A Statement of Solidarity in the Fight for Racial Justice

At aware3, we stand in solidarity with the Black community because Black Lives Matter. We are using our voice to pursue racial justice so that we can truly be All Together Now, as our tagline states. We will not get it perfect, but we choose to not be silent. Hearing the voices of the Black community, including our colleagues, customers, and industry leaders, is our first step. We are taking the posture of listening and educating ourselves.

Additionally, financial support builds momentum. Aware3 is donating to Thelma’s Kitchen, an organization that spearheads reconciliation work in our Kansas City community. Many of our employees have also personally given to organizations such as Color of Change, Movement Voter Project, and Showing Up for Racial Justice. We are matching each of their donations. While we understand it is just one drop in the bucket, our team is committed to doing our part.

Ultimately, we believe transformation happens at a local level. Entering a career in technology, communications, and/or the nonprofit sector is contingent upon exposure and accessibility to these industries. We have a responsibility to create space in our industry for Black dreamers, developers, and communicators to join in building technology that grows communities. We are beginning the work of carrying our weight thoughtfully.

Let’s commit to running the race. The work of antiracism and the pursuit of justice are the only way to, one day, celebrate being All Together Now. 

With great hope,

aware3

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20+ awesome FREE church resources

You and your team work hard to be good stewards of church resources, and in times of crisis, those resources may be extra tight. To help make those dollars and hours go further, we’ve put together a list of free church resources. From video services to free graphics and educational content, we hope you find something helpful here.

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Free Resources

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Streaming & Video Services:

Record sermons, messages to your congregants, or even a “Live concert” for everyone to view.

Plus with these sites, you don’t have to pay for storage or streaming like you would with other sites.

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Group Chat:

Staying connected to friends, small groups, and fellow church staff is so important right now. Thankfully, video conferencing lets us do that from wherever we are. These sites are our favorites because they’re reliable, free, and easy to use:

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Events & Calendars:

We love Google Calendar because it makes it easier to manage your time and schedule events.

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Websites & Graphics:

Here, you can easily create a beautiful website for free. They offer hundreds of customizable templates and the option to personalize your domain.

Canva lets you design just about anything. Social media posts, flyers, videos, blog banners and even zoom virtual backgrounds 😎Plus, it’s super user-friendly.

This is “free media for churches by churches.” That includes backgrounds, logos & graphics, videos, and so much more.

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Bible:

You can do a lot with this virtual bible–add bookmarks & notes, highlight, share Bible verses, and even compare bible versions.

Bible Gateway gives you plenty of ways to read or hear the Bible and helps you track your Bible study.

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Worship & Entertainment:

Podcasts are a great resource for church leadership, staff, and members. With a huge range of speakers and topics, they’re an awesome source of education and inspiration.

Spotify has tons of curated Worships playlists, which can be a real time saver. If you have a specific set of songs you’re looking for, you can create a custom playlist as well.

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Kids ministry:

We don’t want to leave the kiddos out! Find coloring pages, crossword puzzles, activities, and more here.

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Blogs from church leaders:

Complete with many free resources of their own, this site aims to “assist churches and ministry leaders as they prepare for and respond to the effects of the Coronavirus in their congregations and communities.”

Christian Pastors throughout the U.S. share how they are navigating COVID-19.

Communication is especially critical right now.  Executive Pastor Kevin Stone shares his six-part plan for improving communication.

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Guides & One-sheeters

To help you go virtual with confidence, we put together a list of recommended elements and resources to include when creating your virtual church. Plus, some tips and tricks to go with them.

For this season and beyond, we dive into the 5 must-have tools your church needs to successfully market, manage, and engage.

Get a deeper perspective on engagement and learn how to truly live engagement at your church. Note: While some of the items in this guide aren’t physically possible right now, the deeper message still rings true. 

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Webinars:

An open and honest discussion about COVID-19’s impact on the church and how to make virtual church a reality.

Our team walks through how your church can navigate digital giving during this time.

This live demo will show you how to connect your community during this time of virtual church.

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Miscellaneous

A number of brands are offering their services free (or discounted) in response to COVID-19. Here’s a list of some other resources that may be helpful to you or members of your congregation:

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Conclusion

We hope these resources help fill a need at your church and make your resources go a little bit further. If there’s anything we can do to support you during this time or if you have any questions, we’d love to chat with you.

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What Does Giving Look Like Beyond Church Walls?

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Giving will look a little different this year.

Even though we can’t physically pass the giving plate to one another right now, we can still continue to live generously. With virtual church and giving tools, faith communities can provide their congregations with a “digital giving plate.” This allows people to generously participate in the offering, outreach initiatives, missions, and more —anytime, anywhere.

While this isn’t a replacement for real-world interactions (and we wouldn’t want it to be!), it is a powerful way to knock down the barriers to giving you’re currently facing. You can create a clear, secure path to giving by equipping your members with easy-to-use digital giving tools.

So, what are these easy-to-use tools? Below are several giving tools that our church partners have added to their giving strategies:

Donation Web Page (for desktop and mobile) – Connect your congregation to your story and make giving easy with a branded, mobile-responsive page that can be shared across the net from your website to email to social media.

Text-to-give – Donors simply text “Give” to your dedicated number, input the amount, and bam! Gift sent.

In-app Giving – Donors can easily give and manage their donations from anywhere, anytime.

Registration Forms with Payments – Collect payments through aware3 forms for things like fundraisers, missions, and other purchases.

Pledge Management – Give your donors the opportunity to commit to a series of gifts over time with Pledges.

Recurring Giving – Make giving easy for your busy donors by allowing them to automatically gift on a recurring basis.

Email + Text Receipts – Save time and personalize the donor experience with automatically generated email and text receipts.

Crowdfunding – Raise money for specific needs with dedicated giving pages.

Admin Donation Entry (for credit card, check, and cash) – Easily log donations received offline.

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That’s a lot of info. Here are a few follow-up questions you may have:

Q: Is my church required to have an aware3 app in order to use aware3-powered giving?

