Archives For church online

modernized-tithing-texting-kiosksAs the Church has progressed into the 21 Century, many of its functions have been modernized.  We have guest services instead of ushers. Our fellowship halls in the back of the buildings have become Café’s and lounges in the front of the Church. Our music has moved from Hymnals to Projectors. Yet with all the modernization the Church is going through, one thing remains etched in the stones of the past – Our systems of tithes and offerings.

Fewer People are carrying Cash or Checks

Fewer and fewer people in today’s society pay with cash or checks. We even find that Millennials are using credit cards at an all-time low, as well. This leads to a dilemma for Churches. How do we get people to give tithes and offerings, when their only choices of giving are cash, checks and sometimes credit cards?

Here are some surprising trends in Consumer Spending:

  • 2 out of 5 people carry less than $20 on their person (Bankrate)
  • 38% of consumers NEVER write checks. Another 20% only write a few per year (The Financial Brand)
  • 6 in 10 Millennials do not have a credit card (Washington Post)

These trends will eventually become a tipping point to where the tithe and offerings payment options offered do not reflect the payment methods people have with them while at Church.

A New Approach to Giving

It is true that people carry less cash, write fewer checks and carry less credit card debt, but there is one interesting fact. They all have money in a bank. The issue is the way they spend money. Their payment methods now consist of paying bills and buying goods online with a bank card.

Knowing this, we can create a system that capitalizes on the congregations ability to pay electronically. Better yet, we can make giving even more easier, increasing the revenues that come into our churches. Even better, giving doesn’t have to be done in a 5 minute devotional time in between Worship and preaching. It can be done at any time in the lobby or on their cell phones.

Part 1: SMS Text Messaging

Everyone has their smartphone in your service. A lot of them are using You Version to follow the message. Knowing they do mobile banking, why not offer them an easy way to tithe?

Enter www.kindrid.com. This service, and others like it, allows Churches to setup giving via Text Message. You have seen these in various forms, most notably the Red Cross. You have seen their advertisements for, “Text #XXXX to donate $10.”

With this solution, your Church sets up a giving number. You then include this number in bulletins or during announcements. People text the amount they want to give to the number and they are done. It is fast and simple for both the Church and the congregation.

Part 2: Congregation Based Giving Apps

Tablets are taking the World by storm. Combining these with smartphones, we can account for nearly every person attending a Worship service. We can make it as easy to give as creating an app that allows them to give right from their smartphone or tablet.

How do you create a giving app without spending a fortune to develop it? Well, there is an app for that. It’s called www.givelify.com. Givelify offers Churches a branded app for tithing and offerings. Pricing varies, but it is priced the way a credit card transaction is priced: example – 2.9% + $0.30 per donation. Users are used to this, since this is how paypal charges its fees.

The trick is getting people to download the app. The trick is to use QR codes. In your Worship service handouts and in announcements, place a QR code that leads to the app install. A simple click of the camera and the app is installed. From there, the user can give anytime he or she feels led.

Part 3: Giving Kiosks

Giving Kiosks are beginning to gain traction with Pastors. Why limit giving to the actual Church service, when you can allow people to give before and after service, as well? A giving kiosk will stand in the foyer area of the Church and provide visitors the easiest way possible to give their tithes and offerings.

They consist of three parts, an ipad, giving app and a stylish modern kiosk. SecureGive offers this as an all in one package. It can be seen at http://www.lilitab.com/pages/solutions.

SecureGive did a survey of Churches that used its services and found that giving increased by 27%. The study also found that the offerings given on the kiosk were 20% higher than non-kiosk giving.

With these applications in place, Churches can encourage giving from the front of the Church to the back of the Church. Thanks to technology, not only can we make giving easier, we can do it in an affordable manner.  All of the solutions mentioned are cost effective and provide a very low barrier of entry so that every Church can get in and test these new ways of giving.

 

I’m excited to share a little project that I’m involved with at Liquid Church of New Jersey — through which we’re hopeing to bring a little joy to the world this Christmas Eve.

How — you ask?

How about by organizing the world’s first virtual Christmas choir made up of singers from around the world wide web.

Whether they’re soldiers in the Middle East, moms in Estonia or students in Phoenix, Arizona, the church will leverage technology to synchronize individual singers into a unified choir rendition of Silent Night.

