Engaged Communities Lead to Generous Communities

Barna recently published a new report that explored how Christians are (or in some cases, are not) being generous with their money. The results were fascinating….over 30% of Christians identified as self-focused in their financial priorities. When it comes to generosity, Barna identified two main types of Christians: ”Givers” and “Keepers”. The report dives into the motivations behind financial decisions for each group. Check it out here and see if you find any parallels in your local congregation.

 

What does it mean?

Engaged communities lead to generous communities. For us, that was the main takeaway from Barna’s report. It can be easy for many church leaders to simply encourage “good habits” when it comes to generosity. We look at the numbers and think of ways we can get more people to check off the box for generosity. Maybe we even start a financial campaign or implement a new giving system. Those things aren’t bad. In fact, they are necessary. But Christ-centered generosity is not simply a good habit or something that happens only with the right amount of prodding or when the right tools are in place. It is a response to the overwhelming generosity that we’ve experienced from Jesus.

 

What can you do?

Bad news: if you are a pastor, you can’t really change someone’s heart when it comes to generosity. Good news: Jesus can absolutely do that. Instead of just simply asking people to consider giving more to the church or looking for “new” ways to boost generosity, spend more time developing holistic disciples in your church. People are going to be less likely to give when they are not engaged in the life of your church, and especially less likely to give when they are not engaged in the gospel. Cultivating a welcoming atmosphere and teaching a biblical theology of generosity (we wrote more about that here) will do way more for developing a generous people than just encouraging good habits.

 

David Kinneman, president of Barna Group, says, “So often we focus on cultivating generous habits rather than on making generous disciples….when we attend to the condition of our minds, hearts and souls, the limits of our generosity are stretched and our giving capabilities strengthened.” We couldn’t agree more. Let’s focus on making generous disciples!  

Saddleback Church: Innovating for Jesus

We recently got back from sunny Southern California, where we spent time hanging out with some of the awesome ministries we get to serve. One of those ministries was our friends at Saddleback Church. Saddleback was actually one of the first churches to adopt the Subsplash Platform back in 2009, and they've been leading the charge when it comes to innovation ever since. Millions of people from all around the world have been able to hear the good news of Jesus through Saddleback's app. But the app isn't the only way they are engaging with people. Check out our interview with Haley Veturis, Saddleback's Social Media Manager, to learn more about how they are planting churches all around the world, tackling mental illness, and empowering their local congregation to lead one of their 500 ministries in Southern California and beyond.  

6 Questions You Should Ask Every App Provider

Does your church or ministry currently have an app? Are you shopping for an app? Have you thought about getting one before? Do you currently have an app but wish you knew if it was the best option? If you are reading this, then chances are you probably answered “yes” to at least one of those questions. With so many app and giving providers on the market claiming to offer the best product, it can be hard to know which platform is the right fit for your ministry. We want to make that easier for you, so we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask every app and giving company you talk to. If you are shopping for a mobile engagement platform, these questions will help you narrow your search:

 

Do you have a native media player inside your apps?

Many providers put media in their apps by linking to a third-party media vendor (such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Soundcloud). This means that if something goes wrong with your media hosting, you have to reach out to a third-party company to handle the issue. Additionally, web-based media players are usually slower to load, not as easy to interact with, and drain more battery life and data from a user’s phone. Why? Because they were created to be used on the web, not inside a native app. If you want your users to have the best mobile experience, pasting those web-based solutions into your app will not be the answer. A native media player gives your users significantly more flexibility, which keeps them coming back to your app, which will help boost engagement in your church.

 

Do you offer unlimited tech support with every package?

As a ministry leader, you probably have a pretty full schedule. There is no reason why you should have to spend hours learning a new system or updating your app every week. A good support team will help alleviate that burden and make the setup process an easy one. You’ll want to make sure that unlimited phone and email support is included with any app package you are considering. If it isn’t, you could be setting yourself up for future frustration.

 

What engagement tools do you offer?

If you are looking into getting an app for your church, it is probably because you want to use it as a discipleship tool. Make sure to ask every provider what kind of engagement features they offer, and how each of those tools can be used to help your congregation on their discipleship journey. A few foundational features you’ll definitely want to keep an eye out for are one-click media publishing with the native media player like we mentioned above, user accounts, group push notifications, events, custom Bible reading plans, connect forms, ChMS integrations, digital bulletins, and an easy sharing experience.

 

Who builds your platform?

Believe it or not, many companies simply white-label other app platforms. This may not sound like a huge deal, but when you purchase an app from a company that is reselling another company’s software, you simply aren’t going to get the same support, updates, or new features as you would from an in-house platform. Companies that white-label other platforms have limited control of what they are able to build for you, simply because it is not their own software. A company that builds their own software and has a good track record of adding new features will be able to serve your ministry best.

 

What is your effective rate for online and mobile giving?

Any giving provider you talk to should (hopefully) be transparent about their processing rates, but they may not go into much detail about their effective rates. It is extremely important to get as much detail about this as possible. What exactly does “effective rate” mean? Glad you asked! Your effective rate is going to be the total percentage of money that the giving provider (and any third-party service involved with the transaction) is taking from every donation. In addition to standard processing fees, many companies charge hidden fees that impact each transaction and leave your ministry with less money. You will want to ask each provider, “If John donates $100 to our church with his debit card, how much of that $100 will end up in our bank account after all fees are taken out?” The answer will determine your effective rate. To learn more about effective rates, download our free eBook - it has all the information you need to ensure that you get the best rates.

 

What is your pricing structure?