A: Nope! We believe giving is fundamental to all organizations, so our giving platform is available regardless of whether you’re interested in a mobile app.

Q: How will this increase my giving?

A: On average, our church partners using digital giving for the first time see a 31% increase in their total giving. Church partners who switch from other giving providers increase their total online giving by at least 5%. Recurring giving, accessibility, and ease of use make more engaged givers. People fueled by generosity in their lives feel more fulfilled and have a greater positive connection to their faith and community.

Q: How secure is your giving platform?

A: All financial-related data is encrypted and stored by our payment gateway, PaymentSpring. PaymentSpring has earned the highest level of PCI compliance, Level 1. Level 1 PCI compliance is a set of rules stated by credit card companies and audited by an independent third party. Additionally, all transmission to our banking partner and on our site is via an encrypted SSL connection. No financial information is stored on our servers or yours.

Q: I have an existing giving provider. Do you have any best practices about making the switch?

A: We’re glad you asked! Check out this one-page guide with our tips and recommendations.

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How do you get started?

The first step is contacting our expert giving team to get the ball rolling. They’ll get you started with a merchant application and establish a relationship with our processor, PaymentSpring. Once you fill out and submit your merchant application, the process takes 3-5 business days.

We know we can’t alleviate all your stress during this difficult time, but we’re doing our best to help anywhere we can—That’s why we’re making our multi-channel giving solution free for the first two months.

If there’s anything else we can do to support you during this time or if you have any questions, please reach out to us.

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Go virtual with confidence. How to quickly bring your virtual church to life in the midst of coronavirus.

Navigating Church & COVID-19

Day-to-day life has changed almost overnight and there’s a new “normal” for pretty much every aspect of our daily lives, especially for churches. With the uncertainty that the Coronavirus has brought to our world, faith communities are navigating the changing face of church. As more and more people look to the church for hope and comfort, church leaders are searching for new, creative ways to support, connect, and minister to those people.

Thankfully, worship services, small groups and other church gatherings are no longer limited to physical places. Now, more than ever, churches are utilizing technology for “virtual church.” From live streaming sermons to passing a digital offering plate to app-facilitated good works, virtual church allows your community to connect, communicate, and keep moving forward even in the midst of crisis and chaos.

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Create a church home away from home.

When shifting from a physical setting to a digital structure, it’s important to have one place to house all the elements of your virtual church. You can take out the guesswork for members and staff by establishing a “go-to” space for all your information and content—an app is a great example. Here’s a list of recommended elements and resources to include when creating your virtual church:

COVID-19 Updates

Everyone feels and functions better when they’re in the loop. Push notifications and text messages are a great way to get people the info they need anytime, anywhere.

Live stream of your service

In an effort to keep people safe and healthy, many churches are shifting from traditional, in-person services to live-streaming services. That way, members can enjoy and participate in the service from the comfort of their own homes.

Recorded video

In an effort to keep people safe and healthy, many churches are shifting from traditional, in-person services to live-streaming services. That way, members can enjoy and participate in the service from the comfort of their own homes.

Worship playlist

There’s just something about music that soothes the soul—especially in times like these. Share your favorite worship playlist with your members.

Fun Tip: Have a band member perform a “mini concert” with live stream or recorded video.

Podcast

A friendly, familiar voice goes a long way. Use a podcast to share updates and extend your message beyond Sunday as well as offer comfort to your members during the week.

Prayer request

Many have fallen on hard times—physically, mentally, financially and otherwise. Allow your members to submit prayer requests to be shared throughout the congregation.

Volunteer forms

Even though we are in a time of social distancing, members can still do their part from afar. Forms are an accessible and effective way to keep your church volunteer program going strong.

Online giving/virtual offering plate

A lot of things are put on pause right now, but generosity shouldn’t be one of them. Ensure your members have an easy way to give from any location.

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Connect + Communicate

With the state of the world changing daily and even hourly, real-time communication tools keep your community informed and engaged. Where can people find up-to-date information? How can they participate in church services and initiatives during this time? The right tools will help you answer questions and manage all the change.

We don’t want anyone feeling disconnected or in the dark. Having connection features like member directories and chat, encourage people to reach out to each other, say hi, or lend a hand. Communication tools like push and text messages help get the right message to the right members at the right time. Check out a few push and text message examples we’ve seen from our awesome church partners:

  •  “The church and COVID-19 preparedness. Open the app for details.
  • Friendly reminder that we will be gathering virtually for church this Sunday. Join us online to watch & worship with us!
  • Learn about our Facebook & YouTube Live worship service @ 9:45 am tomorrow. Tap the event in our app calendar. Invite a friend!”
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Adapting to virtual church is no easy feat. We’re here for you.

This is a strange and difficult time for all of us. We understand that during these trying times resources may be tight and stress high. To help your church navigate the upcoming weeks, our team has come together to provide 2 free months of tech solutions. If there’s anything else we can do to help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Know that Aware3 is here to help you day by day, every step of the way.

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A tech CEO’s 5 predictions about the future of church and tech

Will this be the decade when tech actually begins to serve the church?

Joe and I started aware3 in the Fall of 2013. Our first church app was for my church here in Kansas City. As a regular attendee at my church with my wife and newborn son, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated. I could never find the right information at the right time, the giving options were dated, paper bulletins were being printed and thrown away, lots of missed communications, and so on. We felt like there had to be a better way and we wanted to help. Our only intentions were to help my local church grow—We had no idea that in time, we’d be helping churches all over the country.

 

 

Over the years our vision has grown. Today, our Platform serves over 2,500 churches, schools and nonprofits across the US. We’ve seen firsthand the incredible things technology can do for the Church, but we’re far from done. We’re obsessed with finding new ways to bring people together and make an even bigger difference.

It’s no secret that technology has connected us like never before. Churches can reach people in ways we never imagined just a few short years ago. However, there has to be a balance as technology can quickly become overwhelming for both church staff and members. Just like the old adage says, more isn’t always better. Every day, there’s a hot, new app or service. To keep your church relevant, you may feel pressure to keep up with it all.

