It’s now five years since Gospel Software began our public offering of Connect, SongBook and GuestView. We’ve grown in the two years since we last reported our numbers. Over these five years:

  • We have served over 14,000 church members from 164 churches
  • Over 18,000 setlists were created in SongBook
  • GuestView has been used to connect with over 25,000 guests

It’s a privilege to serve these folks. Grace and peace to you!

It’s been three years since Gospel Software began publicly offering our SongBook, GuestView and Connect services. In these three years:

  • We have served nearly 7,000 church members from 90 churches in 34 states
  • Over 9,600 setlists have been created in SongBook
  • We have tracked over 18,000 guests in GuestView

We’re thankful to have the opportunity to serve so many people and look forward to more years of fruitful service!

Grace and peace to you this Advent season!

For a couple of years, Gospel Software has made available a free tool for event planning and scheduling: Group Sched.

Our group scheduling tool allows you to create a list of assignments for a group of people to choose from. You can use this to easily:

  • Create a list of items needed for a potluck or cook-out, such as desserts, main dishes, sides.
  • Create a list of dates for bringing a meal to someone who is sick or recently had a baby.
  • Create a list of dates for people to serve someone who is sick or shut in.

Once you have created your event, you can send the link to your group, and they can then assign items to themselves.

We’re sure you can find other uses for Group Sched. Perhaps you are using it to divvy up responsibility for leading discussion in your small group, or to make sure that at least one person brings a game to small group game night! We’d love to hear your creative ideas for using Group Sched in the comments below.

Security of your web browsing has been in the news this week. Gospel Software has always used SSL security for your credit card and password information, with enhanced security on all pages available for an additional monthly fee.

Because we value your security and privacy, we have now made this enhanced security free and enabled it for all of our customers.

Let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Gospel Software now has a Facebook page: Gospel Software.

If you appreciate our services we invite you to become a fan by clicking Like on our page.

AmazonMP3If you’ve ever wanted to give your worship team a recording of a song to learn, you know how difficult it can be to do legally. A great solution is to point your musicians to the Amazon MP3 store, where they can listen to an audio clip from the song and purchase the MP3 themselves.

To streamline this, we’ve made it easy to add AmazonMP3 audio clips to songs in your songbook. View any song in your songbook, then click Select audio clips from AmazonMP3. Find the audio clip you want and click Use clip.

Once you have added audio clips to your songs, your users will be able to listen to the audio clips within your songbook, or they can click through to AmazonMP3 and buy the full song themselves.

One of the best features in the SongBook is the ability to create your own set lists. We’ve added a new feature that makes it easier to build a set list while searching through songs, without leaving the page you’re on!

When viewing a song, there is a new tab available. When you click on the Add to set tab, you are shown a list of your upcoming set lists. You can add the current song to a set list, or jump to viewing or editing a set.

Add to set

If you want to start a new set list, you can do that as well. Just click Create a new set…. Choose the date, location and theme, click Create set, and a new set will be created with the current song already added.

Create new set

 Among the churches that use GuestView to manage and coordinate their guest follow-up, there are a variety of strategies for who is responsible for following up with guests. We’ll cover some of those strategies in this post and talk about why you might or might not want to choose them.

Staff. If your church is fairly small, it is easy for church staff — pastors, interns or secretaries — to follow up with guests. Especially if your pastors call guests, that can be a nice personal touch that is a pleasant surprise for your guests. The disadvantages of this approach are that it misses a great opportunity to involve church members in the ministry of the church, and it can become burdensome for the staff as a church grows and as there are more guests to call.

Ministry team. Some churches have a hospitality team that greets guests on Sunday mornings and is also responsible for calling guests for follow-up. Other churches have a completely dedicated follow-up team. One key advantage of this approach is that the people doing follow-up are the very people who have an interest and gifting in extending hospitality to guests. A disadvantage of this approach is that by focusing primarily on follow-up it can be harder to make the “next step” in follow-up, to invite and involve guests in small groups, Sunday school classes, or other ministry teams.

