ChurchMag Top 20 Church Tech Blogs

The ChurchMag blog has just released it’s list of the Top 20 Tech blogs for 2012.  This is a great resource to find some great undiscovered blogs (I found a few I didn’t know about).  If you don’t follow the ChurchMag blog you should.  It’s in my Google Readers ‘Absolute Favorites’ folder for a reason.

I’m also honored, and humbled, to see this blog listed as #18.  Thank you for the privilege to be placed in the same company as these other great resources.

On a similar note, do you have a blog?  If so write in the address in the comments below.  I’d love to know about it.

Mobile App Released

Our mobile app was released this weekend.  So far it has been well received.  To date it has been downloaded to 2300 devices.  Below is a quick overview of the features it contains with a short description on how each is integrated into our systems.

(note click thumbnails for larger images)

Application Home

Contains the main navigation with a single promotion.  We’re moving to a “This Week’s One Thing” promotion strategy in our communications team.  This will highlight that one thing each week.  If you touch the ad you get more details.  Currently, this ad is driven out of our Arena database.  This will soon be moved to the Rock ChMS.

About Us

This page of the app shows the location of each of our campuses.  It also has an invitation feature that allows an attendee to send a personalized email to their friends.  This page is a bit of a ‘filler’ page in my mind and probably will be replaced with additional functionality in the future.

Prayer

This page displays a sample of the current prayer requests in our Arena database.  It only shows those that a person has OK’ed to be public.  Each is approved (and possibly edited for privavcy) by our prayer team. From this page you can also add a prayer request.  These requests are added directly into Arena.  This will in time also be transitioned into Rock.

Notes:

The notes functionality is by far the most popular.  This allows attendees to take digital notes during the sermon.  There are a ton of features to this part of the app (fill-in the blanks, free form entry, etc.).  I’ll do a future post just on this feature soon.

Message Videos

The app lets you select and watch sermons directly on your mobile device with support for AirPlay.  This again uses Arena’s podcast functionality to drive the content.  We currently host our messages on Vimeo so it uses their HTML5 player.  We’re currently looking for a better video network.  If anyone has some good recommendations please post in the comments.

Group Finder

This portion of the app allows someone to use their current location, or enter in an address, to find the closest Neighborhood Group (aka small group).  It also allows them to register for a selected group.  The usage of this feature has surprised us.  In the first two days over 25 families have registered for a group.

On-line Giving

Due to the fact that Apple does not allow donations in a native app we redirect the giving button to our website.  We have created a new highly responsive (thanks Titter Bootstrap) page that is very interactive.  If someone wants a peak at what the giving UX in the Rock ChMS will look like this is it. I hope Apple allows for a more native experience in the future.

For the most part that is the app.  I’ll be posting a couple of deeper dives into some of the features and code in the near future.

Jesus’ Second Coming…

200910172318.jpgSorry… I meant the guy who played Jesus’, in the Passion of Christ, second visit to CCV. Jim Caviezel, spoke for the second time at CCV tonight (and tomorrow if you in town). Jim is an interesting guy who has a lot of fascinating stories. As a guest speaker he can be a bit hard to track with as he likes to jump from one story to another, but in both of his appearances he has really inspired me. He really exudes passion for taking a stand for what is right.

One quote he left us with tonight is “freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” I know this isn’t an original quote, but he’s delivery and passion for it hit home and resinates with the crossroad we currently stand as a country.

Thanks Jim for the encouragement and role model you are.

Consider This…

200910171430.jpgNothing is more important than the safety of our children, right? Consider then checking your membership data against your states sex offender database. Even if you require background checks for volunteers who serve around children, you want to compare everyone in your database. It’s cheap (the AZ database is only $25) and fairly easy to do with some minor tech skills.

So what do you do with the results? We flag the records in Arena (set a note that displays largely at the top of the record), add a photo to Arena (if one already exists we leave it otherwise we add their ‘mugshot’) and ensure our security team is aware of their presence.

These individuals are as welcome as any other person in our church, God loves them as much as me. But, the safety of our children demand that we take extra precautions.

For information on getting the database for your state see the Department of Justice website. Arizona churches see the DPS website.

Update: A few people have asked for tips on doing the compare. Here’s what we did. We started by importing the file into a SQL table and then looked for matches on last name, zip code and the first letter of the first name. This produces some false positives, but we quickly ruled those out but looking at their full first name and addresses.

eRA… No… Not Earned Run Average….

200910152158.jpg I mentioned in my previous post on metrics that that the church is the last organization type to develop standardized metrics. Maybe, together, we can change that. eRA is the start of what I hope will be a good standardized metric… we’ll see…

eRA stands for ‘estimated Regular Attender’. Today we use the term ‘regular attender’ rather loosely. We can’t really define when one becomes a regular attendee, and even if we do we don’t define when one stops being one. It’s also hard to measure when exactly someone has met these criteria. God knows the exact number of regular attenders in our church, but for the most part we’re left guessing.

David and I came up with the concept of an ‘estimated Regular Attender’. It’s a model that helps to estimate the number of regular attendees a church has using data that is commonly available, attendance and giving. The key word here is estimate… if you get hung up on the exceptions to the rule you’ll miss the point. The point of this metric is not be be an exact count, that’s not possible, at least in a church larger than 1,000. The point is to create a estimation of the number of regular attenders that you can consistently use over time to see trends. We’ve played with the criteria quite a bit and feel like we have a fairly solid model. We’d love your feedback though as we’re not above being wrong 😉

So… how does one become an eRA? Here’s the criteria:

  • Has given 3 or more times and has given in the last 6 weeks
  • OR Has attended at least 8 out of the last 16 weeks

Notes:

  1. Notice that the criteria is OR… giving or attendance
  2. We count eRAs as families not individuals
  3. We use attendance data from birth to 8th grade. We feel that Jr High and High School students are fairly independent and often attend church in patterns different than their parents

Ok, we see how to become an eRA how about the exit path? When building the model we quickly found that there needs to be a different exit criteria than the entrance. Otherwise you get a teetering effect where a family goes in and out weekly as they balance on the edge of the criteria. So here’s the exit criteria:

  • Hasn’t given in the last 8 weeks
  • AND Hasn’t attended in the last 4 weeks
  • AND Attended less than 8 of the last 16 weeks

Notes:

  • Notice that the criteria here is AND… they must meet all of the criteria to stop becoming an eRA.

Using this module there’s a few things you can track… the obvious first metric is the number of eRAs overtime.

200910162308.jpg

You can also measure eRA win and loss over time. This is important as it breaks out growth from loss and allows you to measure your back door. Even if you want the back door open you’d like to know how wide it is.

200910162310.jpg
(top line is adds, bottom line is losses)

An interesting point arose as we looked at the resulting data. Review the eRA entrance criteria again… and now the exit criteria. Now add a person’s name to it… Joe attends 8 out of the last 16 weeks THEN misses 8 out of the last 16 weeks AND hasn’t shown up in 4 weeks AND hasn’t given in at least 8 weeks. Does that set off an alarm in your head… what happened to Joe!? Shouldn’t that fact generate a phone call?

Now some would say that a back door is a good thing… and that may be true. But, I would contend that it matters how someone leaves the back door. Do they leave grumbling about the use of a fog machine during worship? OK there’s another Bible teaching church down the road… But perhaps they are they bleeding out the back door from a failed marriage, an illness, or a change in faith? I would say a call is warranted to at least confirm which case it is.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4

There’s so much more to say about these metrics, but hey this is a blog post… but there it is in a nutshell… what are your thoughts? Useful…? Flawed…?

Note: Arena customers: be sure to see David’s blog on some stored procedures that help you generate these metrics.

New Metrics… A Start…

As I mentioned in our previous post, David and I have been working on some new metrics. Our process has been to ask a question (like ‘How Often Do Our Peope Attend?’), find data to try to answer it, which usually brings up additional questions, which causes us to dig deeper.

The first question we started with was “How often do our attendees come?” We did some looking at our check-in data and created the chart below. It takes a look at the last 16 weeks of data (only for birth through 8th grade) and shows how many times a person missed church.

Weeks Missed Out of 16

200910101620.jpg

So we can see that the average person doesn’t come very often, in fact missing 3 out of 4 weeks. Only 21% of people show up every other week or better. This was just a first stab though… we know through some other data that we get an enormous amount of first-time visitors. Could these be skewing the data? Let’s see.