Even worse, we’ve seen online profiles and social media feeds being positioned as a replacement for real-world relationships and physical community gathering places. We believe real-world interactions and relationships are critical to the future of the Church and society as a whole. It’s clear what impact this “tech only” approach has had on our society, and it’s not for the better. Technology should be used to encourage, not replace real-world relationships.

We don’t see our tech as the destination. We see it as a bridge—connecting people to the tools and communications they need, encouraging them to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and ultimately driving them into the real world to serve and participate in meaningful relationships.

These are just a few of the reasons why our vision for aware3 has continued to grow over the years. We deeply believe in the power and importance of churches in our local communities. And while I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, I do spend a lot of my time thinking about where technology is headed and how/if it will impact the Church. As we begin our next decade, below are 5 important “church tech” themes that I believe will shape and transform how you engage with your members:

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#1 Churches will have fewer online tools & services.

The last decade was all about new online tools. An app or online service has been invented for just about every facet of the church experience, from giving, to texting, to video, to worship planning. Lots of new interesting things were created, but again, more is not always better. Many churches have their staff spending too much time managing tools and the mission is being left behind. They are burning out and to top it all off, the members (who they are trying to serve) are still frustrated and confused. Church data is often scattered all over the place, so understanding what is and isn’t working is a nearly impossible task.

We’ve already seen some consolidation over the past few years, but that trend will accelerate. Churches want to do more with less. They are looking for a holistic, centralized & accurate view of their members’ activities; everything from attendance, to giving, to serving and beyond.

 

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#2 Churches will “cut the cord” with their Church Management System (ChMS).

Growing up prior to the internet, my family relied on cable TV. In general, it worked. It was certainly better than the alternative of rabbit ears, but it felt like my Mom and Dad were always complaining about paying for channels we didn’t use, broken cable boxes, rigid programming, and too many commercials. In general, we paid for a service that we tolerated but were left wishing for something better.

Then, along came the internet and with it a host of new streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. These models have flipped the cable TV market upside down. Most families I know have already “cut the cord” and moved onto more accessible, personalized, and right-sized options as streaming-only households.

Over the next decade, we’re going to see something similar happen with Church Management Systems. There is no debate that Church Management Systems (ChMS’s) have played a key role in the “church tech” scene over the past decade. They were foundational in getting us to where we are today. Unfortunately, when we ask church staff if they like their ChMS, more often than not, we’re met with eye-rolling and deep sighs.

Even worse, many churches we talk to feel locked-in and beholden to their “database” because “they have all our data.” No one should feel like a prisoner to a tool or service they pay for. Some ChMS’s have seen the writing on the wall and have attempted to reposition themselves as a member engagement solution, but that isn’t reality. The reality is that a ChMS is a back-office database for church staff. It has left us all asking, where is a Netflix-like response to the ChMS market? 

The path forward is moving away from stagnate admin-managed databases to more dynamic engagement-led models. Engagement platforms make it virtually effortless for your members to actually participate in their church with easy access to small groups, volunteer opportunities, registrations, class sign-ups, daily devotionals, and more. The important part is that this access is a mobile-led experience where any time of day, anywhere, members are able to engage in your mission. 

We are wearing rose-colored glasses if we think church engagement is measured by Sunday Attendance or Giving dollars only. I know it’s the easiest thing to measure for the ChMS model, but that won’t be the case for much longer. The future holds access to more data, more knowledge and more of a real-time understanding of the health of your church.

Over the course of the next decade, traditional Church Management Systems will give way to emerging engagement platforms that will provide more accurate & complete member data and offer a real-time view into the health of your church. These platforms will afford church leaders the ability to leverage data to provide members with a personalized experience that drives deeper engagement.

 

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#3 Data will spur growth for local churches.

A one-size-fits-all spray-and-pray approach will no longer work for your church. People expect a personalized experience when it comes to the technology they interact with daily. Just like your Amazon account presents you with other products you may “like”, or Netflix recommends content based on your history, people expect technology to make their lives easier and more personalized. 

Data analytics are no longer just for big companies like Amazon and Netflix. Churches must embrace this new approach. With these new engagement platforms, churches will be armed with a real-time, 360-degree view of their membership and have the ability to get more targeted and more personal with each and every person that walks through their doors.

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#4 Churches will be expected to offer a personalized, always-available member experience.

The ability to make real-time suggestions like small groups or volunteer opportunities based on a member’s tech habits, interests, and location will create more engaged members. When members feel heard and valued in all interactions both physical and digital, they are more likely to be spiritually committed, form strong emotional connections and real-world relationships. On top of that, engaged members invite more people and give more of their time & resources. These are the people that drive everything for a church and are the disciples that the church is on a mission to make. 

I have a personal case-study that has become increasingly relevant over the last year and is helpful in understanding the engagement parallel for a church. My family and I recently joined a neighborhood community center and gym. We did a little bit of research on their website. It had an overview of classes they offer and a bit about what the experience would be like there. The website was very much built to help us decide whether or not we wanted to join.

We decided to become members and during our onboarding, we were told to download their mobile app. We soon found that it is the one-stop-shop for everything the community center offers. As time went on, the app started to learn the classes I was checking into and events I was saving. It began suggesting new, interesting opportunities that matched my habits and interests. It was an extension of the community center, keeping their offerings and my gym attendance top-of-mind— we all know keeping up that routine is tough!

I am also able to receive personalized communications for the things that matter to my family. My 7-year-old son loves hitting up the swimming pool in the summertime. Our app keeps us plugged into weather-related delays, openings, and closures, which has become very handy. It’s easy to see how something like this translates to the church experience.

 

 

As the age of mobile continues to transform, connectivity will be increasingly more nuanced and personal. The internet of things or IoT is a prime example. IoT can power all of the experiences in our lives right from our phones: home, gym, driving, banking, grocery shopping and so much more. Why shouldn’t the church be powered by the all-in-one tool in our pockets? Why shouldn’t each member get to have a personalized experience with their faith community? The answer is they absolutely should.