The sermon message for Christmas eve will touch upon how the body of Christ can come together as one voiceAnd so this project is a nice tie-in to the message while providing something fresh at Christmas.


 

The project actually arose from the fact that Liquid not only has over 2,000 people who attend our church services each week, but thousands more come to church online or download any of the hundreds of podcast files each month.  One question that we asked ourselves was: How do we increase interactivity and sharability at the same time?  Well, a guy named Eric Whitacre recently presented at TED about a virtual choir he assembled by harnessing the connectivity of the web.

And in a simliar way, we decided to ask our people at our campuses and across the web to help spread the Christmas cheer together this year with us by getting involved.

Singers are given access to sheet music, music tracks and a video-recorded conductor so that anyone can record and upload their contribution to YouTube. Liquid Church’s media team will then assemble a composite video production that integrates all of the individual videos into one large-scale synchronized video rendering for the Christmas Virtual Choir.

Participation in the Christmas Virtual Choir is open to everyone around the globe.  And it’s easy-peasy.  Here’s my own video submission for the Silent Night song:

The deadline for those who want to participate in the choir is December 15th. Instructions are available at http://www.lqd.ch/xmasvideo.

The Christmas Virtual Choir’s performance will occur at six live Christmas Eve services in New Jersey on December 24th held by Liquid Church as well as church online services that weekend.

 

As of now, there are 48 fully online churches that exist in the world like www.liquidchurch.com and www.lifechurch.tv.

Full-fledged online communities complete with pastoral leadership and ministry leaders specifically attending to the online participants around the world.  “Online Church Pastor” is new title for many people to find out about.

CNN apparently has recently discovered that thousands of people are gathering online in community via the Internet.

Like many CNN segments, this one is cursory in nature, but at least it helps introduce the masses to this new, but fully-here-to-stay permutation of doing church:



What do you think was the takeaway which the public got from this TV segment? Is it an accurate portrayal of doing church online? Leave your thoughts in a comment below please!

Perhaps the Protestants *do* have something learn from the Vatican even after breaking away a long time ago.

First Pope Benedict XVI said to his troops, go ahead and blog away!

Next he launched his own YouTube channel – called Pope2You (gotta love that!)

If you’re a Pope that’s hip with YouTube, you’re obviously already on Facebook.

And what ultra-hip clergy would be without his own Pope Iphone App?

If these were not evidence that the Catholic Church has embraced the digital sanctuary and church online, here’s another dose of example of how the Vatican sees technology’s usefulness and validity in the expression of faith:

Every year, over 1 million of the 5 million people in Costa Rica make a yearly pilgrimage to the Nuestra Señora de los Angeles Basilica in Cartago.  But with H1N1 making the rounds, the country’s top health official banned the pilgrimage last year.  What did the Catholic Church do?

Nope, they didn’t protest (well, of course they did a little).

But instead, they embraced technology and launched www.romeriavirtual.com to that hundreds of thousands could still participate in the 288 year old religious ritual — and still do it in community.

Participants log in, upload a photo, choose their own walking feet/shoes and make the pilgrimage online amidst thousands of others doing it at the same time, sharing all the while to the destination, Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Our Lady of the Angels Basilica):

The H1N1 threat has subsided enough that the offline pilgrimage is back on this year, but what’s happened is that a virtual version has been birthed and will continue as this new tradition evolves and becomes part of the annual rite now involving participants from around the world.

You might say that, faith really does have no boundaries — at least in this case!

Tonight I teleported over to the 1st Presbyterian Church of Second Life and joined a prayer gathering in the virtual world.

I’ve done church online, video chats, tokbox multi-user web conf prayer meetings, I’ve even been to LifeChurch.tv in Second Life before.

But this Second Life virtual reality prayer meeting was a first for me today.

10 people stopped by this evening as we gathered in a taize-style prayer mini-service in a circle of comfy (looking at least) floor cushions.

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Here’s my first thoughts as I left the meeting tonight.

The technology seems to still get in the way of the experience.   Aside from voice chat not working for some members tonight, the learning curve for navigation, gestures,  audio-visual control, group chat, messaging, etc is all a challenge for new comers.

