make up a good team like two-way respectful communication, social sensitivity, humbleness, encourage decision makers and not followers, knowing the why, and trust. There may be other attributes, however if your team has these you are far ahead of the game.
Two-way Respectful Communication – This encompasses a couple of items. One is any successful team will be made up of people with a range of ideas which some will be very good to downright awful. All ideas should be considered and respectfully discussed and not be shot down using rude comments. Additionally, a person shouldn’t take over the group meetings, not allowing others time to present their ideas. For two way communication to work, all involved team members must be approachable when ideas are presented.
Social Sensitivity – Communication in itself takes years to master; when you consider different cultures, societal differences, team structure, gender, age, and so on. Social sensitivity is the ability to understand the feelings and thoughts of others. How you relate to others verbally or non-verbally will indicate if you are approachable. Communication and social sensitivity go hand in hand. Team members must understand that people from different cultures interpret the way you say something differently then you may expect. Additionally, it has been shown that the best teams are not the most intelligent, but instead the teams that have higher social sensitivity as a whole do much better. The team with this skill will out perform other teams.
Humbleness – Once a decision is made amongst all the ideas about the direction of the project, then all team members must get behind the agreed path of moving the project forward. All team members must be humble and understand their ideas aren’t always picked, however they should work their hardest to get to the end goal with all the other team members. Sometimes the project’s path may be a combination of ideas, one team member’s idea and not yours, or none at all. But, a team member shouldn’t be sabotaging the idea because theirs wasn’t picked. This is a toxic for everyone involved and those team members should be removed from the team.
Create decision makers not followers – This may be odd that we want decision makers and not followers in the church. After all, historically speaking, many sermons talk about following. I am sure many of us can relate to church politics either on a church board, committee, church staff, volunteer, and so on where majority of the team members were followers. Teams with decision makers have many advantages, but the biggest is getting rid of church politics. The team should foster an environment where they encourage and not suppress people’s dissenting opinions and ideas when working towards team goals.
Knowing the Why – Team members will want to know why the team is going in a certain direction. Or possibly why their idea was not used to accomplish the team goals. The very nature of humans is, they are inquisitive and more likely the reason people want to know the why. It should be treated as a learning process for each team member as to why a solution was picked over the others. It should also be used as reassurance to all team members that their ideas are appreciated, however the clear direction for the project is explained. This helps to clear the air and at the same time clearly define the project’s direction.
Trust – This is a foundational quality that must be shared among all team members. Have you ever wondered why soldiers that shared their time on the battlefield, are very trusting of each other? They share a special bond that most people, not given the same opportunity on the battlefield, will never understand. That bond is built on the utmost trust. Each of them know that the other soldier has their back – no matter what. Likewise team members have to know that their team leader and others have their back, even when something goes terrible wrong, not just when things go right. Trust also helps to ensure that each can speak freely in a group setting.
As you can see, these traits and possibly more are needed to have an effective team. Creating a cohesive team falls to the leadership of the team based on suggestions of its team members. If the team members feel that the process is not going well, more than likely its because of poor leadership or toxic relationships.
If you haven’t read the first part in this series you may want to go back and read it here.
Medium churches (about 95 – 900 households) – By the time you get to this church size, you should have more than a few documents or simple tools tracking church membership data and donations. In other words, it’s time to get serious and consistent with your data, if you haven’t already. It become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to stay up with all the changes for people, donations, accounting, and payroll without a relational database verses excel or other tools. Here’s why. If data changes and you have 4 excel documents that have that person’s name in it or worst email – you have to change it 4 times. In a relational church database, you only change that name or email once and it populates throughout the entire system. Another problem is, when a church is this large it is very difficult to maintain personal relationships with people because of the shear church size.
Consistent data helps by giving you information about your people so you can maintain some personal connection to them. This is so important at this stage of the game because many of your people were probably with the church from the beginning when it was small. They remember the time when the pastors knew everyone, could call them by name, tell them happy birthday, etc. Now that the church is larger this tends to fall to the wayside and the church member feels neglected.
