Bible Study Topics: 6 Bible Study Topics to Boost Your Attendance

By | Resources

One of the most challenging tasks of ministers of all religions is finding topics that are captivating enough to boost attendance. Indeed, given that we are in the age of spirituality, online churches, and many people who seem to believe that they have no use for the church, at times, finding topics that attract larger crowds can feel next to impossible. Moreover, if you are a newer and/or smaller church, it can be difficult to attract new members in general. Therefore, in order to attract new members, many churches have to get innovative by doing things such as discussing topics that are less common, or even taboo, in order to attract more members. That said, the following is a list of 6 Bible study topics that will help your church attract a wider audience and boost attendance.

Prosperity Teachings: Preaching on How to Be Successful

Although many churches used to teach that money is the root of all evil, as a culture, we seem to be moving away from this dated notion. Rather, we are now in an age in which people realize that it takes money to make changes in society and that one of the best ways to contribute to society is by amassing wealth and using portions of this money in order to support certain movements, people, and agendas. Furthermore, another age-old belief of the church is that when you do good, good comes back to you. So, rather than believing that we must be poor to enter into the gates of heaven, people now believe that becoming rich or wealthy in order to help the world, just may be their ticket to a heavenly afterlife. Therefore, a solid prosperity sermon can be all you need to attract new members by the droves.

In particular, pastors and preachers should focus on using biblical teachings that favor prosperity in order to show followers the righteous way to get rich. For instance, using the following Bible verse, “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24), you can give your following an actionable method of becoming more prosperous. However, rather than making it sound like some magical remedy, a responsible speaker must remind them that this teaching is only a part of the overall equation. And that while having faith and staying prayerful is important, they must also take steps towards becoming more prosperous in real life. For instance, learning and investing in stocks, starting a business, and/or learning about CD's and other financial products are all ways to boost your income in both the short and long-term.

Another example of a Bible verse that can be used to promote a prosperous following is as follows, “Don't be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7). In other words, if you take the time to invest in yourself, your businesses, your dreams, and your overall success, you will eventually reap the benefits. Although the idea of reaping what we sow is a well-known biblical concept, it is also one that has continuously been proven to be true in our everyday lives. Therefore, rather than preaching that your congregation should simply wait for God to bless them with reaches, this is a way to motivate your following to do the work in order to reap the fruits of their labor.

Redemption: Making a Good Comeback

Yet another great topic for church sermons is that of redemption through the church. We have all fallen short, and getting back up can often be the hardest part. Nevertheless, as humans, most of us are resilient and often just need a push in the right direction. Reminding your congregation that making mistakes or being down on your luck are not cardinal sins and that rather, sometimes these things happen in order to help us re-establish our relationships with God, is a great way to draw in crowds of people who are struggling in life. Furthermore, using examples from the Bible and or self-disclosure is a great way to drive these points home.

On the one hand, there is the story of Jesus, which is filled with both dark days and redemption, which is known for helping to inspire people to keep going. On another hand, if the pastor, priest, or preacher is bold enough to discuss specifics with regards to either their own lives or close loved ones, this is the ultimate way to connect with the audience, earn their respect, and inspire them to encourage others who may be struggling to visit the church. Lastly, another great way to reinforce this is by sharing resources and other services that help people get back on their feet (i.e. shelter, food programs, etc.). This will assert your church as an ally to those living in the community. Over time, you will have those a mixture of people attending your church for your resources, to hear your motivational message, and out of respect and admiration for how you may have helped them change their lives for the better.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of the Internet and Social Media

Another hot-button topic is the internet and social media. However, many of these sermons are one-sided, and thus, can be off-putting to the younger generations. In particular, given that experts assert that young kids and teens spend up to 9 hours a day surfing the web, doing a sermon that totally condemns the use of social media will alienate those who have never lived in a world in which the internet was such a part of our everyday lives. However, being a responsible leader of the community, you cannot simply ignore the dangers of allowing our children to spend countless hours online. As Ephesians 5:11 tells us, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them”. This means it will do us no good to simply ignore the evils of the internet, instead, we should use it to our advantage and as a way to expose the pitfalls than many are falling victim to. Therefore, the sermon can be broken down into the following categories:

  • The Dangers of Social Media– The internet can be a very dangerous place for us all and especially the young and impressionable. For instance, this gives child predators access to children in unprecedented ways. These days, they can befriend them long before they make any requests from them, which is an online form of grooming. Moreover, they can also play games with them, invite them to group events, and other things that give children false trust in these predators. On another hand, cyber-bullying is also rampant as up to 90% of teens have witnessed or dealt with this type of bullying in some form. Cyber-bullying is a way to undermine children's happiness, well-being, sense of safety, and self-esteem. Furthermore, there is also inappropriate pornographic material on an array of sites, which could cause confusion or inappropriate behaviors in some kids. Additionally, there are financial scams they can get caught up in, damaging programs they can be tricked into downloading, and the propensity for them to do or say damaging things that can go viral and haunt them for the rest of their lives.
  • How to Use Social Media Responsibly– On the other hand, if you are going to delve into the dark side of the internet, you can also discuss the ways in which the internet and social media can be beneficial. For instance, crowdfunding sites are a great way to bring attention to worthy causes and generate revenue for people and things that need financial support. Another great use of the internet is to create and sign petitions that deal with social and political problems that are affecting us all. Additionally, there are positive groups on social media that not only provide an outlet for people to release toxic energy, but that also allows them to post and consume positive thoughts, pictures, articles, etc. Also, as a church, you should also have a website and social media pages. This will give you an opportunity to use that as a haven for the children (and adults) in your congregation and encourage them to use their social media pages to spread good, rather than feeding into all of the negative things on the internet.

Either way, the point is to point out that while there is plenty of evil on the internet, as members of the church, they can and should be using their powers to spread love and joy.

On Being Grateful

In addition to motivating your congregation to achieve more, another popular sermon involves reminding them of the fact that there is always something to be grateful for. Moreover, in addition to reminding them to be grateful, you will also want to remind them that this is the foundation for receiving more blessings. For instance, the following Bible verses speak on how being grateful can invite God's grace.

  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6). In other words, there is never a need to be anxious or worried about our circumstances. We simply need to be thankful for what we have, be prayerful, and walk in faith that our prayers are already being answered.
  • Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28). This is an especially inspiring verse for church-goers as it reminds them that we often place too much emphasis on the here and now, rather than focusing on doing the right things so we can have a peaceful after-life. No matter what they are going through at the time, they will be reminded to continue to walk the right path as we all experience trials and tribulations, and it is during those times when we need to rely on our faith, above all.
  • This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (Corinthians 9:11). In other words, by doing good and being appreciative in the here and now, you are serving as an extension of God's grace and mercy.

In other words, being grateful for what we have invites more great things, not only in this life but in the afterlife as well.

On Maintaining the Sanctity of Marriage

Furthermore, another interesting topic is the sanctity of marriage. Given that young people are started to get married later in life and some are opting out of marriage altogether, this is a message that many churchgoers from the younger and older generations can benefit from. On the one hand, despite the fact that social media culture seems to all but shun committed relationships (and certainly undermines them at every turn), there are many younger people who still value committed relationships and are getting married or hope to get married someday. However, if they are paying attention to the media, they are likely being discouraged by constantly watching marriages dissolve before their very eyes. However, by instilling a faith in God as the foundation of their relationships, they can build stronger relationships that stand the test of time.

On the other hand, members of older generations have likely seen an array of long-term marriages dissolve, and may have even had a few failed marriages themselves. Therefore, they may have grown cynical about marriage and love. However, by putting their faith in God and accepting that everything happens for a reason, they can grow to realize that they can be happily married again (or for the first time ever), no matter what age they are or what they've experienced in the past.

On Finding Your Purpose

It's no secret, many people turn to the church when they are feeling lost and without purpose. Therefore, speaking about finding one's purpose can be a great method of attracting new members. Moreover, oftentimes this is after the person has suffered some traumatic loss and feels like they will never find peace again. However, by speaking on the fact that God has a purpose for everyone's life is a very empowering message that many people seem to take to. For instance, Colossians 1:16 tells us “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him”. This is a very empowering message for those who lack purpose and are struggling to find peace in that it allows them to move forward knowing that they are meant to be here and that God has a hand in where we end up and who we become.

Overall, there are plenty of topics that can be explored with the help the of the Bible. Rather than shying away from more taboo topics, churches must use the present state of thing to their advantage. The ultimate goal is to show people that they do not have to be perfect. However, as long as they keep striving, they will be perfect in the eyes of God.

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Fun ways to engage This Halloween

By | Resources

While Halloween used to be seen as a problematic holiday within the church, times have changed. If you are seeking fun ways to engage your congregation for Halloween, we've got you covered. Rather than shunning the holiday altogether, you can provide a safe environment for the children and families of the community to play while also boosting your membership. If this sounds like your goals for the Halloween season, keep reading.

Halloween Movie Night

No, this is not a suggestion that you should show scary movies at your church on Halloween night. Rather, you can family-friendly movies that may have an element of Halloween in them. For instance, Mean Girls, the Scooby-Doo movies, and even Diary of a Wimpy Kid are all examples of movies that involve Halloween but are not necessarily scary movies. Either way, before or after the film, be sure to discuss the evil aspects of Halloween and explain to all of the children and families how to stay true to their religion while still enjoying holidays such as Halloween.

Making Candy Apples/ Bobbing for Apples

Another way to embrace the Halloween season is by making candy apples. Given that candy apples are essentially synonymous with the Halloween season, this is a fun way to celebrate without fully embracing the dark aspects of Halloween. Also, there are plenty of recipes you can try, in order to provide your attendees with a wide variety of choices.

On another note, while bobbing for apples may be a tad outdated, it doesn't have to be. For health reasons, many people do not want to literally dip their faces in the same bucket of water as others. However, there are new age ideas to recreate this game. For instance, you can tie the apple up by the stem and hand them from a clothesline.

Trick or Treating

Rather than going out and trick-or-treating on the streets, you can set up a trick-or-treating experience at your church (or a location of your choice). In fact, you could even try the new “trunk-or-treat” trend, in which parents park their cars in a safe location and the kids go from trunk to trunk collecting goodies. You can have church clergy and other members dress up in fun costumes and allow the kids to walk around and collect candy, cookies, toys, books, and anything else you can think of. This is a great way to embrace the wonder of Halloween without delving into the negative aspects of the holiday.

Scavenger Hunts

Another fun holiday idea for churches is to have a scavenger hunt. You can create clues that are church-friendly and hide toys, prizes, candy, bibles, and other books of your choice. Be sure to invite enough adults to supervise the kids, and you can do this at a park, in the church, or any combination of places you have deemed safe.

Pumpkin Carving

Another fun Halloween activity is pumpkin carving. This activity is fun for all ages and allows people to be creative while also celebrating Halloween in their own way. However, rather than making scary faces, encourage the attendees to make happy faces, biblical characters, and other positive things you can think of.

Have a Party

Invite the neighborhood for a night of food, drinks, and church-friendly music by having a Halloween party. However, rather than allowing scary costumes, encourage everyone who attends to dress up as a biblical character, and animal, or other positive costumes they can create. Additionally, rather than calling it a Halloween party you can call it a blessings party or a fall harvest party. For an added bonus, you can even have a costume party and give the winner a small prize.

Halloween Hayride

Another fun Halloween event is the haunted hayride. However, obviously, you will not want to create anything that is spooky or haunted. Rather, you can simply have an event in which hayrides are offered and instead of having frightening characters jump out and scare the attendees, you can simply sing your favorite church songs, play music, blow bubbles, play with flashlights and glow sticks, and anything else you can think of. By holding this event after dark, this will allow the members to have fun while others are out trick-or-treating. Also, you should encourage people to dress up in church-friendly costumes and tell their favorite bible stories.

Overall, there are plenty of ways to safely celebrate Halloween without forsaking your belief in God. Rather than simply ignoring or condemning the holiday altogether, having your own Halloween event is a great way to commune with your congregation, and let them know that the church is a safe place for everyone. Moreover, this is also a great way to boost membership as you can advertise the party and request that members bring friends and family members. From there, you would simply invite them to the next event or even Sunday service, to get them more involved in the church. Either way, the goal is to create a fun event that allows members of your church to have fun without being involved in anything that is innately sinister or evil.

10 Things That Worked in Church A Decade Ago That Don't Work Now

By | Resources

When you started your life in the ministry, you likely had a sound understanding of the way things worked. Alas, churches have changed over the last decade. A failure to recognize this truth can lead to low attendance, lost members of the flock and even the unfortunate necessity of shuttering the doors to your house of worship.

America already loses between 6,000 and 10,000 churches yearly, so it’s disheartening to see one of God’s temples needlessly fail. It's a fact that what worked 10 years ago may not necessarily work today. The world is changing around us, so it’s essential that we discard some of the old ways of thinking. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to mean changing who you are as a church.

1. The ‘All Are Welcome’ Sign

We’ve all seen the welcoming notices posted on outdoor marquees or hanging signs. ‘All Are Welcome’ is the message, and at one point, this was warm and inviting enough to bring in curious passersby. Unfortunately, this reality has changed over the years.

The fact is that people have become less social. Nearly 90 percent of Millennials have even admitted to missing out on real life interactions because they were playing on their phones. It’s not just smartphones, though, that are at fault for less sociability.

People just find it hard to interact with strangers today. To many individuals, walking into an unknown church feels much the same as coming to a wedding uninvited. This means your outreach should put a larger focus on social media and getting current members to invite others.

2. Expecting an Automatic Return

There’s never been a guarantee that a first-time attendee would return – although the possibility seemed far more likely in the past. What could be counted on, however, was that young adults would instinctively return to church once they started a family.

This is one of the most drastic ways church has changed over the years. From the ‘30s to the ‘70s, American attendance was at 70 percent or higher. This number had dropped to 50 percent by 2018. There was also a 12-point decrease in attendance among married individuals between 1998 and 2018.

An expectation of automatic return once worked in the church, but this is no longer the case. We need to increase our outreach and work to keep young members active in the congregation to combat this.

3. Expecting People to Feel God’s Presence

People once came to church to feel the presence of God, and for most, this simple fact hasn’t changed. Before the world became so modernized, however, simply sitting in the pew made everyone feel as if they were among a holy presence.

Unfortunately, 49 percent of church attendees say they no longer always feel the presence of God when they’re in church. Nearly one in ten ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ feel his presence. Since this is the reason most people choose to go to church, it paints a bleak picture for the future.

We can no longer expect everyone to feel God’s love just because they’re in a pew. We have to work hard to show them that the Lord is present.

4. Staff Prioritization on Worship Leaders

Just ten years ago, what worked in church was a prioritization on worship leaders. While this position is certainly still important, houses of God that have kept up with trends now put more focus on their children’s ministry.

This isn’t a huge surprise. Millennials were projected to outpace Baby Boomers as the country’s largest age demographic in 2019. This means the largest subset of the population is having kids, and they're seeking out churches that are fun, educational, sanitary and safe for their children.

Adapting to this unavoidable change in church priorities is essential.

5. Passing the Offering Plate

Recent church online giving statistics show that the number of tithing churchgoers decreased by 21 percentage points between the Great Depression and now. This is a daunting statistic, but sticking to the way church used to work could be having a direct causal link.