Weeks Missed Out of 16
200910101625.jpg
This graph is the same as the first except that we drop the people who only showed up once in 16 weeks. The percentages change, but the message is still clear. People don’t come as often as we might think. This data tied to the fact that our average weekly attendance is ~13,000 says that there are a WHOLE LOT of people who call CCV home. Our job is to get them here more often.
The impact of this new information is huge. It changes our internal communication strategy immensely. Put something in the bulletin for a week, or maybe two… that doesn’t reach too many of our attendees. Mention something from stage… yep same thing. We’re currently digesting the full ramifications and coming up with new solutions.
More to come on metrics… in fact the best is yet to come….

Church Metrics Dissappoint

I recently presented on some new ideas regarding metrics at the RefreshCache conference at Central Christian Church. Over the course of the last few weeks David and I have been working one some new ways of looking at church metrics. Before I dive into that let me discuss how our current metrics fail us…

First of all I think that the church is the only type of organization that doesn’t have a set of established standardized metrics (think cycle time, defects per million, etc etc in manufacturing). We hope to bring some light to this topic and hopefully provide some strawman metrics that can be discussed in a larger community. But back to our current metrics…

Our two most common measures today are:

  • Giving
  • Attendance Objects in Seats

A key point above is that what we call attendance really isn’t attendance, at least not at most churches over 1,000. Head counts are not attendance. Attendance assumes you know who the person is. Head counts measure objects in seats. I mean really… picture the usher counting in the back of the room… it’s a pretty safe bet that in most churches this cardboard cutout of Chewy, if left too near a seat, would be counted…. and if left there for the entire weekend would be counted more than once. “1…2…3…4…..(kinda hairy…but…)5….”

  200910082225.jpg

Our metrics today are really a measure of quantity (total giving, total attendance… err objects in seats) vs quality (the Edmiston’s are here again for the 8th time in 10 weeks, they’re giving shows that they trust God with their finances). Don’t you think God’s more concerned about the second metric? The problem is that to date these types of metrics are difficult to produce. Models haven’t been devised on how to measure the quality of ministry vs the quantity of it.

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So… that’s a bit of a bummer… I’m not one to talk about problems without suggesting possible solutions. I’ll post on those this weekend.

The Whole Enchilada – Finding Meaning in the Masses

Enchilada
We’re embarking in a new project to define a set of metrics that will help us determine what’s changing in our church.  One of the things that’s pretty evident is that you can’t see trends if you look at the whole enchilada. Can’t see trends in membership if you look at everyone at the same time.  Can’t see changes in giving patterns if you measure all gifts.

Take two examples…

  1. Say you look at small group attendance over time.  You notice that attendance starts going down mid-semester.  What’s wrong?  Is it serious?  Who’s leaving?  Would you be more worried if your church leaders stop showing up or those who aren’t as committed.  Maybe ‘more worried’ is the wrong phrase… would ‘react differently’ if your leaders start dropping out?  Yes, they’re probably leaving for a different reason than if a new christian leaves.
  2. Or, say your interested in why giving is up (or down).  If you look at the average gift overtime you’ll often be misled (or at least disappointed) by what you see.  Why?  Because the large gifts of the top givers and small gifts of the small givers hide the patterns that are occurring.

My initial thought we should describe each member/attendee in the church with a classification.  Then look at the metrics within each classification.  We could also help move people to the next level if we know where they are in their journey.  An initial stab at the categories are below.  I played off of Richard Reising’s baseball approach from Church Marketing 101

  1. Coaches – the top level.  We’d probably only have 100-150 of these in our church of 11,000.  These folks are the strongest leaders of the church assigned to roles such as neighborhood leaders, ministry leader.  Like unpaid staff.  To reach this someone on staff would have to sponsor you that you really are (and remain) a top level leader.
  2. Captains – leaders.  These are the general leaders of the church.  Roles like small groups leaders, usher leaders, etc.  We’d probably have 300-400 of these.
  3. Players – These are folks that are actively involved in the ministry of CCV.  They attend small groups and serve.  The are committed the the vision and mission.
  4. Lower Deck – These are attendees who are regular attendee’s / givers who are not actively involved.  Perhaps they have been to our Class 100 and been baptized but have not joined those on the field.
  5. Upper Deck – Folks who have just started CCV.  They’re in the seats but have not yet committed to the church.
  6. Prospects – Those in the database but who don’t attend CCV.  They ‘participate’ in other activities such as Aerobics, youth sports, etc.  These are some of our outreach prospects.

These are just initial thoughts… comments?