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Faith Street: A way to connect people to your church

I'm a CRC planter in Manhattan, NY. I just wanted to pass along a recommendation for a website that we've found very useful here in NYC that is now going national. Its called Faith Street (faithstreet.com). I'd encourage you to explore the site and see if it might work well for your context. In short, it helps people find your church. Churches create profiles and people who are new to the city or new to faith begin their search at Faith Street. Recently, they've even started matching people up with some of their preferences (e.g. I get a lot of people who are looking for a Reformed/...
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Thank you for the affirmation, Michael! And great point—while the article is talking specifically to church planters, the principle still applies to pastors who have an office and established building; be in the community and with the people you want to reach.

I don't drink coffee, but I can appreciate the aroma :)

That's right! Relationships are key to sharing the Gospel or inviting people to church. Sometimes we just don't think about small, practical, ways that we can build relationships.

I regularly do my “office” work at a nearby Starbucks. And the opportunities are not a myth – I have shared the gospel and my testimony on several occasions — sometimes at the expense of an hour of office work! I will continue to do this even though I have an actual office with lots of glorious shelf space for my books. People who are scared of God usually do not show up at your worship service at 9:00 am sharp. But, Starbucks is full of pagans ; ) who need to hear the gospel – and coffee is now a blessing of common grace (except for pumpkin spice – jury’s still out on that).

Thank you for sharing this effective way to make new relationships.   Church and kingdom growth always happens through relationships.  Instead of waiting for people to show-up at church this is a great way to be the church.  This is also an effective way to model effective ministry for those who show-up on Sunday.   Thanks!

Hi Jan, communication about church member needs can certainly be a tricky topic, especially if there's no communication strategy or plan in place. When things like illness and death arise, often those issues don't get broadcast because there's no real thought or plan on how it should be communicated.

I currently am a member of a non-CRC church, but I find that communication is practically nonexistent and that many feel it isn't necessary ... which I find can be incredibly frustrating.  

I honestly feel that if a person is to feel a part of their particular church family lines of communication need to be wide open ... we need to know what is happening not only within the church organization, but especially with one another ...

How can we support, encourage, pray for others, when we're not even aware of the needs ... When someone dies, and we don't find out until much later or didn't even know they were ill ... that to me is a serious problem ...

I realize this is not necessarily a problem confined to the church family, but part of a much larger problem in today's society ... While we have more communication devices than there are people in this world, no one seems to be communicating ... or even know how ...

Thank you and God bless!

I loaded the app and have been playing with it for a few days now.  I think it is a good app.  Of course, I can't access my local church resources just because this is in "beta", and least in terms of usage.

Were I to describe the app's function in non-technical ways, I would say it is just a bit like Nextdoor (for those who are familiar with that).

I do think the app needs to be code duplicated so that it is fully accessible by computer (and not just Apples' since they are not, yet at least, rulers of the technological world, even if they want to be).

I look forward to broader distribution.  And FWIW, this is a kind of resource that the denomination should be involved in, because it is a tool that local churches couldn't easily develop and it is a tool that can serve all local churches (which is the dominant role of the denomination).

Thanks much for that Ken.  Very helpful.  We'll patiently wait.  :-)

In developing The Bridge, one of the principles relating to the directory is that churches and individual users would have primary control over that content.  We have sought to make it as easy as possible for churches to upload their directory data -- via an Excel template that merges data with the fields in The Bridge.  But there is no 'standard' for church databases.  As Bryan states, The Bridge is not intended to replace a church's ChMS, but we do want to allow for the easiest movement of data, while also ensuring that this data remains under the control of the local church and the user.  I hope that helps with the principles behind the data management question.  How this will play out will vary from system to system and from church to church.

Hi Doug.  You are correct that at this point in time, there is only one US church (Bellevue, Washington) because they have agreed to be part of the pilot/testing process.  The Ontario churches that are currently listed are all from Classis Niagara; the classis that also agreed to be part of the pilot project.  The majority of Canadian classes have approved adopting the Bridge App, and as CRCNA staff we will now be concentrating on bringing those churches onboard.  But, outside of Classis Niagara, with the lone exception of Bellevue, all other users would select 'Online App Church'.

