By Bob Wolfe
The Christmas season brings with it so much opportunity for warmth, fellowship and holiness. It also presents a host of other challenges for a church — sudden shortages of time, random acts of weather, a flurry of liturgical and other activities that fill your schedule, and sometimes the sniffles (or worse).
One of the ways you can leverage your and your staff’s time is by looking for tools and systems that are natural “multipliers.” Ask yourself, What can I use to make myself more effective? Faster? Less stressed?
Among the answers that should come to mind is notification technology.
“Notification technology” is the broad name for tools that can broadcast your announcements to staff, congregants and your wider community quickly, efficiently and in a manner that suits them. It’s easy to continue to communicate through the methods we’ve always used: bulletins, message boards, Sunday announcements, newsletters, the website and social media. Yet, each of these tools struggles to rival the universality and immediacy of group notification.
Group notification typically includes the ability for a church leader to send a voice call, email, text or social media notification from one platform. That platform is ideally web-based (in the “cloud”) and allows the sender and the receiver of the message to use just about any digital device.
So, imagine the heavens are going to dump a foot of snow late this afternoon, cancelling choir rehearsal. How would you, as music director, reach all those members who are variously at work, at home or at school? With group notification, you could send a message through your smartphone to everyone in the choir — even if you’re stuck on the interstate yourself.
One church in the Midwest hosts more than 20 separate Christmas celebrations and needs to coordinate in excess of 600 usher responsibilities. Group notification allows the church to make broadcast calls asking for volunteers and availability, and then gather confirmations through the press of a button. Updates to church events can be made to the entire congregation (and don’t forget those who don’t regularly — or ever — use email or texting) or to sub-groups.
Many pastors enjoy the ability to extend their messaging during the Christmas season, too. With the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s easy for some people to let church become one more thing to check off the list. How sad.
As the shepherd of your flock, the power of your voice to remind, affirm, pray and welcome visitors is priceless. It’s not that your other communications are wasted; however, it might be that the timing or limited reach of those channels misses many of the souls you want to touch. Notification technology can give you an important, personal way to reach your congregation throughout the season.
Finally, think about those for whom the season is a challenge. It’s not uncommon for depression, anxiety, loneliness and other hardships to weigh heavily on some members’ hearts. Naturally, you’d like to reach out to these people all year; but during the Christmas season, particularly, having the ability to simply let these individuals know that you, personally, care about — and are praying for — each of them might be one of the most important things you do this season.
A simple-to-use tool (with a high-fallutin’ name like “notification technology”) might just give those people the best present they’ll see this year: your church’s presence.
Bob Wolfe is senior marketing manager for religious and non-profit clients for One Call Now in Troy, OH. He has served in church leadership roles for more than two decades and hosts a weekly radio program called There is a Season.