It’s about relationships.
Technology is no longer just about the latest, greatest, or flashiest thing. It’s about relationships. Think about it: You don’t use the messages app on your phone because it has the coolest or most robust interface, you use it because it enables you to talk to the people you already care about.
Likewise, your church community expects to be able to interact with your ministry in the same way. But the reality is, while technology is a necessary bridge between a church and its members, most churches struggle to make smart tech-buying decisions that don’t just help connect members in the short term, but help the church fulfill its long-term mission.
While each church’s workflow and order of service is different, and every tech solution may not fit every congregation, there are some non-negotiable features you should look for in every potential technology buy:
Does it nurture participation?
Any member-facing tool should have a strong mobile device presence. People already spend, on average, five hours a day on mobile devices. To nurture healthier participation and engagement, strive to get a piece of that time. Through targeted—and actionable—push notifications, quick polls, and consistent delivery of excellent media (sermon videos, music, etc.), congregants can participate in church at their convenience. This is especially helpful for times when people are out of town or sick and unable to attend in person.
Your tech solution should also feature your church’s events on a single platform. Members should be able to register for events at any time, whether they’re at a worship service, lunch, or watching a baseball game.
Does it nurture generosity?
Your giving solution shouldn’t make it difficult for people to give—it should make it easier for them to give more. This means your giving tool should have strong mobile capabilities since people are familiar with making financial transactions on their mobile devices. Your tech solutions must drive people to mobile so that your community can give whenever and wherever they feel led to do so. Look for features that simplify the process for your donors and helps nurture giving.
For example, your church needs a way to easily move people to mobile when they give through other means like cash or check. You’ll want the ability to share preconfigured giving links that allow donors to give a specific amount to a specific cause. Technology should never be a barrier for your givers—it should always make giving simpler.
Does it come with expert coaching and support?
You didn’t get into the ministry to drown in IT and cybersecurity, and you shouldn’t have to launch and sustain your church technology by yourself. Require new partners to come to the table with significant resources in coaching and support. An effective technology partner has helped thousands of other organizations effectively use its product. It’ll lean into that experience to help make your experience better.
Your tech provider’s support team should understand your unique church needs and mission and understand how their product can improve your processes. Because your biggest days are often on weekends, you need support that’s available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Don’t settle for anything less.
Does it simplify financial workflows?
Your technology should help you manage and engage your donors, tie your financial systems together, and reconcile your finances as simply as possible. Your staff is already trying to do more with less, and your church technology must be able to save them time and effort.
Features like batch entry of digital and offline gifts, annual giving statements, remote check deposit, and historical transaction imports aren’t just features that are nice to have.
These are all must-have features that today’s churches can’t thrive without.
Does it personalize the journey?
Your members expect a personalized experience each time they use your tech offerings. If your tech solution looks templated and impersonal, you lose credibility and trust. Tech giants like Amazon, Ebay, Google, and Netflix have taught users that technology can provide a unique and personalized experience. Your congregants want this same experience from their church.
Your tools should allow you to easily create a personalized experience for your members. They want to see your name, logo, and color palette when they use the tool—not the tech provider’s. The first screen your users visit on your technology will be the most-visited, making it a critical piece of communications real estate. It’s the perfect opportunity to add your church’s mission, vision statement, and images for consistency across platforms.
Does it safeguard trust?
Your congregation must be able to trust your church in order for you to have an effective platform for ministry. Your tech solution should help you build this trust by working effectively every time but especially when you need it the most. Tools like your giving solution should work consistently and safeguard donors’ financial information every time without fail.
What does the data say?
When it comes to evaluating your giving solution, you need to look for an additional feature:
Data. Information about how your members use the giving solution is important to have, not only to make smart decisions concerning new tech options but also to understand and plan around members’ giving patterns.
If your current giving solution can’t answer the following questions, you need a new tool:
- What percentage of our church currently gives digitally?
- What percentage of our givers are “recurring givers”?
- What percentage of our givers give through mobile devices?
- What percentage of giving happens outside of times when we normally hold services?
Track Record Matters
While every church’s technology use differs, they can certainly learn from each other when it comes to adopting new tech. Whenever you’re looking for tech solutions, ask potential vendors for case studies from churches like yours. Case studies can help you get a picture of how a specific tool has benefited other churches. Ask for references from churches with a similar size and demographic makeup to get a feel for what the platform can do from a church’s perspective. Some tech solutions that work for small churches won’t work for larger ones and visa versa.
For more on buying church technology the right way and getting the right people involved, check out the free ebook from Pushpay, the Church Technology Buyer’s Guide, today!