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#5 Online giving innovation will accelerate.

With the world seeking more personalized engagement experiences, we will see innovation around online giving rapidly accelerate. I believe Online Giving will accelerate the most for churches. Even now it’s no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. It’s important to have an online giving provider that covers not only your website, but mobile giving, texting and more. Again, because that’s where personalization comes in. People expect to be able to give how and where they feel compelled. If those needs aren’t met, the church misses a generous opportunity. 

As online giving technology evolves, innovative technologies will make it easier than ever for people to give anytime, anywhere. Think about apps like Venmo, Cash and even Apple Pay. Not only must churches meet people where they are in moments of generosity, but they’ve got to diversify the kinds of giving calls to action they have. Some people may feel inspired to give on a recurring basis because they love the ease and accessibility of setting it and forgetting it. Others would rather give to something more personal and actionable like a crowdfunding campaign for a mission trip or service project. We can’t box generosity into an offering plate on Sunday morning or a single button on a website (mostly used by newcomers). Churches must be ready to meet their donors where they are.

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Final thoughts

Our church partners have big hearts and big missions but are short on time and budgets. Pastors and church staff don’t have time to manage three, four, or five different platforms that each serve one specific purpose—and they don’t want their data all over the place. They need a tool powered by data and expertise that will help them know where to engage their members.

And speaking of members, they’re changing too. Millennials are now the biggest demographic. Their expectations and needs are different than the generations before them. And while there are challenges associated with that, there’s also opportunity. They want to be a part of and actively contribute to something bigger than themselves, we just have to connect with them in a new way that is always-available, personalized, and leverages data to deepen their engagement.

Only time will tell if I’m right or wrong with my predictions for the next decade, but what I think we can all agree on is that the Church must define and embrace a healthy relationship with technology. When used properly, it can strengthen your church, advance your mission, and help your members create real-world relationships.

On a personal note, I am so excited for this next chapter. I’m excited to see how we can strengthen the Church through technology together. I’m excited to take some big steps with you that can help the Church reverse a decade of decline. We have some big things in the works here at aware3 that I can’t wait to share with you. Stay tuned.

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Powering Conference Engagement: An inside look at Classic City Conference from Pastor J. Ricardo Smith

Last month, we had the pleasure of helping Pastor J. Ricardo Smith and team power their app for the Classic City Conference in Athens, Georgia.

The conference themed, “Re:Vision 2020: clarity for church, culture, and community”, aimed to bring resources and relationships to the Athens area as a way to encourage pastors and leaders, strengthen their churches, shift culture, and impact their communities.

This was a vision we loved backing, as we ourselves aim to help churches leverage technology to strengthen their communities. Providing sponsorship and partnership to community conferences like these is core to our mission.

We recently had a conversation with Pastor Ricardo and team reflecting on what this partnership meant to them:

“Classic City Conference is geared more towards senior pastors and their core leadership that serve in their respective churches. We bring in an array of resources so these pastors can thrive in their ministry in the 21st century. Aware3 took care of all of our mobile app needs for the conference and it was an amazing partnership that we were excited about.”

Ricardo went on to say that he chose aware3 over the other options out there because of aware3’s commitment to church and community and that he hoped the app could help solve challenges they were facing with Communication and Engagement beyond the conference.

“Aware3 is a company that totally gets the local church and faith community. They are equipped with an array of experts who are well-informed, high-spirited, and will work tirelessly to help your vision come to life through technology.

– Pastor, J. Ricardo Smith

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We asked Pastor Ricardo what the best part about the conference app was. He said, “Having all of the conference info at our fingertips and getting churches in this area to embrace technology. We had college students all the way to our retired volunteers. Some of our older attendees really enjoyed having that access on their phones. It was an amazing group of people.

Also, real-time push notifications, alerts, and being able to have notifications at the fingertips of our attendees. If there were any updates that needed to go out, the communication was right there. We had classes that needed to be moved and off-site activities, so being able to send out those updates and keeping people engaged was amazing. As a conference planner, being able to have something where we could communicate a minor change helped us greatly. 

I’m a pastor in my 30s—I’m a millennial pastor. So, I understand that technology is important for a conference to be cutting edge. Aware3 understands communication and our wants and needs.”

Ricardo also mentioned how positive the app was for his attendees. “Nobody had a single complaint from the app. It was positive all throughout, and I feel it will continue,” he said.

The app improved engagement and process at the conference through the use of push notifications and messages—enabling easy classroom and speaker updates. They are excited to do more with registration and to leverage the app to engage attendees and sponsors on a whole new level next year. 

We were thrilled to hear that Ricardo and team thought working with aware3 was “Absolutely amazing.” Ricardo shared that one of this team members, Nicole, expressed how friendly things were for her as well. “If there was anything she was unfamiliar with, she could contact your team for help.”

Rounding out our conversation, Ricardo shared these final thoughts with us, “[we were] overjoyed that we were able to connect, meet, and really make an impact on our attendees. To be able to partner with a company who fully understands our mission, it was the perfect match. Thanks to you, thanks to Tony, thanks to everyone who helped out throughout this entire process. Excited to see what this partnership looks like moving forward.” 

And, a huge thanks to Pastor Ricardo and team from all of us at aware3! The feeling is absolutely mutual. 

We are truly blessed to get to work with such dedicated teams, pastors, and at conferences like Classic City with Pastor Ricardo. We’re blown away by all of you who work tirelessly to bring your unique missions to life to better your community. It’s really what we at aware3 are all about and why we do what we do every day. 

We genuinely believe that what you are doing makes a difference. Whether it’s engagement at your church or a conference, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Curious about how you can take your conference or church engagement to the next level? Let’s chat!

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How to transform your church this year.

