Promising products and services to put on your radar for 2014
Jeremy Mika · December 10, 2013
As today’s church leaders take on the countless tasks associated with effectively leading and running their churches, it is evident that technology continues to play a more and more integral role. Seemingly in every aspect of church operations, new technology is making it easier for churches to run smoothly and get their messages out to the masses. Everything— from tracking finances and attendance to creating state-of-the-art visual and audio experiences, in person and over the Internet—is much easier and much more superior with recent technological advances.
If your church is lagging behind in its use of technology, it is very possible that it is affecting the message that you are sending to regular attenders, visitors and the rest of the world. WFM’s mission is to help you communicate your message loud and clear while saving you time on the mundane tasks that tend to take up much of your day. With this in mind, we are featuring some products that will free up your time and help your message reach the eyes and ears of your audience—crisply, loudly and clearly.
Portfolio Manager by Energy Star
Do you find it difficult to quantify utility costs when it comes to your yearly budget? Do you want to get the most out of your energy use? If so, Portfolio Manager may be for you. Portfolio Manager can help churches accurately benchmark energy usage and cost for church facilities, as well as the harmful pollution that is dispensed with wasteful energy practices and equipment.
Jerry Lawson, national manager for Energy Star Small Business and Congregations Network in Washington, D.C., communicates report, “Churches dedicated to ‘caring for creation’ and stewarding funds will want to accurately track energy performance in Portfolio Manager, as do 350,000 other facilities now using the tool.”
Portfolio Manager is not just a spreadsheet. It actually provides users with calculations to “normalize” for the hours your church doors are open, the weather according to your zip code, and changes in square footage so that any return on investment calculations of energy savings are accurate. Along with tracking energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, as its name implies, the Portfolio Manager also manages the energy and water use for your facility.
Pan/Tilt/Zoom Robotic Cameras by Sony
With the ability to broadcast church services streaming live to millions of households, it is imperative to offer a quality broadcast with top notch video and sound to hold the attention of your audience. Sony’s PTZ robotic cameras are designed to do just that. The company’s SRG-300H and SRG-120DH PTZ cameras feature View Dynamic Range Enhancement and Excellent Dynamic Noise Reduction technology. View DR brings out details, even with extreme backlighting, that would normally turn faces into shadowy figures.
“With these [cameras], pictures remain crisp without having to professionally light a building’s interior. They have powerful features that professionals require, yet are easy for beginners to master,” says Terry Huber, senior marketing manager for Sony’s industrial cameras, with headquarters in Park Ridge, N.J.
These cameras are capable of full HD (1080/60P) imaging and incorporate HDMI interfaces. They also feature 30x optical zoom, making them a sound solution for a variety of room sizes and venues, the company reports. (See image bottom of page.)
As churches grow, one of the hardest things to do is effectively communicate to everyone in the congregation outside of a typical Sunday service. Winston-Salem, N.C.-based PhoneTree provides a flexible product that helps churches of all sizes communicate to their congregations. The product uses voice, text, email and social media messaging so people can receive church-related messages in the way that works best for them.
“Having been in business since 1989, we are the only company that provides the option of using hardware, online access or a combination of both,” says Jill Bailey, senior marketing specialist at PhoneTree.
“Our products have been refined and improved based on years of client feedback. We are simple to use, fast and affordable,” Bailey reports.
PhoneTree can be used for a range of communications. For example, church staff can implement the product to pass on prayer requests, send out meeting reminders, broadcast church announcements, notify congregants of scheduling changes, recruit and manage volunteers, communicate with multiple locations, and improve staff efficiency.
ServiceU is an online company based in Memphis, Tenn., that takes on the cumbersome tasks of registration gathering, money collection and more. With the help of ServiceU, churches can offer their congregations completely secure, online giving opportunities while making it easy to sign up for classes, events or volunteer for openings at the church.
Boasting over 2,000 clients, ServiceU works primarily with churches and all sizes of businesses ranging from small non-profits to Fortune 500 companies. Tim Whitehorn, Active Network’s founder and CEO, saw the time wasted on calendar planning and the money wasted on paper while serving as a volunteer at his church. Whitehorn, who had a software development background, decided to create software that would streamline volunteer management for his church—and Service U was born.
“Service U knows what churches need because we have seen firsthand what they experience,” says Gina Calvert, a writer for Active Network. “Our aim is to minimize the time, money and resources necessary to manage giving, scheduling and registrations.”
Along with the services mentioned above, ServiceU recently began offering box office management and event ticketing to manage ticket sales for Christmas and Easter programs, concerts and other ticketed events.
Working alongside ServiceU is Fellowship One church management software. This software can be used to accurately track the demographics of a congregation; it will provide users with an accurate snapshot of families and individuals that call a given church home. With Fellowship One, church staff can access a church family’s data from anywhere over the Internet and send them important messages or newsletters by email.
The accuracy of Fellowship One is notable, the company reports. The system reportedly validates entered addresses against the U.S. Postal Service Database and merges duplicate records to help ensure accuracy.
If a church owns the building that it uses, this can bring a whole slew of issues that church leaders are not used to dealing with on an ordinary basis. When it comes to managing property, people and assets, 360 Facility is one option. The company offers a completely web-based program that provides a comprehensive service request, work order, preventive maintenance, inspection, and asset management system, all in one.
For a nominal monthly fee, the company reports, a church’s leadership can access data that will improve the efficiency of facilities and keep preventative maintenance schedules for costly equipment. 360 Facility can also track inspection data of a facility’s equipment and create action items based on the data. Along with that, the system includes emergency management that creates a central database of emergency plans.