Churches of every size can benefit from a variety of church tech tools, especially now that more than 87 percent of American adults are online. An increase in options during the past decade has led to more advantages—yet it’s also caused confusion for many churches. Pastors and staff often feel overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of work involved just to keep up with changes.
Let’s look at several technology-related initiatives, broken down by church size (although all of them should be considered by churches at all levels), that can help your church reach its goals without becoming overly complex.
Small Church Tech Recommendations
For our purposes, we’ll define a small church as a church of 100 or fewer. If your church is just getting started, or if it’s been around for a while but doesn’t yet have a strong presence on the internet, several simple and inexpensive (or free) technology solutions can help you build awareness for your church, keep in touch with people within your congregation, and achieve broader communication goals.
Low Cost All-In-One Solutions
There are a number of other brands offering low-cost all-in-one solutions. Faithlife allows churches to use large portions of their integrated ministry platform for free. Tithe.ly has an all-in-one solution that starts at $99/month. And Church Base offers a free all-in-one solution for a hefty $2,000 setup fee (and a requirement to use their giving platform). It’s definitely worth looking into an all-in-one solution if you can find one you like.
Church Tech Tips for Small Churches Just Getting Started
One of the most important things you can do before you settle on any church tech platform is build out a basic church tech strategy. After all, technology is only powerful when used correctly. It’s not enough to just buy it and turn it on. You need to have a plan for how you will use it to drive the results you’re after.
If your church is like most churches, it’s likely you’re thinking about how to attract new visitors to church so they can hear the gospel. And you’re probably also thinking about how to nurture current visitors into regular attendees and members, how to help your members continue to grow in an ever deeper relationship with Jesus over time, and how to mobilize the members of your church to take the gospel out into the community through outreach and evangelism.
All of that takes a plan. Start by identifying what sorts of activities and actions you want to drive at each stage of the discipleship journey, and the tools you’ll need to accomplish this work will quickly become more apparent.
Today, not having a website is equivalent to not being listed in the Yellow Pages back in the day. A church website is the digital front door to your church which is why even very small churches should consider having some sort of web presence with service times, your physical church address, and a way for visitors to contact you. Many all-in-one platforms like the three listed above offer basic website services (some of them for free). As your church grows, you’ll be able to invest in further refining and optimization.
One of the easiest projects that can perhaps have the most benefit to your ministry is to start a blog. The best way to go about this is to start a blog in connecting with your church website. WordPress is surprisingly simple to set up, create posts, and upload images, and videos. And any of the other platforms mentioned above should be able to help you set up a blog on your website, too.
Another bonus: With a blog, your pastor or church leaders can write about points not mentioned in the sermon, discuss ministry aspirations, hint at goals for the future, and even bring up personal issues to begin a more authentic communication channel within your church. And if publishing new content is just too overwhelming at this stage, you can always begin by just publishing sections of your sermon each week. With WordPress, you can set up the option to email subscribers with new blog posts automatically to ensure your congregation can find the blog posts.
When it comes to social media, you don’t have to be everywhere. Think back to your strategic goals and ask yourself which platforms have the majority of the people you’re trying to reach. Start there, and expand out to other networks when you’re ready. You do not have to be everywhere. You just need to be where the people you are trying to reach are hanging out online.
Facebook can be a wonderful, free tool to connect with people online. You’ll quickly find that many people in your congregation are already members. After you set up an account for your church, you can “friend” members who also are on the site, usually by finding them by email address. Some churches even have their pastor and church leaders develop their own Facebook page in order to be authentically sharing and engaging with members.
Facebook is also a great place to experiment with advertising if you’re looking to test out ads, and it’s the easiest way to launch live streaming at your church (though probably not the best way—more on that below).
Instagram is a great visual space that has a great mix of younger and older folks alike.
If you record video of your sermons, you could toss some of the best ones up on YouTube and work to optimize them for search engines. This is just another way to help your church get found online without a lot of effort or expensive software.
Twitter is also incredibly popular, next to YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Twitter, known as a micro-blogging service because it allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (known as tweets), publishes text-based posts of up to 280 characters in length. Users send and receive updates for free from any device with an internet connection, making it incredibly simple to share what you’re doing, what your ministry is working on, and things people can check out on your blog and website to extend the online hand of friendship.
It’s a little pricey, but using a social media management solution such as Hootsuite can help you manage your social networks and schedule updates for the future.
There are other social networks that churches can harness for marketing and evangelism such as LinkedIn, TikTok, Snapchat, Gab, MeWe, and more. But Facebook and Instagram are probably the most popular networks with the broadest range of ages from preteens to octogenarians.