Small group or Sunday school. Some churches perform guest follow-up as a function of small groups or Sunday school classes. Either the small group leader or some hospitality-minded family in the group has responsibility to connect with guests, invite them to meetings, and extend hospitality to them in other ways. A key advantage of this approach is that it makes a direct connection between follow-up, hospitality, and involvement of guests in the life of the church. But a weakness of this approach is that guests often choose to involve themselves in other groups or ministries. This can tempt the individuals who first made follow-up to be discouraged; and it also requires a little coordination to make sure that a guest who chose to visit a different small group doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Hybrid. At least one of the churches using GuestView takes a hybrid approach to guest follow-up. There is a small dedicated guest follow-up ministry team that makes first contact with all guests. But guests that express a particular interest in exploring the church’s small group life are referred to a particular small group for continued follow-up. The follow-up ministry team takes time to find out a guest’s geographic location and calendar availability to help them find a suitable small group. This hybrid approach carries the advantages of both the ministry-team and small-group approaches, and also avoids some of their weaknesses.

How does your church organize its guest follow-up ministry? Leave a comment to tell us!

Image from geograph.org by P L Chadwick / CC BY-SA 2.0

In our last post, we observed one church’s experience using GuestView to manage their guest follow-up. One of the recommendations we made was to provide a welcome packet for your church’s guests. Below we’ve put together some ideas for your visitor welcome packets.

In the comments below, please add your own thoughts. How do you build your visitor welcome packets?

Presentation

  • A simple portfolio folder. This will be easy for your guests to bring home with them. It’s worth taking care to find a good-quality folder to leave a good first impression.
  • A gift basket.
  • A coffee mug with your church logo. You can use the mug much like a gift basket.
  • A small tote bag.

Content

Here are some ideas to get started. You should be selective so that you don’t overwhelm your guests with too much information!

  • A welcome letter from your senior pastor.
  • An informational brochure on your denomination, church-planting network or family of churches.
  • An informational brochure on your church: your statement of faith, mission and vision, history, etc.
  • A list of your church’s ministries and services, to help your guests connect and find ways to serve or receive care.
  • A directory or map of your church’s small groups or Sunday school classes.
  • Invitations to upcoming meetings or events.
  • A free book on Christian basics, such as Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel for Real Life, John Piper’s Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, or C. J. Mahaney’s Cross-Centered Life.
  • Instead of a book, you could include a gift certificate for a free book at your church’s book store or book table.
  • A brochure or tract that clearly explains the gospel. An outstanding resource for this is Matthias Media’s Two Ways to Live.
  • A CD sampler of some of your church’s songs or hymns.
  • A card with information about your church’s online resources. If you are already using GuestView to manage connections with your guests, you can include this sort of information in an automatic welcome email that you send to your guests. Such an email could also point to a guest feedback survey.
  • A nice pen with your church logo imprinted on it.

For any printed materials, you should use high quality paper stock and printing; also be sure to have someone copy edit your materials to look for obvious errors. Quality and professionalism in presentation goes a long way toward making a good first impression!

Delivery

You can deliver welcome packets to guests in a number of ways:

  • Hand them out at a guest welcome desk in your lobby.
  • Have your ushers distribute them to guests who raise their hand during the service.
  • Make them available at key traffic flow points in your building (for example, at all entrances to the auditorium).
  • Have your welcome team hand them out to guests at the front door.
  • Make them available to guests at a guest reception after the service.

What is the most effective way to collect contact information from your church’s guests? One of the larger churches that uses GuestView to manage their guest follow-up ministry has a membership of over 3,000. In this case study we’ll observe some changes they made to collecting guest information and use GuestView’s trend display to analyze the effectiveness.

