Mobile Applications Case Study
New Church of Faith Stays in Touch using Mobile Messaging Solution (Cont'd)
Twenty percent more parishioners attended the Bible study that Sunday – a result that I attribute to the reminder text from AT&T Messaging Toolkit.”
Russ Beacham, Pastor, New Church of Faith
About New Church of Faith
New Church of Faith Facts
Instantly reach, inform and communicate with congregation members and visitors
AT&T Office@Hand for after-hours requests; AT&T Messaging Toolkit for text messaging and polling parishioners
Improved way to stay in touch with parishioners; increased participation in church activities; gained better understanding of congregation’s needs and preferences; increased access to ministers for prayer requests
Place of worship
Approximately 3,500 congregation members
Created in 1986, the New Church of Faith serves approximately 3,500 members in its Eatontown and Orlando, Florida congregations. The Beacham family and approximately 35 other ministers support “in-reach” and outreach programs that help parishioners establish personal relationships with God and Jesus and learn how to lead better lives.
The New Church of Faith wanted to improve its ministers’ accessibility to parishioners with prayer requests while allowing ministers to be at home and more mobile. The church also needed an effective and flexible way to target and quickly communicate with groups within its congregation.
With AT&T Office@Hand, ministers are now more available for prayer requests. Callers are routed to ministers who are accessible – almost anywhere and anytime. The AT&T Messaging Toolkit enables the New Church of Faith to easily send text and voice messages reminding parishioners about church events. With mobile voting, parishioners provide ideas for Bible study topics. The church can stay connected with visitors who want to learn more.
Ministering to Families
Before starting the New Church of Faith, Bishop Dave Beacham and his wife, Pastor Elaine Beacham, were both part of Florida’s Orange County school system. “My parents have always believed in children and invested in their futures,” said Pastor Russ Beacham, the couple’s older son. “So, after retiring, they started the New Church of Faith to help youth and their families establish personal relationships with God and Jesus.”
I wanted something that would be easy to use and not overwhelming – not only for me, but also for congregation members, regardless of age.”
Russ Beacham, Pastor, New Church of Faith
Created in 1986, the New Church of Faith has approximately 3,500 members in its congregations in Eatontown and Orlando, Florida. The entire Beacham family is involved in the church’s ministries − “in-reach” and outreach programs that address the needs of its parishioners and communities. In addition to Bishop Dave and Pastor Elaine, Russ and his wife, Meka, are co-pastors focused on all operational aspects of the church while brother David and his wife, LaShawn, are co-pastors for teens.
“We minister to the entire family, helping them to learn the scriptures and extend their faith and knowledge to lead better lives,” said Beacham.
While the New Church of Faith has traditional goals for its congregation, it takes a non-traditional approach when engaging parishioners. Beacham produces two television shows: “God’s Best Dance Crew” (GBDC) involves the youth with pop gospel dancing and “Faith Builders” features a series of teaching sermons that help families deal with life’s many issues.
Bible studies include microphones positioned throughout the sanctuary for use by parishioners with questions. “We get people involved by doing a lot of things that are interactive. We encourage discussions and testimonials,” added Beacham. “We treat everyone as one, big family where every question is welcomed.”
Staying in Touch
Before joining the ministry, Russ Beacham studied communications and worked in website design in college. So it was a natural fit when he assumed the lead for all communications in all media associated with all ministries.
“Our church is growing and has a lot of different ministries – teens, couples, singles,” said Beacham. “To stay relevant, I needed a flexible way to stay in touch with groups of people almost instantly.”
Small groups for texting about church news had informally formed over time,
yet Beacham wanted to extend and make the most of this technology throughout
the church. “I wanted something that would be easy to use and not
overwhelming – not only for me, but also for congregation members, regardless of age,” noted Beacham. “I also needed something that would help our ministers stay accessible to parishioners with prayer requests – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
As a longtime AT&T customer, Beacham called on his account manager to
make a recommendation. “He has worked
side-by-side with us throughout the years and understands us,” said Beacham. I knew we could trust him to do the needed homework and examine all our options.”
The AT&T account manager soon returned with a solution – AT&T Office@Hand and AT&T Messaging Toolkit.
Answering Prayer Requests
Before using AT&T Office@Hand, the New Church of Faith offered its prayer request line via toll-free numbers answered by multiple ministers in their offices. Since many of the church’s TV productions are aired in the middle of the night, ministers still needed to be on call. Beacham explained, “Requests for prayers come in all hours of the day and night; answering those calls is definitely not limited to ‘9 to 5’. Yet, having a minister physically in the church at all hours to answer calls was just not feasible.”
Now ministers are always available when anyone calls with a prayer request. With the AT&T Office@Hand system in place, the New Church of Faith provides one 800 number where incoming calls can be forwarded to multiple ministers no matter where they are – at home, in the office or on the road.
“With the system’s customized call routing, we can have prayer-request calls forwarded from the main office to the home phones or cell phones of ministers who are on-call. If one minister isn’t available, the system just forwards the call onto the next one,” said Beacham. “And I can make real-time routing changes with my smartphone or tablet. It works really well; we don’t miss a request.”
