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Holiday decorations? Check. Christmas sermon written? Check. Choir and band ready to perform? Check. Community outreach? Check.

If you are someone that likes checklists, you probably have one similar to the one above. Planning and preparing for the Christmas season is one of the busiest times of the year for church leaders. And you likely spend a large part of this time getting ready to share the hope of this season with your regular churchgoers and new guests.

But after the lights and candy canes are put away, there are still a few things that need to be done that can be easy to forget about.

As you prepare to celebrate with your family and look back on the year, be sure to set aside time to do these items that should be on every church leader’s end-of-the-year checklist:

1) Review your 2021 goals

You (hopefully) took some time to make them at the beginning of the year, so how did you do at achieving those goals? Were there some you didn’t reach or accomplish? Don’t just breeze past them; instead, take some time to review why. If you had too many goals or not enough help in achieving them, that will be important as you set new goals for 2022. It’s even just important to review all that you did in 2021! Celebrate how far you’ve come and the impact your church has had!

2) Evaluate your communication systems and where you can improve.

This is a great time to honestly evaluate how well your church is communicating. What’s working? What’s not? This doesn’t just apply to how you communicate with your church at large, but also how you communicate with your teams. Do you utilize software that helps track and notify team members that are volunteering or supporting a certain ministry? If you already do this, take some time to ask your teams how they feel it’s working and if you need to do anything differently.

3) Thank your faithful givers.

The end of the year is a perfect time to be able to effectively thank not only your regular members, but anyone that has given to your church. Make sure to include updates on special giving campaigns, missionaries, local ministries you support, and what the impact of their giving was in the last year. Saying thank you is so important to let people know that they are making a difference. This may be included with people’s yearly giving statements or it may be in addition to it.

4) Check to see if anyone is in need.

Christmas can be a hard time of the year for some. If they don’t have family, live far away from them, or have maybe experienced a loss this year, Christmas can feel lonely and isolating. Take some time to think about those in your church. Is there anyone that you haven’t seen around in a while that your church should reach out to? Is there someone that has lost their job or had health issues?

5) Give yourself time to rest.

Like really rest. It seems like the last two years have flown by and many church leaders have been working non-stop to adapt how we have done church during this time. Have you taken the time to rest and be still? Even if you’ve already taken some time to do that in the past, this should be a regular habit that is practiced.

As we celebrate Christ’s birth and close out 2021, we hope you plan some extra time to take care of these end-of-the-year tasks, and also to rest and spend meaningful time with family. Leading a church and organizing all of these things takes a lot of work. But we know that Christ is the one that will take our faithful efforts and cause them to bear fruit in 2022.

From all of us here at One Church Software, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christmas is a time when there is hustling and bustling in stores, people are visiting relatives they haven’t seen all year (or longer!), and when it comes to church, you’ll likely see a few more new faces.

Whether it’s the sporadic member, the major-holiday-only attender, new guest, or even a relative of a regular attendee, this is a time of year when you are likely expecting additional people to connect with your church in some way. For many, this will be the primary time those individuals will connect and receive encouragement from a church in the year.

What an incredible opportunity we have!

As we enter this season, here are a few things we want to encourage you to keep in mind for your Christmas service(s) this year:

1) Remember that people are still hurting and recovering from the disruption over the past two years.

Be mindful to acknowledge and consider that things aren’t “back to normal” yet. Over the last two years, many of us were cut off entirely from our community of support or were pushed to interact with them through a screen because of the pandemic. This was a major disruption that will likely have lasting effects for years to come. The best way to support people this holiday season is to make sure your church is a place where they can find stability and hope.

2) Be sure you have a first-time visitor follow-up process.

After new visitors walk out your door, do you have a plan to connect with them? Invite them back? Take some time before new people arrive to make sure you have a clear follow-up process. This is important to have set up year-round, but it’s doubly important around the holidays. And if you already have a follow-up process, take some time to review it before your Christmas services.

3) Don’t be afraid to approach Christmas with the same innovation you approached it with last year.

Last year, churches had to consider how to reach people when they couldn’t gather together in a physical space. As a result, many churches got creative with ways to connect with their community and offered additional resources to promote connection. While in many places, in-person gatherings are nearing their usual capacity, that doesn’t mean you should forgo a fresh approach this year.