It turns out that 80 percent of the most active congregants prefer to tithe electronically. This makes digital giving software an essential tool for places of worship that want continuous growth in the modern world. What works in churches has changed, but people are still willing to give.

6. Relying on Past Learning

We’ve all had preachers who completed seminary and were set to do God’s work for life. The foundation of biblical learning remains the same long after this process, and this used to be enough for an effective career serving the Lord.

In a world that’s constantly changing, though, church leaders have had to begin focusing on continuous learning. Simply knowing the Word of God isn’t enough anymore. You should strive to attend conferences, sign up for courses, stay current on new readings and even consider starting a podcast.

Although this isn’t the way the church worked in the past, constantly growing your knowledge base – regarding the Bible and current trends – should be your goal.

7. Specious Leadership

Nearly 90 percent of people say they find authenticity from brands very important. One out of every five people have actually unfollowed brands on social media for what they saw as inauthentic behavior. These statistics no doubt carry over into houses of worship.

There was once a point when congregants just assumed their preacher was handpicked by God. This assumption often meant they trusted their leader's authenticity without question. This is no longer the case. Churchgoers know their pastor isn’t perfect, and they become disheartened when you try to convince them otherwise.

There obviously shouldn’t be huge unaddressed character issues, but don’t be afraid to let people see the real you.

8. Expectation of Active Members

We need only look back at old photographs, videos or even television shows to see that congregants used to be much more active. Counting on this expectation worked in church, and the bulk of members could be depended upon to show up and take part.

Unfortunately, people simply aren’t as willing to devote their time anymore. It’s estimated that 20 percent of a congregation does 80 percent of the work. Sadly, the rest do very little. Try to overcome this by listening to members about what motivates them, learning patterns of involvement and identifying the most popular activities you have.

Churches have changed when it comes to involvement, but this is a problem that can be overcome.

9. Simply Being a Great Church

Back when church attendance was high, simply being great at what you do was enough to attract congregants. Unfortunately, attendance has faltered. This means doing your job better than other churches won’t always cut it.

Even with so many houses of worship closing every year, people still have plenty of options to choose from. Simply claiming that you’re great won’t work, but showing the community that you’re different will. Folks need to know what’s special about your church.

If you can pull this off, it’s hard to envision how any emerging trend could hinder your growth.

10. Expecting a Prepackaged Community

One of the most worrisome trends in churches is the growing loss of community. Houses of worship were once a place where everyone felt immediately connected to their fellow congregants. The decrease in sociability may explain this, but one in four attendees say they don’t typically feel a sense of community.

Regardless of the reason behind this change, it’s undoubtedly a concerning one. Work hard to connect your congregation and get everyone engaged in activities. This is your flock, and if even one among them feels disconnected, it hurts all of our souls – even if we don't realize it.

What Once Worked in a Church is Changing. Are you?

There’s no denying that people’s mindset has changed over the years. The community is simply more prone to notice inauthentic leadership, dated expectations and an unwillingness to learn. While this has sadly led to reduced attendance, we don’t have to accept it as a foregone conclusion. By understanding what now works in a church, we can begin to guide the flock back to the Father.

If you’re looking for an easy way to help your congregation give back, get started with NewFire Giving today and modernize the way your church operates.

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7 Church Social Media Strategies That Will Attract New Members

By | Resources

Attracting new congregants in the modern day can be a difficult endeavor. This reality has resulted in many houses of worship seeking out effective church social media strategies. While many social marketing tactics can prove beneficial to congregations, there are a few approaches that seem to be particularly useful when appealing to potential new members.

While your outreach should be multipronged for the best chance at success, these social media tips will get you on the right path in the digital world.

1. Recognize Platform Differences

Maybe the most important church social media strategy is recognizing that multiple strategies are needed. This is because there are countless differences between platforms, and what works well on one may not be as effective on another. Consider the following tips when choosing what to post on each social site:

  • Facebook: Works great for images, links, events and photo galleries.
  • YouTube: The second largest search engine should hold all your videos.
  • Twitter: Links and photos work well, but galleries and events fall flat. Quotes are great!
  • Snapchat: This platform lost 2.8 percent of its users in 2019. Teens still love it, but it shouldn’t dominate your time.
  • Instagram: Links in photo captions aren’t clickable, but hashtags are very effective.

There are many smaller platforms out there, but these are the big five when it comes to effective church social media. Don’t overwhelm yourself by attempting to utilize all these sites when first starting out. Begin with Facebook and Twitter while making sure to upload your videos to YouTube. If you only use three platforms, these should be your choices.

2. Interact with Followers

Once you’ve created a digital presence on the main social media platforms, it becomes necessary to interact with followers. The average congregation size in America is 75 parishioners, so this shouldn’t be particularly difficult. Even if you have a larger following, though, giving each member even a moment of time can prove effective in growing your flock.

This is because social platforms often show us when our friends are interacting with pages. Every comment has the potential to pop up at the top of our newsfeed. This means that friends of members you interact with will see the exchanges, and this might just encourage them to give your church a try.

By responding to comments left by your followers, you’ll also show them and others that they matter. Building a strong congregation doesn’t just involve attracting new members – you need to ensure current parishioners know you care.

3. Provide Value in Posts

One of the most imperative social media strategies for churches is to provide value in posts. Followers don’t want to be constantly bombarded by donation requests, event pages and declarations of your house of worship’s greatness. You need to share things that people actually care about.

Posts with value can include relatable local news, viral church videos, inspirational images and more. As a leader within your congregation, you’ll also have useful insight on what your membership values. Use this knowledge when deciding what to share.

The 80-20 rule is a good place to start with church social media plans. Directly promotional shares should make up 20 percent of your posts, and the other 80 percent should provide real value to congregants.

4. Provide a New Way of Giving

Experts forecast that 2019 would be the year Millennials outpace Baby Boomers as the largest age demographic in America. This is one reason why a church social media presence became so essential. This younger generation makes up a bulk of the population, so focusing on what attracts this group is vital.

One way to do this is by updating how congregants can contribute. Church online giving statistics show that 60 percent of people want to give digitally. Additionally, Millennials want to know that their chosen house of worship is technologically savvy and up to date in the digital world. In essence, they want to be members somewhere they don’t view as antiquated.

Making critical functions such as tithing a part of the digital world while integrating them into your social media strategy is vital. When young potential congregants witness you actively engaging in these tactics, they’ll know that your church appeals to more than just older generations.

5. Share Stories to Promote

We discussed earlier how only 20 percent of your church social media posts should be geared towards direct promotion. What if there was a way, though, to promote your congregation without being obvious about it? This is where sharing stories can prove effective. Instead of simply saying “our church does great things,” share a promising, hopeful, relatable or emotional story to prove it.

Did the community show up to help with your church revitalization? How about a young woman from the teen mission helping to save a small village’s water supply? Did God miraculously save a congregant from a devastating accident? These are the stories that people love, and that means they're motivated to share them.

Facebook is chock full of inspirational stories – typically including a related image – that have garnered thousands of ‘likes,’ comments and shares. This type of engagement increases the number of potential new members who will see your posts. Even better, it will let them know that the Spirit of God really does move within your flock.

What could possibly be better for attracting new church parishioners?

6. Consider Paid Ads

There are many church leaders who balk at the idea of paid social media advertising. While it’s certainly more rewarding to build up a following organically, there are still many instances when a few dollars and a targeted social ad can do wonders. The great thing is that this form of promotion doesn’t need to break the bank.

That's because Facebook and other platforms allow you to choose who sees your ads. You can select the geographic area, age range, religious affiliation and even special interests of individuals who are most likely to be inspired by your congregation. Even better is the fact that you can choose to target those who don’t already follow you on social media.

When engaging in this type of marketing, it’s important to know your audience. If you’re deciding the appropriate age range for an ad, for instance, don’t immediately discount certain demographics. Did you know that social media’s fastest growing userbase consists of those over the age of 65? This means you should know the makeup of your community prior to submitting an ad.

Quick tip: Always include a high-quality and attention-grabbing image with your ads – along with an invite to your page and church.

7. Collect Data and Adjust

When marketing executives were asked for the most important aspects of success, 64 percent said that data-driven marketing is vital. The idea here is that using data to influence your marketing decisions results in an improved outcome. This is just as true with church social media as it is anywhere else.

We could give you 1,000 social strategies to use, but not all of them would prove effective for you. All congregations and communities are unique in their own way, so the best method of attracting new congregants can differ greatly depending on situational variations.

Fortunately, most platforms show you the level of engagement on every post you share. Take time to review this data. You'll see what’s working in your church’s social media plan, what’s not so effective, and how you can adjust your strategy to target and attract new congregants from your community.

Church Social Media is Essential

There is no question of whether church social media strategies are necessary. They absolutely are. The real question comes down to how effectively you can attract new members on these platforms. Even if you don’t have much experience in this arena, 1 Corinthians 1:26 tells us that God can use the lowliest of his servants for great things. Focus on these strategies, and you will bring in new members.

If you’re looking to offer your new congregants a better way to contribute to the Lord’s work, get started with NewFire Giving today.

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All About Pastor Appreciation Month

By | Make HOW they give easy, Resources

Clergy Appreciation Month is almost here. Throughout the month of October, Clergy Appreciation Month is celebrated each year. We'll take a look at what it is, how it is celebrated, and what you can do to create engagement within your congregation.

Pastor Appreciation Month: What Is It?

As of 2018, there are approximately more than 50,000 clergy members in the United States. They work hard to build the church, create membership, and engage with the members in a way that is thoughtful and appreciated.

Clergy Appreciation Month is 31 days set aside to honor the service of a variety of members of the church clergy. From pastors and priests to ministers and reverends, it is a way to honor those people. Within this month of appreciation is a special day set aside called Clergy Appreciation Day. This day is especially significant because it focuses on one specific date where prayers are sent out on a national level to pay tribute to clergy members and even their staff members.

The History of Pastor Appreciation Month

Found in 1 Timothy 5:17 is where some of the origins of this month were founded. It follows the guidelines of St Paul who advised the congregation to give special honor to the clergy members. Double honor are the keywords mentioned in this verse:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

It is found further in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 where Paul states:

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

According to Christianity:

In 1994, the American Christian organization Focus on the Family began promoting Clergy Appreciation Month as a national month of observance. In highlighting Clergy Appreciation Month, Focus on the Family sought to encourage the faithful to outwardly show their appreciation for religious leaders on a national level.

Why Is It Celebrated?

There are quite a few reasons to celebrate the hard work of the clergy of the church.

For one, pastors and clergy are there for their congregation. Whether it is being there in a time of crisis or uplifting the congregation in prayer and praise each week (and more), we depend on our clergy for inspiration and comfort.

How Are Clergy Members Celebrated During This Month?

How the clergy is celebrated and honored during Clergy Appreciation Month certainly depends on the members of the church. Yet, here are a few ways that members have been able to pay special attention to their beloved pastors:

  • Sometimes something as simple as a thoughtful card is enough – especially for those who do not have money or time to donate. Even Hallmark has gotten in on the holiday by providing Clergy Appreciation cards since 2002. But according to some, it was as far back as 1992 when Hallmark created the date. While this may seem like a marketing ploy on Hallmark's part, it is actually an important date that allows members to show how much they care about their pastors.
  • Take up donations for new office items for the clergy like a new chair or an updated computer. Even something as simple as an ergonomic keyboard is thoughtful and relevant.
  • Volunteering is always a thoughtful reminder to your clergy that their work is important enough for you to take part in.
  • Gift baskets filled with the clergy member's favorite things is a good idea. Whether it's coffee, snacks, fruit, or even a gift card tree, these are often inexpensive ways to show you care and appreciate their hard work.
  • Have a photograph made of the congregation or the church where the clergy member works and present it as a framed gift to hang in their home or office.

Of course, there are gifts that you may want to skip. For example, if you were to give a book to your pastor that you wanted him to read, he might think that he has some kind of shortcoming. If you do gift a book, make sure it is not reflective of how you believe that the church can be better ran.

The same thing goes for gifting a Bible. While a special dedicated Bible may be a perfect gift, keep in mind that your clergy member probably has many Bibles already.

Show Your Appreciation

The point is that you want to show your appreciation and while this should be done all year long, this special month (and day) is a way of showing special attention to all that your clergy does for you and the congregation. Make it a thoughtful gift, one that comes from your heart.

One of the best ways to show appreciation is doing it as a while. If you can gather the members of the congregation together to celebrate this day and month, all the better. No matter how you do it, make sure you celebrate Clergy Appreciation Month and show your pastor how much their work means to you and the church.

Church Growth

Church Growth: The Truth about Church Growths and myths Busted!

By | Messaging

One of the most common concerns of Pastors is church-goers is church growth If a Sunday worship service is smaller than usual. Most likely the pastor will hear about it from well-meaning members. A typical pastor will already be aware and be concerned, at least if the problem has been consistent for several weeks or months. Typically, the pastor will hear a slew of reasons and excuses for why the membership is lacking. Many of them will be common among the memberships. To help Pastor recognize the fundamental cause of church growth, we’ve included a list of myths, the truth behind them and the real reasons for church growth.

CONGREGATION GROWTH IN CHURCH AREAS

This is a two-part myth. The first being that having multiple churches in the same radius affects church growth across the board equally. This is most certainly not true. Location is often not an issue for committed church members. Personally, I have known church members willing to drive half an hour to an hour to a church that they absolutely love. If people recognize your church moving, they will be willing to come. The distance and the location do not matter, what you are achieving is more significant.

The second part of the myth includes the population. It is a given, especially in the Bible Belt of America, that every county will have two-three churches at most. It’s standard in small towns and small cities to see churches on every corner. So what happens when new people join a community? They choose one of the churches. They might attend other church events and support each other, but the people will effectively choose one church to become a member of and that church might not be yours. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It may just mean the person or people aren’t a good connection for your congregation. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong in a church.

When you’re faced with these types of comments from your church members, politely remind them that ministering to your local population is not a guarantee that they will join your church, only that you will build a connection that may inspire them to join a church and that, in the end, is the goal.

MOST PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ATTENDING CHURCH FOR YEARS.

One-third of worshipers are new in the last five years; in fast-growing churches one-half are new. The small town of 4,000 people, Midway, North Carolina has seen three new churches established in our community in the past year and all have experienced instant growth in the past year with a younger generation taking the lead. This means people have been attending these churches for less than a year.

In fact, it is relatively standard to recognize churches undergo a period of changing memberships every year. Perhaps some older members have passed away, and new faces are helping out. Perhaps older members have left, and new members are coming in or coming back. The fact is that time changes. Faces come and go.

When faced with these comments, remind your church of the statistics that prove otherwise. Remind them that revolving memberships are expected and okay.

MOST NEW PEOPLE ARE NEW TO FAITH.

Most new people attending their congregation for five years or less have changed congregations within the same denomination (transfers: 57%). Only 7% are new first-timers to faith. A few (18%) are returnees who used to attend worship but recently have not been involved, and 18% are switchers who changed denominations.