As for the directory question, there are a couple considerations.  There are legal aspects relating to this data that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Many churches are fully onboard with uploading of their directory data since they currently have digital or print versions of that same data, and those directories are available to verified members.   And there is no single platform that churches use for their d-bases.  In building the directory function of The Bridge, we have attempted to find a compromise that works for the majority of churches.  For those with no d-base, right up to those with a sophisticated system, an Excel template has been created.  Some can do a straight export from their existing software.  Others can do a cut and paste, or enter only the essential data.  In consultant with the pilot project churches, this was suggested as the best compromise.

Keep in mind that you are looking at what is essentially the pre-release version of The Bridge.  It is encouraging to see the excitement about this App.  But, as part of the team that has been working on The Bridge App, the most exciting aspect is that the best ideas have yet to be discovered.  As The Bridge rolls out, we are looking forward to hearing from churches how this App can be used to build bridges within their congregations, and between their congregation and the communities they seek to serve and reach.  We have no idea what new features the Bridge App will have in 4-5 years, except that we need to start now and then build toward those possibilities.

As for when The Bridge will be available in Oregon, that's a question for the senior leadership of the CRCNA, as well as for your local classis (FYI, the Canadian classes that adopted the App have also approved providing funding for the next phase of the project)

OK, thanks Darren.  I think you are suggesting that the directory is simply populated by end users and that there is no central database repository of directory information??

So I've downloaded the app (Android OS) and I've had my "account verified."  However, it would seem that all the local churches that are available to associate with are in Ontario, save one in Bellevue,  Washington CRC churches (my local CRC is in Salem Oregon).   For that reason, I can't really explore what this app would do that would benefit local CRC churches.

How would my church (Sunnyslope CRC, in Salem, Oregon) go about "being one of the local churches" listed in the app's local church listings?

Doug, I think you are missing the point somewhat. You see, this tool is in many ways meant to take the workload off of administrators and thier ongoing upkeep of the Directory. That is a huge yearly job as many can attest to. But in the Bridge app, there is only a one time set up of the ine function 'Directory.' for the administrator and then after that every user manages the data they wish others to see. The adminstrator has to do no other thing than approve the changes to ensure it is all appropriate and correct (ie. forgot a digit in the area code; delete an inapprpriate photo etc.)

Also, The Bridge ap pties together all of a local churches web material and keeps it at the fore so people can get to it simply. The rest of the functionality can be gained from a laptop if one uses an apple, but until Microsoft catches up in their capacity to use apps on a desktop or laptop, the Bridge app remains a phone only tool. But considering that an app receives approx 20X more traffic than a static website, its worth it.

Hope this helps.

Hey Doug - great point. The purpose of The Bridge is not to be a church management system (ChMS), where you can keep membership records and manage your people as part of the congregation. When a user downloads the app as part of your local church, they have the ability to add their contact information, and decide how that information is shared. As far as integrating with a ChMS or database, I'm not sure. That would be a great question for The Bridge staff, though.

Bryan. Sounds good but like you, I'm skeptical of "new apps for the church" too.  The last CRCNA app, the Banner app, doesn't show comments or allow for commenting.  Thus, anyone who accesses the Banner with the Banner app is excluded from commenting on articles, and from seeing the comments of others.

My question about this app:  does it have companion web capability?  That is, if a church enters its directory data in the Bridge's back end database, is that data entry "one time" so that those who use a computer platform of the Bridge can also access that database?

If this isn't "cross platform," I'm not seeing the benefit as being greater than the burden for (especially smaller (local churches).

Researching can be fun...sometimes! What is important when you research social guidelines for your church?

Excellent question, and one I'm currently researching for my own church.

Great question, Andrew!

We certainly are bombarded with messages these days, right? Even in email, we get bombarded with junk from all over the place. If you choose to utilize email as part of your follow-up process, it certainly can be done well. Breaking through the noise can be the difficult part, but it can be done. I normally recommend making follow-up emails personable and focused on the guest.

Do you find positive response from sending follow up emails? In a culture where every store, restaurant, doctors office, school, etc. is asking for it and then sends regular emails it seems as though emails are becoming a less effective way to engage with people who are new or unfamiliar with church. 

i know this was posted a while ago, but I have a question - I see a possible issue if the person on the group does not have a google account?  I know you can send/receive email without having a google account to the group, but you can't access the web based parts.  Did you make each member create a google account?  I think with the initial email you receive when you join the group this could cause confusion on the user since it tells them they can't access the group without having an account

Thank you!

Thank you. These are helpful suggestions. Just one reminder, though: Using pictures of "real people in real situations" must be done with permission of the persons in those pictures, whether named or not. Many people are rightly aware of how even the best events and reports can be used harmfully. 

