From around the globe, people tune in on Fletch’s warm and sound advice. He’s a friend and “church doctor,” bringing an objective perspective, broad knowledge and vast experience. Your question will get a personal reply from Fletch.
Hey Fletch … There are several good articles on XPastor.org related to website best practices. I am looking for one related to Apps for churches. Apple has changed the rules for Apps and we are learning more from our partner Subsplash. Any help is appreciated.
DRF—I can’t be of much help here. I know my limits and you have reached them.You are on a great path as apps for smartphones can further the engagement of your congregation. We used one app at a church I was at, and many loved it. They could get all sorts of information in the app, without having to sort through the website. Let me know what you find out!
Hey Fletch … I doubt you remember me but I was part of a group in 2011. I am currently an XP of Operations. I serve under two Co-Lead Pastors…two young guys who are great! I wanted to ask if you have any metrics/information on the percentage of an overall church budget that goes towards the entire Worship, Arts, Marketing, Media department? We are a church of 1000+ with an annual budget of $1.3 million. So, for example should the percentage be 5%, 10%, 15% or 20%?
DRF—Of course I remember you, beginning with the time that we met for coffee. Even lately, when I was doing some XPastor work, I saw your paper. It has helped thousands!
It can be challenging to answer your question because church budgets vary so much in what they include. My rule of thumb is to include the following budget areas: Communications, Welcome Team, Information Technology, Audio-Visual Technology Capital &Maintenance, and all Worship expenses. As I reviewed budgets from several churches, the number was 10% of General Fund expenses.
Hey Fletch … We are a church of 1,400. We do not currently have a dedicated communications person. If we explore going to a new hire, who do they typically report to?
DRF—That is a perceptive question. Traditionally, a Communication Director reports to the Operations Director. If they do, then the Ministry XP needs to have a very close working relationship with Ops. Things are changing though. My preference is to have Communications be under Ministry, unless Communications also has Information Technology in it.
The lines are blurring between traditional communications, computers and worship audio-visual. How we use technology drives our ability to creatively communicate. All three areas center on similar technology of computers, connectedness and signal processing. Look at the bigger picture of how you are using communications, creative design and technology in your church.
Hey Fletch … Do you know of or have an Asset Replacement Policy that sets aside money for major repairs/replacement of systems like HVAC?I have not been an XP in a place where I could actually establish such a practice, but am going to try it at my new church.
DRF—There are a couple of ways to go with this and I applaud you doing it. This is great thinking for the future. One way is to do a complete list of all depreciable items on the campus, everything above $2,000. That includes computers, cameras, sound boards, routers, servers, vehicles, video projectors, roofs, HVAC units and even entire buildings. Let’s say that list comes to $20 million. Then, you set aside the 3, 5, 10, 20 or 30 year depreciation amount on those items—that is what depreciation is really supposed to do. Let’s assume an average of a 20-year life on all those items. You would need to set aside $400,000 a year. That’s a big bite!
The “all items” option is time consuming and you will list many small items. In a church, major building refurbishments or construction are generally handled as capital campaigns. That skews your depreciation list.
My preference has been to establish two reserve funds. These are internally restricted by the Governing Board of your church. As internally restricted, the Board can use the money for other purposes if there is an emergency or if an account gets overfunded. One fund is for Information Technology expenses—video projectors, computer servers, sound boards, etc. The other fund is for Facility Repair—new roofs, HVAC units, minor renovations, vehicle replacements. Depending on the size of your budget, you can determine how much to put into these reserve accounts. If you save $100,000 a year, in four years you may have enough cash to pay for a new worship center roof.
The key to estimating how much to put into the reserves is to have a spreadsheet of the major items and the timeline of their probable life. For example: Worship Center roof, 5 years remaining; Children’s Building roof; 20 years remaining; video projectors in Worship Center, 3 years remaining; campus HVAC main unit, 10 years remaining. Then consider the replacement cost and divide by how many years until you will most likely have of usable life of the items.
The great thing about this is that if you get an extra 5 years out of a roof, you keep the cash in the bank. My favorite illustration of this is the expensive video projectors in worship centers. You never know how long they will last and new technology is always just around the corner. By having the cash in the bank, you can wait until you are ready to replace them. Believe it or not, it is harder to spend cash than a loan—there is something about cash that says, ‘Wait, don’t spend it yet, it took us a while to save this much.’
