Tuesday, August 20, 2013

10 Things to Strengthen Church Communications

Popular author and orator, Dale Carnegie said, “There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.” Isn’t this true for both individuals and organizations, including churches? What do our actions, our physical church buildings and grounds, and our communication frequency and techniques say about us?

Consistent, quality communication is critical for the development and enrichment of any relationship including that of a church and its members. Popular author, speaker and consultant, Scott Vaughan, is partnering with AmericanChurch, Inc. to present a “10 Things” series of communication webinars. The second webinar in the set is “10 Things to Strengthen Communication”, and will be held twice at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm Eastern, on Thursday, August 22.

Participants in this one-hour webinar will receive step-by-step suggestions for assessing, understanding and transitioning the church communication system for the 21st Century. In churches of all sizes, significant changes can be made that will save budget dollars while improving communication with church and community audiences. This webinar will answer the questions:
  • How do we begin a process of self-assessment of our communication system?
  • How do we properly staff for management of our communications? Can we make it work with volunteers?
  • What’s the priority? Should we begin with our church website?
  • How do we know, practically, that our communication system is working?
Click here to learn more information, and find links to register. There are a limited amount of seats available for each timeslot, so register today. “See” you online!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Equipping Yourself for the Ministry of Administration

Dr. Charles Zech, speaker, author, researcher, and economist with Villanova University says, “While recognizing the church is not a business, church staff members have a stewardship responsibility to utilize all resources as effectively as possible. Frequently, this involves using sound management techniques.” As AmericanChurch works with churches of all sizes and denominations, we find business administrators, bookkeepers, and pastors feeling unprepared for certain situations and untrained in some of the key areas for which they are responsible on a day-to-day basis.

Beginning its third season this fall, the Church Management Webinar Series, offered in partnership by the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University, Our Sunday Visitor, and AmericanChurch, provides comprehensive business practices combined with the methods to implement those practices in a church environment. Participants who successfully complete all 12 sessions and corresponding course work receive a Certificate of Church Management from the Business School of Villanova University, 12 CPE credits, 1.8 CEUs, and more importantly the knowledge they need to serve more confidently. In addition to feeling better equipped for the ministry, many attendees remarked how their spirituality was enhanced as a result of the program, and that was an unexpected benefit.

A few of the critical church topics presented include:
  • Church Security
  • Stewardship Best Practices
  • Leadership Development
  • Human Resources
  • Church Budgeting
  • Analytics for Evaluating Church Performance
  • And more…

Since most staff members cannot afford a lot of time away from their church for ongoing education, the web-based seminar method is convenient and affordable. Attendees can participate in the entire series, or register for individual sessions in the areas most important for their position.

Read some of the testimonials of past participants, learn more about this important source of instruction, call or email with your questions, or go online and register for this series. We look forward to “e-seeing” you in class!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Churches and Strategic Planning

Author, lecturer and futurist Joel A. Barker said, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” I venture to guess that the mission of most churches is to impact, for the better, the lives of their members and the communities in which they serve. Churches want to “change the world” so-to-speak; or at least the part of the world where they are planted, in order to bring people closer to Christ.

In our work with churches around the country, we often find churches operating from a mode of maintenance, very reactionary, rather than from a sense of mission or purpose. This is the result of little or no strategy by church leadership and/or lack of knowledge of what impact the church is making in the community. If your church suddenly disappeared next month would anyone notice? What would happen to the community or people served by the ministries at the church?

Some level of planning (closely followed by implementation, of course) is required in much of what we do in life. For example, when you go to the grocery, do you wander around hoping to find the items you need or are you armed with a list of what to purchase and where? Do you examine the advertisements ahead of time or bring coupons in order to save as much money as possible? Vacations require even more detailed planning and thinking ahead.

Mark Mogilka, author and noted authority on pastoral planning, will be presenting a live, interactive 90-minute webinar on “Strategic Planning” for Christian church staff. This webinar is sponsored by AmericanChurch and Villanova University, and occurs on Wednesday, May 15, at both 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Some of the important questions and topics covered are:
  • Roles of staff, lay leaders and church members
  • Planning models and goal setting
  • Plan implementation pitfalls
  • Roles of Scripture and discernment
  • Current and temporal realities
Many churches gather their committees or staff to watch the evening session together, and then spend time discussing their planning and how they will implement what they learn in the workshop. Would your church benefit from this type of activity? Please plan to attend!

For more information including how to register, click here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Church Analytics

If I asked you about your church congregation, would you tell me it is above average, average, or below average? Perhaps the more important question to be asked is, “How do you know?"

