Software That Binds, And Converts, And Retains

 
 
By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2005-12-06
 
 
 

Many churches have discovered that while they can attract new families or visitors to their services, they're not always successful in converting walk-ins into regular members. Technology, however, is not only helping churches track membership and retention rates, but in some cases it's helping convert visitors into congregants.

Consider Visalia First Assembly of God in Visalia, Calif., a Pentecostal church in the state's San Joaquin Valley. Over the last two decades, the city's population boomed from around 25,000 in the 1970s to about 105,000 today. But the church's membership, which reached 2,000 in 2003, wasn't keeping pace. The church was keeping just 7% to 13% of the 25 to 40 new visitors coming to services on Sunday, a figure it was able to measure by looking at how many people filled out visitor information cards in its lobby and comparing that figure against its new-members roll.

"God was sending us these people and we couldn't keep them," says Mike Hand, a church pastor.

Eighteen months ago, Hand implemented a new process based on software from a company called ConnectionPower to improve the church's outreach methods. ConnectionPower features modules for such things as automating the visitor follow-up process, tracking donations and revenues, and creating a Web portal for members. It's priced from $1,000 for a small church to about $20,000 for churches with 6,000 or more members.

At Visalia, new visitors continue to fill out registration cards as they had in the past, with information such as family member names, ages, address and other contact information, including e-mail address. But now volunteers immediately type the information into the Windows-based ConnectionPower software.

And now, each Monday morning, Hand or his assistant logs in to the system and see the names of the new visitors. The two call up and ask the visitors what they enjoyed and talk about Christian schooling, music and drama ministries, and other programs. The software then produces follow-up recommendations. For example, if a 28-year-old mother of two visits, the software prompts a volunteer of a similar age and background to make contact later in the week. This way, the church connects the visitor with someone she can relate to, Hand says.

Since 2000, membership has jumped 40% to 2,800.

"We aren't losing track of people anymore," Hand says. "We know exactly what contacts have been made, what's working and what isn't." —M.D.