Hey Fletch … We’re re-working our policies that deal with who can use our facility, how often, what to charge, if anything. It’s partially a stewardship issue, but also the common perception is that opening up our facility to the community is a good evangelistic tool. The thinking is, the more you can get unchurched people into your building, the more likely they are to attend a service. Do you believe that’s a correct assumption? Is there any data to support it? Also, another church in our community lost their non-profit status by charging people to use their building. Do you have any info on where that line is between when it’s okay to charge and when it isn’t? Thank you!
DRF—There are lots of views on this issue. As for the church that lost their non-profit status, I would ‘wager’ that it was more complicated than charging for the use of their building. You can charge for building use and may need to pay UBIT—Unrelated Business Income Tax. See this IRS article about UBIT. You can also allow groups to use your facility for free.
Make sure that you have a good policy about who can and cannot use your facility, especially if you charge for it. What type of weddings will you allow? Alcohol on the premises? Will you allow your local police to hold a police training activity in your gym with armed officers? What types of groups or activities will you exclude?
Check in with your insurance agent. They may have both advice and tips for you. Your policy may require the company to be informed if you allow non-members to regularly use your facility.
As for the effectiveness, there is that adage that if someone comes on your campus for a non-religious activity, they are more likely to return for worship. I have doubts about its veracity. People tend to come and stay when there is a personal relationship with one who invites them. Think of it this way. A church down the block is holding a rummage sale and you buy a sweater from them. If the clerk at the cashbox is blasé and unfriendly, would you be likely to return?
It reminds me of a saying by my favorite Rabbi, “Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NET Bible®.
Followup—Thanks for the quick reply, Fletch. That was so kind of you! Thanks too for the link about UBIT and great advice. I agree about the personal connection. I’ve gone to plenty of meetings in various church buildings and—while I was grateful they offered their space—I never attended one as a result of being allowed to have a meeting there. It did satisfy my curiosity though! Who was that Rabbi again? LOL!
Hey Fletch … We need some über-techs for a short project. Are there super-users or trainers on the following platforms that we could pay to write a key stroke script? The platforms are Shelby Arena, Shelby Next, Shelby V5, ACS, Elexio or Planning Center. We will pay good money for the work and need your help.
DRF—I’m not aware of any ‘public’ internet boards to post this need. It doesn’t fit the XPastor Job Boards which are for full-time jobs. I did forward it to my secret cadre of tech wizards who have a ‘private’ network. As you are going to create scripts on as many platforms as possible, you may need different specialists. Many churches also have this need on a project-by-project basis.
The ‘Hey Fletch’ column never prints names or locations. If a reader knows an über-tech, they can contact me through the green button—lower right screen.
Hey Prof … I’m in XPastor’s class on Church Communication—Ops 102 and doing the assignment on church websites. Here are the criteria that I’m using to evaluate a usable website: Staff, Locations & Directions, Service Times, Service Recordings, Live Streaming, Contact Information, Statement of Faith, Social Media Links, Favicon, Search Capability, Events Calendar, Online Giving, Mobile Friendly (responsive or not), Search Engine Results, Updated Content and a Members Portal/App.
DRF—Those are fantastic criteria to evaluate a church website. Mama and Papa are looking for those things when they consider a visit to a church. For example, some churches seem to be embarrassed about their staff and have the pages hidden under obscure menu names or buried deep in the site.
Hey Dr. Fletcher … I’m a pastor in charge of media ministry in our church in Africa. Please, is there a job description for a technical team, video team and multimedia team?
DRF—I’m so glad that XPastor is helping you across the ocean and that we get to connect. Let me send you sample job descriptions for a Technical Director and Tech Engineer. They aren’t posted on the site yet and I hope that you can adapt them for use. God’s best in your work … we are all on the same team serving Christ.
Hey Fletch … We are having some website trouble. It looks great on a desktop monitor but some of our pages are awful on a tablet or cell. Can you take a look at our site and give us some coaching?
DRF—We were overseas one summer and a friend went to the doctor with stomach pains. The doctor said, “you’ve got bugs.” Your site has “bugs.” The banners on your home page are 950 pixels wide and not scaling to smaller sizes. Your staff photos are in a table that has the first column acting like a header column—so one has to scroll in a weird way to see others in that row.
You are missing a Responsive Web Design (RWD)—“an approach to web design which makes web pages render well on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes.” Most sites are built on a theme, where a professional has laid down solid tracks to run on. Purchase a responsive theme and then customize it like crazy. Here’s how to tell if a site is responsive while on a desktop machine. Open a site on Chrome, Safari, Edge or Firefox and make the screen as narrow as it can go—it will look the width of a smartphone. If the page and graphics scale correctly, then you are have a responsive theme.
I suggest that you ask a web designer in your congregation to volunteer to audit your site or hire a free lancer to do the same. If you want some names, let me know.