“Congregations with engaged members are spiritually healthier, are better able to carry out their missions, attract more new people, are better able to fund new ventures, and have a higher percentage of spiritually committed individuals.” -Albert Winseman, “Growing an Engaged Church”

Who doesn’t want a congregation that looks like that? Engaged members are the lifeblood of their churches and move congregations forward. That’s why we’re encouraging you to make engagement a resolution in 2020. Whether 5% or 50% of your members are actively engaged, you have a tremendous opportunity at your church. Every non-engaged person you engage, every person you simply engage on a deeper level will make your church stronger, healthier, and more impactful.

To help make your resolution a reality, we’ve pulled together our most transformative tips and resources along with plenty of inspiration.

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Don’t make your members guess what it means to be an engaged member of your church, tell them. We believe that the best way to take a person from first-time visitor to engaged member is with an engagement strategy that clearly communicates expectations and makes it easy for them to engage with things like:

  1. New member classes
  2. Available volunteer opportunities
  3. Small groups
  4. Church events
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Visitors and members alike need a clear path to get involved as well as an easy way to take those next steps. Your branded church app is a game-changer here. We like to think of your app as a bridge that guides your members and future members to everything they need at your church. Visitors come in? Have them fill out a digital connect card. Once they download the app, they can explore all your church as to offer with any barriers or frustrating logins.

All members can use the app to volunteer, connect with small groups, see events, give and so much more. If you want people to engage with something at your church, make sure you have a button for it!

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As your members continue along on their engagement journey, one of your goals should be to help them find opportunities that fit their strengths and interests. Your church engagement strategy should take personal interests into account and communicate opportunities in real-time. Have members fill out a profile and select their interests to get linked with the right opportunities.

“Engaged members who are serving in the roles they love do not get burned out. They only get stronger and more energized.” -Albert L. Winseman (Growing an Engaged Church)

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Deep connections at church are the foundation for creating & keeping engaged members. The best place for your members to build those relationships is through Small Group Ministry. Promoting small groups both verbally and electronically is critical. Help them discover and jump into a small group. 

These groups give members a chance to grow in their faith and go beyond surface-level interactions.

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Send a survey using aware3 forms to get feedback from your members. Are they confused about anything? Do they have questions? On top of that, you can leverage your user data to see what’s resonating and what’s not. What resources or sermons got a lot of activity? What time of day do your members engage with you?

Use the feedback to continue progressing or try a new direction. Engagement isn’t a straight line, it’s a journey so be sure to consistently check-in with your staff and congregants and pivot when necessary.

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What works in their church:
A little inspiration from fellow church leaders.

“[At the beginning of service] We will prompt people to fill out a communication card. At that point, we will also reference our mobile app–here’s how you download it etc. Then, via the mobile app, there is a connect card as well (think of it as an electronic communication card). Thanks to the ability of aware’s app to interface with our church management software, that button leads to a form in our CHMS and then that flags the right pastor on our staff to then follow-up with that first-time person. That’s been a huge for us. We get a significant amount of interest electronically. In fact, in some cases more than the actual piece of paper that’s in the program. That leads to follow-up and further engagement like getting invited to Starting Point or an upcoming retreat.

We have a number of other buttons as well. There’s “groups” with a whole list of all of our groups. They can click on a button to email that group leader right then and there. There have been a number of people who get engaged in our small groups via the app. There’s a prayer button so they can click right there and then that flags another pastor about that prayer request.

Every single button (with maybe one or two exceptions like our map etc.) is some form of engagement in our church, including giving.”

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“If a member happens to be out of town for Sunday, they still have the ability to hear the sermon and to know what’s going on. Nothing is going to take the place of being in sermon and being present during worship, that’s what God calls us to do. But during the week our members will have family groups and in some of those family groups the leaders will take time to say let’s discuss the sermon and so if someone’s going to be gone or out of town, you can still stay on track and keep up with the rest of your group.”

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“We noticed that emails are really good for creating awareness but they’re not a very timely thing. People have gotten in the habit of checking our emails maybe once a week, so if you’re depending on that to move people to action, it just doesn’t seem to help a whole lot.

A lot of times it’s the day before, like you may need to register your kids for camp or something, so having a push notification that they can click on and it immediately take them to the registration link is much more effective. It cuts down on so much work and provides a real service for the people within our church. They can say, “Yes, I got it. Boom, click. That was easy.”

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You got this!

We believe in the power of your community and the critical role engagement plays in that. We’re 1000% committed to helping you reach your engagement resolution. With the right resources and a solid engagement plan, 2020 will be your best year yet!

For more ways to fuel engagement this year, visit us at aware3.com or set up a discovery call

We think you’ll love these engagement resources too:

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A Church Communications Director’s honest review

Church Communications Directors know their stuff. They’re responsible for planning, organizing, communicating, brand advocating, and so much more. And when it comes to a church’s app, they run the show. That’s why we were so excited to chat with Kathy Rosario, Rockstar Communications Director at Gateway City Church. Here’s what she had to say about her aware3 experience:

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your church, and your role.

A: My name is Kathy Rosario. I am a Communications Director for Gateway City Church, which is a fancy way of saying I’m an administrator. Our church is roughly about 330 people and my job is to oversee the day-to-day as far as member management and keeping our members informed of upcoming events and announcements, things like that.

What’s the best part of having an app for your church?

A: Well, it simplifies a lot of the communications for us. It’s become a one-stop-shop for what we need as far as a place for members to go to get caught up and things. We use the app for sermons, for contributions in giving, for stage announcements. We have an archive of our weekly emails on there, our member directory is accessible through there, and there are a few other things that we also use it for.

More recently, we’ve been using it for temporary events. We’ve been creating special buttons for things like large multi-church events that we’ve had so that our members have a place to go to access information about where classes are at a conference or things like that. Those buttons come up and they come down, usually over the span of a weekend, but our members have found that to be really helpful. It’s something that they can take with them and it’s one less piece of paper. I’m all about saving the trees!

What challenges has the app helped you solve?

A: It’s given us a center for communications. So, rather than saying, “well, go here to read this email or go to our website for this or talk to your Bible talk Leader about that” It gives you one place where you can find all the information that you need for upcoming events and things.