Signing Up for Reminders
Beacham is equally excited about AT&T Messaging Toolkit. He went directly to the Toolkit’s online portal to learn about the different messaging capabilities. “When I first heard about the Toolkit, I immediately knew it could work for us. After completing the tutorial, I was ready to jump in and try it.”
Beacham’s first opportunity came during the church’s Saturday night service. “At the end of the service, I asked everyone to get out their cell phones,” recalled Beacham. “I had created the key word, NCOF for New Church of Faith. I asked them to text ‘NCOF’ to 99000. About 100 parishioners did so and received a text message saying, ‘Thank you for signing up for updates from the New Church of Faith.’ I then told everyone about the benefits of joining our new text messaging system. That was how we got started!”
On the following day, Beacham sent a reminder text message about upcoming
church events to the parishioners who had opted in. “Using our new AT&T
messaging application, I texted the topic for the Father’s Day Bible study,”
said Beacham. “Something truly amazing happened. Twenty percent more
parishioners attended the Bible study that
Sunday – a result that I attribute to the reminder text from AT&T Messaging Toolkit.”
Voting by the Congregation
With this initial success, Beacham started exploring new ways to use the Toolkit’s messaging applications. An opportunity soon presented itself. During its “GBDC” TV production, the New Church of Faith spotlighted several of its dance teams. To add some competitive fun, Beacham established a mobile voting application, allowing church viewers to vote for their favorite teams.
“I used my mobile tablet to set-up and manage the process. As people voted via text messages, the votes were tallied and reported on-screen. Everyone was really impressed with the level of professionalism enabled by the Toolkit. It also created a ‘buzz’ within our congregation about what’s possible when serving communities through our ministries,” said Beacham.
One idea led to another. For the Bible study series, Beacham decided to poll church members about their preferences for topics. “With the AT&T Messaging Toolkit, we can now easily give parishioners opportunities to provide input about ideas and feedback about decisions. It helps us stay in touch with them without being intrusive, since they choose to be part of the messaging system, even selecting the different groups from which they would like to receive messages.”
The New Church of Faith has established a text-messaging group just for choir members or parishioners who want to get texts about choir activities. There are groups for the worship committee, for the teens and for couples, to name a few. There is even a text-messaging group for first-time visitors.
Beacham explained, “We offer visitors an opportunity to get updates from the church about events, Bible studies and ministry activities. And once or twice a month one of our pastors reaches out to just say ‘hello’. It’s a great way to stay connected with people who want to learn more and experience what it’s like to be part of our church.”
Using the Best Media
Since subscribing to AT&T Messaging Toolkit, Beacham has helped other pastors and leaders in the New Church of Faith establish their own messaging strategies and groups. “The Toolkit is so easy and straightforward that other ministers use it – not just me,” explained Beacham. “Tutorials for the various messaging applications are on each page. There are also fail-safe features built into the templates that help us correct or prevent errors.”
Some of the church’s ministers are even recording special voice messages to send to specific or all groups. “There are times when messages are more effective when delivered by voice,” said Beacham. “For example, my mother recently recorded and sent a series of back-to-school voice broadcasts to our congregation, asking them to pray for our children as they return to school. This is an incredibly important message that we believed the congregation needed to hear versus read. With AT&T Messaging Toolkit, we have the flexibility to communicate messages using the best media – text, voice and even email.”
Beacham estimated that 15 percent of church members have now opted in to receive messages. At the same time, 100 percent of the ministers and other church leaders are convinced and excited about the Toolkit’s value for informing and staying connected with parishioners. “We’re entering our busy season at church so I know more people will want to sign-up to keep informed,” said Beacham. “Our goal is to have at least 50 percent of our congregation join the new messaging system by the end of the year.”
Beacham also noted how the Office@Hand toll-free number could be used in AT&T Messaging Toolkit’s text or voice messages. “By using Office@Hand, we can invite congregation members to ask questions or respond with comments to certain messages, and then route their responses to specific ministers. Office@Hand also provides a log of the responses, which helps us understand what messages our parishioners are really interested in or might have more questions about.”
Touching People’s Lives
With a relatively young congregation, Beacham was slightly concerned about the acceptance of the new messaging system by the more senior parishioners. Yet, he soon learned that seniors, while they may not have smartphones, do have cell phones and receive text messages. “We have found that everyone, regardless of age, really likes getting messages that help them stay abreast of what’s going on in our church. Some choose to send us messages back, but the majority just love being and staying informed.”
Beacham was quick to point out the accountability that comes with managing the new messaging system. “We are planning our messages and coordinating the timing of delivery,” said Beacham. “It’s important to keep our parishioners informed far enough in advance so that they can better schedule their time. Yet, we don’t want to bombard them with irrelevant information. We scrutinize each message to make sure it’s valuable for our parishioners.”
Beacham has found the AT&T solution to be so valuable for him and the ministers that he wondered, “How did we do it before?” “We realize that we can’t do it all, but with AT&T technology, we can manage it all,” continued Beacham. “We may not be able to literally touch someone with a blessing, but with AT&T technology, I can ‘touch’ someone with a blessing through an encouraging text or voice message. It helps us touch people’s lives.”
As the church continues to grow, Beacham appreciates how AT&T communications technology will help them minister to the church’s congregation, every minute of every day. He concluded, “The AT&T solution has worked out really well for us; it’s almost as if it was designed just for churches.”