From late 2004 through early 2007, this church collected guest information by asking guests to raise their hands during the service, handing out guest welcome packets to them, and asking them to fill out an information card in the welcome packet and place it in the offering plate. For this entire time period, the church averaged 23 response cards per week. GuestView’s trends page shows the last few weeks of this time period:

Trend 1

In early 2007, the church’s pastors decided that handing out visitor welcome packets was taking too much precious meeting time for a church with multiple morning services. So they changed their strategy to invite guests to a reception after the service, handing out welcome packets and response cards at that reception. As you might guess, some guests were unable or unwilling to attend the guest reception, so the guest card response rate went down significantly. For four months the church averaged a response rate of only 4.3 guest response cards per week:

Trend 2

While discussing this with the church’s guest follow-up ministry team, we suggested that they consider including a guest response card within the bulletin that guests receive when they enter the service, and invite guests to fill out the card and leave it in the offering plate. The church’s pastors decided to make this change, while still inviting guests to a reception after the service. After making this change, the church’s guest card response rate shot up; over the next several months they averaged 35 guest response cards returned per week:

Trend 3

This is the highest response rate of all three cases. More people will raise their hand in the service than will attend a guest reception. And still more people will fill out a guest response card in their bulletin than are willing to raise their hand in the service.

Based on this case study, we recommend the following:

  1. If you have a Sunday bulletin, include your guest response card in the bulletin and ask guests to place the card in the offering plate. The response card can be a loose bulletin insert, or it can be a tear-off section or tab on the bulletin itself. We have observed that this produces the highest rate of card return.
  2. If you have time during your service, consider handing out a welcome packet to your guests. This could include a pamphlet of information on your church and pastors, a gift card to your bookstore, a CD sampling some of your church’s music, etc.
  3. If you have time and resources after your service, consider hosting a reception for your guests. It doesn’t have to be elaborate — a few cookies and a little bit of coffee goes a long way. This provides interested guests an opportunity to get to know pastors and leaders of the church, ask questions, etc.

Earlier I posted the GuestView policy manual for my home church. A much larger sister church of ours also uses GuestView to manage their guest follow-up ministry. This church used to organize and manage their follow-up by emailing spreadsheets among the team. GuestView has saved them a tremendous amount of time and effort, and now allows the pastoral staff to have more awareness of guest follow-up and guests’ needs.

Two documents capture the core of this church’s follow-up ministry. We are posting these to inspire and encourage you in your own follow-up ministry.

The first document summarizes the mission of the ministry and gives brief steps for following-up with a guest:

Our mission is to build a community of gospel-centered people.

Our 3 “R”s:

  • Rejoice: Thank you for being our guest!
  • Resource: How can I be a resource for you?
  • Request: Do you have any prayer requests? Can I pray for you now?

Our 3 steps:

  • Step 1: Recognize evidences of God’s grace in our guests’ lives.
  • Step 2: Point out the evidences of God’s grace in their life.
  • Step 3: Celebrate the evidences of God’s grace in their life with them.

Their second document provides more detailed suggestions for following up with guests:

Guest follow-up telephone calling ministry

Some Keys to Success:

  1. Email all guests with emails first if you don’t have time to call immediately (use a template email and modify the name). In this way, if you don’t have time right away you can make the first attempt (in this case, email) right away. This will elevate pressure on yourself if some days pass and you haven’t called yet. Sometimes the guests will email back and you can start the dialog that way.
  2. Be sure to email all praise reports to your team leader (and everybody if you’d like) so we can get the word out and praise God.
  3. Of course, email and call any needs that come up for greater care: team leader, ministry leader or pastor.
  4. If you get behind in your calls please communicate with another team member (ideally on the next month’s team) or your team leader so that the calls can be reassigned and the guests are followed up with in a timely manner.
  5. Sometimes it’s hard to schedule time to call because there is not a set time; don’t be overwhelmed. You might want to plan a time or two and schedule it in. Evening calls work good, Saturday calls work good, you could also call during the day if it’s the only time you have.
  6. While talking with guests is best, leaving messages is wonderful. God has used voicemail messages powerfully in this ministry.
  7. Don’t get hung up on fear of man (either with the guests, with your team leader or other team members). The key here is to reach out in love to our guests. If you have a time when you are too busy to get to your calls please don’t sit on them (see #4 above) so we can serve with the most excellence as possible.
  8. Don’t commit other people’s efforts. If you are referring them to another person (other ministry team leader, pastor, etc.), give the guest the contact information and suggest they contact that person. Then email the leader with the guest contact information and suggest a follow-up with the guest. But don’t commit the other person.
  9. We want to deliver more than we promise.