Also, it’s been helpful in terms of our giving. From talking to our financial director, he told me that the giving alone, if we stripped away everything else the app does, that the amount that we collect through the app for contributions definitely makes it worthwhile for us to continue to use the app.

At this point, I believe that more than half of our contributions come through the app. We do have portals and we also tried text-to-give and the website as well, but far and away the one that most people tend to gravitate towards is the app. That could be because it is so easy to use. Our financial director is happy with the way that payments are processed on the backend. It makes it easy for our accounting team to reconcile when they have to do the back-office work on it.

Q: How would you explain or describe the product and what it does to a friend?

A: I would say it’s a one-stop-shop. The app allows us to have a single place to keep all of our Gateway communications and all of our take-action items for our members. Whether that’s signing up for events or contributing to a specific fund or just giving your regular contributions or listening to Sunday sermons, it makes it easy for our members to stay caught up.

If a member happens to be out of town for Sunday, they still have the ability to hear the sermon and to know what’s going on. Nothing is going to take the place of being in sermon and being present during worship, that’s what God calls us to do. But during the week our members will have family groups and in some of those family groups the leaders will take time to say let’s discuss the sermon and so if someone’s going to be gone or out of town, you can still stay on track and keep up with the rest of your group.

As far as events and announcements, rather than having to sift through and say where’s this? where’s that? The app gives you the ability to take a look and see at a glance what’s going on at Gateway. I would say it just makes things easy and convenient for us and our members.

Q: What have you learned about your church since going more digital?

A: I can tell you that when we first started using the app, and just going with electronic means, there was definitely a bit of a learning curve. It took a little while for our members to come around to using it. We’re creatures of habit and we kind of gravitate towards what we know and what’s easy.

But what we have found is that over time the app has become something that at this point if we were to take it away, people would probably be pretty upset. It’s gone from something that our members saw as a curiosity to something that we couldn’t do without at this point.

In terms of a learning curve, what I’ve I found is that you just need to allow your members time to review it and to take a look at it and be patient. There might be a little bit of training that’s involved or explaining why this is going to make things easier.

I think it’s honest and realistic to say that we will probably never hit 100 percent as far as all of our members giving online and all of our members getting their announcements through the app. There will always be that small contingency that prefers paper, prefers to write checks or give in cash and that’s fine. We will continue to have other channels to take care of those members too, but by and large, the majority (especially for our younger members), having something like our app in place is a must-have. I would say, if you have a church that is trying to attract younger generations, like 40 or below, having electronic solutions like this one are a must. I honestly don’t know that you would attract members without having something like that place.

Q: What was the most surprising part?

A: Probably that the majority of our giving is done online and just how quickly our members took to that part. And our older members have actually also embraced it now too. Once they understood how to use it and everything. It is absolutely essential for our younger members, but our older members also rely on it. I would say those who are over the age of 40, which includes myself. What’s important for that older group is for it to be simple and easy-to-use. Aware3 definitely checks all those boxes.

Q: What feedback have you gotten from your congregation?

A: It’s definitely positive. A lot of our people are depending on it now. So many of our members have embraced it and are using it regularly. It’s so much easier when you have one place you can go for everything.

Q: How has your app improved engagement at your church?

A: We’ve definitely seen an increase in terms of registrations and an increase in consistency of giving has definitely gone up since we’ve implemented the app. Those would be the biggest two things for sure.

Q: What’s the biggest aspect of our platform that we could improve on?

A: For the time being, we’re using the app as a portal and directing people over to the calendar that we have through CCB. and that for us definitely works but yeah, I would say that’s a workaround we’ve had to implement. Other than that, everything is fine.

Q: Anything else you would like to share with us?

A: The pricing is extremely reasonable. Even though we’re a smaller church, we can still look professional. We’re stewards of what’s been given to us. We are careful and very conscious of how we spend our money. Anytime we have a project, we always get three bids for it. We are always price comparing and looking for ways to get discounts because we’re trying to stretch those tithe dollars. I always think of the story about the widow’s offering, about how she always gave the 2 copper coins, because in some cases that’s actually a reality in our church. We have people that are literally living paycheck-to-paycheck or maybe on social security and they’re still tithing and they’re still giving to church. So, I take that very, very seriously when it comes to how we spend our money. I want to make sure that we’re being as efficient as possible.

I think aware3 does a really good job of offering a solution that is affordable and is well worth the cost. What we pay for it compared to what we get out of it, it is definitely a very good investment. We don’t necessarily always go with the lowest cost, but you also have to look at it in terms of value and what the company that you’re working with brings to the table. Aware3 definitely hits that sweet spot in terms of affordability and app features that make our members’ lives easier.

Thank you, Kathy!

Kathy, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. We know your honest and insightful answers will help so many others on their digital journey. We are so grateful to have church partners like you

Want to learn more? Need help getting started?
If you’d like to learn more or set up a personalized demo, we’d love to chat with you.

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A Pastor’s honest review of aware3’s all-in-one church app

Searching for the perfect church app can be stressful. From giving to communication, you have a lot of boxes to check and no time (or other resources) to waste. But with every app company claiming to be the best, how do you know which one really is the best for your church? To help you answer that question and more, we decided to step back and let our church partners do the talking.

Jeromie Jones, Executive Pastor at Momentum Church was kind enough to give us an honest and in-depth interview about his experience with the aware3 app. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your church, and your role.

A: I’m the Executive Pastor at Momentum Christian Church. If you really wanted to know what we are all about, we are a church planting church. We’ve planted 3 churches here in the San Diego area and we’ve got a 4th that we’re getting ready to plant in the first part of 2020.

I oversee basically anything that doesn’t happen on the mainstage or worship. I oversee our student and children’s ministries and our community groups, I do a lot of our discipleship and leadership development. And I oversee stuff like budgets, finance, contracts, all those really boring details that you also have to have

The church will be 11 years old here in a couple months. It was planted to reach people. San Diego is fairly unchurched. I think the statistic is about 4% attend a church service on a Sunday, so we are really committed and dedicated to changing the spiritual landscape of San Diego County.