Pastoral care is a core element of pastoring.
Hence the keyword “pastoral.”
It’s a part of who you are (identity) and what you do (calling).
As a church leader, you’re an under-shepherd of Jesus.
Said another way, Jesus is the head of the Church—not you.
I don’t mean for this to sound brazen. Instead, I want to emphasize that Jesus is the leader of his Church and that he takes care of his people through you. Practically speaking, you (church leader) are to care for your church in a way that reflects Jesus’ care.
Not only are you an under-shepherd. But God has called you to shepherd his people (1 Pet 5:2). God personally etched this responsibility directly into your job description.
But here’s the deal:
It’s impossible for one person to provide all of the congregational care.
The Bible doesn’t support this belief, and it’s practically impossible for any single human being to provide care to a large group of people.
Think about it.
Let’s say you have 75 church members.
To tend to your people, let’s say you decide to spend 30 minutes with everyone—every week. In this example, this means you’ll spend 37.5 hours per week keeping in touch with your church members, hearing what’s going on in their lives, and helping them to live and love like Jesus.
Add this on top of your other duties, and you have a recipe for a 100-hour workweek.
Sure, you might be able to maintain this for a few weeks. Or, if you’re really a go-getter, you might be able to keep up with this pace for several months without burning out.
Or you may be thinking, “Well, that’s not necessary to spend that much time with everyone in my church.”
If so, I understand where you’re coming from. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make. What I’d love for you to take away is that you should care for your people—but not entirely by yourself.
As a pastor, you’ll always be in a position to provide care. But as you aim to tend to the needs of your church, you’ll need to focus on building a congregational care ministry.
Before we get into the practical details, let’s take a moment to explore this point since it informs the practical strategy.
There are three groups of people who can provide care for your church:
- Church members
- Church leadership
- Small groups
First, you have to know your church members to take care of them. In other words, when you offer church membership, you provide a way for people to be a part of your church, and for you to know who’s a member of your church (Acts 20:28).
Does this mean you can only care for your church members?
That’s not the case at all.
In writing to the Church at Galatia, Paul said:
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).
Yes, you want to help as many people as you can. But you’re also called to “especially” care for the “household of faith”—your church members.
Not only do you want to know your church members, but you also want to empower your church members to care for one another.
This is far from a practical matter—this advice is loaded with dozens of commands from the Bible.
In the New Testament, dozens of verses emphasize this point in what’s known as the “one another” verses. For example, we read:
- “Be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50)
- “Bear with and forgive one another” (Col 3:13)
- “Love one another” (John 13:34)
- “Serve one another” (Gal 5:13)
- “Pray for one another” (Jas 5:16)
From a sermon series on this topic to Bible studies about taking care of one another, there are several ways you can encourage your church to serve “one another.” This is one part of cultivating a healthy church culture.
In short, your church—the body of Christ—was created by God to be just that—a body, a family of brothers and sisters in Christ who encourage and support one another to live and love like Jesus. What is more, the Bible does not say that only pastors can take care of people.
The second group of people who are called out to care for the Church are elders.
Now, I understand there are differences between church traditions in how you define the role of elders in your church, and that’s all good. Regardless if you have a board, session, or deacons who serve in some sort of leadership capacity in your church, the essence of church leadership is about serving.
In serving your church, your church’s leadership will exemplify serving, and they can also provide oversight for your care ministry. As we’ll see below, you’ll need to delegate responsibility to oversee the care of your church members to ensure everyone is taken care of. So, you’ll need to rely upon your church’s leadership to help you care for your church.
The third group of people who can help you care for your church members is small groups.
A small group ministry is a great way you, your staff, or your church’s leadership can learn about the needs of your church community.
In many ways, a small group that regularly meets is arguably one of the best ways to place your church members in a position to love “one another.” After spending time together throughout the week, sharing meals, and discussing life and faith, it’s natural to anticipate things to come up during this time.
Depending on the situation, your small group can care for the individual member of your church. Or, if the situation requires additional help (counseling, financial support, etc.), then your small group leader can share this with your church’s leadership.
Build a team for congregational care
Your church is a peculiar organization.
It’s a combination of flesh (people) and bones (organization).
As you build a church culture that emphasizes taking care of “one another,” you’ll naturally see your church members helping out. People will serve without being asked, and others will volunteer to provide support. Even though this is the case, you’ll still need to put a structure in place to ensure that everyone in your church is cared for.
This isn’t something you want to overlook.
Lack of structure was a problem that plagued the early church.