Some are those who have had connections to the faith through being ministered to by attending an event or meeting someone who has shared the message. Some have studied the faith at a distance as a non-believer. The truth is, having someone who is completely, one hundred percent new to the faith is rare in most churches.

Again, when faced with the facts it’s okay to remind church members of statistics and that the strength of new member’s faith is not what’s most important.

MOST NEW VISITORS HAVE NEVER BEEN TO CHURCH.

This one correlates with myth number 2. As stated above, most first time visitors are typically transferring from another church. Not to mention we now live in the age of technology. The chances are that you are online. Your sermons are online and your mission statement is online. If someone is stepping through your doors, it is most likely because they have found you online and you can bet they have been interacting with your content for at least a week, perhaps even more.

Now, with the world of podcasts ever-growing, it makes it easy to experience other church environments long before you ever intend reaching them. Even typically traditional churches are finding their place online. When faced with this argument, remind your church that many people are seeking out churches regardless of whether or not they have ever been to church before.

IF YOU’RE NOT GROWING, SOMETHING’S WRONG

Remember that in the old testament, the prophets followed the commands of God. They rarely saw a growth in the church and often faced persecution due to their claims and proclamations. Perhaps, instead, this is a time of rest. Even churches need periods to regroup, relax, plan for the next steps of the mission field. Perhaps God is asking you to sit down and evaluate your mission and ministry-do the two align? Or maybe ask whether or not your congregation can hold more growth? If not, maybe this is the time to seek ways to prepare for new growth instead of creating it.

THE MORE YOU GROW, THE HEALTHIER YOU ARE.

It’s so easy to see the massive, stadium-sized churches that always seem to be able to raise enough money, complete enough missions and think “Wow! They’ve really got this Christian thing down.” However, if the book of Revelation and the entire New Testament tells us anything, it is large numbers are no more an indicator of spiritualism than wealth is an indicator of wisdom. You can still be wealthy and be a fool.

In fact, the churches of Revelation and the New Testament were growing, and large in number, but they were scolded daily because they did not follow the teachings of Biblical instructions. This tells us our constant reminder: it isn’t what you have, or how much you have on Earth, but what is in your heart that matters most. Revelation 3:15-16 says “ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

IF YOU OPEN THE DOOR, PEOPLE WILL COME.

I have seen this with a multitude of churches. They open the doors on Sunday long enough to host a sermon and Sunday School. Maybe a meal on a special occasion. Then nothing else. If they do a ministry project, it’s from the safety of their pew, donating money or throwing donations in a box as they enter the service.

While this is fantastic and giving is recommended, you will not grow your church by having the doors open once or twice a week and nothing else. What are you doing that feeds the community? What do others see in you that inspire them to seek what you know? Have you ever seen a business that succeeded just from having its doors open? Churches operate the same way. People need to know you exist. People need to know you are alive. You care and you are available to them.

MODERNISM WILL SAVE YOUR CHURCH.

Of course, we live in the age of technology. Sermons are on television, and more recently, online. We can access modern worship music and Biblical lectures via the internet. On top of this, the war between traditional churches and modern churches has been raging since technology entered our lives. We are now seeing churches who incorporate coffee times, breakfast meals,in-church cafes, electronic Bibles and more into the church. Does this make a difference?

Not really. Modernism doesn’t make the church better, it simply makes church easier. The people make the church better. The church can have the latest and greatest music, the best band and online donations, but if the heart of the people isn’t focused on God, on love, and on honesty, people will recognize the truth and memberships will bounce like a gas tank hand on empty. People may come, but they will not stay. People who are seeking honest worship don’t need the modernistic touches in church. They are simply an added bonus to the worship service.

Some of the best worship services have been in a bland, empty room with a group of friends and a guitar.

WHAT WORKS THERE WON’T WORK HERE.

There’s a common problem among smaller churches: many don’t have large youth or children. In fact, I’ve seen churches that don’t have any children at all. What do they do? They cancel children’s services, Sunday school, and children’s events. They focus more on the people who are IN the church rather than reaching the people outside of the church.

They look at another church that’s growing and see things like special services for children. Sunday night youth services and think “Well we don’t have a youth, so that wouldn’t work.” The point here is one similar to many mentioned above, it isn’t what you don’t have. It’s how you use what you do have. Don’t look at other churches as a carbon copy of yours. Don’t have youth? Why not throw a pizza party for the local youth sports team? Sponsor local learning camps for youth outside of the church.

Look at other churches for inspiration, but don’t rely on them for blueprints. Find out how to take what they are doing and make them useful to your church.

HAVING A CHURCH BUILDING IS IMPORTANT.

Sure, having somewhere to worship is very important to a church. But remember the old saying “The church is the people”? This isn’t a lie. In fact, it’s statistically proven that most churches starting out in schools or shopping centers are likely to see growth than churches with traditional settings of a sanctuary and steeple.

Churches are also held in homes, apartments and conference rooms at colleges. The building does not determine the Holiness of a congregation, the heart and faith of people determine what and where a church exists. Barns, schoolyards, convenient stores, and old apartment buildings are made for churches, just as much as a building with a steeple bell.

CHURCH GROWTH IS THE DISCIPLE MAKING.

New members are great. Seeing an intake of new believers eager to learn about God is fantastic, but isn’t the church. The disciple making isn’t about the number of disciples you’re teaching, it’s about making sure each disciple is properly educated and motivated to continue the mission of the church. If you teach one person and inspire them to become a disciple, you will complete the mission of God. It would be more imperative to focus on the quality of your teachings, rather than the number of people you teach.

THE TRUTH ABOUT CHURCH GROWTH.

Just like with any organization, there is a lot of false doctrines when it comes to church growth. The truth is, church growth isn’t always what’s best for your church at the time or the most important factor of mission work. Instead, make sure to remind your committed church members that being small is okay. Remind them instead, to always stay focused on the ministry and making disciples. After all, some of the biggest church leaders of the Bible rarely saw church growth when they were doing things the right away.

If church growth is that important to you, take the break or lull between new members to evaluate your church's mission and how connected the church is to that mission and find ways to re-establish the connection among the community. Make sure you emphasize the things that are important to ministry-Biblical teaching, ministry, and discipleship.

Selfish Ambition

Selfish Ambition: Six Ways It Damages a Leader’s Soul

By | Messaging

God warns us of the dangers of selfish ambition throughout the Bible, yet today's world puts a high value on being better than others and getting ahead. Many of us have the desire to serve others through heart-centered businesses. It is possible to be a successful service-oriented business owner without sacrificing your soul, and true leadership demands this of us. Just as today's churches need to have a security plan, as a business owner you must have a plan to guard against the temptation to engage in negative practices that hurt you and your business.

Learn the ways that selfish ambition can damage a leader's soul and how to avoid falling into this trap.

1. You lose sight of God's desires for you and focus solely on how much money or other accolades you can receive.

God often puts the desire in our hearts to serve our neighbors through a heart-centered business. But it’s easy to forget your true purpose and fall into the trap of chasing the almighty dollar instead of your business’s true purpose, which is to serve God and carry out His will for you and everyone around you.

If you are spending more time at work than at home or church, agreeing to do jobs that require you to compromise your values, or asking yourself what’s in it for YOU as soon as you get a job offer instead of asking yourself how it can help you serve others, you may have fallen into this trap. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:24:

No man can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Simply put, the two most important aspects of your life should be God and family. It’s important to make a living and provide for the people you love as well as help your neighbors. But if you put your business too much in the forefront of your life, you will gradually drift away from God. You could also end up heartbroken and alone if your spouse gets fed up enough to leave you or your kids grow up to have no relationship with you because you put work ahead of time with them.

2. You forget that your purpose is to serve, instead of expecting your business and your customers to serve your needs.

On the face of it, it seems absurd that your customers would part with their money if they didn’t feel you were serving their needs. But as Proverbs says, a fool and his money are soon parted, and it’s easy to be seduced into believing that your customers exist to serve you rather than the other way around.

If you feel resentful of your customers’ requests of you, you may be starting to fall into this trap.

God-centered business owners are grateful for the customers God has provided them with. A difficult customer may be an angel in disguise. Perhaps God wants you to learn how to deal with a specific type of person in your life, and treating this annoying customer well will allow you to be blessed. If you turn customers away because they demand a lot of you, God will not continue to bless you with more customers. Do not be like Moses, who God barred from entering the Promised Land because he lost faith, got impatient, and acted incorrectly!

Some business owners act as if their customers “owe” them something. They get angry if a customer doesn’t want to buy from them or won’t take “no” for an answer. If you’re pressuring customers to buy what you’re selling, it likely comes from fear that God won’t provide.

Reread Matthew 6:25-27 to remind yourself that God provides for all your needs and then reread your business’ mission statement so you can reconnect with how and why you intended to serve others through your business.

3. You turn a blind eye to injustice and/or fail to speak up against it out of fear that it will damage your ability to make money or that people will disapprove.

God calls upon each of us to speak out against injustice wherever it may be found, whether that means refusing to engage in business practices that harm others, speaking out about things in the news that contradict God’s will, or responding to accusations of discrimination in your own business. But some business owners keep quiet when they should speak up out of fear that potential customers will express their disapproval by taking their business elsewhere.

If you do this, you are not only failing to trust that God will provide for you, but are reinforcing injustice by failing to speak out against it. This goes against God’s commandment to “do justice and righteousness.” Remember that Jesus’ Crucifixion occurred not only because Judas betrayed Him but because Peter denied he knew Him when he could have put an end to this by speaking up for Him. Do not be like this.

It is especially important to root out injustice in your own business. Let your practices be without reproach. If an employee comes to you with a complaint about being harassed or discriminated against on the job, do not let that complaint fall on deaf ears. Investigate it thoroughly and take needed corrective action, even if it means letting go of an employee you value and like. To do otherwise would be to reinforce injustice, and God will not reward you for that.

4. You actively harm others in the quest to get money, fame or power.

The Bible is full of stories about people who put their selfish ambition first, hurting others around them to get money, fame, or power. Those people never prosper and in some cases suffer greatly.

See, for example, the story of King David. David sent his rival into battle to get him out of the way so that he could have the romantic relationship he desired. As a result of David’s inappropriate behavior, his own infant son was killed.

The consequences for us are no less severe. Perhaps your children will not literally die, but you will suffer greatly if you harm others to get ahead. Whether you engage in unfair competition, sell products you know are harmful, or betray someone’s confidence to get an edge up on the competition, you hurt yourself in the end.

God gifted us with a conscience for a reason and yours will not leave you alone if you do these things, nor will you and your business receive God’s blessing. Instead, take the time to think about the potential consequences to other people when you are offered a lot of money or are tempted to engage in deceptive and harmful business practices.

5. You use God as a selling point, claiming yourself to be a God-centered or God-driven business, but do not truly put Him first, giving people of faith a bad name so that you can make money off of your professed faith.

One of the worst consequences of selfish behavior is that it reflects poorly not only on you, but on the God you are meant to be serving.  This is why Jesus warns us not to be like the hypocrites who pray loudly in the street to show how pious they are; when we proclaim our faith loudly but act in selfish ways, people associate that kind of hypocrisy with God and turn away from Him! Churches already have a hard time getting parishioners to worship regularly; don't be part of the problem.

As a God-centered business owner, you have special responsibilities. Your job is not just to make money in your business. You are selling not just your products and services, but also selling God! Make sure your behavior is in line with His desires for us.

That means that if you have a choice between making a big sale that helps only you or filling a smaller order that helps people in need, choose the smaller order. It also means not cutting corners to save money at the expense of your customers and not lying, cheating, or engaging in unfair business practices to get ahead. Always put God before profits and follow Jesus’ command to be the light of the world rather than bringing more darkness to it.

6. You encourage the oppression of other of God's children to score points as a leader.

God frowns upon any practice that harms other people, and He especially dislikes oppressive business practices. He commands us to welcome foreigners with open arms and Jesus takes that a step further, saying that whatever one does to the least of God’s children is done to Him.

As a business leader, you have many choices to make each day. Some of those choices include whether or not to do business with companies that actively oppress certain groups of people or whether to refuse business to customers whose choices are not in line with your religious beliefs.

Remember that God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves and Jesus Himself says that’s the most important of God’s commandments. It can be tempting to turn a customer away because that customer is not following God’s word, but if you engage in discrimination or outright oppression of other groups because others in your church might approve, YOU are not acting in line with God’s word! Nor will you be able to save that customer if you make them feel judged rather than acting with compassion as God commands us to do.

Conclusion

Being a God-centered business owner can be challenging. The dominant culture in corporate America is a self-centered, winner-take-all culture in which business owners may feel pressured to do whatever it takes to get ahead — even trample over other people to get to the top. But that is not God’s way and if you engage in hurtful or deceitful practices, you will ultimately hurt yourself.

Every time you do something dishonest, harmful, or against God’s will, you chip away at your own soul and give the Evil One more of a foot in the door. You also turn others away from God by claiming to act in His name while doing negative things.

If you choose to go into business, make sure that God is always at the center of your business. A truly God-centered business will change the world for the better and make it a little bit more like the world God envisioned when he created it.

happiness bible verses

Top 10 Bible Verses About Happiness

By | Resources

The search for finding lasting happiness has been a common thread in the history of man. No matter what continent or country, language or race. The heart of humankind is eternally longing for true happiness, and peace of mind.

As Christians, we can find happiness from within; not just from outer sources of satisfaction. And the ability to retain this impenetrable joy is something we can not only benefit from, but share with others.

What does the Bible say about happiness, and how can we apply this in our modern busy lives? Here are a few Scriptures you can hold on to in times of despair, or whenever your heart needs a little ray of sunshine.

1.   John 16:33 – These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

We are not promised that everything will always in peaceful; in fact, “tribulation” is a given. What we can count on is the Lord to be within and with us, no matter what is happening. And His peace will sustain our hearts.

2. Revelation 21:4 – And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

This beautiful promise gives us a lot to look forward to in the afterlife. When all the old things are passed away, and our new lives and new selves can finally find eternal, lasting joy.

3.  Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

Joy is named as a GIFT. It is not something that we as Christians and believers have to endlessly strive to attain. It is something freely given to us—if we will accept that the joy is ours. How many times have you felt unworthy of happiness? How many times did the blessings of peace come to your heart, but in your business or stressful lives, you did not let it fill your heart with the goodness God promised you?

4. Proverbs 17:22 – A merry heart doeth good [like] a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

Science has proven that laughter heals. Like the ultimate “happy pill”, being surrounded by other Christians who inspire us, lift our spirits, and encourage us to find joy in every situation is easy when you have a reliable fellowship for support and prayer.

5. Psalms 118:24 – This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Let’s face it: not every day is going to feel wonderful. In fact, most of our lives are mundane. The happiness you feel is directly related to the attitude you choose to have; how you decide your day will go. Whatever happens, find reason to carry happiness in your heart, knowing that the Lord orchestrated things to happen this way.

6. Proverbs 3:13 – Happy [is] the man [that] findeth wisdom, and the man [that] getteth understanding.

Happiness may be a state of mind, and this is exactly why you need to focus on learning, self-development, and Godly education. Anyone can be intellectual, but wisdom comes from experience, from digging deeper, and learning from the circumstances you find yourself in.

7. Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

This is a wonderful promise to hold on to in times of despair, and when it seems that absolutely nothing is going right. If you have a calling, if you are living with love and seeking God and the Kingdom first, rest assured that everything has a purpose. Nothing will happen to you by accident, and so you can find joy, satisfaction, peace and contentment no matter what.

8. Romans 8:1-39 – [There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  (Read More…)

Who doesn’t struggle with condemnation time after time? Even in church, or amongst other Christians, itßs easy to compare your lifestyle and especially your mistakes with others. But this is thinking in matters of the flesh—definitely not the spirit. In this verse, Paul is admonishing the Christians in Rome—a capital where the flesh was celebrated, and pursuits of the flesh were a daily preoccupation. He cautions them to walk after the Spirit, focusing on the joys that are not just fleeting; the hope that is eternal.

9. Romans 14:17 – For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Again, Paul is addressing the Christians who lived in worldly Rome, and must have come in contact with those who lived for “meat and drink” on a daily basis. He is not saying to do without meat and drink altogether, he is simply reminding them that it shouldn’t be top priority. Rather, peace and joy of the Spirit—the gifts we are blessed to receive and give freely.

10. Psalms 16:9 – Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

When your heart is glad, your flesh can rest. You can sleep soundly, knowing that God is in control. He is the One who brings real Peace, Happiness, and the Joy that we must seek to help others know, too.

Happiness is a huge topic. The Bible talks a lot of different states of happiness we as Christians can have in our hearts, always. In this day and age, everything on the news seems depressing; the political state, our security and safety, our finances…

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with everything, take time out to focus on the simple joys, instead. When attending church, find the one that lifts your spirit, where you are surrounded by positive folks, who can help you on the journey to joy every day.

preaching

Preaching: Simple Practices That Will Make Your Preaching Better

By | Resources

Preaching is the time-honored practice of delivering the divine word of God to the public. When done well, a preacher is often capable of bringing about transformational change to the life of people. Good sermons provide solid takeaways for the listener that is emotionally impactful through a lasting effect on the soul.

The act of preaching is a personal engagement that inspires society and fosters long-term relationships among diverse members within the church community. However, preaching is not simply public speaking, there is a unique set of skills required for effective preaching.

Charisma and faith are just two values possessed by the seasoned preacher that determine the strength of a message being delivered in front of a church audience.

Always Begin with Prayer

All sermons are conducted through the grace of God. Begin each session by communicating with the divine, so the Holy Spirit may intercede in your delivery. Jesus, the only son of God would often pray for guidance. “Yet he frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.” (Luke 5:16)

As you communicate with God, ask for blessing, be grateful for the opportunity of preaching the good word and receive the clarity of mind required for your sermon.

John Owen said it best when he mentioned, “a sermon is made not with an eye upon the sermon but with both eyes upon the people and all the heart upon God”

An Impactful Opener

An opener will decide the flow of your sermon and affect the reaction of your audience.

Exegesis is a critical aspect of preaching, but people are uninterested in hearing the same thing repeatedly. Limit the use of church jargon to deliver the eternal words of the Bible in digestible interpretations.

Modern churchgoers have shorter attention spans compared to previous generations. Bored members may log onto social media or play games on their handheld devices. Prevent this, by starting strong and always meaning every word you preach.

There are some ways to achieve this. You could make an attention-grabbing statement like “the Devil is always there to tempt us” or describe scenes in the Bible, such as the stations of the cross or the tragic story of Lot, which are known to evoke strong human emotions.

Another powerful way to engage your crowd through poignant questions. “If God is so great, why are there cancer-stricken children?” These questions will make your audience pause, take notice & reflect. The question will make people ponder over their faith. This also encourages them to tap into their hearts in search of their own answers. The strongest of faith are constantly challenged, like a sword on a whetstone.

Humor is another effective tool when opening a sermon. Tell a light-hearted joke, then link its content to the underlying message of your sermon. Humor will create a comfortable ambiance for your audience. Laughter after all, soothes the soul.

Lastly, everyone likes an interesting story. Share an entertaining tale with deep meaning and perhaps even a plot twist. The crowd loves hearing about scenarios different from their routine lives and discover how God can act through various situations.

A strategic opener will outline the mood and theme of your entire sermon. As Philip Brooks once shared, “preaching is the communication of the Gospel through the personality of the preacher.” So, it is essential to let your energy show right from your first sentence.

 Preparation is Key

Preachers must always stay committed to the cause. Deliver each sermon with great preparation. 1Thessalonians 5:6 reminds us: “so then let us not rest as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober. “

Some speakers spend hours, days and weeks planning for the perfect sermon. Prepare notes, graphics and everything else that can support you in your delivery.

Research, research and more research. There are two approaches to this. You could either select the specific biblical quotes and constructing your message from there or decide on a theme and seek the most suitable biblical statements to reinforce your message.

Revise your sermons multiple times before the day of delivery. Some pastors spend most of their effort on a single sermon in a month. This in no way suggests that the rest of their sessions are lackluster or rushed. It simply means that they prepare for a “main event” where they invest themselves in delivering the most powerful message while the other sermons are either edited versions of earlier sessions or rehearsals for their “main event”.

Pace yourself when rehearsing your sermons. For more loquacious speakers, it is often tempting to go on for as long as possible but there is a limited time in a church service. Stick to a consistent duration such as 25-30 minutes and condense all information to fit your time slot. Summarize points if necessary, keep the most powerful hooks and eliminate the excess details that might muddle your message.

Flowcharts are effective tools in ensuring that you are on cue at any point during the sermon. Apply anchor words that redirect you to the main message, which prevents digression. Insert the aptest biblical quotes in segments where they will leave the greatest impression.

Quoting the most fitting phrases from the Bible by rote is extremely useful when it comes down to preaching. But this does not happen overnight. Through constant research and sermon preparations, preachers can mentally generate a cascade of quotes from a single keyword.

Gather feedback from those people around you. Ask if your audience feels that your message is effectively driven across and ask them for their honest opinion and constructive critiques for your sermon. You may discuss the sermon with your partner, children, or even the friendly grocer from your local neighborhood. Their feedback serves as a sample of the response you will receive from the congregation. By accumulating more quality feedback, you can fine-tune the technique that works best.

Speak Naturally

All preachers should discover their unique inner voice. This process may take a while, but constant practice will get you there.

Start by modeling and emulating the style of your favorite preachers. Take pointers from the most successful names out there. Cherry-pick the most attractive qualities in each speaker and combine them to form the foundation of your unique voice.

The late Billy Graham is considered one of the greatest preachers of all time because of his unique unaffected style. He would appear as a calm fatherly figure. Yet, when he stood at the pulpit, he spoke with unmatched fervor and authority. It was this unique personality that moved generations of people to believe in the power of Christ.

Always remember that churchgoers decided to attend your sermons to be spiritually inspired. These folks could have prayed in the privacy of their own homes, but they chose to visit the house of God to benefit from the energy in your voice. Converse with them as you would with your closest friends and loved ones. You can perform the perfect delivery only by staying true to yourself.

Some speakers might get caught up with biblical jargon, quotes and other technical details, but preaching is never a restrictive process. And preaching is not about showing off how much you know about the Bible.

Preaching is about opening your heart and mind to the blessed Holy Spirit. Let it work wonders through you. You are here to make a positive impact on the lives of those who are ready to listen.

Dip into the reservoirs of knowledge from every aspect of your life. Recount the stories of your neighbors, examine the lyrics of your favorite songs or share something interesting that you read in the morning papers. Any information can be examined for something useful in your delivery.

Everything you have ever known can be linked back to the great handbook of life, the Bible. The scriptures say, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Real-life issues create empathy among your listeners, they can feel where you are coming from. They will relate to the times they faced something similar and understand the context better. Biblical context infuses your words with the power of faith, which amplifies the messages that you deliver.

Create engaging sermons by leading your audiences to the intersection between real-life issues and biblical context, where spirit meets the body as embodied by Christ.

Lastly, implement a call-to-action at the end of every sermon. All effective communicators require much from their audience. Preaching may seem like a monologue but in truth, the practice is a two-way street. Propositional sermons are more memorable and allow congregations to live out what they have learned, spreading the word of God beyond the gates of the church.

Applying Technology

Technology can enhance the delivery of your sermons. Play video snippets related to a topic to provide a visual presentation of your subject. You may also include meaningful music and soundtracks to create an immersive experience. Challenge boundaries by using non-religious music for a fresher perspective. Any medium can be interpreted through the works of God.

When sharing about the sacred act of baptism, use vibrant images of world rivers and stills taken from classic biblical movies, talk about Christ’s own experience at the River Jordan with John the Baptist. Mention about the essence of water as a source of all life.

Pair your messages with vivid illustrations that add color, vibrancy, and shapes to your subject.

But remember, these tools are only there to supplement your sermons so be sure to use them sparingly. Your message should remain the key objective, do not depend too much on technology.

Be Genuine to the Cause

Jesus was an exceptional speaker because he was fully devoted to his plan for salvation. There were no second thoughts, no vacillations or doubts in his words or actions. He had an unwavering attitude toward fulfilling his destiny. Similarly, all respected preachers should always believe in the things that they say – from the tiniest blessings up to the most solemn oaths.

It is meaningless and counter-intuitive to deceive a crowd with pretense because true religion is all about trust in the good word of the Lord. A contrived speech can be easily detected by the faithful crowd. This compromises the integrity of the speaker, which loses the respect and support of his communities.

Faith is indispensable when it comes down to the art of preaching. Without an unquestionable belief in goodness, the message will lack substance.

The faith of the preacher must be pure of intention. There should be no monetary gain or other ulterior motive attached to the words of a preacher. Genuine faith is directed by kindness and tolerance, which naturally translates into compelling words of grace.

In the Bible, a man by the name of Simon Magus attempted to purchase the power of God in Samaria, upon witnessing the miraculous spiritual powers acted through the disciples Peter & John.

Peter reacted strongly to the misguided intentions of Simon. (Acts 8:20-21) Peter answered: “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God.

All preachers must remind themselves to stay humble and sincere in their daily devotion. This mindset preserves a clarity of mind to achieve the highest quality of preaching, unburdened by extraneous forces.

Optimal Health

A healthy preacher is an effective representation of Christ. Therefore, it is vital to get enough rest, eat well and exercise regularly. By preserving a healthy body, mind, and spirit, you will be able to better convey the word of God as a shining example to your church.

Proverbs 3:5-8 teaches us to steer clear from the harms of evil, so God may keep us healthy and strong. Listening to our inner needs will prevent us from abusing our bodies so God can act through us.

Pastor burnout is a real phenomenon that affects hundreds of speakers. The grind from week to week through sermon preparation and presentation can take a huge toll on the body and mind.

When necessary, go for a short vacation, commune with God through the serene beauty of nature or spend time winding down with the family. Once you are fully recharged, you will deliver your sermons with more enthusiasm and conviction. Your congregation will thank you for it and they will notice the efforts you take in keeping yourself in top shape for your mission.

Quality preaching will take time but by integrating some of the steps above, you can improve the connection between you and your congregation. The ideal sermon will encourage your audiences to lean in and listen to the heart of your message.

Go forth, keep preaching and always be comforted by the unlimited power of God.

first fruit

What Is First Fruit? A Short Guide

By | Messaging

If you’ve been attending church for a while, you’ve likely heard the term “first fruits”. But what exactly is it? And how is it different from your tithes?

Here, we examine the biblical basis of this offering in the old testament and why it matters to us as followers of Christ in the new covenant.

What Is First Fruits?

“The best of the firstf ruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.” Exodus 34:26 

To fully understand this biblical concept, we need to go back to the time of Exodus when Israel was called out of the land of Egypt so that God can usher them into the Promised Land—a land flowing with milk and honey, a land that drinks rain from heaven. In short, it was a land that’s brimming with the abundance that God prepared for His people.

But before Israel could set foot in the Promised Land, they have to observe precepts, which were laid out in detail during their journey in the wilderness. One of the stipulations of God’s old covenant with His people is that Israel should bring the first yield of the year’s harvest—the first fruits—to the house of the Lord as an offering.

In Hebrew, the first fruit is known as bikkurim, which can be translated to literally mean, “promise to come”. Thus, the first fruits offering is an acknowledgment that the harvest and abundance came because of the Lord’s promise. And if it is from Him, then it is just right that He has the first dibs on it.

In addition, giving the first fruit offering was also a matter of faith. That is, the act of giving the first fruit offering is a declaration that you are trusting God’s unwavering promise of provision.

The instruction regarding the first fruit is something particularly important to God, so much so that it was mentioned 13 times in the first five books of the Bible alone and it was referenced in the New Testament.

In fact, God placed a premium on the first fruits that He instituted it to become one of the seven most important feasts of Israel: The Feast of the First Fruit. This feast happens on the day after the Sabbath following the Feast of the Passover.

What Does it Have to Do With People Who are Under the New Covenant?

Today, most of us no longer live in an agrarian society and we are no longer under the Mosaic Law. Plus, the feasts and rituals seem outdated to modern, technologically-driven society.

So, does this mean the concept of the first fruit no longer applies to us?

To answer this question, it is vital to come to an understanding that all the precepts, instructions, feasts, and laws of the Old Testament were just but a shadow that points us to a singular Truth.

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20

God went through great length giving instructions and laying out the details on how to give the first fruits offering because He is giving us a glimpse of His Son, the true Bikkurim, the promise to come.

And considering that the Feast of the First Fruit happens on the Sunday right after the Passover, the illustration is quite fitting—it is a foreshadow of His resurrection. Jesus is the first fruit, whom God raised from the ground.

What’s the Difference Between Tithing and First Fruits?

When it comes to religious giving, two concepts naturally comes up: tithes and first fruit offering. To differentiate the two, it is important to understand that tithing is giving 10 percent of your income to God, the source of everything.

This practice can be traced back to the time even before the Mosaic Law was given. Abraham, without being coerced and under no compulsion, gave a tithe to Melchizedek, a type of Christ. He gave because he knew who gave him the spoils of victory. Today, we give a tenth of our income for the same reason: we acknowledge Him as the source of every provision that comes our way.

First fruits offering, on the other hand, was historically given during harvest time, usually once a year. For a modern-day Christian, first fruit offering can be given during “harvest time”. It can take the form of the first paycheck from your first job. Or a percentage of your first paycheck of the year. Or perhaps a portion of your bonus or tax refund.

Do I have to Give a First Fruit Offering Today?

“For if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches” Romans 11:16

The New Covenant brought about a paradigm shift when it comes to giving, including first fruits offering. Back in the day, this kind of offering was given to fulfill their obligation to the law of God. Today, we are called to respond from the heart.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

It’s never the amount nor even about the act. Giving has always been about your heart.

Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Therefore when He asks us to give of our treasure, He never wanted our money. He wanted our heart.

And it’s only possible to give out of a cheerful heart when we have a revelation that God will never ask for anything He Himself will not give. He gave His first fruit, His Son, the best that heaven has to offer, for us.

How to Give a First Fruit Offering?