Q: What’s the best part of having an app for your church?

A: I would say probably keeping all the different parts of our ministry connected and at people’s fingertips. For example, someone can listen to a message or one of our midweek podcasts and immediately, from our app, after listening to it be able to register for something. We talk a lot about community groups, we want people to be able to immediately join a group.

It [the app] cuts down on the “you hear about it here, but then you gotta go there stuff.” It’s just that ability to cross-pollinate from one area to another and not have ten different things that they have to keep up with or ten different things that they have to go do. It has better integrated our church as a whole.

Q: Why did you choose aware3 over the other options out there?

A: When I was researching an app, I needed something that integrated with a few other things that we were already doing. I hate maintaining separate databases–having some of your information stored here and then some of it’s stored there. We use Church Community Builder as our church management software, so when I was looking for an app, I was looking for something that already integrated in with that. When I found out aware3 did that, that was pretty much the deciding factor. It was something that I wouldn’t have to train a whole bunch of people on how to do something completely different and I wouldn’t have to worry about our giving through the app not seamlessly integrating into our system.

Q: What challenges were you facing that you hoped an app would help you solve?

A: The way culture is headed and has been trending for the last 15 or 20 years, is that everything is mobile. Asking people to go to a website to do anything is becoming less and less viable as an option. In fact, I think (we ran some statistics and looked at some stuff) about 80-85% of our website traffic are people who are new to the area and just trying to check out the church for the first time. Basically, once someone gets integrated into our church, they stop visiting the website, unless they’ve set up giving through it or something like that. We needed something to help keep regular people connected, informed, and we were just trying to cut down on the number of steps we asked people to do. If you’ve gotten used to going on Amazon and doing one-click shopping, you don’t like it when your church tells you, “ go here, fill out this form, then go here and do this.” So we were trying to cut down on the number of steps that people had to take and we were trying to keep information in one place. It’s like you find this piece of information over here and then you have to go over here to do this for your kids and then go register for that event over here. We needed something where if we talked about something or we mentioned something, there’s a one-stop-shop for all of it.

Another thing that we noticed is that emails are really good for creating awareness but they’re not a very timely thing. People have gotten in the habit of checking our emails maybe once a week, so if you’re depending on that to move people to action, it just doesn’t seem to help a whole lot. A lot of times it’s the day before, like you may need to register your kids for camp or something, so having a push notification that they can click on and it immediately take them to the registration link is much more effective. It cuts down on so much work and provides a real service for the people within our church. They can say, “Yes, I got it. Boom, click. That was easy.” We were really happy that the app was able to help solve those pain points.

Q: You mentioned registrations a few times, has that been the biggest area the app has helped with?

A: Registrations have been a big one. One of the things we use it for is for all of our community groups. A lot of our community groups are sermon based, which means whatever’s talked about on Sunday is what they study on a deeper level during the week. We’ve been able to put our sermon notes in there so that as they fill out the sermon notes, it’ll send the notes and then community group questions directly to them. Or they can just go on the app for the questions and so they don’t have to keep an extra piece of paper or go download it somewhere from another website. That’s been really big. A lot of our giving now happens through the app. So registration is a big one, but I would say those other two are an even larger use of how the app is being used–So community group guides, Sunday morning note taking, and giving.

Q: How would you explain or describe the product and what it does to a friend?

A: That’s kinda tough because it does so much. If I’m talking to someone else who is in ministry, I’d say this is a great tool to use in your church to connect people to each other, to help them take next steps, and to keep them informed of what’s happening within your church.

Q: Can you tell me about a specific person or family that your app helped get more connected to your church?

A: We have a woman that got baptized about five or six months ago. She downloaded our app and came across our leadership development podcast that we do, listened to all of that and found out about some opportunities through that. She clicked on over, registered for our women’s fall retreat. She had never been on a retreat, had no idea what it was but found it and then signed up to start serving all through the app. Just her getting the app and exploring, she’s taken two or three steps in her faith just from things she discovered there. That probably cut out four or five months of conversations and work and stuff like that–you know, saying, “ Hey have you thought about doing this or have you tried this.” Since the app was there and the different steps were already there that she could take on the app, she was able to do it at her pace, at the timing she wanted.

Q: What have you learned about your church since going more digital?

A: I think it helps you identify who the raving fans are more quickly because you can see that there’s a group of people who are consuming everything and you can also see what things are most helpful to people. We try different things, like we’ll put out a spiritual guide resource on the app and see how people interact with it. Some things we’ll put out there and it’s like, wow, people are really interacting with this. Other things, it’s like well, that helped those six people but nobody else seemed interested.

It gives us a lot of good real-time feedback on how people are interacting with some of the materials and resources. If you ask most people, they’re going to be nice and polite and say, “ yeah, that was helpful, that was good.” But being able to see where people are going on the app and what they’re interacting with the most, lets us know what people actually value and what’s actually super useful to them. We’ve been able to use it as a learning tool to see how to best resources and how to best equip our people.

Q: What was the most surprising part?

A: I was surprised about how quickly everyone has switched to digital giving. You always expect as people trend younger that they’re going to give more online, but right now about 70 – 80% of our total giving comes through the app or the aware3 website behind it. I was not expecting it to shift that fast. I’m glad, it makes things a lot easier.

Q: What feedback have you gotten from your congregation?

A: People really like having information and resources on the app all the time. They don’t have to remember anything. They don’t have to remember where they put it. Since we do a lot of our forms and registrations like for kids camps or student trips through the app, parents never have to worry about where they put the form. On the back, on our end, we’ve been able to make so much of it digital. We don’t have to worry about keeping track of forms in a folder. It’s very easy to download and look. I would say, everyone’s appreciated the ease-of-use.

Q: How has your app improved engagement & process at your church?

A: On top of the ways already mentioned, just getting people connected to things quicker. When people have a question they don’t have to email someone and wait for a response because a lot of times the information can be found on the app.