Some companies determine their pricing based on your church’s size and budget. This means that a church with an annual budget of $1,000,000 could end up paying more than a church with an annual budget $100,000 for the exact same product and features. There is no reason why your church should have to pay more money for the same product simply because your budget is bigger. Ask each company if you can see a specific breakdown of their pricing levels and what they offer with each different package.

 

 

There are many more good questions to ask your app provider, but we didn’t want to keep you here all day. Good news, though….if you would like the complete list of questions to ask, we have that available for you! Click here to download our free eBook that goes into even more detail of what questions will help you get the best deal and why they are important. And as always, feel free to give us a call with any questions! You can reach us by phone at 206-965-8090 or by email at hello@subsplash.com

 

Manage Your Media Like a Pro

Don’t you wish you could publish your sermons to all of your media channels with just one click? City On A Hill Church found themselves wishing for that exact thing not too long ago. We sat down with Russell Korets, one of their founding pastors, to chat about what goes on behind the scenes once their sermons are ready to publish online.

 

The Problem

City On A Hill desires to have their content available online so that more people can hear the good news of Jesus. But like many other churches, they had volunteers uploading their sermons to each channel (website, app, podcast, Facebook, etc). And also like many other churches, City on a Hill found that their volunteers were very busy throughout the week. Finding time to get the media files prepared and uploaded to all the proper channels became a daunting task. Often times, it would take multiple days to get Sunday’s sermon published everywhere.

 

The Solution

Fortunately, there is a solution for one-click media publishing, and City on a Hill did not have to look very hard to find it. The Subsplash Platform allows you to upload your sermon file one time, and publish it to your website, app, and podcast with just one click! This ended up saving tons of time for the church’s volunteers, and they even have young teens leading the charge of managing media content within the Subsplash dashboard. “If a 15-year-old kid can use Facebook and Instagram, then he can definitely do this...it’s that easy,” says Russell. In addition to saving time for your staff and volunteers, Subsplash’s media player also provides an improved experience for end users...you can cast a video to your TV, scrub through the sermon with no lag, seamlessly switch between video and audio, share with friends in just one click, and the sermon will continue to play when you lock your device. These features keep people coming back to your app and help increase long-term engagement.

 

Are you interested in getting one-click media publishing set up for your church? Good news: if you already use the Subsplash Platform, then this feature is readily available to you at no extra charge! And if you’d like to learn more, we’d love to help! You can chat with someone on our team right now by clicking the little box at the bottom right of this page. You can also give us a call anytime at 206-965-8090. 

The Dangers of Donation Envelopes

Do your church donation envelopes have the option for someone to write down their credit card number or bank account information? If so, then you’ll definitely want to keep reading. Collecting donor information on your envelopes is actually extremely dangerous. Here are three big reasons why you shouldn’t collect information on your donation envelopes.

 

Your church takes on extreme financial risk

“Extreme” is not an exaggeration here. One simple (and even accidental) mistake could cost your church big time. Collecting credit card and bank account numbers via your donation envelopes poses the opportunity for multiple types of financial risk:

 

It allows for the possibility of a fraudulent gift.

Even people with the best intentions have the capacity to make a small mistake. If someone accidentally writes even one wrong number (or if your bookkeeper accidentally enters the number from the envelope incorrectly), your church could be pulling money from the wrong person’s account. When this happens, your church is the one held responsible to pay the damages, not the card or account owner.

 

It opens the door for bookkeeper fraud.

Nothing against your bookkeeper here, but the unfortunate reality is that collecting written account information opens the door to fraud. One person holds sensitive financial information for your entire congregation.

 

It exposes your church to the possibility of theft.

Even if both your congregation and bookkeeper are kind-hearted and extremely meticulous with copying down information, collecting information via donation envelopes puts your church at risk of theft. If someone breaks into your building and finds a pile of envelopes with credit card and bank account numbers, they’ve just hit the jackpot. Lakewood Church in Houston had over $600,000 in cash and checks stolen from their building, along with written credit card information just three years ago. 

 

It voids the security your online giving provider offers

Subsplash Giving is fully PCI Compliant. This simply means that we have been independently audited and are certified to offer the highest level of security and data encryption for sensitive information such as credit card or bank account numbers. When someone gives through their Subsplash account, the information they provide doesn’t even touch our servers. Your congregation can rest assured knowing that their bank account is safe. The same cannot be said about simply collecting written information.

 

It discourages giving

When was the last time you simply wrote down your bank account information and handed it to someone? Hopefully never. Simply put, people would rather use a secure system that they can manage on their own. It is safer for all parties involved and gives the donor more control of managing their money. On top of that, collecting account information on envelopes limits the amount of ways people can give. It is much easier for both your staff and your congregation to set up recurring giving. Setting up a recurring donation online or from a mobile device saves time for your bookkeeper and the donor, and it helps your church budget correctly.

 

What’s the remedy?

Do these things scare you? They should. Collecting credit card or bank account information on donation envelopes (or in any way that is not PCI Compliant - this includes via email as well) exposes your church to a world of financial risk with deadly consequences. But fear not! There is a way to clamp down and make sure you have a system that protects both your bookkeeper and your congregation. Can you guess what that system is? Yep, secure online giving! If your church already has a secure online donation system set up, you’ll want to steer all of your traffic there. It is safer for everyone and saves time for your bookkeeper. And if you haven’t made the plunge into the world of online and mobile giving just yet, we’d love to assist you! Subsplash can get you set up for free, and we’d love to answer any further questions you have about security. Give us a call at 206-965-8090.