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Technology Beyond the Worship Platform

Technology Beyond the Worship Platform

Think church technology is all about lights, camera, action? Think again.

“Technology can be utilized to take your worship services, messaging and other communications to a wider audience, whether it is making an Internet channel that streams your worship services, allowing members to log in and join from home, or electronic communications that are sent directly to all members with important community information,” says Jeffrey Barnes, product specialist for EditShare in Boston, a company that offers collaborative editing solutions designed for digital media workgroups and production companies.

EditShare offers a non-linear editing application that allows production personnel to assemble video packages for broadcast on TV, the Internet or distributed on DVD. Its ingest application—EditShare Flow—lets production personnel record media from multiple cameras direct to storage.

“EditShare also offers shared storage with special production capabilities built in, like media recording and archiving,” Barnes says. “These solutions are much more affordable than piecing together hardware components to record, store and archive church media.”

Software Scheduling Solutions

Charlotte, N.C.-based Cool Solutions Group is one of several companies that offer software for churches as a communication tool to help manage the schedule for its spaces and meetings, and even integrates the system with HVAC.

“We find that churches, as a rule of thumb, don’t take good care of their facilities because they leave so much of it up to the care of volunteers or donated labor, and people get more excited about the building of the facility than the actual taking care of it,” says Tim Cool, president of Cool Solutions. “We focus on the facility, allowing you to focus on the ministry. We have developed our webbased solutions to assist you to stay focused on the ministry and your core competencies as an organization.”

With its system, a church can connect its room scheduling and usage application to its heating and cooling, and should expect to save 10%-40% on utility costs, Cool reports.

Tim Whitehorn, founder and CEO of ServiceU in Memphis, Tenn., a software service company that helps churches manage their facilities from the standpoint of keeping up with rooms, events and everything else, says that church staff that’s slow to adopt technological tools to help manage facilities are oftentimes those who don’t want to rock the boat.

“The reluctance comes from people who want to stay status quo as any organization, [and they have] the tendency to continue on a path they are on,” Whitehorn says. “Some churches are still doing scheduling on paper; or more often now they do it by e-mail or may try to use Outlook or Google Calendar. They are using a tool designed more for a personal meeting, not group scheduling. We can make a big difference.”

In addition to setting up schedules and meeting rooms, ServiceU software helps a church with online payments for events, payments for donations, a ticketing system for special events, and integration between scheduling and Niagra-based heating and air conditioning systems.

“The biggest benefit is the savings in staff time, so the staff can use that time as more ministry-related,” he says. “There are only so many hours in a day, so if they waste time trying to keep up with schedules, our system takes care of all that for them.”

Technology in Capital Planning

When faced with aging buildings, many churches grapple with the decision to invest in the renewal of current facilities or to replace them with new construction. And many are finding that this is not a simple black-and-white decision as they weigh additional factors, such as energy management and increased scrutiny of physical security.

“By implementing a strategic technologybased approach to facilities management, church building managers can use capital planning technology to plan and forecast future repairs and investments,” says Ameeta Soni, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Boston-based VFA Inc, a provider of facilities capital planning and asset management software and services. “They can reduce the risk of disruptions to a church’s daily operations and preserve each building in its desired state.”

Through the implementation of a facility capital planning solution, building managers can plan and forecast future repairs and investments on their church facility and grounds, optimizing the use of available funding.

“Churches and other organizations can reduce capital expenditures by as much as 20%, in addition to avoiding lost revenue and patron dissatisfaction, through the use of technology to help manage operations,” Soni says.

Other powerful savings that technology can help deliver, according to Soni, include:

• Reduced waste in capital projects between 10%-50%

• Up to 60% reduction in new construction spending

• Decreased annual material costs of 10%-15%

• Between 10%-50% reduction in spending for emergency repairs

• Savings of up to 50% in overall project costs

Advantages for Small Churches

A small church can leverage multimedia to keep their members engaged in the same way large churches can. With increased demand for transparency of information, churches of all sizes are increasingly held accountable for their decisions.