ImportFor those of you with existing chord charts in Word, PDF, or other unstructured text formats, there is now an easier way to add those songs to your SongBook. We have added a new import that takes chords and lyrics on separate lines, and merges them together into the format used by the SongBook.

Take a look at the SongBook help for more info, or just click on the Import an existing chord chart link in your SongBook to try it out!

OpenSongWe’re always looking for ways to help you add songs to your SongBook, so we’re happy to announce a new import feature. If you already have chord charts in the OpenSong format, now you can easily add them to your SongBook.

Take a look at the SongBook help for more info, or just click the Import songs link in your SongBook to try it out. Note that you must be an editor of your SongBook in order to use this feature.

My church uses GuestView to more efficiently manage our guest follow-up. Years ago, our follow-up team met at the church office on Monday nights to call guests. Today, GuestView allows our team to call guests on our own schedule, and helps our pastors and administrator keep much better track of followup over time. Because of GuestView, follow-up consumes much less time, but we are much more effective.

We keep a copy of our followup policy manual in GuestView’s documents folder. I’ve included a copy of our policies below, as an example of how one church does followup. For many years we followed up with visitors out of the nearest home group. Today we have moved back to having a dedicated follow-up team, with small groups making contact with guests later on if the guests continue to express interest.

The most important part of our policy document is the final encouragement. Guests often find their way to other home groups or even other churches. It’s important for us to keep in mind that our object is not to “close the deal” but rather to serve our guests by extending to them whatever grace-filled hospitality we can. A follow-up call is not a sales call; it is an extension of care to a brother or sister.


Follow-up Instructions

Thank you so much for your faithful service in following up with our guests! Your service is such an important part of the care that we extend to our guests, and it is one way that the gospel comes alive through our actions. It is one of the ways that we are privileged to walk in obedience to Hebrews 13, to “show hospitality to strangers.”

Following are instructions for using GuestView; please be sure to read these. If you have questions, please contact me.

Call Each Guest

You will receive a reminder email when a guest has been assigned to you, and every 48 hours thereafter. This email will contain the guest’s information, and also a link to their record in the database. Please make every effort to contact the guest within the first three days after their visit to the church. It is our goal to communicate the following to our guests, as appropriate:

  • Thank them for their visit.
  • If they had a prayer request, please pray for them, and communicate this to them.
  • Offer to answer any questions they have. If they expressed interest in a particular ministry, you can share information about that with them.
  • Invite them to a home group meeting (or other ministry).
  • Ask if there is any way that we can serve them.

In addition, please feel free to pray with them, encourage them in any evidence of grace you see, or care for them in any other way.

If you are unable to make contact with a guest, use your discretion in leaving messages and making multiple calls. We want to make our guests feel welcomed, but not harassed. Depending on the age and gender of a guest, please use your discretion in whether to call the guest, and who should call (husband or wife).

Make a Record of Your Call (and stop the reminder emails)

When you have called the guest, please login to the system (click on the link in the reminder email) and make a record of your call. Please follow these steps on the guest’s screen:

  1. Under the Notes for this guest click “Add Note.” Type in a brief record of your conversation with the guest and click “Save Note”. If you were unable to speak with the guest but left a message, please indicate this as well. This information is helpful for our pastors so they have a record of topics of conversation, questions, concerns and prayer requests, etc.
  2. Look at the right-hand side of the page below your name. Do one of the following:
    1. Click “Stop Reminders” to stop receiving reminder emails to contact this guest.
    2. Click “Finish Working With Guest” if you have completed all contact with the guest.

