I often think of our church as a busy place, full of people, smiles, and the smell of coffee. I’m sure right now our church feels a little odd, like being in the mall after closing time. While that may be the case for churches all across the country, we’re fortunate to live in a time where there are still many amazing ways to stay connected as God’s people.

As a digital company serving the Church we have the opportunity to talk with so many creative pastors and staff who are always pushing to engage God’s people and God’s word in truly unique ways. Below we’ve collected some of the best ideas and strategies from our experiences as well as from the churches we are blessed to serve.

If you have questions about any of these or would like help implementing them, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Continue to build engagement via your app

The first weekend after the suggested quarantine many churches saw a 300-700% increase in their app engagement.

For some churches their app became a primary tool as the surge of traffic onto their sites overloaded servers. Now that they are there, how can you continue to engage them in a very personal and encouraging way? Below are a few ideas:

  • Offer forms for those that might need assistance. Many families will need extra assistance during this time, whether it be food or finances. Ensure there are ways for people to share their need with the church.
  • Create opportunities to fill those needs. Help connect those in need with those with resources via opportunities such as delivering supplies to coops or shut-ins as well as shopping runs for those at a lower risk.
  • Prayer. It goes without saying that we need prayer globally. Lead your congregation by providing daily or weekly prayer targets.
  • Group Communication Tool. Help groups or teams stay connected with the group communication tool. This may even be a great time to set up a group for your crisis management team
  • Daily/Weekly Devotionals. Many PP churches have already offered devotionals via the app, however now might be a great time to create a daily Bible reading or devotional to encourage and exhort your congregation.
  • Ensure people know about your online services. Set up dashboard recipes to ensure your live stream is present in your dashboard as well as send out push notifications when services start to remind people to get online. Many families will be outside of their normal routines so these extra prompts can be critical in helping them stay engaged.
  • Add additional watch opportunities. In addition to your app the PocketPlatform team can help you deploy a native AppleTV or Roku app for your church, providing even more opportunities for your congregation to engage in worship digitally. Email us for more info.
  • Include Sermon Notes. Don’t forget to include your sermon notes to help people stay engaged at home.
  • Engage Donors. Help your donors stay engaged by creating specific recipes to target specific donor groups or thank people for their faithfulness. This could include significant donors or those who are “lightly lapsing” (have given very consistently but missed one or two opportunities) or a larger group such as all members + regular attenders.
  • #hashtags. This is a great opportunity to create a sense of community around a common rally cry, or hashtag. Northwoods did a great job of this with their #northwoodsanywhere. Using hashtags wisely can create a sense of unity and belonging.

As COVID-19 continues to spread quickly we as a people are having to adapt at a very fast pace. It’s very possible that this is all over in 8 weeks or less, or this could become our new normal for a time. Either way, we have no doubt that God is in control and nothing has escaped his will and dominion.

Even as many church teams raced to setup live streams and communicate effectively with their congregation and community we are still working together to stay connected, encourage one another and ultimately glorify God. Our goal with these ideas is to provide resources, support and inspiration to you and your church.

If there is ever any way that our team can support you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

With group gathering cancellations coming down from the CDC and Department of HHS, these can be trying times when it comes to being providing your congregation with an easy way to connect and worship. If you’ve never live-streamed an event before, you might be surprised to learn that getting setup to stream your services live – and link to it in your PocketPlatform application – is actually quite easy and simple.

Today, we’re going to discuss using Vimeo Premium to get a livestream set up for your church service this weekend, and link to it from the PocketPlatform application, right on your dashboard!

Please note – you can also use YouTube Live for this as well, however, Vimeo livestream will allow you to eventually scale up your livestream operation to offer deeper integration with PocketPlatform – and eventually – Roku or AppleTV integration if you need it in the future. If you would like to be able to set up direct integration into the PocketPlatform application and Roku/AppleTV apps, you can contact us and we’ll help you identify a solution for you.

Step 1: Sign Up for Vimeo Premium

Vimeo premium costs $75 a month, billed annually.

Step 2: Set up your streaming environment, aka: set

If you’re suspending all gatherings during this time, you’ll want to set up your environment in a cozy, welcoming way. Think smaller spaces, with interesting but subdued backdrops.

Think more video set and less worship venue. We think Perimeter did a pretty nice job with this last week.