In recounting the history of the church, Luke shared:
“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word’” (Acts 6:1–4, emphasis mine).
What we observe here is a simple trajectory:
- The church grew
- People in the church were overlooked
- The church acknowledged the problem and their limitations
- The church reorganized itself to take care of its people
In the same way, as your church grows, it’ll be easy f to overlook the needs of your people. I’m not saying you’re a terrible person or that your church will do this on purpose. As your church grows, you’ll become busier and busier, and when you have more people to shepherd, it’s hard to know who’s who and what’s going on unless you have a team and structure in place.
Thankfully, organizing your care ministry isn’t too complicated.
Depending upon your church’s leadership structure (elders, deacons, board) and size, the structure of your congregational care may look something like this:
- Assistant/associate pastor, volunteer leader, or team of leaders
- Support staff or volunteers
To tend to everyone, your senior pastor (maybe you?) will need to be relieved of the administrative duties of congregational care. He or she can and should continue to provide pastoral care. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be their job to take care of all of the details.
In this scenario, hire an additional staff member or identify a volunteer leader who can help oversee the care of your congregation. The role of this person or team is to provide oversight and leadership for congregational care.
Finally, you’ll need additional staff or volunteers to help provide care for your church members. Again, the size and needs of your church will determine how many people you’ll need to recruit to provide support when needed.
To help you think through the details a bit more, let’s take a look at the type of care you’ll need to prepare to provide.
Know the care you’ll need to provide
In the life of your church, there are two types of care you’ll need to provide:
- Support and encouragement
I’ll be the first to admit that everything doesn’t fit that nice and neat into these two categories. But to help you practically think through empowering your church to provide care, you’ll find these two categories helpful.
Here’s how to differentiate between these two categories:
Emergencies are entirely unplanned situations. From accidents to the sudden death of a church member, these are things you cannot plan for in advance.
Support and encouragement care is the type of thing you can plan for in your church. This includes visiting shut-ins, providing financial help, counseling, weddings, prayer, or births.
Regardless of how you classify congregational care in your church, the biggest takeaway is to be prepared to handle both emergencies and expected caring situations. The best way to do this is to create a process, which leads us to the next point.
Congregational care process and tools
Creating processes for providing congregational care is essential.
Processes help to ensure your church members receive care, and they make it a whole lot easier to empower volunteers to provide support too.
Here are a couple of ways you can create a process around the different types of congregational care you’ll provide, and a few tools to help you along the way.
As a church leader, you have to prepare for emergencies. This is an unfortunate reality you have to embrace to serve your church well.
Instead of getting caught off guard, it’s best to prepare how you’ll handle emergencies when—not if—they happen.
Here are three things you must have in place:
- Accessible contact information
Let’s explore these in detail.
#1 – Accessible contact information
Do your church members know how to get in touch with your church’s leadership when there’s an emergency?
Can they directly contact the pastor?
Do they contact their small group leader?
Can they find the information online?
In some situations, there’s a good chance someone in the midst of an emergency will reach out to a friend in the church, who will then contact your church to ask for help.
Regardless of the situation, make sure your church members know how to contact you during an emergency situation, which will require this information to be easily accessible.
So, for your church, this may involve including a number and email address online, as well as your church’s bulletin. If you go this route, you don’t have to provide your personal contact information. Instead, you can use a service like Google Voice to create a phone number you can share with the public that’ll forward to a different number to protect your identity.
What is more, you can use a tool like this to change what number it forwards to when you have a team in place to help out with providing pastoral care.
Why stress this point?
In an emergency, timeliness is vitally important. As a church leader, you want your church to be accessible and present for your church members in any emergency situation to provide comfort and support during times of need.
#2 – Teamwork
Let me reemphasize this point:
You’ll need a team of people to help you provide care.
For emergency situations, it’s best to create a schedule for people to follow. By creating a schedule, you can protect one pastor, staff member, or volunteer from getting burned out.
As you develop a process to provide emergency care, revisit the organization you developed in the previous step, and create a plan to delegate responsibility for who’s “on call” to handle emergency situations.
#3 – Follow-up
The final component you need to create in your emergency care plan is how you’ll follow up. For this process, identify “common” emergency situations, and create a general follow-up process to follow for each.
Here are some ideas you can include:
- Phone calls
- Handwritten notes
- Church announcement
- Everyday support
Before making a public announcement, be sure whomever is in the midst of an emergency is okay with you making such an announcement to your church.
In the end, for the follow-up process, it’s best to work through whomever is serving as the point person to identify the best way to care for the individual and his or her family during and after their emergency situation.