Here’s a few additional social media resources you may want to check out:
The Ultimate All-In-One Church Tech Solution for Small Churches
Faithlife, makers of Logos Bible Software, has created the world’s first integrated ministry platform. It’s perfect for small churches because they can access many tools for free and grow into the paid products over time. Here’s what’s available right away for free:
- A templated church website
- Your own online church community
- Online giving
- A customizable church app
- Digital signage
- Basic communications tools
- Messenger and video chat
- Church calendar and event tools
- Online member directory
Medium Church Tech Recommendations
For our purposes, we’ll define medium churches as churches with 100–500 members. As a mid-sized church, you may have a technology budget that allows you to take on a few more projects that extend beyond what’s free or very low cost. As your church grows, you’ll find that building a more interactive and purposeful website is critical; that using a cloud-based management system can make ministry run smoother; and that the ability to take online donations becomes critical (vs. nice to have).
Church Tech Tips for Mid-Sized Churches Looking to Scale
At this stage, your church should have a written strategic plan for how you plan to nurture healthy growth and discipleship at your church. And technology should be a huge part of that for both for how it can drive efficiency and help you scale your ministry. If you need help building your strategy, this guide offers a helpful 6-step discipleship journey you can customize and implement.
Take the concepts and make them your own. Create a strategic team at your church to determine how you’re going to go and implement and measure this plan. Below are three core elements to a strong mid-sized church growth and engagement strategy: website optimization, church management, and online giving.
A study done by Monk Development in 2012 found that 46% of people said a church’s website was important in picking a church to visit. That’s a huge percentage of people looking to your church website as the virtual front door of your church. What does your website say about your church? Does it reflect your church values, missions, and even physical presence?
When you’re a small church with under 100 members, it’s okay to have a one-page, simple website, but as your church grows larger, you should really consider investing more time and effort into the virtual front door of your church.
There are a number of good website options out there that range from a low, one-time setup price and monthly fee to thousands of dollars upfront to completely customize a website. Work with a company that specializes in the church market and builds sites that are innovative, interesting, and easy to use. Here are a few organizations you might want to consider:
It’s also great to use a provider that offers a content management system (CMS), which allows anyone with or without tech training to make updates and layout changes with ease. The overall win is to find a solution that allows your site to:
- Get a strong feel for what your church community is like including style of worship and programs and classes offered
- Provide a place to connect members and reach out via social media links
- Have access to the church’s online calendar, online donations, and online registration for events
Finally, at this stage, you should also be considering SEO, which stands for search engine optimization. SEO is the key to getting found when people are searching in Google and other search engines. Here’s a simple guide to help you get started on that work: SEO for Churches.
Practically, as churches grow, it becomes more difficult to keep track of visitors, attendees, and members. That’s why many growing churches invest in a ChMS (church management system).
The internet has spawned a new generation of ChMS SaaS (software as a service) applications that are completely web-based and offer many new features. Social networking and project workflow tools are now available in ChMS solutions, in addition to managing church membership data and financial records.
A cloud-based ChMS is hosted online, in a secure environment, and does not require regular software updates since everything is done online. With most pastors and leaders on the go, the ability to access data from the web is critical for maximum efficiency. Most ChMS providers charge according to the number of records or members, making it an affordable option for nearly any sized church.
Overall, an effective web-based ChMS seek to:
- Provide multiple access points to data
- Reduce the duplication of work
- Streamline tasks and workflow so that people at your church don’t slip through the cracks
- Integrate more easily with the church website in order to get more people connected and involved
Here are a few organizations you may want to consider:
- ACS Technologies
- Faithlife Equip
- Church Community Builder
- Planning Center Online
- Church Base
- Ministry Brands
- Touchpoint Software
- Breeze ChMS
- Rock RMS
Online and Mobile Giving
Providing online giving through your church website can increase the size, frequency, and regularity of people’s giving. With 41% of churches seeing an increase of 5% or more in online donations this year, according to the State of the Plate 2016 survey, digital giving should be a priority. The majority of people do not carry cash and check books so debit and credit card giving, and even text giving, are viable options that should not be overlooked.
There are fees involved with nearly every option, so it’s important to take a close look at the costs and processes for setting up a merchant account and what the percentage fees are for every transaction.
The majority of web-based ChMS providers now offer online giving, in addition to the ability to take online registrations and payments for events. However, it’s wise to evaluate stand-alone online giving providers as well in order to weigh all options.
Security is something to pay close attention to: an online giving provider should be Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliant in order to protect your members’ credit card data, and to help protect your church from liability.