So you’ve decided in your heart to give a first fruit offering. How do you go about it? How much should you give? Do you give every time you receive a bonus or a refund? Or should you give annually? Perhaps these are the practical questions running through your mind. To help you settle those, here are some tips:

  • Pray about it. Remember, there’s no one breathing down your neck, pressuring you to give your first fruit offering. There’s only the grace of God teaching your heart to be generous. Thus, since He’s the one who teaches you to give, it’s only right that He’s also the one to guide you on how much you should give and when you should do it. And as you ask for His guidance in prayer, listen to Him.
  • Plan for it. Once you’ve decided when you’re going to give and how much, it’s time to be a responsible steward to the money God has given you. Prepare your budget. Even the process of appropriating money can be an act of worship when God is the Lord of your finances too.
  • Give. Where should you give your offering? Perhaps you want to contribute to your church building fund. Or a cause or nonprofit that God compels you to give to. Traditionally, tithes are automatically given to your local church. With first fruit offering, you can use it to bless your church or another organization that God wants you to sow into.

In the Old Testament days, the bikkurim was a constant reminder for the children of Israel of the “promise to come”. Today, the promised One has come. And first fruit offering should be nothing less than a response to God’s extreme generosity—for He gave no less than His Son.

Church Fellowship Ideas: 7 Great Ideas For Church Social Fellowship Events

By | Resources

Need updated ideas for fun and fruitful fellowships? These 7 social events will make everyone present feel encouraged, uplifted and inspired. Plus, we have more great, practical suggestions for planning your church social gatherings, ensuring quality fellowship for all—every time!

1.   Around the World Themed Dinners

Are there members in your congregation that come from foreign countries? Or perhaps you are sending mission teams out to other continents? Get the whole church involved by planning a dinner or potluck that features dishes from those countries.

If none of you have prepared foreign dishes before, you can even make a contest out of it. These days, with YouTube videos, cooking shows, and Google, any home cook can put together an easy exotic dish! This is a nice way to get people involved in the foreign cultures leading up to—or just after—a mission trip.

2.   Karaoke Night

It’s not just the church musicians who can brig their inspirational talent! Why not have fun letting everyone get a chance to sing on the mic, too? If you have hymnals or worship songs that are well known, this could be a fun activity for anyone who loves music and a good time.

All you need to prepare for this is a sound setup. It could be as easy as using a PC with a microphone plugged in, or a fancier Karaoke built-in microphone that plays songs on demand.

3.   Bible Quiz Nights

The most competitive of you will enjoy showing off how well they know their Bible! Divide everyone into teams that include both kids and adults. Beforehand, prepare medium to challenging quiz questions that are all Bible-themed.

For example, “How many books are there in the New Testament?” Or, who wrote the Psalms, and how is he related to the author of Proverbs?”

Bible Quiz nights are easy to plan with online resources. You can either print out questions beforehand or ask people to come up with their own trivia.

4.   Bible Charades

Charades are a fun way to get everyone involved in social events. You can make it as theatrical as you want, complete with a stage where teams get to “perform” charades, or simple—gather seated, in a round circle. Team players must mime the story or character for their team to guess who it is. The first team to shout out the correct answer wins!

5.   Film Nights

Make use of your church’s audio/visual setup to hold movie nights for the whole family. If there is a particular theme that is relevant, find a good Christian movie or even uplifting contemporary film that drives home these lessons in an appealing way. Even the most skeptic youth will find it hard to turn down a movie.

If you have not done so yet, invest in a projector and screen, so you have the option to show big-screen films. But don’t limit these nights to movies only. Look for inspiring documentaries, kids Bible Animated Cartoons (for your young ones), or a selection of TED Talks that are inspirational for the adults. Follow up with discussions on the movie or film during your pastor’s speech next Sunday gathering.

6.   Fundraising Concert

Support local talent or encourage budding performers in your congregation by staging a live concert! Choose to make it a free event for all members, with refreshments on-site, or tie it into a fundraiser. Tickets can start selling a few weeks in advance to get everyone excited about the event.

If you want to cater to just your church’s congregation, you might choose all Christian songs for the concert. If you want to “cast your nets” a little wider, consider asking local bands to play, even if it is contemporary music. This gives people the chance to hear music they may not be familiar with, and a way to attract those who may not necessarily come for gospel music. Paying the talent can be as simple as taking offerings during the concert, or setting aside funds for this beforehand.

7.   Gratefulness Garden Picnic

If your church has adequate space or a lawn to hold functions, choose a weekend to hold a garden picnic or barbecue. This could be a potluck or catered event. Make it as casual and welcoming as possible—encourage families and everyone of all ages to attend.

Your members will benefit both from the spiritual fellowship, and a chance to network with others in the community.

Whatever church fellowship ideas you choose, make sure that the Lord is the center of your planning. You do this by praying about all the details, counseling with the right church deacons and members, and being open to suggestions and last-minute changes. Your church fellowship must be an event folks look forward to, get inspired by, and want to give support towards.

To raise funds before or during one of these fellowships, church donation software takes care of the technology and logistics for you. Check out our blog for more easy, fun fellowship ideas to start planning now!

Prideful: Habits that Reveal You're a Prideful Leader

By | Resources

Everyone needs leaders. Leadership is important for a number of different things: Direction, motivation, knowledge, order, and other things necessary to manage a team and accomplish tasks. When groups of people have leaders, they have somebody to turn to for guidance.

While leadership is good, it can also take a turn for the worse depending on the type of leader in charge. In this case, being a leader that is prideful can often be frowned upon in the community. To some leaders, it can be hard to realize how far they go to show pride and arrogance as a leader, as they often just want to assert themselves as one that leads with duties separate from everyone else's.

A leader with pride, however, can be detrimental to your team and community. A prideful leader can shift focus away from the team, rub people the wrong way, limit the team's potential, and can deny the church the opportunity to grow. Furthermore, it's just not fun to be around or take orders from a prideful person.

Do you think you or your church leader is a prideful person? Read these five telltale signs and judge for yourself.

1. Sense Of Entitlement

A leader is proud when he or she is satisfied by simply having an official leader role. They enjoy situations where they can tell others what to do and not really be thankful for their work. Just by having this role, a prideful person can have the impression that they are the hardest-working and smartest person in the entire community. Often the case, they feel like they've rightfully earned their status as leader. Even if they won't admit out loud how entitled they feel, they'll occasionally express how they should get what they feel like they deserve.

Rather than show a sense of entitlement, a humble leader is more aware of the importance of a team rather than an individual. Good leaders want good team players, and recognizes people for what they can offer in projects. They do not see themselves as the hardest-working, smartest, and most-important people in a group, and rather treat one another as equals. Instead of feeling entitled, a good leader can feel grateful that they have multiple people to do a multi-person job. Showing gratitude helps members of a team understand that their help is welcome and they aren't just doing assignments for you.

2. Highly Privileged

A prideful leader loves getting the VIP treatment. Perks like their own office, their own parking spaces, and a big important title, are all what can make a leader feel self-absorbed when he or she gladly embraces them. Truth be told, a leader doesn't need these things, and having these things does not make one in a league apart from other team members. This shows exclusivity, hierarchy, and isolation from the rest of the group. At first being part of a group, new members can feel intimidated by leaders when they have these perks, but over time, members can find out that behind the perks have more to do with personality and less to do with actual success. When a person leads a team and the leader benefits more than the other members do, it's simply an act of selfishness.

A good leader knows simply being a leader doesn't mean getting the biggest slice of the pie. It rather means each person including the leader gets the same amount of praise and rewards. Leaders, for example, don't need their own office, and instead can work in the same room as everyone else. Or if leaders are generous and have the budget, he or she can reward every member their own office. So long as everyone gets their fair share, it will feel like being part of a real team to each person involved. When some people get more or bigger benefits than others on a team, it rather feels like a job that the team doesn't get compensated for. In a well-functioning team with a humble leader, there is no hierarchy and no VIPs.

3. Ignorant Of Others

Prideful leaders are individuals who love being right, love getting their way, and hate when they are challenged by others. What prideful people believe when being a leader is they can do no wrong and make no mistakes. This means they think whatever choices they make are always the right ones, regardless of what others think. They do not feel the need to ever learn from others. When other people try to debate, question, or correct a prideful person, they hate it. This is because of one or two things: 1. They always want to do things their way, and they want to be the ones who are always right, get to solve problems, and receive credit for when positive outcomes occur. 2. They're the leader, and thus, they feel as though help is something they should never want or need.

Good leaders listen enthusiastically to people around them. As a matter of fact, they do not stop listening. They value the input of other team members to look for the best solutions to problems. When multiple options are considered, time is taken to prioritize on the best decisions, not just your decisions. Leaders should also use team input as a learning experience. We never stop learning, so by keeping an open mind to people who have ideas and solutions, we learn faster and become wiser. Prideful people on the other hand never want to learn, so they will tend to continue ignoring valid input and feedback from others. For those that are curious about how to value others' input more, have your smartphone in hand and jot down other people's opinions or ideas in a notepad app.

4. Narcissistic

A prideful leader likes to put his or her name and face anywhere they can. Their face is constantly on fliers, programs, websites, ads, and more. It takes a long time for them to leave the stage or podium when they should. They love their own face, and they love hearing themselves talk. While it is good to get heavily involved with church services and functions, self-exposure can always come off as egotistical. People would bet if prideful church leaders had the chance to name the church after them, they would. The reason prideful leaders are like this is that they want to be their own stars, and as mentioned previously, they want to take credit for all the church's successes. The more a prideful leader self-promotes, the more blatant it would be for the majority of the church's community, and it wouldn't paint a pleasing picture.

Rather than narcissism, good leaders share the spotlight and give credit where credit is honestly due. When it's the leader's turn to speak, he or she says all that they need to, and then the focus shifts to the next person or act. Leaders deserve as much attention as other members of a team, and they typically should not receive the most attention. In fact, a good leader would put him or herself last, and would credit the entire team when a milestone or accolade is reached. The team should be the most important thing to a leader, and not the leader itself.

5. Targets The Flaws Of Others, But Never Themselves

Prideful leaders will also “address before they confess”. Knowing prideful people that are placed in leadership roles, they can easily observe flaws of others and moments where they underperform. They like to lecture others on how to be a good parent, how to be a good worker, and so on. All while under the assumption that they make no mistakes, never sin, and simply have no need to improve. This can actually make it difficult for workers and church attendees to want to be around the leader. Prideful leaders tend to target the flaws of other people because it makes them feel better about themselves, even if they also have crosses to bear themselves.

The truth is, we are all God's people, and he makes no exceptions. We are still learning, encountering new experiences, and come with strengths as well as weaknesses. We all sin, we all make mistakes, and leaders who do not identify their own mistakes are not genuine. Good leaders admit to making mistakes and learning from them, since that is how we improve, after all. In many cases, good leaders do not hold mistakes against others, either. We often provide discipline and reinforcement when appropriate, but we don't gloat how we are better than those that sin and have flaws.

How To Be A Better Leader In Five Easy Ways.

If you want to know how to be humbler as a leader, simply follow these five steps:

  • Prioritize on your team rather than yourself. There is no “I” in team, after all.
  • Give others praise when needed, and give everyone in your group the same amount of credit.
  • Be more open-minded. If you believe there are others that can help you, don't be afraid to ask. You have a team of role-players for a reason.
  • Give everyone a fair amount of attention. Don't be the star of your own show and don't take time and attention from others.
  • Admit you make mistakes. You are only human, but that means you can always be improving.

Conclusion

A prideful, arrogant individual is not what church communities hope for in a leader. Instead, do all you can to give back to the community, allow others to serve and assist you, and never show any negativity.

NewFire Giving makes it easy to accept funds and donations to churches locally and online. Get started with NewFire Giving today for beneficial tools and resources.

fellowshipone

FellowshipOne Software: 2019 Reviews, Pricing & More

By | Alternatives

Introduction

In many respects, managing a church is like managing any other smaller organization. Each church has a well-established hierarchy, with pastors and administrators overseeing day-to-day tasks and activities. What’s more, churches need to devote time and effort to recruiting new members and retaining current ones, just like a business does with its customers.

With so many responsibilities on their plate, a growing number of churches are turning to dedicated church management software. These technology platforms offer features including accounting, fundraising, budgeting, attendance tracking, newsletters, and event planning and management.

Even though church management software hasn’t yet seen universal adoption, it’s growing in popularity among the most forward-thinking churches. A 2016 survey of tech-savvy church leaders found that 95 percent had their own website, 71 percent were already using church management software, and 69 percent offered online giving.

If you’re considering the best church management software for your business, you might have come across FellowshipOne. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about FellowshipOne software—features, reviews, and pricing—so that you can make the decision that’s right for your organization.

What is FellowshipOne Software?

FellowshipOne is a church management software platform that is used by more than 4,000 churches. The FellowshipOne brand actually encompasses multiple church management solutions:

  • FellowshipOne GO Complete is FellowshipOne’s all-in-one church management solution, with features including member management, accounting, online giving, website building, background checks, and text messaging campaigns.
  • FellowshipOne Premier is an advanced version of the FellowshipOne platform that incorporates the features of FellowshipOne GO Complete, as well as a check-in system, data analysis tools for making smarter data-driven decisions, and pre-built apps for church teachers and coordinators.
  • FellowshipOne Financials is devoted to streamlining church financial processes, including general ledger, payroll, and accounts payable and receivable.
  • FellowshipOne Giving is an online giving solution that enables church members to donate via web, mobile app, text messages, and kiosks.

FellowshipOne Software Features

There are many benefits of church management software: fostering church engagement, building a church brand identity, and making your processes more efficient, just to name a few. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the FellowshipOne features that help you achieve these objectives.

  • Accounting: FellowshipOne accounting software has been designed specifically for the needs of churches. The software is compliant with GAAP and FASB 117 standards for non-profit organizations.
  • Online giving: Online giving makes it easier for church members to donate money at the time and in the fashion that are most convenient for them. FellowshipOne Giving allows users to create custom giving pages and campaigns; receive donations via web mobile app, text messages, and kiosks; and track pledges and generate reports through a user-friendly interface.
  • Website building: FellowshipOne makes it easy to build a custom website for your church with an attractive, mobile-friendly interface.
  • Security: Churches must be vigilant about the volunteers and staff members with whom they work, so FellowshipOne includes an automated background check system for potential volunteers. Other church security features in FellowshipOne include an emergency action plan and a secure check-in system for children and events.

FellowshipOne Software Pricing

The price of FellowshipOne software depends on the features that you need access to and the solutions that you use:

  • FellowshipOne GO Complete is available in two tiers of subscription options, with prices that start at $179 per month.
  • FellowshipOne Premier uses customized pricing due to the premium features that it offers.

In both cases, potential FellowshipOne customers must speak with a member of the FellowshipOne team in order to receive a recommendation and price quote.

FellowshipOne Giving also includes multiple tiers for churches based on their donation volume. The three standard tiers are $0/month, $29/month, and $49/month.

The main difference between the three FellowshipOne Giving price tiers is the transaction fee charged by the platform for donations made with a payment card:

  • $0/month: 3 percent plus $0.39 per transaction
  • $29/month: 2.6 percent plus $0.39 per transaction
  • $49/month: 2.09 percent plus $0.39 per transaction

FellowshipOne Giving also has a fourth price tier with a custom transaction fee rate for organizations that process a high volume of donations ($25,000 per month or more). In addition, text giving is an additional $5/month and kiosks are an additional $19/month plus hardware costs, regardless of which tier you choose.