Final Encouragement

Even though the guests assigned to you have usually been screened by the followup team, chances are good that they might never show up at your home group, which can be discouraging. It is valuable for us to keep in mind here that our first priority is to extend a gospel-minded welcome and hospitality to guests, caring for them and welcoming them as best as we are able. Even if they end up in another home group or even another church, as long as we have done this, we should consider our ministry to our guests to be a success.

Our guests may be at different places in their walk with the Lord, and it is helpful for us to think in terms of encouraging them to take the next step in their walk. Perhaps they are simply not interested but you can still pray for them. Perhaps they need encouragement to consider joining a local church to be a priority. Perhaps they already consider this a priority and you can encourage them that this is an evidence of God’s grace in their life, and pray with them that God will help them to find a church. These are just a few of the many ways that we can successfully welcome and care for our guests, even if they never set foot in our doors again.

One of the most requested features for our SongBook service has finally arrived: you can now resize the font in the chord charts generated by the SongBook! When you edit a song in your SongBook, you’ll see a new Font size field. When you change this, you can see a live preview of what the song will look like at that size:

Font Size field

Read the rest of this entry »

We are pleased to announce the Gospel Software affiliate program. As an expression of our gratitude to you for taking the time to recommend Gospel Software, we are glad to pay affiliate commissions for referrals.

You’ll need to sign up for the affiliate program in order to receive commissions, and commissions will be paid according to our terms and conditions. Find out more at our affiliate program page.

Worship MattersJoseph Stigora, a worship pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Philadelphia, wrote a nice review of our online SongBook service. You can read the review on Bob Kauflin’s blog, “Worship Matters”.

Sovereign Grace MusicWe are excited to announce that most of the songs from Sovereign Grace Music are now available within our online SongBook service! There are more than 160 songs that can be imported into your SongBook with a single click. Once you import these songs, you can view them, transpose them, and use them to print chord charts or song sheets.

If you already have a SongBook, follow these instructions to import the songs into your SongBook. If you don’t have a SongBook yet, you can find out more here.

GuestView allows you to assign guests to your church’s follow-up team for making calls. You may also want to make other individuals or groups in the church aware of guests that relate to their geographic location or their area of ministry, but without having to actually assign guests to those individuals for calling. We’ll discuss how you can do this below.

  1. First, you should make sure that the tags you have set up in GuestView allow you to mark the guests of interest to a small group or ministry team. Tags are the checkboxes that appear to the right when you edit a guest’s information. For example, you might create tags such as “Interests:Singles ministry” for your singles’ ministry, or “Location:West shore” and “Location:Downtown” to mark guests in particular small group regions. We have written a tutorial on tags that will help you set up your tags to suit your needs.

  2. You should train the individuals who enter guest response cards to select tags appropriately. For example, they can transfer a “Singles’ ministry” checkbox on the response card to the “Singles’ ministry” tag in GuestView. For geographic locations, they will need to look up guest addresses on a map to determine what region a guest lives in.

    Tip: If you save a guest’s information, including their address, GuestView displays a link to a map of their address. You can click this link to display their address, and then edit the guests’ tags directly on that page.

  3. You can then add your small group leaders or ministry team leaders to GuestView. We have written brief instructions on adding users to GuestView. One thing you should consider doing is putting your ministry team leaders or small group leaders in a separate group to themselves. The GuestView group name is one of the pieces of information you type into the user’s page when you add them, and the group name is usually displayed next to their name throughout GuestView. This way, when someone assigns guests to callers, it will be clear to them that the small group or ministry team leaders are part of a separate group and not on your calling team. That way, these leaders will not accidentally receive reminders to call a guest.

  4. Now that your small group or ministry team leaders have access to GuestView, you can instruct them to set up an automatic email report for guests that are of interest to them. They can do this by clicking the “Reports” menu item in GuestView. Then, by clicking “Add or change report,” they can choose to receive an email report for any of the tags that you created in step 1 above.

GuestView allows you to choose email reports on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Welcome to the Gospel Software blog. We’ll use this as a place to post tips, examples, musings on church and technology, and announcements. Stay tuned!

This is the blog for Gospel Software. We help churches with technology solutions, and offer a number of online services for easing church administration.

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