Online resources, livestreams, video calls, and group study guides are a great way to reach a wider base of people than you may be able to with a physical service alone. What methods did you use last year that were particularily successful? Consider offering the most popular of these, or a version of it, again!

4) Make sure you are engaging people outside of Sunday.

We have a tendency to focus all our efforts into our Sunday service or Christmas Eve services, but what about the other six days of the week? Instead of only focusing on the service, plan ahead to have encouraging emails, text messages, weekly resources, or even some Christmas cards throughout the holiday season. Also, consider how you can be a special blessing to people around this season. If there is someone that doesn’t have family around to celebrate Christmas with this year, invite them to an event, go caroling at their house, or do something special to remind them they are valued and supported.

5) Don’t wait until next year to review how your Christmas service went.

If you don’t take the time to do this right after your Christmas service, then it will likely be 11 months before you consider it again and, by that time, you won’t remember. By taking the time to review what you did well and what still needs improvement while it’s all fresh in your mind, you’ll be that much more prepared for next year!

6) Let the Truth of this season impact your heart, too.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in decorating, planning the message, and making sure that the service is just right that you forget to let the truth of Christmas impact your own heart. This is the time of year that we remember the incredible truth that Jesus came to earth as a humble child, fully experiencing our humanity, to freely offer us salvation, redemption, and hope. Don’t merely focus on communicating this truth to others; be sure to meditate on it in your own life and walk with God.

This Christmas, remember that the most important thing you can do is to share the Good News with others. That our voices might join in with the shepherds, wise men, and angels in saying, “…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…” (Luke 2:10 ESV)

Merry Christmas from all of us here at One Church Software!

Is your church still using pen-and-paper to plan events and collect guest information? Do you find yourself going in and manually sending follow-up emails or confirming with volunteers? Are you trying to plan events based on the verbal RSVPs you got last service? There is so much going on at your church and if you’ve been relying on any of these methods of organization, it can probably feel pretty overwhelming at times.

Your time matters. There’s a lot happening each week and the last thing you need to do is to manage details that could be automated.

Here are six things you should be automating at your church so you can focus on what you were called to do — leading your church and reaching people for Jesus.

1. Guest Follow-Up

Are you still typing an individual reply to every person that fills out a connection card? Do you find yourself copying and pasting a past email each time you reach out to someone who’s new to the church? It might seem like a small thing, but the collective time and the diverted focus this task is likely causing is a big deal.

While you will still want to be aware of who is new to your church and specific prayer requests, automating a well-crafted welcome note that is sent shortly after someone submits their information won’t just save you time, it also greets new guests in a timely manner. You can also include resources and links to your upcoming events so they can take the next step sooner.

This is actually a really easy automation to set-up! You’ll get any replies straight to your inbox, but all you have to do is write at least one email (though you could set-up more) that runs in the background every time someone new is added to the system.

2. Giving Responses and Follow-Up

Statistics show that you should be thanking givers within 24-48 hours of their gift. Are you aware of when people tithe? Is thanking someone for giving a task that consistently makes it to the bottom of your list or that you feel is just assumed? Odds are if you don’t have an automated system here, some giving is falling through the cracks unnoticed and unthanked.

By automating your giving responses, you can make sure people get thanked right away. This lets people know that their gift went through and gives them confidence that they made the right choice in supporting the ministry. In this automated response, you could also include what their faithful giving has provided or even update them on any special giving progress.

3. Kids Check-In

If you have kids, you know how crazy checking them in can be. And with safety protocols to match up kids with authorized adults, it’s so valuable to have an automated check-in process here. (If you don’t have a process in place for check-in and security, you need to implement one ASAP! This is a crucial part of reaching younger families.)

By implementing an automated system, parents can check their kids in easily with automatically-printed labels containing all the information people need to know, from your child’s name to any allergies they may have. This system can also integrate into helping you track attendance throughout your children’s ministries.

4. Event Confirmations + Follow-Up

If you’ve tried to plan a church event, you know what a headache it already can be to figure out how many people to plan for, not to mention letting everyone know when dates, times, and locations change. So sending out a confirmation email and creating an updated list of event attendees are two things that should be done, but shouldn’t have to be done by hand.