But if a church is to continuously attract new visitors, even in a virtual one, getting over the technical hurdles is one reality that needs to be addressed.  Of course, if you are more versed (spend more time) in this virtual reality environment, it would become infinitely more transparent. Perhaps ministry volunteers are needed to monitor and guide new visitors through the experience just as in off-line churches.  Perhaps more training can be offered via short videos or other methods on church websites, available before entering Second Life.

I realized that viritual church and church online are two completely separate things.  With church online such as www.lifechurch.tv or www.liquidchurch.com, the technology is basically transparent for most.  You are not bogged down continuously being reminded of the technology interface you are using to connect with others.  To give SL credit, I *was* handed a “newbie card” during the experience, which had some help notes to get me started on Second Life.  But most of it would be more useful only sif I had a sherpa guide next to me helping to decipher and lead me through it all.

The human connections are still real though.  Some of the concerns shared and emotions showed up big time.  One can’t help be frustrated that you want to be ever more present – be virtually there if you could.  (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Bottom line is: Virtual church on Second Life still has a way to go before it is ready for mainstream exposure.

But in the meantime, digital explorers have found a place to roll up their sleeves and beat down a path for us for when we (and the technology) catches-up.

America’s favorite pastor and his church is now officially mobile.

One side effect of having this megachurch adopting the iPhone app platform for live online mobile worship is that this also basically legitimizes this medium of “doing church.”

The Saddleback Church iPhone app has links to Twitter and Facebook to keep you connected with Rick Warren’s social media web.  You can also view live streaming video of worship services at Saddleback Church.

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When you’re on the go, there’s also an easy menu of recent video sermon messages which you can watch on demand.

Just like the Gospel, the Saddleback iPhone app is free.

When the web started entering into everyone’s vocabulary, churches began to feel the pressure of getting on the web. Today, the web has become part of daily living, and it is a critical touchpoint to reach people before they physically enter your church doors.

It’s just a fact of life now: more people will visit your website first before they first visit your church.

But something new and old is happening. In one sense, it feels so familiar — just like the seismic shift we saw with the mass adoption of the web itself. But now it’s about something different — every church feels like they should be figuring out what to do with. . . Facebook and Twitter.

For those still sitting on the fence, it’s sometimes helpful to hear what others are doing. Some church tech companies are starting to share case studies and tutorials for how to approach the new social media platforms. Here’s one video webinar that you may want to watch: CLICK TO WATCH.

This presentation is aimed at medium-to-large churches, but it’s a good glossary intro for any sized church on why your church should be considering reaching out to those on the social media platforms.

Critics of church online all point to the sterility and breakdown of human connections across the digital highway.

Stefana Broadbent, an anthropologist who has studied human relationships across technology (cell phones, IM, Skype / video chatting, Facebook, etc) for over 20 years, has come to a different conclusion.

While you watch this video of her presentation on how the Internet and technology actually increases intimacy in human relationships, you’ll find the eerie Dunbar number coming up (120-150!). Technology hasn’t drastically increased the number of real connections we manage online – humans are in the end humans.

But of course there’s a little twist. . .

Did you notice the typical number of people each person connects with in close relationship (80%…___ intense relationships) when using technology mediums? Surprising? No?

Broadbent’s findings can have real implications for how church online approach and use technology to communicate and connect its people.

But this learning isn’t just applicable to digital worship communities trying to build out complete online church experiences. Technology won’t just by default destroy or degrade intimacy in relationships — it can actually leap across distance and social/cultural structures (like workplace rules) to enhance and build relationships where offline just can’t compete.

The presentation in this video is an interesting data point when thinking about how to approach the use of social media by pastors and churches.

What do you think?

Right now, there’s approximately 40 online churches across the world wide web.

None of them have gotten it fully right yet.  Most online pastors will tell you they agree with that assessment too.

But all of them are also forging ahead without looking back.  It’s all about wrestling with technology, content and how to make the connections made in church online constitute authentic Christian community.

Check out this vid from Pastor Dave Adamson from LiquidChurch.com about the immediate future.

This is a glimpse of what’s ahead immediately in front of us.

It’s inevitable that church online will embraced by thousands of more people going forward.

Only time will tell about the real distant future — about what church online will look like then.  A bunch of stuff needs to happen with the church online model as it becomes fully acknowledged as another way of “doing church.”

What are your thoughts?