FellowshipOne Software Reviews

The FellowshipOne platform has received generally positive scores from reputable business software review sites. On the review site G2 Crowd, for example, the FellowshipOne GO Complete software has received an average of 3.9 out of 5 stars, based on 30 reviews.

Users praise FellowshipOne’s ease of use and comprehensive feature set. Worship leader Lane W. writes:

“FellowshipOne has so many benefits that I use every day. Most useful for me is the ability to keep everyone in my church, and organization, on file and organized with all of their communication information.”

A second user gives FellowshipOne a rave review, writing that

“we are able to easily manage prayer requests, giving, and attendance trends and patterns and keep a better pulse on what is going on with our people. We have moved to digital rosters for ministries and now have all of our attendance recorded for us through the check-in application.”

However, some users suggest that FellowshipOne software can be glitchy and temperamental. According to pastor Bryan H.,

“the app would crash at times which made it difficult to be mobile. I also would have trouble with the search tool not being able to correctly weed out the people I was searching for.”

Another FellowshipOne reviewer complains that getting technical help with problems is a challenging process:

“Information changes by itself without my knowledge (for example, a teacher would become a student without me ever changing anything, or students mysteriously disappear off a roster). When I ask for help on a problem, sometimes it may take a day for a response or up to a week for a simple problems.”

Finally, one dissatisfied user believes that FellowshipOne has been surpassed by competing for church management software options:

“The most glaring issue with FellowshipOne is that the design and functionality of the program are quite outdated. In light of other software, the competitors are light years ahead of what FellowshipOne has to offer… From addresses to emails and phone numbers, even entering pastoral care notes and updating group information is just a time-consuming process.”

FellowshipOne Software Alternatives

Despite the fact that FellowshipOne has been generally well-received by users, it’s understandable that you might want to consider FellowshipOne alternatives, given the concerns that some users have raised in their reviews.

Alternatives to FellowshipOne will depend on which church management software features you need. If you’re looking for a robust online giving software alternative to FellowshipOne Giving, for example, consider options such as NewFire Giving.

NewFire Giving is a church donation management software platform that allows churchgoers to make donations via a web browser, mobile app, SMS, and hardware kiosks. The NewFire Giving platform includes the same features as FellowshipOne’s online giving solution, including:

  • Multiple campaigns for different initiatives or church campuses.
  • Simplified, efficient reporting for quarterly and annual contribution statements.
  • Easy onboarding of new users, encouraging donations without the need to create an account.
  • One-time and recurring payments via electronic funds transfer, debit and credit cards, and even Apple Pay.
  • Real-time reports provide valuable insights into campaign performance.

Unlike FellowshipOne Giving, NewFire Giving has both tiered and flat rates available for transaction fees, and the rates are some of the lowest among church management software options. In addition, NewFire Giving offers personal one-on-one IGNITE coaching sessions to help you communicate your vision to church members and make the most of the NewFire Giving software.

Conclusion

As it stands today, if you’re looking for church management software platforms, FellowshipOne is a robust, feature-rich viable option. However, given a few issues such as technical problems and an outdated interface, it may not be the right choice for all users. Consider online giving software alternatives like NewFire Giving that can help you bring your church’s digital giving initiatives to the next level.

Interested in learning how NewFire Giving can benefit you? Get in touch with our team today for a chat about your church’s unique needs and objectives.

simplegive

Simplegive: Pricing, Cost & Reviews

By | Alternatives

When you run a non-profit organization, you rely on donations in order to operate and fulfill your mission. However, soliciting, collecting, and tracking donations can be challenging. Not only can it feel chaotic to accept multiple donation types, process them, and keep accurate records, it can also be tough to figure out the easiest way to encourage donors to give. If this is the case for you, consider using an online giving platform like SimpleGive.

SimpleGive is a tool that allows people to make donations to your organization online. The platform incorporates many options for online giving so that donors don't have to send cash or write checks. SImpleGive is one of my online giving platforms available today. So, before you choose the best way to set up online donations and donation tracking, research the best options available. This will help ensure that you're choosing the tool that best fits your needs and budget, and one that best facilitates the vital giving that you need to keep your organization thriving and able to do its important work.

Things to Consider before Signing Up for an Online Donation Platform

Platforms for online donations facilitate both the giving and tracking process much easier for all types of non-profits. This means that you can get rid of the arduous task of manually maintaining and updating spreadsheets with donor information in them. You may also be able to eliminate other costs related to donations, including staff, capital, and more. When you use a tool like SimpleGive, you can choose to pick a user tier that works for you. Each tier costs a different amount and offers different features and capacities. Consider the reason you are looking into using an online donations platform. f you are searching a solution that helps increase the number of donations you're getting makes donor tracking easier, facilitates more efficient donation processing, and gives you reports and statistics on your fundraising efforts, then you may be able to land on just the right tool help meet your needs. There are many donation tools available today so make sure to get clear on your needs before you select the best option.

SimpleGive: an Online Donations Platform

SimpleGive is a platform that was created for online tithing and donations. Best in Lenoir City, TN, SimpleGive aims to give organizations the most up-to-date and stress-free methods of collecting and tracking donations. SimpleGive offers a free basic version that charges a 3.09% fee for all credit card donations; a $29 per month plan that charges only a 2.5% fee per credit card donation; or a high volume plan that the company can custom-design to fit your organization. In addition to offering the capacity to accept online donations, SimpleGive also has helpful features like allowing for recurring donations, generating visually-pleasing reports and graphs about donations, and providing giving kiosk software for those donors who would prefer to give in person.

SimpleGive Pros:

  • Different user tiers so you can pick the level that has the features to match your organization's needs
  • Donation tracking capacity helps you target and thank your best givers
  • Ability to customize giving software, so that you can apply your church's or organization's branding to it so that it is recognizable and fosters trust

SimpleGive Cons:

  • Reporting is lacking in terms of showing fees if the church is looking to see how much they paid for donations during a certain time period
  • Donations can be slow to reach the account of the organization or church, and it can take several days between when a donor gives until the money is available
  • Customer service team can be slow and unresponsive, which can be especially frustrating if the platform is having an issue during a critical giving time.

SimpleGive Alternative: NewFire Giving

NewFire Giving is another online donations platform that was created specifically for churches. NewFire Giving is based in Augusta, GA. They have made it their sole mission to help churches do better development and growth. The platform comes with an educational component and not just software. So, churches can use it both as a means of more easily attracting donations and as a way to become better church fundraisers while they use it.

Like SimpleGive, NewFire Giving offers user tiers so that congregations can pick the capacity and features that are right for their organization. NewFire Giving offers three plans: Basic, Complete, and Accelerated, and if you speak to the organization, they can help you tailor each to fit the needs of your congregation. The Basic level of NewFire Giving only incorporates coaching and education; it does not offer digital giving tools. The price to use NewFire Giving ranges from $147 per month to $397 per month.

When you use NewFire Giving to help you bolster church donations, you can take advantage of the digital giving tools in the software. NewFire Giving offers things like text-to-give capabilities, kiosk software, and online giving via a web browser. NewFire Giving also comes with donor management tools, so you can know who is giving to your organization and how much. You can also use the tool to allow people to sign up for events that foster participation and loyalty at your church. Rely on the tool for small group registration, volunteer signups, and more.

One of the most popular components of NewFire Giving is the educational component. Called Ignite Coaching, NewFire Giving's church development professionals will work with your church staff in order to understand where your fundraising efforts are falling behind. They will help you identify opportunities to attract donors, and explain how to make one-time donors recurring donors. The coaches who work at Ignite Coaching can help you craft a clear and concise statement about the work you're doing as a church and why people should want to give to your congregation. This can help people understand why they would want to give to you—and, in turn, more readily donate.

NewFire Giving Pros

  • NewFire Giving's educational component is completely unique, and coaches can help ensure that congregations are getting the most out of the platform.
  • Text-to-give harnesses the popularity and convenience of texting today to encourage people to give where it is easiest for them.
  • Extensive record-keeping capabilities of NewFire Giving allow you to use the platform like church management software, managing contact records, sending contribution statements, looking at giving trends, and sending mass communication to everyone who has donated.
  • Allows you to build campaigns so that you can aggressively work to meet a fundraising goal until you have reached the finish line.

NewFire Giving Cons

  • Fewer giving reports than other online giving software options and NewFire's reporting capabilities don't generate clear and easy to understand graphs and charts
  • No option to skip the education that comes along with NewFire Giving, so you pay for the coaching whether your congregation is interested in using it or not.
  • Learning curve to start harnessing all of the power of NewFire Giving effectively, so it can take time to implement and get off the ground.

Features and Customer Reviews of SimpleGive

Online Giving, Even for Non-Tech Savvy Churches

One of the best benefits of SimpleGive is that it gives even small churches or tiny non-profits the ability to accept donations online. Organizations don't have to be tech-savvy or have complex systems set up to accept money. They can just pay the competitive prices of SimpleGive and facilitate giving via their website.

Designated Donations

When you give with SimpleGive, you can designate where the donation should be allocated. In a review of Simple Give, student pastor Todd G. explains that this can be very helpful for churches, who can have a hard time keeping track of what each specific donation is to be used for. SimpleGive's capabilities can ensure that a donor's money goes to the right place easily, without having to backtrack through a long paper trail.

Customized Giving Pages

Church tech director Brian R. touts the customizability of SimpleGive's giving pages. Churches can “brand” their giving pages so donors recognize them and know where their money is going. This can help encourage donations and cut down confusion during the giving process.

Low Fees

Jessie Y., church office manager, mentioned in a review that her congregation chose to use SimpleGive because it charges some of the lowest fees around. This can ensure that an online donation platform only helps a church improve its financial situation and that it does not add any unnecessary financial stress.

Features and Customer Reviews of NewFire Giving

Educational Component

The coaching and educational aspect of NewFire Giving is extensive and thorough. This means that users of NewFire Giving learn how to use the platform effectively while they are paying to use it. This ensures the money that a church is using to pay for the platform does not go to waste and that they can make the most of their investment.

Free Discovery Call

Not sure whether NewFire Giving is right for your church? They offer a free discovery call to talk about your congregation's needs and how they can help meet them. During the call, they discuss the roadblocks to fundraising that you are experiencing, how your church might better align with the digital era of giving, and 3 immediate steps that you can take to increase giving. This valuable call ensures users know that the resource is the right one for them when they sign up to use it and that they're getting value from the people at NewFire from the very start.

Text-to-Give

NewFire Giving offers a useful and convenient text-to-give capacity. This targets smartphone users who prefer to do things from the convenience of their smartphone, upping the chances that congregants give. Also, Text-to-Give capabilities target a newer, younger generation of church donors (Millennials and younger), who can be brought in as regular church donors from a very young age.

Educational Component

The coaching and educational aspect of NewFire Giving is extensive and thorough. This means that users of NewFire Giving learn how to use the platform effectively while they are paying to use it. This ensures the money that a church is using to pay for the platform does not go to waste and that they can make the most of their investment.

Free Discovery Call

Not sure whether NewFire Giving is right for your church? They offer a free discovery call to talk about your congregation's needs and how they can help meet them. During the call, they discuss the roadblocks to fundraising that you are experiencing, how your church might better align with the digital era of giving, and 3 immediate steps that you can take to increase giving. This valuable call ensures users know that the resource is the right one for them when they sign up to use it and that they're getting value from the people at NewFire from the very start.

Text-to-Give

NewFire Giving offers a useful and convenient text-to-give capacity. This targets smartphone users who prefer to do things from the convenience of their smartphone, upping the chances that congregants give. Also, Text-to-Give capabilities target a newer, younger generation of church donors (Millennials and younger), who can be brought in as regular church donors from a very young age.

easytithe

Easytithe: Overview, Pricing and Features & More

By | Resources

Online giving dominates as the most common way to tithe in churches across the US. Churches do still pass around the offering basket. But they've found quite a bit of success with the features donation software offers. Easytithe has its own standout set of features. They make fundraising and tithing accessible to any church. Check out the features here, and see how it fits for you. But before you decide, there’s an alternative you should know about too.

Ways to Give

With Easytithe, there are four major ways to give. Four options keep everything less confusing for the people giving. More than that and things get tricky to follow. But in churches using their software, Easytithe boasts an increase in giving. All those donations come through these avenues.

Mobile App

The Easytithe mobile app is the first mode of online donations. The most notable feature for the app is the option for recurring giving. Members can log in and choose an automatic giving amount each week or month.

Text Giving

If your church adds the text giving feature, your members can give through SMS. Your church will be assigned a phone number the members can text an amount to. The transaction gets taken care of after they send the text.

Kiosk

This style of giving is based on the booth method. Your church would need their specific hardware to set this option up. Members and parents can come and fill out a form in the kiosk, and give a donation that way. Or you could use it for registration for events like VBS or a symposium. Or even a mission trip.

Facebook

Easytithe also connect through Facebook. If your church members have a large presence on the Facebook page, there’s a way for them to click and give on it.

Prices and What's What

Now it’s time you learn the more specific features and what it costs to have access to them.

Features

First, you should know a little more about the features you might soon be paying for. Including what types of transactions they accept, and limitations. And what it’s actually like to use Easytithe software.

Along with that recurring option, Easytithe has a button for an optional donor bump to cover fees. You can set it up to pop up as an optional bonus of two or three percent. That makes it so the donor has the option to cover transaction fees, rather than the church.

Forms of accepted payment are debit, credit, and AHC. Multiple payment methods can be stored for member convenience.

Easytithe also offers some branding support. They allow some customization on your pages to help promote your church’s brand. And you can build different pages for different campuses.

As your church grows, Easytithe supports you with data management as well. They track, secure, and report every ounce of data through the company’s team and data center.

They don't charge for unlimited users in the database. The thing they do charge for is access to all those features in the first place.

Price

The prices cause quite the ripple in the monthly bill for EasyTithe. Pricing ranges from free to almost 50 bucks a month plus transaction fees. Before signing up for anything, you might want to figure out the exact options for what you can afford.

Text

There are multiple package options for what’s available. In all of them, the text feature remains a bonus. It means you pay a small premium to use it no matter what. The charge for texting is 5 dollars a month to add on.

Kiosk

The kiosk hardware must be purchased, and the price for that is unknown. But having it available to use is an extra 19 dollars a month whether you use it or not. It is an optional add-on, and not required.

Security

The security for your financials does have a cost. Easytithe weigh that out at 10 dollars a month to handle and process all your data.

Plans

Though the prices above are set in stone, the transaction fees aren’t. They vary based on the plan your church pays for.

The free plan transaction fee is 3 percent plus a flat 39 cents. The AHC fee for that is 1 percent plus 39 cents. They still do have a monthly minimum of 10 dollars for the free plan ironically. That’s to cover security.

The next option for plans has a cost of 29 dollars per month. The transaction fee within it is 2.6 percent plus 39 cents. The AHC fee is .75 percent plus 39 cents.

Another bump up for a plan brings the monthly cost to 49 dollars each month. The transaction fee lowers to 2.09 percent plus a 39 cent flat fee. But their site notes that it’s tiered, which means the price changes.