Here are a few organizations you may want to consider for online giving:
Large Church Tech Recommendations
For our purposes here, we’ll define a large church as any church with over 500 members. Many large churches have the same ministry desires and goals, but they do things on a much bigger scale. As a church grows, the technology needs to drastically scale.
Most large churches and mega churches incorporate cutting-edge technologies into their ministries; in fact, many ministries grow to mega church size because they incorporate technologies and tools often used by secular organizations to instead impact people with the gospel message.
Church Tech Tips for Large Churches Looking to Thrive
At this stage of church growth, you should already have the basics in place
- A vibrant social media presence and strategy
- A great, informative website that serves as the virtual front door to your church
- A blog where you’re regularly posting fresh and engaging content
- An online community where your congregation can gather and interact online
- A robust ChMS (church management system) where you’re keeping track of important data
- A safe and secure mobile and online giving platform allowing people to give anytime, anywhere
But now it’s time to think about the next level of church tech, and as a church of 500 or more, you likely have the budget and staff to invest in some truly great church tech. In addition to all of the tech we covered for small churches and mid-sized churches, large churches should definitely be investing in live streaming technology, smart integrations, task management tools, and a church app.
One way large churches use technology well is by creating an internet and media ministry team for multi-site streaming. When churches grow beyond their physical facilities, some open additional locations and stream the same live sermon message from a video feed sent through the internet. This allows churches to duplicate their efforts in order to reach more people. As of 2015, about 10% of all Protestant church goers attend a multisite church campus.
And, of course, in light of COVID-19, we all know live streaming has become a must have for any large community looking to keep people connected even when apart.
Many churches of all sizes also use audio and video podcasting, creating online audio and video files of sermons and making them available for listening, watching, and downloading online. This can be a very effective way of enlarging your ministry beyond the four walls of your church. Many churches use iTunes to podcast sermons and link to this from their church website. iTunes allows churches to podcast for free.
Here are a few live stream and podcasting tools to consider:
- Faithlife Live Stream
- Church Online Platform
- Faithlife Sermons
- Sermon Podcasting Tutorial
- And more!
Smart Integrations and Task Management
It’s easy to have disjointed departments as the church grows steadily, but at some point, it is necessary to integrate all ministries so that everyone is on the same page aiming to meet the same goals.
Technology can accomplish this either through a church management software that offers seamless integration across platforms as well as built-in task management or through another project management tool to keep everyone aligned (such as Basecamp, which is available for a reasonable monthly fee).
There are also newcomers to the market each year like Roco CPM, which created its own acronym, “church project management.” The end result is a website together with internal management software that pulls together the public and private sides of the church to form one unified organization that engages everyone in active participation.
The bottom line here is you want to break down the silos and get your entire organization rowing in the same direction. Visibility and alignment are key, and the right technology can really help with this.
Church App and Push Notifications
Lastly, with the dominance of internet-ready smartphones taking precedence in everyone’s pocket, the proliferation of apps, or applications, have become extremely popular. This technology product has been “all the rage” for churches since at least 2015. Some churches execute this well, and others don’t. Like any tech tool, you shouldn’t purchase it unless you intend to steward it well.
Many church management software providers, as well as online giving providers, have started including an app with their solutions in order to sweeten the pot, so to speak. If you start online giving, you get an app so people can easily download the app and give via the app, thereby streamlining the process. As with everything, weigh out the positives and negatives to see what is the least expensive and provides the most helpful and easy-to-use tech tools to best fit your congregation’s needs.
When it comes to apps, you’ll also need to decide if you want to invest in a custom church app (one specifically built and customized just for your church) or go with a consolidated app (a shared app that supports many different churches). As you might have guessed, the consolidated version is the more affordable route. Most app companies will offer both options.
Here are some church app organizations to consider:
Hopefully, you found this “church tech survival guide” helpful. The most important thing to remember as you get started is to always begin with strategy. What is it you are trying to accomplish? What are all the ways you could accomplish it? Which technology is absolutely necessary and which tools are simply nice to have? Are there any platforms that combine everything you need into one bill with some cost savings? Do all the tools you want to use integrate well with one another? Or are you creating another headache for yourself?
Remember: You should never purchase church tech just to have the latest and greatest thing. And you should never purchase something you don’t intend to actually use. Make sure you’re going into your purchases with eyes wide open. If you are going to purchase an app for your church (just as an example), remember someone will need to update it on a regular basis for it to truly be effective.
We are all called to steward our resources well, and the right church tech can actually help us do that very well. Good luck!
This article was originally published by our friends at Christianity Today Pastors in 2016 and republished on this blog in 2017. It was last updated in April 2021.