Even during COVID, you can use your info to engage new visitors, drive more effective discipleship, and re-connect with at-risk members
As churches shift to all-digital (or mostly digital) strategies during COVID, are there opportunities to gather important data on new “visitors”?
Senneff: When many people are engaging online, understanding who’s attending is a real challenge.
In an in-person service, the traditional pathway to participation might be to fill out a connection card or to visit a booth for new guests to learn about small groups. A lot of those pathways depend on a physical building and meeting.
With many services now online, churches are finding ways to do those things digitally — for example, through an email outreach, a web-based form, or the ability for people to search and sign up for groups through an app.
Social media is also an underused platform to reach people with quick information and updates.
Overall, these digital tools are now becoming a central hub to help churches engage with their people.
What’s the most beneficial information to collect from new visitors, and why?
Senneff: It’s important to only ask for the essentials so as not to overwhelm a new visitor. Furthermore, right now, an important question to ask is who’s currently living in a household, not just who’s in their immediate family. The pandemic has forced many families to consolidate under one roof. Asking this question gives you a glimpse into what their home life is like right now, and it could help you better serve them down the line.
What are the most overlooked, underused types of ChMS data?
Senneff: Basic contact information is still vital. Beyond just home address, digital contact info is essential for encouraging engagement — email address and mobile number, for example.
One of church leaders’ biggest concerns right now are people falling through the cracks — a challenge even in “normal” times, but especially when needs for care are at a historic high. So, information that gives church leaders clues as to how people are engaging becomes really important. ChMS can help record who’s attending, whether it’s in-person, online or in group settings. It can also record volunteer activity and donor and giving patterns, and it affords church leaders the ability to record rich custom information about their people — whether gained through a chance encounter or through a web form.
How can ChMS / ChMS data be mobilized for a more effective discipleship process?
Senneff: The data a church keeps can provide a bird’s-eye view of congregational health and help facilitate individual follow-ups. ChMS can help identify how people are engaging, disengaging, or maybe even signal distress; this gives church staff the ability to proactively reach out and minister to their people.
One example might be a workflow automation that assigns a staff member to reach out to a family member to have a discussion, or to send a customized email or text (SMS).
Additionally, a mobile app that’s integrated with the ChMS — like our My Church App — can encourage two-way communication. Church staff can encourage member engagement through dynamic content or targeted push notifications. Likewise, individuals can join groups and keep their profile information up-to-date.
What types of ChMS data can indicate a member is at-risk or disengaging from the church?
Senneff: Unfortunately, a lot of people are experiencing financial challenges right now. This can be a really important window through which a church can lean in and care for its people.
One way to do that is by monitoring changes in giving patterns. An individual who has regularly given for months, but then abruptly stops or becomes erratic, might indicate changes in his or her financial situation. This is a good time to reach out and see if that individual needs care.
Patterns in attendance at different groups can provide insight into who’s engaging, who might be disengaging, and even who might be in a period of distress.
If “red flags” appear, how can ChMS help a church reach and re-engage with those individuals (especially now, when face-to-face interaction is limited or non-option)?
Senneff: A good suite of tools can look across the data a church is collecting and proactively call attention to “red flags.” It has the capabilities to assign tasks and follow-ups that notify staff to reconnect with a congregant in need of attention, and provides ways to reach out to that person. Understanding that church leaders have busy schedules, this helps ensure those vital check-ins actually happen and, in the long run, help with retention.
— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh