Making the most of your Easter offering

Does your church see its biggest attendance of the year on Easter? While preparing for the service, consider three things to make giving easy and accessible on Easter:

1. Send personalized Easter emails.

Send emails to your church members and supporters before Easter Sunday with an announcement about the service (and any other special services you might be holding), an encouraging word, and an opportunity to contribute in advance to the Easter offering. If you have online giving, you’ll be able to include an online giving button so people can give right there and then. If you mail physical letters this season, you’ll be able to include a link to your giving page.

2. Be intentional during offering time.

Talk about why we give, what’s happened in your church that deserves celebration, and give clear directions on how people can contribute. Showing a slide with instructions during this time is very helpful.

3. Collect contact information.

With many visitors and newcomers at your church, this is the perfect time to give out contact cards, which can be completed and collected during the offering. What a great opportunity to follow up and grow your church.
 
Making giving easy on Easter by letting people give online this Easter. Email us if you’re interested.

FaithStreet is all about connecting people with churches, even those that are “less traditional” than others. In a new feature here on the blog, each week we’ll highlight weird, wild and wonderful churches from around the country. Do you lead or belong to a church that’s definitely not your mama’s ministry? Contact us. We’d love to hear from you!

This week, we came across Victory Church in Rochester, NY. From the outside, it seems like a run of the mill Christian church. Then you learn that senior pastor Pat Burress also happens to run a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) team out of the church’s basement.

Though it sounds odd (and dangerous), Burress doesn’t combine faith with fighting out of malice or to capitalize on a weird trend - he happened to be both an MMA enthusiast and a man of God, and he figured “why not combine them?”

"I’m good at fighting and I’m good at telling people about Jesus.  So I don’t think God wants you to be this person on one day and another person on another day.  He wants you to be the you he made you," he told Fox Sports.

It’s not really that outlandish, if you think about it. Sports and faith are inextricably linked, and it’s not unheard of for churches to offer sports and fitness-centric ministries. MMA, though it appears brutal, has evolved to become as much a sport as anything else. Whether you believe it’s possible to love thy neighbor while applying a guillotine choke, of course, is another matter altogether.

Burress’ story is so compelling (and controversial) that filmmakers Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel were inspired by Burress and similar churches (yes, there are more) to make a documentary. The film, called Fight Church, premiers April 24 in Boston. Check out the trailer below.

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Gizmodo Australia recently published a post about tech and religion - our two favorite subjects. It mostly centers around some new (and somewhat controversial) apps, from simple prayer reminders to one designed to streamline the process of Catholic Confession. Writer Ashley Feinberg also explores some of the challenges churches are facing as the world becomes more tech-friendly.

According to Cheryl Casey, Assistant Professor of Media Communication at Champlain College:

When a new technology, such as the printing press or the Internet, unleashes massive cultural change, the challenge to religion is immense. Cultural developments change how God, or the ultimate, is thought of and spoken about.

There’s another, perhaps less often vocalised issue. Religious institutions rely on their devout followers to stay afloat, but if everyone’s fulfilling their own spiritual needs in between rounds of Words With Friends, they might find that those institutions are no longer necessary.

That last bit probably overstates the issue, as is common when any new technology has the ability to disrupt the status quo. In some cases (like manufacturing) the fear is justified - there are definitely far fewer factory workers now thanks to robotics. Most times, however, it isn’t. Microwave ovens didn’t purge us of our collective desire for and knowledge of high-quality foodstuffs, and far from killing the publishing industry, e-readers have ushered in a new renaissance of sorts.

Religious leaders probably shouldn’t worry too much about their flock abandoning the church to instead worship at the altar of the iPhone. A church is, by definition, a matter of community. If it were only about God’s word and the scripture, the humble printing press would have rendered church leaders technologically irrelevant centuries ago. And yet, here we are. People rely on churches because the shared support, interpretation and guidance found within are a tremendous source of comfort, strength, assurance and (most importantly) love.

If anything, technology can help make faith and the church much more important parts of people’s lives. Modern life is unavoidably hectic, and we increasingly find ourselves pulled in several directions. Anything that makes it easier for faith to find a permanent place in people’s schedules should be welcomed, not feared. That’s what motivates FaithStreet, and it’s why we help churches and their communities connect online, and why we’ve made it possible to give online as well. When applied thoughtfully, new technology can actually help old traditions survive.

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Interesting piece in the New York Times about what’s become one of Rome’s biggest tourist attractions - the 800-Year-Old Church of St. Francis at Ripa. It just so happens that the church includes a room where St. Francis of Assisi is said to have slept (including the stone he used as a pillow). Since the election of Pope Francis, interest in visiting the otherwise quiet church has skyrocketed - so much so that the church doesn’t have the funds to make necessary improvements.

Renovating old spaces like that is tricky, and tricky in this case equals expensive. $125k, to be exact. The Franciscans, not known for their wealth, don’t have that kind of money laying around. The solution? No problem, just set up a Kickstarter campaign:

"We have nothing against modern tools of communication,’ Father Tamburo said. "What is important to us is our tradition. Not the tools that we use to spread that tradition."

With 7 days remaining in the fundraising campaign, the monks have some catching up to do - at the time of writing, they’ve managed just over $70k. Still, that’s impressive, and surely wouldn’t be possible without kickstarter. It also speaks volumes of the game-changing feature of online giving: Reach.