You can stream directly from a phone with Vimeo Premium!

https://vimeo.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360035800451-Go-live-from-your-mobile-device

This allows you can start streaming immediately without additional equipment. Adding a simple tripod or a gimbal meant for a phone goes a long way. I personally bought this one from Amazon.

As your set up grows, Vimeo can grow with you.

You can also use a camera with microphones set up through a laptop, however, setting up a complete A/V configuration is beyond the scope of this article.

Step 3: Test your livestream!

Do a dry run without telling anyone about it, but have at least a few people watching remotely to make sure that your video and audio quality is where you want it to be.

Step 4: Add a dashboard recipe to set your live stream!

If you’d like us to configure this for you, we’d be happy to. Alternatively you can set your own up. – here’s a basic recipe structure to get you started.

https://pastebin.com/QmezPrtZ

What’s Going On Recipe

This month’s ROTM is a really fun one that a member of our community came up with. Here’s the idea:

A church member comes on campus anytime during the week for an event but isn’t registered…how do they find the room?

Enter the “What’s Going On” recipe.

Here’s the criteria:
* If a user is
+ on campus
+ registered for an event
+ that begins within 30 minutes
+ then the dashboard will display that event
* If a user
+ is not registered for any events that begin within 30 minutes
+ is on campus
+ then the dashboard will display events that are happening now or start within a 30 minute window, and has a link to all events
+ the user can click on an event to find room information and start times

This is a really fun one because it can help a user even when they aren’t registered for a specific event.

**
Click here to view the code

Do you need a special recipe, or have one you’d like to share?

If you have something awesome, you’d like to do on your dashboard or something you think might be awesome for other MP churches, send us a note. Just let us know.

Weekly Video Announcements

For our first ROTM (we just made an acronym) Stonebriar Community Church in Texas wanted a way to dynamically display their weekly video announcements on their dashboard. The recipe we created for them is able to automatically pull a video directly from Vimeo or Youtube (Youtube displayed in example code) along with the video’s preview image and plays the video natively in the PocketPlatform media player. For Stonebriar, the process of changing the weekly video couldn’t be easier – they simply update two configuration entries in MinistryPlatform, and the video announcements update across their entire installed user base. This recipe is easy to adjust for different video hosting solutions as well, for significant versatility across environments.

To use the recipe, you will need to add a config setting to MP for “POCKETPLATFORM” with the Key of “YTVideoID” and put the Youtube video id in that field. The original query was designed to send the user to the YouTube via the native app or browser.

/*Copy and Paste Y’all*/

DECLARE @YTVideoID nvarchar(50) = (SELECT Value FROM dp_Configuration_Settings WHERE Application_Code = 'POCKETPLATFORM' AND Key_Name = 'YTVideoID') DECLARE @YTLink nvarchar(250) = 'https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=' + @YTVideoID DECLARE @YTImage nvarchar(250) = CONCAT('https://img.youtube.com/vi/', @YTVideoID, '/0.jpg') insert into @Items(ID, Parent_ID, [Type], Data, URL) VALUES ('minute-group', null, 'group', null, @YTLink), ('minute-graphic', 'minute-group', 'graphic', @YTImage, null), ('minute-card', 'minute-group', 'card', null, @YTLink), ('minute-text', 'minute-card', 'text', 'Weekly Update', null);

Do you need a special recipe, or have one you’d like to share?

If you have something awesome, you’d like to do on your dashboard or something you think might be awesome for other MP churches, send us a note. Just let us know.

In January, the whole team converged on Houston to discuss what new awesomeness we wanted to build for you guys before MPUG (that’s in May – Charleston y’all). We’re not ready to release all of the details yet, but it’s definitely some cool stuff.
Sneak peek: Not saying for sure, but it might have something to do with Group Communication, Sermons and PocketPlatform en espanol (and other languages too)…but that’s just a rumor I heard.

In case you missed it, ThinkMinistry recently wrote an article about Northwoods Church’s successful launch of PocketPlatform by combining a fun Christmas Eve game and a custom 21 days of Prayer and Fasting devotional via their app. We sat down with Northwoods to talk through their launch in depth. Look for that in March’s PocketNews.
Sneak peek: Their app downloads went from 240 to over 3,500!!