The last plan they have is a high volume plan. It's available only to those bringing in more than 25k per month. The base transaction fee lists as custom and the AHC is the same as the previous.

The final price point you should take note of is another optional addition. They pair a one-stop-shop feature through an app called Ministry One. It's an extra 39 dollars each month.

Before You Go

Before you go off and start using Easytithe, you need to know about an alternative option. One that will knock your socks off. NewFire Giving.

NewFire Giving

NewFire’s solid features make it highly competitive as a choice for giving software. They share all the features of an app, website, kiosk, and text to give. But along with the accepted payments above, NewFire Giving also accepts Apple Pay.

In their reporting, they also provide a donation statement for your and member tax forms.

But the real leg up they have to offer is a resource more hands-on than any other giving software out there. Ignite Coaching teaches churches how to effectively rev up donations with the software.

Their stats include a 42 percent increase in likelihood to give recurring donations. It means a member giving somewhere around 1200 gives closer to 1800.

That stat comes from the NewFire Giving website here. You'll find it alongside their three customized program plans.

The Decision

Both programs offer similar features. Each has text to give, an app, online giving, and kiosk options. But NewFire Giving includes Apple Pay and exclusive coaching modules. That sets them apart. So you might want to set up a call and check it out.

Click here to book one.

Church revitalization

Church Revitalization: A Guide to Church Revitalization

By | Messaging

A healthy community is crucial for any church. But if church attendance has been dwindling in the past couple of years, there are definitely reasons for you to be concerned. When fewer people are going to church, your church services become less lively, but more importantly, there are fewer people that are donating to your church frequently.

Why Do People Leave A Church Community?

There could be a combination of reasons why fewer people go to a church weekly. Primarily, older people tend to frequent church, and it's often the assumption that once they go to heaven, that results in emptier pews. While that may be true, there may actually be bigger problems caused by what your church is or isn't doing.

Some people tend to get affected by outside influences that can cause them to be less interested in religion altogether, while others opt to attend another church in town. The latter can cause “competition” so to speak for attendees and donors.

There are a collective number of reasons is why there are not as many attendees as there used to be in a church. But, there are many things that you can do in hopes to not only get some attendees back but to attract new ones, as well. Here are five things you can do to revitalize the community around your church:

1. Make Renovations

This idea certainly can draw a lot of attention in the community and can cause many lapsed church attendees to return. This suggestion, however, should only be for churches that need or can benefit from repairs and/or upgrades. With upgrades, you can replace your pews with newer and comfortable ones, add or replace the air conditioner, get better lighting, add newer decor, and other ideas that can improve the experience overall for your attendees. If attendees are finding it hard to stay comfortable throughout your services, you know that this can be changed for the better.

If you are in need of funds for upgrades to your church, NewFire Giving can give you tools and resources to raise money around your area.

2. Hire New Pastors

This is often another common reason for attendees to leave a church and join another one. If you have a priest that is known to speak in a dull tone, drone on, and fail to captivate church attendees, it could result in many of them looking for something better elsewhere. While you can keep current priests in your rotation, it's important to look for fresh pastors that can grab peoples' attention, use charisma and personality, and be lively and upbeat in general to make sermons more interesting and worth listening to. Younger pastors can also tend to appeal to younger audiences, so it never hurts to give one a try.

3. Appeal To A New Demographic

There are things you can do to invite new demographics to your church so that more than just one type of demographic attends weekly services. If you think you are in need of more teen and young adult attendees, you can assemble youth groups to lead the music and bible passages that go on during your services. It can encourage more involvement among younger attendees and can make for a livelier atmosphere that the community can look forward to.

Alternatively, you can rent out the church to other functions in need of a place to hold events. Musical concerts, daycares, and other events can take place inside your church, with the trade-off being that people at these events are impressed with what your church offers. If they like what they see, they can surely stop by on Sundays to attend a service. Should you decide to rent out church space to others, however, you should contact legal counsel to be sure you are making the right decisions every step of the way. It is also a good idea to refer to laws on renting out church space, as they tend to vary on a state-by-state basis.

4. Take Advantage Of Other Churches Losing Supporters

Some churches tend to move on when a group of lapsed attendees are gone and long forgotten. With that said, new attendees become the church's next priority. Even if there are people that have left your church, there are always people that have also left other churches around town for one reason or another. You can use this to your advantage.

To find people like this in your area, you can always search social media groups and reach out to church-goers that have lost faith in their church recently. From there, you can tell others about your church, and how it makes a difference to the community. Of course, you're going to want to impress new attendees as well, so make sure that their first impressions aren't underwhelming.

5. Conduct A Survey

If you aren't sure of why a percentage of your attendees and donors have left your church, you can always get feedback with a handy survey. Simply refer to your directory of current and past patrons and send questionnaires to their addresses or email inboxes. Ask them questions like “What are you doing on Sundays?”, “What are the reasons why you left?”, and “What would it take for you to return?”. You can add these questions and many more, but always be sure to be respectful and do not plead for them to return or donate.

From there, you can receive feedback on what you can do to improve your church's experience. If you notice a pattern in what feedback you are getting, you should have a good idea about what can be done to win back lapsed attendees and more.

Conclusion

Revitalizing a church community is no easy feat, but you know that there are changes that need to be made in some form so that you maintain a strong gathering of donors and attendees. Consider making changes to your church which can, in turn, make waves across the community and restore its life and activity.

NewFire Giving makes it easy to accept funds and donations to churches locally and online. Get started with NewFire Giving today for beneficial tools and resources.

Parish Data Systems

Parish Data Systems: Parish Data System Review 2019

By | Alternatives

The church today handles a lot of data, from program creation and mission development to general church management and budgeting. Without proper tools and a system to organize the data, you can easily get overwhelmed with your daily operations.

Thanks to technological advancements, we have software products like Parish Data System (PDS) by ACS Technologies. PDS is useful for managing, streamlining, organizing and automating your everyday church operations. The tool handles contributions, reports, events, finances, and communications seamlessly to keep your church running smoothly.

In this post, we offer an unbiased review of Parish Data System, including features and functionality, pricing and plans, what others say about it and its pros and cons. Keep reading to get everything you need to know on PDS.

What is Parish Data System?

Parish Data System, PDS, is a hybrid church management platform which is intended for churches, schools, and dioceses. It helps these organizations to manage and automate their daily operations. There are two versions: PDS deployed on-premise or PDS hosted in the cloud.

By using various modules, PDS manages contributions, communications, events, schools, childcare, and finances, among others. Apart from church management modules, PDS includes tools for users to manage processes unique to Catholic churches and institutions. These include sacramental registry, religious education tracking, diocesan communications, fundraising among others.

The solution can synchronize databases across related schools, parishes, and dioceses. Additionally, PDS can be integrated with other solutions from ACS Technologies. Phone and email support are available.

Pricing and Plans

Parish Data System provides tailored pricing plans depending on the number of attendees in a parish, cost of software licensing, training and implementation costs and computer hardware where necessary. This information is available on request once a prospective client speaks with customer support to provide essential details about his/her parish.

The total cost of ownership includes the above costs plus cost of ongoing maintenance and support. Here are some details about these costs:

Customization

Customization covers inclusion or specific changes to the out-of-the-box solution to meet your needs or requirements. For example, you may need your PDS to integrate with pre-existing software/systems, interface changes, configurable dashboards, workflow management, additional data collection forms, custom reporting, etc.

SaaS Costs

PDS is offered under the subscription pricing model, which means you pay a certain amount per user depending the functionalities desired. You may need to pay extra for premium support services.

Data Migration

Part of implementation costs includes data migration from existing systems into the PDS databases. You can choose to transfer your own data and save on these costs. However, depending on the number of records, it’s a tedious and time-consuming process.

Training

Training includes end-user training, group training, video or self-training, and train-the-trainer arrangements. Basic training is often provided as part of the package, but you may pay extra for more training sessions or more personalized trainings e.g. one-on-one training.

Maintenance and Support

Basic packages must include some provision for maintenance and support, but your pricing arrangements will state how much support you can get. It is crucial to ensure that the vendor is available to respond to technical glitches or other problems you may face.

Features and Functionality

PDS software includes features ensure your parishioners can stay informed, active and connected to parish activities. Some of these features include:

Parishioner Records

PDS helps to manage all the information about your congregation or parishioners. Information kept includes:

  • Member history, contact information, and family data
  • Merged letters and personalized emails
  • Pictorial directories for ministry groups
  • Bulk mailing options and census reporting
  • Cloud backup allowing authorized access anytime, anywhere

Critical member information helps to drive your fundraising or donor activities and tracking and coordination for program participation.

Contributions Management

The finances of your church and the lifeline for all church activities; churches must open easy giving avenues and track contributions accurately. These features help you to do this effectively:

  • Contributions tracking
  • Better funds stewardship
  • Online and offline one-time and recurring donations
  • Customized contributions reports
  • Giving history records and personalized letters

With these tools, you can keep an unlimited number of records and effectively run fundraising campaigns for various church projects.

Religious Education

RE programs are essential to the spiritual formation of parish members. You can provide the best RE by focusing on various levels of catechesis and community services, such as:

  • Printed certificates for various sacraments
  • Publicizing classes, schedules, and registration deadlines
  • Tracking student enrollment, attendance and service records
  • Personalized communications and reports

These tools can help you tailor better religious education programs, communicate with prospective and active students and track performance or completion rates.

Sacrament Register

As the name suggests, this feature ensures storage of all your parishioner’s sacrament records. You can easily and quickly locate entries related to baptism, communion, confirmation, marriage, and death.

You can search through the records anytime, anywhere with cloud storage and backup. You can also easily store new records and share this information with other parishes where needed.

Booking Tools

Eliminate confusion related to parish facilities and resources with an automated booking system. It handles complex scheduling needs to eliminate conflicts and facilitate communication. Therefore, you cannot overbook or double-book facilities and equipment; you also have reminders for setup and cleaning where needed.

Accounting

PDS includes financial management tools which include a General Ledger and Payroll management software. Using these tools, you can ensure you’re complying with FASB and IRS requirements. You can organize a bespoke chart of accounts, customize security, run powerful annual reports, and keep up with your money transactions.

The payroll option allows you to seamlessly manage hourly, salaried, contract and exempt employees. The tool calculates statutory taxes and deductions, prints paychecks and creates government reports annually, monthly or quarterly. There are also private logins to allow employees to see their pay history or PTO.

Minister Schedule Coordination

The Ministry scheduler offers an option to coordinate ministers and assign masses or other programs to be overseen. You can establish preferences and adjust for conflicts to remove chaos from minister scheduling. It includes multiple options to allow you to schedule rules and set preferences.

Customizable Security

PDS, through Church office, allows you the peace of mind that comes with keeping crucial parish information safe. You can choose the people that can access every separate part of your data. You can link your OnDemand or Windows username to your PDS username so that you have one login experience.

Comprehensive Fund Management

Use PDS to keep members, decision-makers and other stakeholders informed about their giving histories and records. You can track progress towards fulfilling specific capital campaign pledges. PDS supports most EFT payment methods to ease contribution collection.

Stewardship Enhancement

The PDS User’s Guide for Stewardship is a detailed plan which includes a host of talent, time and treasure reports. You can leverage them to analyze, implement and plan your stewardship campaigns.

Add-on Mail

The E-Z Mail system helps you to sort the standard or first class emails. You can print a qualification report, labels for trays and post-office forms from within the program. Use PDS CASS It to verify mailing addresses on your schedule through the cloud as an optional add-on.

Rating Based on User Reviews

ITQlick gave PDS an expert review of 4.4 out of 5 stars. Capterra gave PDS 2.5 out of 5 stars (6 reviews).

PAT Research gave PDS an aggregate review of 8 out of 10 points as follows: 8.1 for ease of use, 8.1 for features and functionality, 8.0 for advanced features, 7.9 for integration and performance, and 8.0 for integration and support.

According to one on-premise user, PDS made parishioner data organized and easily accessible. Information can be cross-referenced according to multiple users. Information is easy to update and access is easily controlled.

The user wanted to switch to the cloud-based version and recommended starting with it for future users. They found their shift from server-based to on-cloud PDS “trying”. The user was a small business, employing 2-10 people.

Medium PDS User (51-200 employees) enjoyed having a solution to keep all parish0related data close for easy access. However, he found the PDS version he used outdated and difficult to use and teach others.

Another medium PDS user liked the availability of standardized instructions to help new users and its clean GUI. He appreciated the integration of data between functions. He had a slight learning curve managing permissions and creating new accounts, but no other challenges.

Another Small PDS user found PDS to be “a great tool for keeping track of parishioner records and contributions”. They did not have any challenges or negative experiences using it.

Systems Architect Dominic R. at Capterra gave PDS a 3/5 overall, stating that the software is good but needs some work to stay relevant. He noted that the interfaced looked old and syncing data between multiple users was cumbersome. However, he noted that PDS has everything a Catholic parish could need in a data system.

Ease of Use

PDS got ease of user PAT Rating of 8.1 and user aggregate on PAT of 7.9. According to Capterra reviews, PDS has a relatively steep learning curve, and primarily because it is out of date. Users gave it 2.5/5 rating for ease of use.

Integration

PDS integrates seamlessly with other software solutions by ACS Technologies such as PDS School Office and PDS Formation Office. You can export data to PDS Ministry Scheduler to organize masses and ministers.

PDS fully integrates with PDS Connects, which is Church Office’s online companion. Your members can make and manage their online profile information and make donations. It integrates with PDS Ledger which can import batch summary totals from the above software options for report generation.

Implementation

PDS is available for cloud installation through the Software as a Service model. Web installation on Windows and on-premise installation. The latter demands that clients have the servers and hardware to support the software.

Upon installation, PDS offers training through detailed documentation, in-person training, live online support and webinars for various aspects of the software.

Performance

PDS OnDemand has a broad set of capabilities, which allows users to manage parish operations effectively. Once implementation is complete, users can access the system anywhere with an internet connection, and they don’t have to perform any system updates.

Many reviews have mentioned that, while useful for daily operations and accounts management, PDS is going out of date. ACS Technologies will soon need to update the Graphics User Interface and make the software suite more relevant today. Software platforms need regular updates to provide for changing user needs and a changing digital landscape.

Customer Support

PDS offers two programs for PDS users to get customer support. They require users to register in either program, which allows them to receive current and professional support. Registration also qualifies users to receive discounts exclusive to the supported community and special services.

The Preferred Client Programs gives users unlimited toll-free support, access to free software upgrades, 24/7 access to the online help center, special services and discounts, among others. You enjoy quick issue resolution with individualized case history tracking and experienced, courteous support staff members.

Special services include free website strategy assessment, online account management and reviewing of support history. You can also track shipments online.

Pros

The features listed above provide the many advantages of using PDS for your parish management. They include

  • Personal record-keeping according to family units
  • Logical data input and easy record location with standard fields
  • You can change users’ last names while keeping family relationships e.g. after marriage
  • The information available on attendance, sacraments, background checks, talents, ministries and personal details for parishioners
  • Unlimited phone numbers and emails per user
  • Easy contributions tracking and campaign pledge management
  • Payroll and bookkeeping made easy
  • Prevent overbooking or booking conflicts with minister and facilities scheduling
  • Suitable for small, medium and large churches with many employees

There are many more features that make PDS useful to have.