“Facility managers and capital planners must find ways to automate and streamline all workflow that is associated with the collection, storage and reporting of facilities and infrastructure condition information as well as the quantification of deferred maintenance and capital renewal justification,” says Soni. “Even small churches without consistent data collection methodologies, centralized databases and tools for funding scenarios analysis are at risk for non-compliance, higher insurance premiums and overall exposure to liability—all of which could have a great impact on their ability to fulfill their mission.”

Whitehorn adds that small churches still hold a lot of events and his company’s software can make things simple for a few people to control.

“In the economic downturn, a lot of churches have been hit hard in giving and budgets, and we have seen very few churches that have wanted to cancel, instead they are cutting staff,” Whitehorn says. “Our system saves them staff. In a small church, it can offer even a larger return.”

Technology doesn’t have to be complex to save time and money. Cool says that even by adding a programmable thermostat, the average church can save as much as 8%-10% a year in energy costs.

“It doesn’t have to be expensive,” Cool says. “Adding occupancy sensors for lighting can save anywhere from 10%-40% a year in utility use. This is especially helpful in the bathroom, where lights are constantly left on.”

Multi-Sites and Larger Churches

Large churches can have numerous buildings on a single campus or across multiple locations. This presents the added challenge of tracking the condition of the facilities at each location. With broader facilities portfolios, making cost-effective decisions about particular buildings or properties can be a daunting task.

Weighing the comparative benefits of the options in each location is made easier when accurate information is readily available for all the various facilities.

“EditShare Workflow scales from a single site to multi-site with ease. Designed to manage assets across one or several workgroups, [Workflow] retains important metadata from ingest to broadcast to archive, ensuring assets are tracked from facility to facility,” Barnes says. “The shared storage systems offer tremendous scalability with a patented Extreme Scalable Architecture, making it as simple as connecting another chassis to the network.”

There’s a large church in Orlando, Fla., that schedules several thousand events a month by utilizing room scheduling into an event management software system. However, they also need to enter this information into an energy management system, which requires about 10 hours of man-hours for duplication of entry because they aren’t connected.

“By having those connected, you are saving not only on energy costs, but on efficiency and man-hour cost,” says Cool. “The whole idea of tying HVAC to utility use is not just for energy savings, but [it’s] a high efficiency and effectiveness savings as well.”

Smart Phones and Mobile Solutions

Facility managers and planners need detailed knowledge of their mission-critical facilities to ensure they are properly maintained, but this essential insight is often difficult to obtain, especially in a time of tightening budgets. A growing number of churches and other organizations have discovered that self-assessment solutions help them consistently and cost-effectively obtain facility condition information and make better-informed capital planning decisions.

“To facilitate this trend, VFA now supports the flexibility and versatility of condition data collection using mobile tablets,” Soni says. “Mobile surveys speed data collection by providing a secure, offline means of information gathering. Facilities managers can create surveys and assign them to facility staff and property maintenance personnel who can ‘check-out’ the surveys to a mobile tablet and then easily collect data while walking the facilities. For data maintenance purposes, existing building condition data is included in the mobile survey, providing a quick and cost-effective method of assessing buildings that may have been deferred for budgetary reasons.”

In the fall, ServiceU is slated to release an iPhone app for scheduling systems, and this will allow a user sitting in a conference room to pull up the information on his own mobile device.

“That mobile app will be a huge step,” Whitehorn says. “Initially, it will do room availability checking and allow you to look at schedule, but eventually it will allow you to do much more.”

Cool agrees that smart phones are making a noticeable difference in church operations, and he says that software works well on an iPad, Tablet and Galaxy. “If you have a facility manager who can walk the site with his iPad and check things off and take notes, it’s a big efficiency issue,” Cool says.

With technology changing all the time, there’s never been a better time for a healthy church to get onboard and take advantage of what’s out there to help.

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