Automating event lists (who’s attending) allows you to communicate with all the right people, rather than email blasting your entire church when the picnic gets rained out. Everyone who signs up gets added to a list. You can easily email (or text) just those people.

And by automating your event confirmations, you can send out event-specific follow-ups to go directly to the people that attended. This ensures people have the location, time, and any other details easily accessible come the day of the event.

5. Task Management

Have you ever had to track someone down to get a progress update about a task? It can be especially difficult in ministry, as you work with a lot of volunteers who help you in their spare time outside of normal work hours. 

By having an automated system to easily assign tasks and get project updates, you don’t have to spend hours or days playing phone tag with someone. And if you have recurring projects, there are many automations, like our Workflows, that will allow you to set up a progression of subtasks, such as sending a follow-up text to a new guest, updating a donor address, or finishing up plans for an aspect of the Sunday service.

6. Attendance Tracking

It’s helpful to know how many people are actually attending your church, and to easily see who is falling away from the life of the church. Or if your church is hosting an event, it’s valuable to easily be able to see who ended up coming and who wasn’t able to.

By automating your service resources through One Church Software, you can create a check-in system so attendance is taken automatically. As an added bonus, you can set-up a notification for a member of your team or an automated follow-up process whenever someone hasn’t made it to a few services (or a workflow trigger of your choice). This is a great way to make sure no one falls through the cracks!

This is just a short list of some of the things you can automate at your church to save you time so you can lead your church more effectively. If you are ready to start automating or are curious what other time-saving automations are out there, check out One Church Software’s features or reach out to see how we can help equip and organize your church so you are structured in a healthy way.

How often do you send emails to your church members? Once a week? Once a month? Rarely ever? If you’re anything like the typical church across the United States, the answer is probably very seldom. But why? Email is another form of communication that should be used frequently in your ministry. It’s not difficult to send an email out on a regular basis. In fact, many churches still send out weekly or monthly newsletters via USPS to their members and recent visitors. There is a cost in that, and it’s always higher than sending emails. 

Here are four reasons why I love email for church communication:

  1. Open rates are high. Open rates for emails from religious institutions are the highest of any category that is tracked. According to Constant Contact, a company that serves many churches for email marketing, 40.24% of emails from churches are opened. Why? Your members trust the content that is coming from your church. They want to know more about what is happening, what is planned for future events, and how they can be involved. Furthermore, opt-out rates are very low—only 0.22%, the lowest of any category Constant Contact tracks.
  2. Email keeps people engaged and reminded. My wife and I get emails a few days prior to our scheduled time to serve in the children’s ministry each Sunday. It’s a good reminder for me and allows me the opportunity to put it on my calendar. My small-group leader sends out an email every week to everyone in our group. He includes prayer requests, notes, and takeaways from the pastor’s sermon, areas and opportunities to serve, and much more. You may be surprised at how engaging these emails are and how conversation carries itself through the week to the following Sunday. 
  3. There are a few companies that allow churches to use their email service for free. Constant Contact and MailChimp are a couple of companies that I know. For example, MailChimp offers churches and nonprofits the ability to send 15,000 emails per month at no charge. Think about that for a second. If you’re a church with an average attendance of 200 each Sunday, you could send 75 emails each month, or two a day! I’m not suggesting that, by any means, but you get a sense for the enormity of what 15,000 emails a month means. 
  4. It’s cost effective. How many times have I used the word “free” in this post? Several. The days of sending out paper newsletters to your members should be long gone. Some older folks in your church may still value this form of communication, and that’s okay. But many would prefer email. It’s quick for you and easy for them. Pew says 88% of people in the US access their email on their smart phone, and Venture Beat says 65% of all email gets opened first on a mobile device. Does that open your eyes a bit? It sure does for me. 

So if you’re not communicating with your church congregation via email or you are at a minimal level, allow me to challenge you to explore the possibility. I think you’ll like the results, and I’m pretty certain your members will as well. Check out some of the services I mentioned in this post and give me your feedback if you’re already using these services. Tell me your positive and negative experiences. I’d love to hear them. 

We developed One Church Software to allow for quick communication through email and text messaging. We even created an email builder and a way to schedule messages far in advance. However, we realize some churches prefer using third parties, so we have integration partners for email as well. 

Author: Matt Morris