Q&A: Strategies for staying connected

Tony Caudill
Co-Founder and CEO
aware3

 

In your experience, did the coronavirus pandemic “force” some churches to finally investigate their connection-focused tech options?

Tony Caudill: Absolutely. Prior to COVID-19, one of my friends who serves as a pastor shared that their church’s virtual strategy was more of a “nice-to-have.” Things completely changed overnight.

This shift forced pastors to think of new ways to engage with their members. How will they interact with a sermon via a live stream? Will they continue to give on a recurring basis? Can they still connect with other members while tuning in from their living rooms? Church leaders had to solve all these issues quickly.

Suddenly, technology wasn’t just part of the game plan; it became the game plan to keep connection within the church body.

Among churches that adopted new connection-focused technology tools, how have they spread the word about them during the coronavirus pandemic?

Caudill: Some churches have leveraged “traditional channels” such as mailers, social media and email to drive awareness of their new tools. We help many of our church partners implement cross-platform strategies, as well. For example, a church’s website can easily have a link to download the new church mobile app. Once on the app, that church member will receive targeted push notifications, easy access to prayer request forms, group chats, sermon notes — real tools that organically keep them engaging throughout the week.

Another way to drive adoption of these tools is by automating next steps. A great example of that is with online giving. If someone gives via the church’s website or an email link, we can text them a link to easily download the church’s mobile app. Their next gift (or the decision to make a recurring gift!) is easy and accessible via the app.

What does it look like to get a new connection-focused platform up and running? Once it’s in place, what’s involved in its use and upkeep?

Caudill: We’ve spent a lot of time and energy on this (so that the church leader doesn’t have to). There’s an entry point for everyone. To begin sending mass texts, all we need is a list of phone numbers; it’s actually quite simple.

If a church is ready for a branded mobile app, we integrate with key tools such as Vimeo, YouTube, RSS feeds, calendar feeds, and ChMS providers. Whether a church wants something more self-guided or expert-led, our team will equip them with the resources they need.

For churches that already use connection-focused technologies, how have you seen them really maximize those tools during the coronavirus pandemic?  And which of those strategies do you believe will become part of their “new normal” moving forward?

Caudill: As we’re all aware, COVID-19 has forever changed the church experience. That said, it presents an enormous opportunity for the Church to connect with people like never before.

What does that mean? For me, personally, there will be some Sundays where I attend physically, and others where my family tunes in from our living room. Churches will need to completely reimagine how they approach people metrics, tools and processes. We’ve seen more heartfelt push notifications, intentional crowdfunding, and volunteer efforts taken completely virtual.

My hope is that churches are feeling empowered to communicate and take next steps swiftly in this time of crisis.

How can churches make interactions with members more personal, even though they’re digital?

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Caudill: If a church’s connection-focused technology feels impersonal, it’s missing the mark. We believe that technology can, at times, allow an even more personalized experience than physical interactions. (Just think of how Amazon knows just the right products to suggest for you!)

Church is not a one-size-fits-all experience, so our goal is to reach each person individually. A church member might submit a prayer request throughout the week that’s automatically texted to the prayer team. Another member might write sermon reflections in the app while listening to the message. Others might chat with their small group or take a poll in the youth group. Many might chip in to a fund to help a family in need.

Even a pandemic won’t keep connection from happening in a church. We help leaders leverage data about what’s important to each person so that they know what’s needed next in that person’s member journey.

Let’s talk about giving. How can your unique platform help a church stay afloat, financially, while everyone is apart (or slowly coming back together)?

Caudill: Since the shift to virtual church, online giving volume has increased more than 250% across our platform. Personally, I hear many people saying charitable giving is down right now, but that hasn’t been the case for our church partners. We believe an intuitive online giving experience will encourage people to be generous during a time of need.

One successful strategy we’ve implemented is dedicated crowdfunding pages for our church partners’ specific missions. The church can customize the page, set a fundraising goal, and provide context as to why that mission is important to their community. While streamlined online and mobile giving continue to show success, tools like the crowdfunding pages have helped our church partners take engaged giving to the next level.

— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh

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