SPRING 2021: Churches reopen their doors and reconnect with their congregations

By Karen Wolf

Mass notification systems help communities navigate the path to normalcy

Christians throughout the world recently celebrated Holy Week and Easter for the second time during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the progress made with vaccinating the public has boosted many churchgoers’ confidence, gathering in-person is still beyond the comfort zone of many of the unvaccinated. To serve congregants’ various needs, most churches are continuing hybrid models of worship, while many others are sticking with 100-percent-virtual observations.

Due to increasing the number of in-person attendees, churches have been responsible for clearly informing congregants of what to expect. Church leaders have had to provide details such as how many in-person attendees are allowed, what COVID-19 protocols must be followed, and whether livestreams are available to those who can’t attend in-person.

To share this critical information with their communities, church leaders have increasingly turned to mass notification systems (MNSes). And churches will use this technology to deliver even more timely and accurate messages when most of the population has been vaccinated and church activities return to pre-pandemic levels.

Instantly alerting the community to unexpected changes
In addition to ensuring everyone gets the same message, One Call Now allows two-way communication with a simple polling feature, so you absolutely know the status of each contact.

At a church in Massachusetts, four staff members and a deacon tested positive, and the pastor had to cancel Holy Week observations. An MNS like One Call Now® from OnSolve® is perfect for disseminating such vital information because it sends SMS text, email and voice alerts, reaching congregants via their preferred modes of communication.

Sending push notifications enables proactive, real-time communication with congregants when plans change unexpectedly. Alerts typically convey brief, urgent messages. But they also can support your church’s broader communication strategy when you include links to your church’s social media accounts or website where recipients can find more details, such as how your church will manage communion safely.

MNSes address the needs of the less tech-savvy, too, reaching them with automated phone messages. When church leaders begin using One Call Now, one of the first steps is to create a recognizable caller ID, such as the name of the church. This increases the likelihood that today’s recipients won’t ignore your call.

Increasing your congregation’s engagement with your church

Sadly, church involvement has been declining in the United States since the dawn of the millennium. According to a recent Gallup poll, the percent of Americans who are members of a house of worship today is 47 percent, down from 70 percent in 1999.

As we resume more community activities, your church will have abundant opportunities to increase congregants’ engagement by encouraging their participation. One Call Now enables you to contact subgroups of members who are interested in joining in a specific church activity and targets them with relevant information.

For example, you can define a group for the choir to notify participants of dates and times of practices. Many churches create groups of congregants who have agreed to volunteer to run fundraisers, chaperone children’s events or drive vulnerable congregants to services. And you can easily set up automated alerts to remind volunteers when it’s time to lend a hand so they don’t inadvertently forget to show.

Another common use of One Call Now is defining groups for prayer networks. With the system’s mobile app, you can instantly send a prayer request to those enrolled in the group. As reported in a previous issue of Church Executive, Scott Nichols, a pastor at the Faith Reformed Church in Midland Park, New Jersey, records devotions and sends the one or two-minute messages to congregants who have chosen to opt in.

One Call Now provides reporting that shows the details of how the system supports your communications strategy. One of the many customizable reports records how many attempts to reach recipients have been made, which congregants your alerts have reached and who has read or listened to your messages. Another report enables you to calculate the ROI of your system by revealing how many labor hours you’ve saved by automating text, email and voice messages.

For the many of us who have been isolated from their communities for more than a year, we have seen a light at the end of the tunnel in Holy Week. Effective communications with congregations will be paramount throughout this transitional period, which is joyful and, at the same time, nerve-wracking.

An MNS like One Call Now can serve as your church’s communications hub. It helps keep your congregation safe, well-informed and engaged as we enter a bright future when everyone can receive the spiritual nourishment that only in-person worship, prayer and socializing with our communities bring.

Karen Wolf, the manager of customer success at OnSolve for Small and Medium Businesses, has assisted One Call Now customers for nine years. She manages a team with 38 years of combined experience supporting churches across all 50 states and Canada, as well as another 10,000 business customers and 5,000 schools. Wolf works with church leaders to share best practices for effective communications with their members and refine their communications strategies.

A graduate of Wright State University in Ohio, Wolf also earned business certifications from Urbana University and the University of Dayton.


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