by Suzy Keenan
Traditionally, Memorial Day begins the dreaded summer season – the exodus of worshippers as they drift away for vacations far (and near). Worship and Sunday School attendance drops, and so do offerings.
It’s too bad members can’t pack up and take church along with them as they leave for faraway places… unless they are one of the 136 million smartphone users in American today – then they can connect with you wherever they are.
Here are five technology tips that might help your church connect better over the summer with members on the go, potential visitors, and new persons in your community.
· Update your online calendar: this is probably one of the most useful pages on your website. If you do not yet have one, set up a Google calendar, which is easy to update and which can be embedded on your website. Give key staff and volunteers access to help keep the calendar up to date. Include all of your worship times, choir rehearsals, mission meetings, youth group and Sunday schools times. This information is helpful to members and to persons who intend to visit your church.
· Live stream your worship service: this is easier to do and more cost-effective than you think. Techshop now offers affordable live streaming in partnership with OCV, a leader in communications technology for churches. You will need a camera (webcam, camcorder) and a computer with Internet connection. Don’t have the funds? Ask professionals and business owners in your community to sponsor your live video streaming. Find out more:www.myUMClive.com.
· Keep your Facebook fanpage fresh: give volunteers and staff administrative rights so they can add content. Post new photos, news, and even polls. Ask members to “Like” and “Share” your fanpage, and to “Check in” from smartphones while at church. Or set up a laptop outside the sanctuary on Sundays so they can do so.
· Set up online donations: Online donations will make it possible to receive funds even when worshippers are not there to place their tithes and gifts in the offering plate. Place a “Donate” button next to the live streaming video player on your website, or email the link to vacationing members. Google Wallet (http://www.google.com/wallet/
· Extend your reach with mobile apps: Within a few years, nearly 200 million people in the U.S. with use smartphones as their primary means of communication. Most users download apps (average of 40 or more) to connect with their favorite places, organizations, and events. What if your church were one of them? Members of all ages could check your calendar, set reminders to read your daily prayer, see live streaming of your worship, share and “Like” your social media, and even donate right from the app. Techshop now offers discounted pricing on mobile apps through www.myUMCapp.com, making mobile communications affordable.
You are encouraged to download the EPAUMC mobile app to get the latest news, events, messages, and Bishop’s blog right on your phone. Look for EPAUMC in your iPhone or Android app store.