For example, an acquaintance of mine, is a pastor of a large church (2000+ members). One Sunday, I was visiting the church and it was my birthday earlier in the week. The pastor came up to tell me Happy Birthday even though he doesn’t know me very well and I never told him my birthday. I do know that the church has my birthday on file because I registered our daughter in the nursery when I visit this church. By using the data that I gave when registering my daughter, that same data found its way to the pastor.
Large churches (about 900 household on up) – At this stage of the game, if you don’t have software, the church is seriously behind the curve. Maintaining personal connections to people becomes impossible when the church is this large. Without personal connections or knowing what the people are interested in, how do you communicate to them about their interest? Tracking donations for a large organization is out of the question considering the governmental regulations for contribution statements. Imagine doing one statement for 1500 households, that give weekly. That is 78,000 records (1500 * 52 weekly contributions) that would have unique information (ie. giving date, amount) for each donation for the financial donation statement.
Another consideration is large scale financial abuse like fraud or embezzlement. These type of activities happen in smaller organizations, however I would argue a perfect storm is present in larger organizations. Perfect storm? Larger organizations typically have more money – a bigger temptation. There’s less of a chance of being noticed when small sums of money disappear. Additionally, they have about the same number of people controlling the money, two to three, which have split duties but do not oversee each other directly. It is estimated that non-profits in 2008 lost 84 billion dollars to fraud (page 4). While no software can completely abolish misuse of monies, a good software, well thought out auditing and internal procedures, makes it difficult – especially when the church has a knowledgeable board of directors and other oversight.
In summary, church size is not the only factor, however it does play a big part in when the church should start thinking about getting a software package. Additionally, no one software packages is good for any church, fellowship, or other types of churches. Lastly, it’s a myth to wait until the church is large before looking for an acceptable and consistent method for keeping church records which help the church with personal relationships, communication, transparency, and financial abuse.
We have partnered with ComplyRight to give IconCMO clients the ability to e-file or mail their 1099 IRS forms. Please remember there are two deadline dates for 1099’s depending on which method you use. The deadline for 1099’s, to be mailed to recipients, is Feb 2nd. E-file deadline for 1099’s is March 31st.
The integration will pull information from IconCMO into ComplyRight’s software. The screen below shows you all the available 1099’s. You could also use the same interface to file your W-2’s by inputting the numbers from IconCMO.
After choosing the 1099-MISC the next screen will ask you where the data is coming from. For IconCMO users, you would select the IconCMO Systems with the blue button that says “Connect to Icon Systems”.
ComplyRight’s simple user interface will show the user what needs to be corrected before E-Filing — shown in red. Green entries tell the user those vendors have everything that’s needed for their 1099’s. The partial screen below shows two entries — one in red and one in green.
Once the user corrects the information – either in IconCMO (recommended) or right on the ComplyRight’s screen, they can proceed with the corrected ones. The ones that aren’t corrected will not be used. This allows the user to continue to get the forms out to the vendors and worry about the few that have issues later. All 1099’s should be fixed before submitting them, as it helps the church save money per filing because of volume.
You can choose E-File & Delivery or just E-File. If the E-File & Delivery is used, ComplyRight will E-File the 1099’s and also mail a copy to recipients (vendors). The E-File only option will simply E-File the 1099 to the IRS. See the screen shot below illustrating the options. Additionally, if there’s an email, notifications will be sent to the recipients letting them know that a 1099 was filed on your behalf to the IRS.
Once all vendors are in the shopping cart, the user will add their payment information in and click submit, and ComplyRight takes care of everything — E-Filing to the IRS, mailing copies, emailing recipients, and creating the historical records for the church to use in the future.
The user can view historical information for up to 4 years and also re-print 1099 forms when requested and send them to your recipients. To start an account you can visit this website.
Merry Christmas from the IconCMO Staff. We hope you have a safe and happy Christmas!! In observance of Christmas Icon Systems will be closing at 12:00 on the 24th and will resume normal buisness hours Friday the 26th.
