Please welcome our friend and guest blogger Boyd Pelley! Boyd co-founded Churchteams, a leader in church management software. In this blog, he touches on the radical differences they discovered between tracking “first time guests” and “Giving” in churches during Covid-19. Several months ago, the executive pastor of a large church in Florida mentioned to me that they no longer think of first time worship attenders as first time guests. They had discovered, even before the Coronavirus pandemic, that all their first time attenders had watched the service online at least once before attending. That conversation grabbed my imagination and has been a frequent conversation topic since. How can we use today's technology to move church engagement from virtual to reality? But first, I wanted to validate the implications of this idea in light of the Covid shutdown in recent months. I wondered, in real numbers, not just my hunch, how much first time guests, new members, and online giving had changed between March 1 and June 30, 2020 compared to the same date range in 2019. So, I researched and aggregated data from 7 of our top churches. Here's what I found:
First Time Guests: 14% (of the previous year)
New Members: 24% (of the previous year)
Giving: 99% (of the previous year)!
I remember conversations 15-20 years ago that we couldn't cancel worship and even Sunday school because it would hurt the offering. It is incredible to think that churches could go four months with few worship gatherings and see almost no change in giving. The range for the churches I looked at was 80% to 123%. Contemporary online giving and best stewardship practices have totally reversed a historically embedded ministry axiom! If the use of technology can have that much impact on stewardship, I am confident it can have the same impact on engagement. By engagement, I am talking about the process of outreach, follow-up and connection. Assimilation is another commonly used word for this process. Obviously, from the First Time Guest and New Member stats above, there is a lot of work to do.
In his book, How The Mighty Fall, Jim Collins shares the 5 stages that he discovered in the process of organizational decline. Stage 3 is Denial of Risk and Peril and stage 4 is Grasping for Salvation. Neither of these are terminal. There is a way back. It begins with getting back to what we do well. We just have to revise it to fit new realities.
I'm convinced that web/mobile integration and workflow automation can do for outreach, follow-up, and connection what payment processing has done for Stewardship. If I do this right, it will be more than a new set of glasses by which to view engagement.
It will be a VR headset that completely redefines it. Check out the Churchteams blog here to follow their progress in this exciting new venture!