Support and encouragement care
The process for providing support and encouragement care is fairly similar to emergency care. But there’s one tool you can use to make this process a whole lot easier: church-management software.
For example, many church-management software tools allow you to create forms you can publish on your website, and after someone completes the form, it can be sent to a member of your congregational care team for processing.
Here are common care-request forms you can create:
- Premarital counseling
- Building requests
With church-management software, you can create whatever form you need to help you gather the necessary information to serve your church members well.
After you gather this initial information, then a member of your congregational care team can review the request, identify the follow-up process (for example, does a pastor need to be involved?), and follow through with providing the care someone needs.
The last form suggestion, “care,” can serve as a catchall. For example, if someone is on your website and they’re not sure what form they should submit, then they can click on this form to provide a general request for support or encouragement.
So, for this form, it’s a good idea to gather information like:
- Contact information
- Relationship to your church—e.g., member, regular attendee, or visitor
- Name of his or her small group leader
- Reason for contact (this can be an open-ended question)
Providing food will be one practical and ongoing way you can support and encourage your church members. For people in emergency situations or for those experiencing illness or for those welcoming a new baby, this ministry is a tremendous blessing.
To schedule meals for people, you may be able to use certain features within a church-management software, or you can use one of several online tools, such as:
In general, all three of these services enable you to schedule meals for someone in your church and easily invite people to lend a helping hand.
To provide meals for someone, here are the steps you’ll need to take:
- Nail down how long you’ll provide meals
- Contact the individual or family to find out preferences or dietary restrictions
- Clarify when food needs to be delivered
- Invite people to provide a meal
This simple process will provide practical support for your church members, and help your church members love “one another.”
Providing congregational care for your church
This three-step process will empower your entire church to care for “one another”:
- Build a team for congregational care
- Know the care you’ll need to provide
- Create an easy-to-use process
As you think through how to care for your congregation, I encourage you to prayerfully consider your church’s unique situation to see how best you can support and encourage your church members.
Project management is an essential skill for church leaders.
Not convinced this is the case?
Take this short quiz to find out:
- Do you regularly miss deadlines?
- Are your plans consistently over budget?
- Are your events, programs, or ministries poorly attended?
- Is your church staff or volunteers experiencing significant stress?
- Do you or your team burn the midnight oil every week?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then there’s a good chance you need to brush up on your project-management skills (or learn them for the first time).
In this post, I want to help you successfully start and complete any project in your church. I’m going to share with you four essential project-management skills, and different project-management tools your church can consider.
Let’s get started!
#1. Get specific
The first step to completing any project is to know exactly what you want to accomplish. In other words, you need to know what you’re aiming for.
Think about it like this.
In basic firearm safety, the first thing you must do is identify what you’re shooting. The same holds true for church project management. You must identify what you want to accomplish.
At this point, there are two crucial questions you need to answer:
1. What do you want to accomplish?
2. When does it need to be completed?
In answering the first question, do you want to start a small group ministry to disciple new church members? Are you interested in launching a college ministry to reach college students with the gospel? Need to start a capital campaign to fund a new building project?
Don’t worry about all of the details—yet.
What you need to nail down is what you want to achieve.
Know what you want to accomplish?
Now you need to know when you have to complete your objective.
Some of the projects you need to complete will have a hard start and stop. Said another way, the date is inflexible. For other projects in your church, the time can be flexible.
Regardless of the project, you must pick a date it must be completed. Without a specific timeline, your project is nothing more than a dream. So, give your vision some feet and make it walk by giving it a due date.
#2. Delegate responsibility
Here’s the reality of most projects:
They’re unruly like a wild stallion.
When managing a project, expect something to go wrong.
What is more, if you don’t have someone assigned to manage the project, then get ready for it to derail completely.
What’s the moral of the story?
Delegate the responsibility of managing your project.
In your church, this can be to a staff member or volunteer. Regardless of who you choose to manage a project, be sure to give him or her the authority needed to accomplish the goal.
When you assign someone this responsibility, then he or she will be able to corral the project to make sure everything stays on track.
A project manager should:
- Create a plan
- Oversee the project
- Regularly communicate with everyone involved
- Monitor the progress
- Overcome problems
Creating a plan and monitoring the progress involve more detail. So, let’s take a more in-depth look at these two tasks.
#3. Create a plan
After you’ve picked a project manager, he or she will need to create a plan to accomplish your goal by the deadline.
Generally speaking, here are five items the project manager must cover in his or her management plan:
The first step your project manager must take is to identify every task that needs to be completed. From beginning to end, he or she will need to know what must be accomplished to complete the project.