Thanks for this post! It's super helpful information since there doesn't seem to be a lot out there about this. I was wondering, could I see an example of the Church Directory Report? There wasn't a link under it.

Nice to meet you Bryan! Appreciate your heart for church communicators already. 

Below are the CRC Guest WiFi terms of use. Please note that we can't guarantee these would cover any potential lawsuits churches may receive. 

Welcome to our Internet portal. If you choose to continue, you are agreeing to comply with and be bound by the following terms and conditions of use. If you disagree with any part of these terms and conditions, you may not continue.

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Your use of any information or materials on sites you access is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be liable.

You agree that, though this portal, you will not perform any of the following acts: 

Attempt to access devices or resources to which you have no explicit, legitimate rights 

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You understand that we reserve the right to log or monitor traffic to ensure that these terms are being followed. 

You understand that unauthorized use of resources through this portal may give rise to a claim for damages and/or be a criminal offense.

Check out all posts by Jerod Clark for even more helpful website tips! 

posted in: Website Policy

Yes, looking more for how to monitor use of the site, what type of content to include (keeping in mind privacy, etc).

posted in: Website Policy

Hi Amy - for now it's just for Canadian churches, We're still in the test phase, working in one specific classis, but looking forward to a Canada wide launch in the fall. But yes, we're also looking at incorporating US churches and hoping to test it with a few churches in the next little while and see what kind of issues they may encounter.

So this is a Canada-only app? Are there plans for a U.S. version?

Or are you more looking for how to monitor use of the site, features, etc.?

posted in: Website Policy

Hi Melissa, are you looking for ideas on what website building tools to use? 

posted in: Website Policy

Hi Pete - Yes, you are correct that we are developing a phone app that will have the capacity for online giving. The app is currently in a test phase with churches in Classis Niagara and we are hoping to have it go live across Canada this fall. The app of course is capable of doing way more than provide ways for people to give - it's also an outreach tool and a way for churches to communicate with members so that they get important information (prayers, announcements) right into the palms of their hands. Additionally members will be able to watch worship videos if unable to attend on a given Sunday, if their church makes such recordings. There will be many other features, so stay tuned.

Lots of information! Professional content writing is not everybody’s cup of coffee. I think people should understand this and try to hone their skills. They should also look forward to using new vocab and get an escape from clichéd marketing phrases. 

oops, meant to reply but added a new post. reply below.

We now use planning center people as our principle database and have built custom reports for household reports, printed directory, etc. The online directory is by a company called adjace that links to planning center people.

Integration is done with zapier. However, planning center has not built in webhooks yet so it's not quite perfect.

What database program are you using that links to your office 365??! That would be awesome! I currently have to update contact information in so many places!

I manage the website for my church (encounterchurch.org) which runs on Clover Sites, which is a website platform built for churches. It tends to run on the simple side (can't link to other web pages from built in tabs, etc) but has been great for our church. It is very easy to build and make changes to our website. Our domain registration is through GoDaddy. When it comes to switching hosts, make sure you read all the specifics that the new host is looking for (this generally requires making changes to our domain name registration DNS). Most web hosting companies have documents and step by step instructions for making these changes. For example, a Google search of "Clover Sites GoDaddy" returns this as one of the top options: http://help.cloversites.com/customer/portal/articles/1933074-going-live-.... I would say that is the biggest thing to consider - If you don't have our DNS settings correct with the new host, your website won't work!

James offers some great advice there. I agree that WordPress is the best choice for most churches, especially if they've got someone in the congregation that builds sites in Wordpress, or can hire someone to do so. Can't go wrong with Wordpress.

We use Drupal for most CRCNA ministry sites, but I wouldn't use it for my local church. It's very powerful, but overkill for a church website. And even though the CRCNA has pretty much standardized on Drupal, we still use Wordpress in some situations.

But actually lately we've spun up a couple of product sites using Weebly (similar to Wix and Squarespace). Examples:
dwell.faithaliveresources.org
librosdesafio.org

Tools like that are incredibly easy (mostly drag and drop) with nice prebuilt templates. But you need to be content with their featureset because there's no ability to extend beyond it. So look at the list of features carefully, and especially compare that to some of the church-specific tools that James mentions. They all fall into the 'limited technical expertise required' category, it's just a question of what features you'd want/need.

Wordpress.com is probably between those two options. You get most of the functionality of Wordpress, but avoid some of the more technical aspects (and trade off some customizability).

Hi, Rachael.