Let’s get a few facts out of the way first. There is no one solution that will work for every fellowship, synagogue, Christian or other churches. Secondly, church software shouldn’t be picked based on bottom line pricing – ever. Click here to see why. Pricing shouldn’t be reviewed until after the church made the decision ‘will the software work in our organization’.
When choosing software, several factors to consider are ROI, church transparency, member’s data organized well, communication to church members, church directory creation, and is reporting compliance obeyed. Compliant reporting for contributions and accounting in one system is essential, plus it keeps the church from unnecessary politics – internally or externally.
In this blog, we will try to give some guidelines only based on church size. However, the church should have brainstorming sessions of what they want for features. Additionally, the church should review what is and isn’t working right, and where do they plan on being in a few years.
Below we review membership software in comparison to size of church. While this isn’t the only matrix to look at when deciding to take a step towards using church software, it’s important to understand how the size of the organization may affect the ‘when’ and ‘which software’ questions. Church software comes in all different variations, where some work well in small to medium size churches but not large churches, whereas others work really well in large churches but the complexity is too much for a small church.
The household numbers are just loose guidelines. To translate from a member to household count, you can take the member count and divide it by 3. So if you have 500 members, you would have about 166 households. The church should be counting active, friends, and other statuses in this count as you should be tracking and communicating to all of them at some level.
Small churches (under 75 households) – Smaller churches have an idea we need to be bigger before looking at software. This is a myth for several reasons. It is easier to organize when you are smaller, as it’s more manageable than when you grow larger and have a lot more clean up. Additionally, tracking relationships of people and communicating to them becomes irreplaceable. A big mistake is relying on someone (typically a pastor or secretary) to remember all the relationships of people in the church. Even if the church decides to use simple tools to track visitors, donations, members, worship notes, and other data elements – you need to have something in place, other than a person’s forgetful memory. Or the church could use a church membership database.
Let’s use an example about managing data early – my Dad taught me to clean out my car each day when I came home from work. It made it easier to keep it clean this way than cleaning it out every few weeks which takes longer to do. Clutter piles up and you have to remember if you should throw this or that in the garbage or keep it. The same holds true with cleaning your house. Waiting to get software when you think the church is big enough is the same idea – by the time the church is big, there is so much clutter, it will take weeks, if not months, for you to clean it up.
Check back later for the next installment of this blog, discussing the medium and larger churches.
The youth culture: (cont.)
This is the second part of a two part series. If you haven’t read the first part you may want to read it first before moving on.
In the last blog, we asked if the younger culture’s questioning should be dismissed or looked down at? The answer is, NO. The older generation should embrace this great opportunity to learn about the younger generation and mentor them. Some of my fondest memories were when I use to visit a neighbor that was an Air Force retiree and we would talk for hours on the back porch about life or he help me fix my bicycle. He was a great mentor in my life and his actions showed he cared.
One thing I have learned is, when you have a questioning audience, you develop a better understanding of the subject. Additionally, investing your time into 1 or 2 younger people is essential to understanding how to relate to them, guide them through struggles, and most of all, help when you can. Actions do speak louder than words. If all you do is dismiss their ideas, then you are giving them a reason to dismiss you and eventually leave for what they feel is a better way of life. The younger generation should not be viewed as the rebellious culture, because they question certain beliefs or try to have a deeper understanding by questioning others. On the flip side, the younger generation could learn a lot from previous generations. Each generation should respect the others’ viewpoint – Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalist, although you may not agree with it.
The one thing I was hoping to see is if sermons might be changing because the listener is changing. However, I didn’t see evidence that actual sermons are changing to help facilitate the youth’s desire to participate in the weekly sermons. To engage the younger audience we do see changes in the worship service by creating different venues, or creating different small groups. However, the sermon itself has not changed much in the way of delivery.
Listeners, especially the younger generation, are wanting more engagement with the speaker(s). In other words, they don’t like to just be preached at by the pastor, but instead have the opportunity to ask those hard and unfiltered questions. They don’t want to be a listener all the time, especially when a preacher won’t listen to their side of the story or answer their questions. This is a dramatic change from past generations because historically preachers took the stage and delivered their sermon with little audience interaction.
