A few months back, we chatted with echurch Summit panelist Michael Mullikin, Executive Pastor of Operations at NewSpring Church in South Carolina, to learn more about how NewSpring uses technology to drive church engagement. What we learned was so powerful we wanted to share it with you.
While it’s common for businesses to define core values, it’s less common to see churches do so. There’s definitely a legitimate fear around the church looking and operating too much like a business; however, there’s a reason businesses do things like write mission and vision statements and identify core values. It helps them unify all their work around particular goals and ideals. There’s no reason a church shouldn’t define and establish community goals and identify a way to measure whether or not they’re succeeding.
NewSpring has identified five core values for their church:
- Found People Find People
- Saved People Serve People
- You Can’t Outgive God
- You Can’t Do Life Alone
- Growing People Change
Once NewSpring identified these five values, however, they immediately recognized the fact that they simply were not properly resourced with the technology necessary to effectively engage people in these five areas. So, they began working on a plan to build their technology around these five values.
1. Growing People Change
Because “Growing People Change,” they started to build out a library of online content that was designed to help their members and visitors grow in their relationship with Jesus. This included making sermons and devotionals accessible and even breaking sermons down into bite-sized bits to be digitally consumed throughout the week. They recognized that if they really wanted to see their church community learn and grow, they needed to help make this easy and accessible to them in their busy, mobile lives.
2. Your Can’t Do Life Alone
In recognizing “You Can’t Do Life Alone,” they realized they needed to make it easy for people in their church to find local Bible studies, community groups, interest groups, and more. The focus wasn’t just on getting the community plugged into a Bible study; it was broader and focused on finding like-minded people to “do” life with.
3. You Can’t Outgive God
When it comes to giving, NewSpring’s value is “You Can’t Outgive God.” If you’ve ever viewed their website, you’ll notice they’re not shy about money. That’s because they recognize God has called us all to be stewards of His gifts. Ultimately, church leadership realized they needed to teach about stewardship and make it easy for their members to give digitally and in seconds, and they’re using technology again to make this simple, convenient, and fast.
4. Saved People Serve People
NewSpring knew they needed to not only provide service opportunities for people, but they needed to get those opportunities in front of them and make it easy for them to get involved for the first time. Their technology allows people to check in at events and find new opportunities to serve, providing a great way to track engagement over time.
5. Found People Find People
Finally, they knew if they wanted the message of the gospel to spread beyond the walls of their local churches and community groups, they needed to provide a way for their members to easily engage their broader community. So, they use social media to engage their community with powerful, shareable content designed to easily create meaningful conversations.
With all of the technology they’ve developed to engage their community around their core values, NewSpring is able to keep a handle on the pulse of the church through analytics and reporting around check-ins, participation, and engagement. For example, church leadership will immediately know if someone’s stopped serving, giving, or attending small group, and because they know this information they can follow up quickly to find out if something is wrong (often drop-offs in these sorts of metrics align with ministry opportunities around either some sort of tragedy and/or financial need—both incredible places for the church to minister words of comfort and even financial aid if necessary).
The Power of Mobile
Michael recalled his first year on staff at the church, back when mobile traffic was around 10 percent. Over the years, he’s watched that dramatically increase. In 2015, for example, mobile (vs. desktop) traffic was 60 percent; now it’s at a whopping 80 percent. In recent years, they’ve noticed just about everything moving toward mobile, so they decided to follow suit. Now when their technology team designs anything, they build it for mobile first and for desktop second.
Mobile is clearly a game-changer when it comes to church engagement.
Next Steps in Technology for the Church
When I asked Michael where he saw things going in the future, he definitely had a lot to say around personalized content tied to particular ministry needs. This was music to my ears because it echoes a lot of the personalization we know is super powerful in the marketing world.
We’re now able to track so much with our technology, it only follows that we use that information to better meet the individual needs of the people in our churches. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what NewSpring is up to even just a year from now. It’s very much aligned with the sorts of technology we’re rolling out through the Pushapy suite of church engagement tools.
Bonus Advice for Pastors Looking to Grow Their Churches
One last nugget: Before we hung up our call, I asked Michael: “If you could give one piece of advice to a room full of pastors looking to grow their churches, what would you tell them?” His answer: “You’re one or two tough decisions away from doubling your church. People are afraid to make tough decisions. You may have someone on your leadership team who shouldn’t be there, but maybe you don’t make the tough decision to replace them. You may know a certain ministry isn’t producing fruit, but because you don’t want to offend people you won’t make that decision. However, the reality is that one tough decision might be keeping you from growing. Make the difficult but necessary decision.” What a powerful takeaway!