Most of what we think we know about parishes/congregations comes from impressions and anecdotes. Little is based on practical, first-hand measurements. We need data to answer important questions such as:
  • How will we know when we are accomplishing our mission?
  • How will we know that we have impacted our members?
  • How will we know how effective the church staff is?
  • How will we know our programs are effective?
  • How will we know how to allocate our financial resources?

On April 25, Dr. Charles Zech, Economics Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University, will be presenting an ecumenical webinar entitled Church Analytics that will discuss analytical methods churches can apply to answer these questions that are critical if churches are to be good stewards of the resources God has entrusted to them.

For more information including webinar description and registration information, click here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Churches and Social Media

by: Julie Kenny

A survey last July by the Public Religion Research Institute found few Americans rely on electronic media for faith-based information or guidance. However, the survey indicates that 27% of Americans between the ages of 18 to 34 are more likely to use technology to stay in contact with their church or pastor, using Facebook many times a day. 
Not surprisingly, more and more churches are utilizing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media channels to ensure they are reaching current and potential new members of their flock. Especially the younger group noted above. Yet, they are cautious above moving forward unsure of what they should or should not include, need for permissions and policies, and truly value any “best practices” they can gather.
On April 3, Steve Hewitt, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Christian Computing Magazine, will give a 90-minute webinar titled “Social Media” for AmericanChurch, Our Sunday Visitor, and Villanova University. In the presentation, Steve covers these important issues and other considerations important for churches of all denominations no matter if they are just venturing out into the social media world, or they’ve been Facebooking and Tweeting for many months! Attendees will see good examples and learn best practices as well.
You can find more information on this webinar, including how to register by clicking here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Clearing Common Church Human Resource Misconceptions

by: Julie Kenny
We know that churches are places we go to worship and use our talents to serve others. But churches are also employers, and sometimes that separation of church and state gets muddled when it comes to understanding and implementing employment laws and establishing and communicating just personnel policies.
In our Church Management Certificate Program webinar series, one of the most popular sessions is Best Practices for Church Human Resources by Dr. Carol Fowler. We tend to have more participants during that session, and the participants ask so many questions! In fact this 90-minute webinar runs over an additional 30 minutes just to make sure all inquiries are answered.
Typically human resource issues land in the business manager's office, who may or may not have experience or knowledge of the laws in this area. For example, common misunderstandings occur with the definition of "at will" employment, exempt versus non-exempt positions, what questions you can and cannot ask in an interview, and what all must be kept in an employee's personnel file.
Unfortunately, only so much can be covered in a 90-minute session! We had such demand for more time on this critical area, AmericanChurch and Our Sunday Visitor have partnered with the Villanova University School of Business to bring a series of three, 90-minute ecumenical webinars each focusing on different topics:
1. The Theological and Legal Principles of Church Human Resources

2. The Right People for the Right Job: Effective Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating Staff for the Mission, and

3. Collaboration and Professional Development for Church Staff

 The dates for this limited capacity electronic mini-series are March 6 and 7, and the sessions are taught by Dr. Carol Fowler. You can get more information including cost on the ACI website.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Security & Risk Management: PCI Compliance Can't Be Outsourced

As we have increased our use of Online Giving and other electronic giving systems at our churches, we have become more conscious of the controls and the risks associated with payment processing. In some cases there is a great deal of anxiety around this subject. This is a good thing because we have become aware of the risks; however, we have a large number of activities that require our attention for both PCI compliance and risk management.

Does your church hold a conference? How about an auction or a dinner? Do you have a church gift store? If you are like many churches, you have these events and activities and you may allow people to pay by credit card or even direct deposit. Do you use any type of commitment card or envelope that provides the option for a churchgoer to include a credit card or bank account number on the form? Your church may very well need to be fully PCI Compliant.

There also has been some discussion of "Merchant of Record" associated with electronic giving applications for churches. This concept has been raised as if it is the critical factor when implementing an electronic giving solution. The credit card associations base the requirement for PCI compliance on the ACTIVITY performed at the church. This is regardless of formal or informal agreements defining the organization as a merchant. The church cannot outsource the risk or the compliance to another organization.

The two most important factors churches should consider when they are assessing the risk associated with electronic contributions are:
  1. The flow of the donation dollars. Make sure that the church member's contribution moves from the member account to the church or bank account directly. Avoid deposits into holding accounts or escrow. Organizations that serve as a merchant on behalf of other organizations are considered aggregators by the credit card associations and are also considered to be higher risk because they hold accounts with donor funds in the accounts.
  2. No church access to account information. The application should prevent the church staff from any access to donor credit card or bank account information. Make sure any function that allows the church access to account information is turned off.
Beyond that, consider the integrity and financial strength of the organization providing the solution.

Our church leadership must consider all activities related to donations and finances and we must educate ourselves on the latest requirements for compliance and risk management. We have a good start on the new systems, but don't forget some of the many activities we have done for years!