Why do they strive to have a more interactive sermon? It comes down to relationships. The younger generation are forming their own path with others. They are tighter in their relationships with one another – almost to a fault. Youth culture is ‘high on relationships and low on structure’ according to Pastor Wolf. If you think about churches today and in the past – how are they structured? They are heavy on structure as in the programs offered, buildings for worship, sermons presented by one person typically, denominational rules and policies, etc. Churches represent a top down approach as to the way things are completed. This is the exact opposite of what the younger culture seeks. The youth of churches like interaction, however is this how things are presented in a Sunday’s service? Most would agree – it isn’t.
Is it time to change the sermon format or has your church experimented with other ideas that try to reach the various generational cultures? Which ones were successful or not? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
The idea for this blog came from reading an email from Steve the editor of CCMag, when he posed the question “How long do you preach and why”?
My next stop was Google to see what others had to say. I also wanted to see if others had similar thoughts as I did on occasion when listening to a sermon. Tom Rainer did an unscientific survey just to see what kind of responses he would get back on sermon times. Most sermons fell into the 26 – 45 minutes time range as seen in his survey results. In addition to the survey there are over 150 comments from others including pastors, that I found insightful.
Below I listed some of the more insightful ones that I came across.
- The more prepared a pastor is the shorter they go in the sermon. Examples were – reading a manuscript verses an outline which allows adaptation, adding time to the sermon.
- One pastor that visited another country had this to say – He asked the country’s native pastor ‘how long should I preach’? The native country’s pastor, looked at him and said ‘Preach until the Holy Spirit tells you to stop’.
- Some say it is a form of art for speaking in front of an audience and maintain their attention. You have to be in tune with majority of your audience.
- Others say it is a poor measuring tool and should not be considered.
- Does it have something to do with content and delivery that make people either ignore the clock or watch it?
- While others advised, with elderly or others that are sick, they can’t sit for long times and need to move.
- Some say there’s a formula to figure out how long you should preach.
- Does it depends on the generation you are asking – youth vs. middle age vs. elderly?
All of this to say there are a lot of views about this subject, and I don’t think any one person knows the right answer as any of them can be valid.
I found number 8 to be of interest as there is a lot of chatter and some studies about why certain demographics are leaving the church. Some people say this is happening at a faster rate among the younger culture. Other say that they eventually come back to the church.
The youth culture:
Is there a growing chasm between the older and younger generation? Are pastors torn between trying to please both when sermons are delivered? Is this why larger churches have different venues which are geared to various generational preferences (old hymns vs. contemporary or upbeat songs)? The older generation grew up in a church with an authoritative voice, whereas the younger generation wants to participate in discussions and voice questions expecting them to be answered, raise doubts, or other ideas that are worthy to be explored. Should this questioning be looked down at or dismissed?
This is the first part of a two part series.
I thought it would be nice to put together a post in honor of Thanksgiving. Taking a moment to pause and reflect on what the holiday is really about is refreshing amidst the traveling, football, and shopping chaos. So last week I sent out an email to the entire Icon Systems office asking everyone what they were grateful for.
I fully intended on summarizing everyone’s answers to make the list short and sweet. However, the responses I received from my co-workers were so awesomely heartwarming I couldn’t bring myself to paraphrase their answers.
What we’re grateful for
- Being able to serve churches across the United States
- Caring co-workers and meaningful work
- Wonderful co-workers and a purposeful career within a great company
- A job where I can focus on serving people and the Church directly, rather than focusing on profits
- The privilege of working with the kindest group of customers ever
- Being a part of the Icon Systems team and being able to help people
- The family and friends God has blessed me with
- Friends and family
- Learning experiences in parenting 😉
- My wonderful wife and four boys, and for the chance to join the Icon team
- Knowing that I don’t need to be perfect—because Jesus has been perfect in my place
From all of us at Icon Systems, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
The photo is a picture I took a few years ago; I was walking through a park in my neighborhood and found a heart-shaped leaf that had fallen on the path.