By RaeAnn Slaybaugh
Like many church professionals, Danielle Zapchenk, Director of Communications at West Ridge Community Church in Elgin, Ill., once used a third-party email marketing tool — Mailchimp — in her role.
By switching to a church-specific, holistic church management software platform, she and her team can now streamline the church’s email communications from start to finish.
Best of all, Zapchenk can monitor engagement with those messages and use these insights to mobilize better ministry.
For Danielle Zapchenk, email is a way of life. As an important part of the communications strategy at West Ridge Community Church in Elgin, Ill., email is enlisted to inform the congregation about many events and updates.
But not all email delivery systems are created equal — something Zapchenk learned firsthand as the church transitioned from Mailchimp to the email functionalities within Churchteams, a church management software platform designed to streamline all of West Ridge’s communications efforts — not just email, but also texting, workflow automation and more.
There’s good reason to embrace email, in particular: Zapchenk says it allows her to convey a larger vision and give more detail than a text reminder provides. It also lets the congregation follow along with each message series at West Ridge, as well as keep abreast of key events and even receive financial updates.
Unlike Mailchimp, Churchteams offers database information, images and events all in one space when creating email communications. All graphics can be uploaded into Churchteams — gifs, videos, images, headings, stickers, and so on — so they are always right at the user’s fingertips.
Designed to be intuitive and easy to use, Churchteams’ email editor functionality uses a drag-and-drop approach to message design, which is far simpler than building code. The platform also includes readymade email templates.
Finally, Zapchenk appreciates the ability to preview every email (on both mobile and desktop platforms) to ensure a great user experience. To this end, she creates unique email templates for different ministries and teams to ensure a consistent look to the church’s messaging, even while reaching different groups of people.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way the email editor functions,” she says. “And once email templates are set up, it truly becomes plug-and-play — no need to reinvent the wheel every time you set up an email.”
5 essential tasks
The communications team at West Ridge maximizes email functionalities in several ministry-critical ways.
1. Email tracking / history
By tracking open rates, deliverability and other metrics of engagement, Zapchenk can determine the days and times when the congregation is most responsive.
“We can spend a lot of time putting the work into an email or a financial review, but if nobody sees it, it has no value,” she points out. “That’s a huge problem.”
2. Prescheduling emails
The ability to build multiple templates for different ministries lets Zapchenk preschedule various emails, giving her and her team the opportunity to work on the one thing they’re most passionate about: ministry.
The team takes advantage of this functionality for events like Men’s Breakfasts and Women’s Bible Studies.
“This allows us to keep our content consistent, and we don’t let communication fall through the cracks,” she explains. “For our main church emails, we can create our content and push it out at the best time to suit our church attendees.”
3. Automated emails for volunteer reminders
Zapchenk and her team have recently begun to schedule automated emails to volunteers — an especially helpful function for the children’s ministry.
“With so many people who help in this ministry, this is yet another touchpoint to remind our busy volunteers of their commitment that weekend,” she points out. “Everyone needs a reminder from time to time, and it’s a time-saver for our church staff as well.”
4. Building targeted lists of recipients
Within the past year, West Ridge has started taking advantage of the “lists” function in Churchteams, which ensures communications are intentional and relevant to the recipients, as it allows each person to subscribe to what interests them.
“For example, if you’re a young mom who keeps getting invited to the men’s breakfasts, it makes our church look unintentional,” Zapchenk explains.
For this reason, she and her team consistently use Churchteams to build out targeted lists for the general congregation, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, students, missions, and kids.
In addition to lists, additional flexibility is available through the use of groups and report filters. These functionalities offer even more granularity by enabling Zapchenk and her team to target emails by any group or member demographic.
5. Maximizing workflows to create a follow-up communication schedule
For maximum efficiency and effectiveness, the West Ridge communications team has recently started incorporating more workflows into its Churchteams database. It allows them to create a follow-up communication schedule by automating a series of tasks — surrounding pre- and post-Christmas and Easter devotionals, for example — or for reaching different groups of people at the same time, but with different content or tone.
As the leader of the women’s ministry, Zapchenk says this functionality is crucial as she attempts to reach as many women as possible and keep them up to date. “Any time a new lady pops into the database, she’s added into our women’s email list weekly,” she explains. “No need to comb through the database anymore and wonder, Did we get everybody?”
“And there are so many other ways I’m looking to incorporate this more for upcoming events and first-time families,” she adds.
Zapchenk is proof that church executives are learning how to get a lot more out of their email efforts by mobilizing a church-specific, holistic software platform which enables them to focus less on tasks and more on people.
Instead of linking to a third-party app, Zapchenk — and others like her at the helm of church communications programs — have all their “people data” in one place. This helps them understand email recipients’ behavior and develop truly effective campaigns.