When you institute an online giving program, you expand your tithing base from “[whatever it is now]” to (theoretically) “everyone on the planet.” It’s that simple. Imagine the benefits of people being able to support your church from anywhere, at any time. Families on vacation can still make their regular contributions. Members who are bed ridden due to illness are able to show their support. Former church members who’ve moved away but still want to support their hometown - the list is endless.

Remember, it’s the tradition itself, not the tools you use to spread it. Online giving is the future, and FaithStreet has the most sophisticated and lowest cost platforms available. If you’re interested, drop us a line - we’re happy to help.

As for the Franciscans, we’re pulling for them.

Image: Gianni Cipriano for The New York Time

Well, this is instructive: An infographic that beautifully shows what people are looking for when they go to your church website. The full graphic is below, and a larger version is available here.

The survey was conducted over six months in 2012 using Google Analytics, and each number represents unique page views for pieces of content containing the highlighted words.

In the digital age, this is important info for pastors or whoever’s in charge of your church’s online presence. There are a couple of things we can take from this. One, just the sheer number of total unique views - nearly four million, and this is just one website! People are hungry for online presences from churches, and they’re only growing hungrier.

Two, it’s amazing how far ahead “ministries” is relative to everything else. Clearly, people are interested in how the church applies and is catering to them and their needs. Is it a reflection of the a la carte, instant gratification world we live in? Maybe, but anything that makes the church more appealing to more people is generally a good thing.

Need a great, easy way to improve your church presence and have many of these oft-searched terms in one place? Sign up for FaithStreet. We help bridge the gap between faith and technology, and we even offer cutting-edge services like online giving. If this graphic is any indication, you stand to gain by creating a profile.

Image by iministries.org

FaithStreet’s co-founder and CEO, Sean Coughlin, was on the scene live-tweeting and taking photos as Sally Quinn, founding editor of OnFaith, and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius interviewed President Jimmy Carter “A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.”

President Carter talked about the discrimination against women around the world, particularly in religious societies. Check out some photos and highlights below

Sally Quinn, founding editor of OnFaith, and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius with President Jimmy Carter

For video recaps, as well as the full stream of live tweets, click to visit WaPost Live.

Over at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight (you’ve heard of him predicting everything from presidential elections to sports tournaments), they did an interesting analysis: At IMDB, when people searched “reference to ____,” “Jesus Christ” and “God” were the two most popular terms used to fill in the blank.

Here’s the full list:

So, what does this say about us? Probably a lot of things. For one, it speaks to just how much religion (particularly Christianity) is woven into our collective consciousness - there are plenty of other religious terms on there, you’ll notice.

Two, it’s an indicator of how people are increasingly combining their search for faith with technology. This is IMDB we’re talking about, the Internet Movie Database. People are searching for cultural and artistic references to religious themes, and they’re using the internet to do it.

That’s something to keep in mind when you’re looking to bridge the gap between your physical religious community and the online realm. It can be as simple as a Facebook and Twitter page to start. Maybe next you sign up for Faithstreet to add more cohesion to your online presence, and before you know it you’re implementing online giving to take full advantage of all technology has to offer to faith communities.

We’ll leave you with a quote from the FiveThirtyEight article:

But if anything, John Lennon’s old boast doesn’t hold up. No, the Beatles aren’t bigger than Jesus.

This time, the proof is in the data.

FaithStreet publishes OnFaith, where writers share their thoughts on all things religious. OnFaith covers religion, and religion covers just about everything - including the subject of non-religiousness. This week, we looked at the increasing prominence of atheist voices in America, and invited some of the most prominent voices to post on our pages.

Here are the top three articles this week:

3. Deborah Mitchell, author of Growing Up Godless, on "How to Spot an Atheist"

2. Daniel Dennett, author of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, on "Pastors Who Don’t Believe"

1. Herb Silverman, founder of the Secular Coalition for America, on "10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Atheism"

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop us a line on our Facebook page, and follow us on twitter to keep up with all things religion.

Happy Friday, and good luck with your brackets!

In honor of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament starting in earnest today, we found this infographic that examines how much influence people believe God has in sports. Short answer: A lot.

Graphic is below. If it’s a little too small, view it larger here.

As you can see, about half of all Americans believe the supernatural plays a role of some kind in sports. The graphic was created by the Public Religion Research Institute, and if you check out the page they have many more statistics, including this interesting one:

On any given Sunday, one-quarter (25%) of Americans report that they are more likely to be in church than watching football, while nearly as many (21%) say the opposite—that they are more likely to be watching football than in church.

What, if any, role do you feel religion plays in sports? Looking at these statistics, where do you find yourself falling?

Good luck with your brackets, everyone.

Well, this is cool. Originally developed by Tyndale College and Seminary, the following infographic shows the relationship between churches, worship and everyday technology. Most surprising? Churches are a lot more open to technology than you might think.

If the graphic is a little small, see it larger here.

Some key takeaways:

  • Over half of all churches surveyed don’t shy away from technology
  • 74% of church members read the Bible electronically. That number is astounding
  • Among churches who create no artificial barriers to using technology, “acceptance members” is the smallest issue with implementation - people want technology
  • Just 1.4% cite “theological issues” with technology - For the vast majority of churches, there’s no doctrinal case against its use.

At FaithStreet, we like to think of ourselves as an intersection of faith and technology. Starting out of a Manhattan apartment in 2009, we’ve grown to include 12,800 churches across America, and we have helped hundreds-of-thousands of people find and connect with a local faith community.

This infographic looks to have been created in 2011, so current numbers would likely be more in favor of technology. Up next for us? Our simple yet powerful online giving platform, which you can sign up for and start using today.