Cutting down steps has been huge. In all the analytics and stuff that we’ve looked at, every step in a process that people have to go through, you lose people at each step. If you can cut out 2 or 3 steps, you can usually add at least a few more people to whatever it is you’re doing just from the sheer convenience factor.

Q: Do you use any of the interactive features like live polling?

A: Yeah, we’ve done live polling. Our marriage ministry team was trying to figure out “which of these things” would people be most interested in. So we used live pulling to get some feedback. The push notifications we use a lot to connect directly to one aspect of the app.

Q: What is the biggest aspect for our platform we could improve on?

A: This might just be something that I need to spend more time on. I haven’t done a deep dive on it yet but I like to do all of our payment stuff through aware3 but CCB also has a form thing and so for whatever reason, when we have our registrations tab, it pulls all of the CCB form into that but it doesn’t pull the aware3 form in. I guess I just need to figure how to pull aware3 forms into a single tab. That’s a little confusing for me. It sometimes gets confusing for people, when certain forms get pulled in and then this one’s not. Then we have to send a direct link.

Q: Anything else you would like to share with us?

A: I love the fact that it’s so customizable and yet at the same time it’s very easy to use. A lot of times, software that’s super customizable you have to be really good at using it. Otherwise, the tools are just too powerful and you get lost very easily. You guys have managed to make it customizable and still easy to use at the same time. That’s been very, very helpful for us.

Before we go…

We hope this Q & A answered some of your questions and gave you a glimpse of what our app can do for your church. If you’d like to learn more or set up a personalized demo, we’d love to chat with you.

We also want to extend a huge thank you to Pastor Jeromie for taking the time to speak with us and for providing such valuable insight into Momentum Church’s app experience. We are so grateful for our awesome church partners!

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The beginners guide to church apps.

In 2018, US adults spent an average of 3 hours, 35 minutes per day on their mobile devices (emarketer). Apps account for over 90% of internet time spent on smartphones. We also know that the average smartphone user checks their device a whopping 63 times a day. Why are we telling you all this? Because these stats represent a huge opportunity for your church. You have the potential to reach and engage with your members for an additional hour or two or even three… 

Every. 

Single. 

Day. 

With an app, you have a direct portal to your members 24/7. Now, some people may say, “you can do that with social media. You don’t need an app for that.” We’re all for social media but it works best in tandem with, not as a replacement for, an app. Social media simply doesn’t serve the same purpose or offer the same impactful features that a custom, branded app does. Plus, social media comes with a lot of noise. You’re competing with literally thousands of other people and brands for your members’ attention. Not to mention, social media algorithms can easily weed your content out of member feeds without your knowledge.

If you want a digital space that’s all yours (in more ways than one), you need the right app–one without barriers and cumbersome steps. For example, container and feature apps are popular app options, but many churches find the unbranded and disjointed nature of these apps to be impersonal, frustrating, and time consuming. In contrast, our custom app puts all your features, tools, and communications into one branded, accessible place, free from distractions and obstacles. 

Let’s talk specifics.  

Our app is rooted in 3 main areas: engagement, communication, and generosity. Here’s why they are crucial and how they can transform your church:

1. Engagement

We see engagement like this: Engagement happens when members of your church are committed, emotionally invested, and actively participating in your church’s greater mission.

This is our number one focus because engagement is the catalyst for so many desired outcomes like connection, loyalty, generosity, and more. We created the following features to fuel each of those defining components: commitment, emotional investment, and participation. 

Features: 

  • Live Polling & Interactive Sermon Notes
  • Check-ins & Registrations 
  • Text-to-Act 
  • Podcasts 
  • Blogs 
  • Video 
  • Bulletin, Newsletter & Information

How they can transform your church: 

These features are impactful because they consistently create opportunities for active participation and emotional connectedness. They make it easy for your members to speak up, get involved, and experience your church’s heart and culture on a daily basis.

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2. Communication 

“I didn’t know we were supposed to be here at 3:00.” 

“I would tell her, but I don’t have her number.” 

“I wish we had more people to help out” 

What do all of these phrases have in common? They all stem from a breakdown in communication. People get distracted, details get lost in the shuffle, and honestly, communication is just plain tricky sometimes. That’s exactly why we created these communication features:

  • Outbound Text, Text-to-Act, and Welcome Concierge (Texts have a 98% open rate!)  
  • Chat 
  • Push messages  
  • Calendar 
  • Member Directory 

How they can transform your church: 

An app creates one efficient hub for effective communication. Send push notifications to remind or update members of an upcoming event, send a text to encourage participation, and chat with all app members–no phone numbers required. We’re all about streamlining, simplifying, and strengthening communication for you and your members.

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3. Generosity

82 percent of millennials believe society will eventually become cashless. This is a pretty telling finding. As Americans (not just millennials), carry less and less cash and become even more enamored with and accustomed to digital payments, it’s important for churches to provide mobile gifting options in addition to in-service offerings. 

Features: 

  • Streamlined giving 
  • Donor-covered fees 
  • Giving Appeals 
  • Pledges 
  • Text-to-give 

How they can transform your church: 

Our giving features aren’t just there to reach younger cohorts, they are also there to give your congregation as a whole more ways and opportunities to support the church and missions through generosity. By offering an easy and meaningful giving experience, you can create joyful, regular givers.

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Overview

All of these powerful pieces live and work together under one digital roof, beautifully displayed with your branding and voice. You can pick and choose which features, layout, and graphics are best for your church. And because our affordable, all-in-one app is completely connected, you’ll be able to streamline processes and communication, reduce stress and cut costs, all while learning about your members, bringing your community closer together, and growing your church. 

As we wrap up, we want to touch on one more important consideration, and that’s support. For us, an app is just as much about the people as it is about the tech. That’s why with us, you’ll have a team of community building specialists, tech experts, and design enthusiasts in your corner from day 1. We’re here to answer any and all of your questions, be a resource to you, and cheer you on as you make big things happen for you church. 

Want to learn more? Need help getting started? 

Let’s chat.

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