There are several service providers that you typically need to manage and maintain a church website and it can get a bit confusing because some of them combine their services.

1. Registrar - This is the service with whom you register your domain (i.e., the address of your site). You pay a yearly fee (usually $10-$20 for this).

2. Hosting - There are different options for this. As someone who designs websites for a living, I strongly suggest you look for something called "managed hosting". Discount hosts are typically slow and have very poor service. Good, managed hosting usually costs between $15 and $30 per month.

3. Content Management System - Wix is actually a content management system that includes hosting. Squarespace is a similar option. As a website creator, I'm not a big fan of those tools for reasons I won't get into here. WordPress has become the world's most popular Content Management System, but it requires some expertise to use it well. Other choices you'll hear are Joomla and Drupal. And to confuse things even further, there are specialized content management systems designed for churches (like Ekklesia360 and Cloversites).  In the right hands, any of these solutions can be fine.
 

The bigger challenge

When it comes to websites, the challenge many churches face seems to be overall management of website projects, including strategy, content planning, execution and on-going maintenance. Another big challenge is budget. Many CRC churches invest a lot of ime and money on their ministries and on their physical buildings but they don't really invest in doing websites well.  And they often lack the the expertise within their staff/volunteer base to get projects like these done. 

When you have a minute, check out ChurchJuice.org. This is a ministry set up by BTGMI to help educate and inform churches about issues like yours.

Blessings,

James Bosma

 

 

 

Maintenance and regular checking would prevent some issues. You might find more info here:

http://www.spectra.com/support-maintenance/

Im using refurbished universal storage at the moment for backup purposes as well. Kinda late mdoel but works like a charm. I frequently migrate new files to my back up just to be safe.

Another option for church web hosting is OurChurch.Com. OCC's web hosting includes a church website builder, which installs, configures and manages WordPress, all the best church plugins and dozens of church-specific themes. Costs range from free to $25/mo.  

Disclaimer: I helped start OurChurch.Com almost 20 years ago and love helping churches live out their mission online.

I so agree, but also that the policy makes so very much sense. :-)

Thanks for sharing! It's very important to consider what makes sense and is most helpful in your particular context. It's a nice bonus that your half of classis also puts out a directory. 

We are blessed with different methods of connecting.  Within our our faith community directly there is a printed list of all members and adherents within their districts.  This list / booklet also includes ministry contact info etc. but does not have any advertising.

In addition the area churches in our half of Classis (approximately 15 groups including a non CRC but Reformed community and a Christian Retirement Home) also distributes the lists of members and adherents of those churches.  So we are connected to the churches around us as well.

In our particular context (large numbers of elderly in a semi-rural town) the online component is not yet a priority as many members do not have computer or internet connections that would warrant this level of connecting.

Sounds like some great ideas for other churches and a very sustainable directory! Thanks for sharing, Justin. 

We are in the process of redoing our directory after a multi-year hiatus. It was a big job getting everybody's information current again. This time around everything went into an online database. 

Now that it's there we can run a report that outputs the directory in the format for our print directory without all the work of updating a word document or whatever was used before. Plus we can quickly run reports on Profession of Faith aged, teens, singles, widows, etc. Even made these great family reports for house visits.

Also we have it linked to office365, mailchimp, etc. through the api so it's change once and update everywhere. So much better!

Also it's free, so dutch friendly :)

 

What a cool idea, Rod! It's really amazing to look back on a church year and just see a small glimpse of the many ways in which God has worked. Thanks for sharing!

We use it throughout the year to take candid shots of various events, worship services, and other activities and then compile them into a video that we show at our annual 'Belonging Service' where we celebrate our membership in the church. The video is always a highlight as we celebrate our lives together. Anyone can post pictures, but we do have to pull some down because we have folks whose identities ought not be shared publicly. 

Thanks for sharing, Angie! Sounds like your church is pretty active on Facebook. Also, you make a good point about the benefits of how Instagram displays pictures (clean and simple). 

My church doesn't use Instagram yet, but we do use Facebook quite a bit to share photos from worship, children's ministry, and other church events. I'd love if my church shared these photos through Instagram too! It's easy to scroll through an Instagram feed, and I find that photos don't get buried as easily as they do on Facebook. 

Eva - thanks for the timely and helpful comment. I'm finding via responses that these church directories are still an incredibly useful and valuable tool. I can see it being a bit of work to maintain both printed and online versions. Looking forward to hear the progression of how your church decides to best transition! 

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