Cons

The following are some complaints that user reviews have mentioned about using PDS:

  • Information can be bulky and time-consuming to update
  • Parishioners cannot control or change their own data
  • Certain aspects of the software are sold as separate packages
  • Some of the reporting is cumbersome to generate
  • Navigation is clunky and unintuitive

ACS Technologies should consider a major upgrade on the software since most of its downsides can be resolved with simple updates.

Final Thoughts

PDS is still the most widely-used and best software available for the Catholic Church. It has a wider range of functionality and stronger support than other software. It was specifically designed for the Catholic and Orthodox churches and their sacramental requirement.

If you were choosing, employing the cloud platform would be superior to having an on-premise installation. This is because you can work from anywhere at any time, without worrying about the security of your systems.

But your options are not limited, and it's advisable to try several options before picking one. When it comes to managing church giving, you can try NewFire Giving, a product that puts you in control of your church's financial health through technology and education. Be sure to get started here for more information.

Church ads

Church Ads: A Proven Facebook Ads Strategy For Smaller Churches

By | Resources

Outreach is one of the biggest challenges a small church faces. Its primary purpose is to share the message of Jesus through engagement. That engagement is what builds relationships and makes the connections that bring others to worship or inspires them to tithe online.

Today, there are more ways than ever to communicate the message of love and grace. Why limit the church to old school word of mouth, though. Instead, expand your reach by creating an online presence that should include social media marketing.

It’s not easy to think of a church as an organization that needs marketing strategies but how else can you grow as a congregation? At last count, 69 percent of people in this country use Facebook — that’s seven out of 10 adults according to Pew Research.

The Unique Benefits of Facebook Ads

Businesses are expected to spend a whopping 25.56 billion dollars on digital marketing this year and 93 percent of companies that advertise through social media use Facebook. All this data tells you one thing — there is value found in creating Facebook ads.

Despite all the changes Facebook has made to its platform, it still offers more ways to engage than any other social media site. When your church places a Facebook ad, the platform can use an algorithm to decide where to put it for the best exposure. For example:

  • Desktop newsfeed
  • Mobile newsfeed
  • Right column
  • Facebook instant articles
  • Audience network to extend the ad to other areas of the internet

The church can also take complete control of who sees the ad if they prefer.

The ad manager provides data that allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of the ads compared to other online options like posts on a Facebook page, Youtube channels or blogs.

Scalability

As the church grows it can continue to increase its online presence by adding more ads. A small church might invest 25 dollars in its first ad campaign but grow enough to double the budget for the next one. By the time the third campaign rolls out, online ads may pay for themselves.

Compare the cost to what you would spend on printing flyers or buying print ad space to get the word out. Online ads add stability to your outreach effort. There is no chance your viewer will throw away your online ad without reading it.

Creating an Ad Campaign Strategy

Small churches can break their campaign strategy down into three digestible steps.

1. What’s the purpose of the ad?

A good place to start is to figure out how you want to use Facebook ads. Ideally, the church should reserve these ads to promote something other than itself. Promoting the church should always be secondary.

Instead, you want to get the news out about:

  • A special event
  • A new study topic
  • A new blog post
  • An inspiring video
  • A meaningful piece of scripture

You are not trying to sell the church but looking to build relationships and to make connections. To do that, you must offer something engaging. The people the ad connects with will not be on Facebook to find a new church so the topic needs to focus on something else to get their attention.

2. Who’s the ad for?

Facebook ads run on targeted demographics. Your ad can address Christians in your city and county, for example. Specificity is the point of using Facebook ads.

What age group is best suited for the event or focus of the ad? Young couples will be more interested in parenting classes than seniors. Educated readers will connect with scripture or study topics.

Facebook allows you to target the ad by:

  • Age
  • The audiences’ interests like hobbies, family, Christianity, Entertainment
  • Connections to groups, apps, pages — Facebook’s Audience Insights is a free tool that helps find those connections
  • Relationship status
  • Education
  • Workplace or industry

3. How much can the church spend on the campaign?

One of the perks of Facebook ads is the strict budget management tools. Facebook offers two payment levels:

  • Cost per 1.000 times displayed (CPM)
  • Cost per click (CPC)

The most economical is the CPC. Charges are directly linked to clicks — no clicks, no charge.

3. Measure the Effectiveness of a Facebook Ad

This is an important and often overlooked component of an ad strategy. How can you figure out how well an ad produces?

There are a couple of options. Facebook does provide metrics that will give you some indication in their ad manager. They can be confusing, though.

Facebook can also equip you with offsite pixels to help track the effectiveness of the ad. The pixel is a bit of code you place on the church's web pages or an event page. When a visitor goes to a page after viewing an ad, it will appear on the ad manager as a traced conversion.

Another approach is to ask new visitors to the church or the church's website if they saw the ad. Add a section on the connection card to allow visitors to say how they found the church or learned about an event and list Facebook ads as one of the options.

Tips for Ad Success

Creating Facebook ads that get attention takes some practice. Here are some tips to help get you there.

1. Make ads visual

Imagery is everything in social media. Visual content is by far the most engaging, so the ad should have some kind of graphic. It can be an illustration that gets a laugh, a picture of people in the church worshiping and enjoying fellowship or a profile picture spotlighting a leadership member. You can use symbolism, too, such as a crowd singing for a concert event or a cross for Easter celebration.

Use videos for a more personal touch. A video of the church leader talking about a near and dear subject or a parishioner getting excited about an event will bring the ad down to a more intimate level.

2. Look at other church ads

Look at the ads from other churches for inspiration. You can checkout larger regional congregations and look at small churches in your area, too.

3. Keep it short and sweet

You want the audience to connect with a glance, so make the message clear in just a few compelling words. As a general rule, Facebook insists the ad has less than 20 percent text. Remember, online ads are a visual medium.

4. Test multiple designs

Don’t create one ad, create at least four for the same event or topic and run them all. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Swap out images or use different fonts and wording. The goal is to see what design pops best, so you learn more about your audience.

5. Add a brief call to action (CTA)

A CTA is an encouragement to make contact with a link such as:

  • Click to learn more about Paster Bob
  • Subscribe to our church newsletter
  • Find out about our next service

CTAS give the reader a sense of balance.

Facebook wants churches to take advantage of their community pages and groups but they have limited reach by design. It’s necessary to invest in their paid marketing to reach through those limitations to find others that might be looking for fellowship.

how to write a sermon

How to Write a Sermon: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide

By | Resources

Delivering a sermon, especially if you have never done it before, can feel daunting. Of course, speaking in front of a congregation (or any public speaking) scary. However, it can also feel like there is added pressure during a sermon. That's because you're being called to deliver words that are relevant, meaningful, profound—but also engaging. If you are new to sermon-writing, but you are planning to give a talk to a congregation soon, the following guide may help. The easy step-by-step instructions can help break down and simplify the process of writing a sermon. Follow them, get your talk written, then practice your delivery. In no time you'll be used to delivering words that move congregants and teach important lessons.

Get to Know the Passage You'll Be Focusing Your Sermon On

Once you know what passage your sermon will be on, get to know that passage well. Spend some time sitting with the passage, reading it both to yourself and out loud. Reading the passage silently and aloud can help you get familiar with it, internalize it, and understand what it means to you. Don't just spend time with the passage, though. You may consider reading the entire book of the Bible that the passage comes from. That way you can fully understand its context and its greater meaning in the larger arc of the Bible.

Do Some Outside Reading

Once you have explored the passage yourself, see what other thinkers and experts have to say about it. There are lots of places to find Biblical commentary to inform your sermon. You can rely on resources like books, publications like Christianity Today, or even other ministers you have access to. Getting other people's perspectives on the meaning of the passage can flesh yours out and make it richer.

Think About the Congregation or Audience

Think about who you are going to be delivering your sermon to. It's important to think about who will be taking in your words when you choose the angle of your sermon. After all, preaching to a youth group will be a very different experience than delivering a sermon to the entire congregation. Think about the knowledge level of your listeners, as well as their life experience. Also consider what types of topics and stories keep them engaged, and what lessons are most important for them to take away from the sermon. This will help you frame the message in your sermon and make sure you're choosing the right tone and language as you write.

Make Connections Between Life Today and the Passage

One of the keys to a sermon that moves is connecting its content or message to life today. While written in Biblical times, the Bible's words still serve to guide our lives and behavior today. Try writing a list of scenarios in the modern world to which the passage could apply, or takeaways that make sense in the context of today. This is one of the most important parts of the sermon writing process. It's what makes listening to the sermon meaningful for congregants.

Create the Sermon's Frame and Outline

Once you know what you're going to focus on within the talk (what the takeaway or main idea or lesson is), start working to frame the sermon. While sermons can take on many forms, they should each do three things: explain the passage, show it means in the world today, and then explain its lesson. Ryan Huguley, speaker, podcast host, and lead pastor at Ridgeline Church in Salt Lake City Utah, explains how he frames every sermon he gives to his church: “My outline changes week to week, but with each point I preach I’m seeking to do the same three things: 1) Interpretation 2) Illustration ( 3) Implication – explain what the text is saying, illustrate for clarity, and bring the text to bear on our lives. For me, this is the most difficult step. Once I have this in place the rest is merely discipline.”

Write!

Now is the most tedious part of writing your sermon: writing it. If you've framed and outlined before, this process shouldn't be too difficult. Give some meat to the bones of the sermon, then edit what you've got. Type your sermon out, then print it and practice reading it. Where you stumble or feel unsure when you read it aloud, go back and edit. Once you've read it and edited it, you're ready to deliver it.

Practice Delivering the Sermon

Print your sermon out on note cards. Then, practice reading it as if you were delivering it in church. You can reference your note cards if you need. While you practice delivering it, make notes on the sermon to help you remember things. For example, if you want to emphasize a certain word or phrase, highlight. Or, if you want to do a physical gesture while you speak, notate that in the sermon.

Consider Memorizing the Sermon

You may want to try to commit the sermon to memory. Practice reading the cards over and over and it will help you to commit it to memory as if it is the text of a script for a play. If you are not feeling confident when it comes time to deliver the sermon, you can bring the notecards with you. Try to reference them from time to time as needed, rather than just reading from them.

Deliver the Sermon

If you've followed the steps above, there's a good chance you have prepared an excellent sermon to deliver to your congregation. Once you've practiced it and familiarized yourself with the content and words, you'll be ready to deliver it with confidence and poise. Luckily, the process of writing a sermon is a formula that you can follow again and again. So, once you have written and delivered one, you know how to write another. Which means you can write and give sermons whenever offered the opportunity.

Church Security Plan

Church Security Plan: 10 Easy Ways to Create a Safer Church This Sunday

By | Resources

Preparation is the Best Church Security Plan

In this day and age, we can’t take our church security for granted. Preparation will be our best form of defense against any kind of attacks. Proper management and clear communication is the only way to create the best church security plan. Here are ten steps you can take today towards a safer church atmosphere.

1.      Have People Know Their Assigned Roles Beforehand

Identify trained professionals in your church and ask who would like to be on call for security roles. Even before an emergency, everyone should know who is responsible for which role: Some key important ones to define are:

·      Media representatives and spokespersons—Who is talking to the public and media if a security threat arises at national or even international level?

·      Child Care Staff—When an emergency strikes, the children must be the first ones protected.

·      Medical Roles—Who calls 911? Do you have any trained nurses and doctors in your congregation? They may need to be called on for life-and-death situations.

·      Security staff—do you have any police, military, or firemen in your fellowship? They could be of great service during a desperate time.

2.     Run Background Checks on all members and volunteers

Church events, gatherings, and especially outreach projects require a lot of hands-on help. You will be dealing with volunteers you haven’t known before. Make sure there is a background security check in place. This could be by a simple digital platform, a Facebook Group, or just simple forms. People should be registered and their details noted before engaging in any church activities.

Besides being a proper security protocol, background checks also make everyone involved feel safer and more at peace. Isn’t that an important goal to have when welcoming folks to church?

3.     Develop emergency scripts to be read during services when needed

Remember that your congregation is already looking to the pastor for guidance. No doubt, he or she will be their first source of stability in an emergency. If that emergency occurs during a meeting or service, how well-prepared are your pastors to handle it? It’s natural to expect that there will be an instant shock, and they may be at loss for words. This is when a scripted text could indeed save lives.

The ideal emergency script your pastoral team can prepare should do these main things:

·      Convey the urgency

·      Assuage panic or fear

·      Communicate the best safety measures to take immediately

·      Guide people on what physical steps to take, which rooms or exits to go, etc.

4.     Invest in tools for communication

Two-way radios can be useful where there is no good cellphone signal. If internet is available, you can consider having a Twitter Account or social networks where people can post messages in an emergency, or relay information. Just be sure that this information is also limited to those who can be responsible for spreading proper communication without unnecessary fear or angst.

5.     Always have security cameras installed

Besides two-way radios, you need to be able to detect movement later, after the event of an emergency. Documenting all of this through recorded cameras will also guard you and your church in any legal issues. You will be able to claim legal protection in the case of disputes. Make sure you already have security cameras installed, and that they are working and functioning during all services.

6.     Consider the position of your pastor’s pulpit

Included in the church security plan should be the layout and design of both pastor and congregations’ positions. It’s recommended that pulpits face both the crowds and exit doors. Rather than having the stage or pulpit in the middle of a building, consider positioning them to the side, near an exit or escape room.

7.      Make sure everyone knows exit points

This may be a given, but don’t take it for granted. It’s okay to practice emergency exits just as you would set aside a day in the community to practice fire drills. This gives people the information they need in case of an emergency. If you are putting on any kind of theatrical show and dimming lights, ensure that the exit doors are still lit; that everyone knows where to locate them.

8.     Communicate, Discuss, Develop

Church leadership must always be seeking ways to improve the quality of life for their flock—this extends beyond just spiritual guidance. It includes being open to discussions on physical safety, security, and realistic threats to a church and its members. These are difficult conversations at times, but the day may come when you’ll be grateful there was openness and frankness within your church departments.

9.     Be on the lookout for other sources of disruption

Remember that security issues aren’t limited to the usual ones we hear of in the media: shootings or protests, for example. “Terrorism” is often a blanket-statement used, and one that instills more fear than faith within your congregation.

Where do other more common security issues come from? It can be anywhere, from domestic situations, to mental health issues amongst the youth in your church community, to child custody and legal battles between parents. It’s essential that church leaders don’t overlook these problems.

10.  Don’t forget your joy

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad,” wrote King David. “Let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”(—Psalms 5:11)

We know that King David’s life was in constant danger. But he realized the importance of carrying a spirit of faith and trust in God. Leaders must set the example of strength even during dangerous times. Having a good plan in place will only work if you continue to inspire and uplift your church members. Create a sense of peace and an attitude of joy, and when they come to you for counsel and guidance, they will find it.

Make your church the place to be in times of joy, in times of despair, in times of loneliness, and even times of looming terror. Make it the safe haven where people know they are loved, accepted, and held with support every day of the year.

 

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