In general, your project manager will have a good idea of what needs to be done. If not, encourage him or her to reach out to someone else for input, and, if necessary, to add different tasks and rearrange the timeline as things come up.
For each task that needs to be completed, your project manager should assign someone to complete that task. The tasks can be assigned to the project manager or someone else on your staff or team.
When your project manager assigns a task, they’ll also need to provide a due date for it to be accomplished. Depending on the assignment, encourage your project manager to connect with whomever they assigned the task to, to make sure he or she has the bandwidth to get it done.
Another big item you need to plan for is your budget. To complete your project, how much money will you need? For larger projects, it’s best to set a range. You'll also need to create a contingency plan if something doesn’t work out as initially planned. For smaller projects, be sure to know how much money you’ll need, and make sure your church’s leadership is informed.
Finally, your project manager should set milestones. To complete your project, what major milestones and deadlines need to be met to ensure the project stays on track? By setting these benchmarks, your project manager will know if the project will be completed on time or if any changes need to be made.
#4. Monitor the progress
One thing you’ll want to emphasize to your project managers is that it’s key for them to consistently monitor the progress of the project. By keeping their thumb on the pulse of the plan, your project manager will be able to guide the project to completion.
To monitor progress, your project manager must regularly communicate in two ways:
1. By keeping in touch with team members
2. By updating key stakeholders
Your project manager should regularly communicate with all team members.
At Church Fuel, we find it helpful to meet as a team once per week to check in on our projects and goals. A weekly meeting is one way you can help your team work together in accomplishing a goal.
What is more, it’s ideal for communicating one-on-one with staff members and volunteers involved in the project throughout the week. When checking in on your team members, ask how things are progressing and if there’s anything you can do to help.
Another group of people your project manager should regularly connect with are the project’s key stakeholders. For your church, this can be your senior pastoral leadership, your church’s leadership (elders, deacons), or volunteer leaders assigned to the project. From the good, bad, and the ugly, your project manager needs to share any pertinent information that will inform decision-makers and let people know of any potential roadblocks.
Whomever you tap to manage your project, ask them to provide weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly updates on the project they are managing. How often you request updates will depend on the scope of the project and the timelines involved.
At this point, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed.
You’re not alone.
But here’s the good news:
Project management isn’t something you’re born with.
Project management is a skill you can learn.
Know what else?
There are a ton of online tools you can use to better manage your projects.
Below, I’m going to share a few options.
Before I do, I want to make sure you hear this loud and clear:
Project-management tools are only tools.
Like the tools in your garage or kitchen, you need to know how to use them to get the results you want. Without mastering the basic project-management tips I mentioned above, it won’t matter what project-management tool you use.
Alright, with that being said, here are a few tools we recommend.
Project-management solutions for churches
There are numerous project-management tools you can use.
Among these tools, you’ll find a variety of pros and cons.
But here are some of the standard features to look for. You’ll need the ability to:
- Add projects
- Assign tasks and due dates
- Share files
- Communicate with your team
In short, whatever project-management tool you choose, you’ll be able to fulfill the tips we shared above in one central location. This means there'll be no more email chains, sticky notes, or group text messages.
Not sure what tool to choose?
If you’re just getting started with project management, here’s what we suggest:
Don’t spend hours researching and testing the different options.
Pick a project-management tool to use and hold your team accountable to using it too. Instead of bouncing between different tools, focus on using one for several months to know if it’s going to meet your needs or to figure out what features you like best.
For the sake of this post, I’m not going to be able to cover the ins and outs of every project-management tool. However, I’ll point you in the right direction to get started.
After working with hundreds of church leaders, we’ve found that these three project-management tools are the most popular:
All three of these options work well for small churches, they’re cloud-based, and they can scale to meet the needs of larger churches too.
When it comes to pricing, Trello offers more free capabilities compared to Asana and Basecamp. So this is naturally a big win for many churches.
Regardless of what option you choose, there’s a learning curve involved. Plan on spending time figuring out how to maximize whatever tool you choose to use.
At Church Fuel, our CEO, Michael Lukaszewski, swears by Basecamp. The types of projects we manage may look different than your church. But after experimenting with different tools, we’ve found this one meets all of our needs.
Over to you
There you have it: The top project-management tips for churches, and a few suggested project-management solutions to get you started.
As a friendly reminder: The tool you use to manage your projects isn’t as much as a concern as following the project-management tips above.
Focus on nailing these best practices, and you’ll be well on your way to successfully managing any project your church undertakes.