COVID-19: This Huge Opportunity Was Just What We Were Looking For

There are so many positive things that have happened as a result of this tragedy. Yes, I am a silver lining kind of guy. Here is one!

When our church opened back up in June, one of our concerns was how to respond when we find out someone who had attended tested positive. The answer, “notify as many people as we can who were in attendance”. Great answer until in August when it happened. The individual was at church Sunday, then got tested on Tuesday and received results on Saturday. The individual notified the church and we subsequently sent out a text to all of our church members using our texting service (Text In Church). The problem was that we had many guests and regular attenders who were there but not part of our texting service.

A Popular Option
There are churches who realized the importance of being able to notify attenders if an attendee tests positive later in the week. One popular option is pre-registration. This is when a person signs up to attend a weekend service. This is effective when the church only admits those who have pre-registered turning away everyone else at the door. For most, this is not practical but considered to be, “better than nothing”.

A Very Effective Solution
Two weeks later we began using a new check-in system. Our goal was to provide something simple, quick, and effective (90-100% of attendees checked-in). We went back to our texting service and created a group. We called the group, Sunday, August 16th, and gave the group a keyword, A320 (A for August – 3 for the third Sunday – and 20 for 2020).

Here is how it works: Anyone who texts A320 to our texting number gets put in a group for that week. If we have a positive test that week, then we can send that group one text letting them know. Remember not to identify the individual who tested positive, however, if they have close contact with anyone (closer than 6 feet for 10 or more minutes), then get permission to share their name with the people they had close contact with.

We advertise the text check-in before and during the service as well as on our YouVersion Event. Be careful about talking too much about COVID-19 during the service. Many people are fearful and mentioning it increases anxiety. After a while simply 9explaining from the stage that the check-in is an opportunity to receive updates throughout the week is sufficient. A sign in the lobby and pre-service announcements on the screen will increase the effectiveness. If you use YouVersion Events add an announcement there as well.

The Huge Opportunity
Ever since re-opening, our church has not used handouts. We were doing connection cards and worship guides (Bulletins), and promo postcards for special events. We have struggled to develop an effective digital system to replace these things. As a result, we have no record of guests, no prayer requests from our people, and little to no information going out to our people about upcoming events (which, for the most part, continue to get canceled).

Here is where it gets exciting!
Now, after a person completes the check-in text, an automatic reply sends them a message. Ours says, “Thank you for checking-in. If this is your first time with us or you have a prayer request, please follow this link: www.stonebridge4u.churchcenter.com. ” This link takes them to our church website (Feels like an app). On the “app” is a digital connect card where guests can share information with us and anyone can share prayer requests with our staff. There is also access to our discipleship process (GrowthTrack), church events, online giving, small groups, and much more. Unlike an actual app, there is nothing to download. We use Planning Center Online for the website portion. If you have a church website much of this should be possible using that.

Check-in
This is the first version of the onscreen announcement. Feel free to try it! I will leave the A320 keyword active.

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