Without a question, the biggest concern when congregations first switch to Church Social is the safety and privacy of their membership records. It can be uncomfortable moving records from their own control, often a file on their own computer, up to “the cloud”, some random computer somewhere in the world.
We're extremely excited to announce a huge update to the reporting features in Church Social. These changes really started all the way back when we launched the redesign early in 2018, but our grand vision for the reporting features wasn't fully complete until this week!
Hey, this is neat! The November 16th issue of the Christian Renewal Magazine has an article about Church Social in it! If you're a subscriber, be sure to read pages 14 and 15. A big thanks to John Van Dyk for putting this together. You can download a PDF copy of the article here:
Our bulk importer is an extremely helpful tool for new congregations first coming onto the platform. It allows them to import their existing membership records from other software, granted it can be provided in an Excel (CSV) format. However, since it's difficult to represent relationships in a flat spreadsheet format, it was never possible to import families or marriages. This has always been a nuisance, since it meant a bunch of work was still required after doing the member import. Administrators had to manually go through each member in their congregation, and group them into families, while also adding marriage information. We wanted this process to be easier, so last week we set out to improve it!
A common task for church administrators (statisticians) is providing member information to new churches when a member moves away. This information typically accompanies an attestation document, and includes things like birth dates, baptism and profession of faith details, contact information, marriage dates, and the like. We wanted to help make the process of sharing this information easier, so we added a new "transfer documents" feature to Church Social.
As a member of the Canadian Reformed Church federation, much of the church terminology I'm familiar with has come from my federation. That has, naturally, had an impact on the language used in Church Social. For example, prior to the redesign, pastoral groups were always called "wards" in Church Social. In the redesign we added a setting to allow churches to choose between "ward" and "district", another common phrase for this. Today, we've added another terminology setting, this time for members who have done profession of faith.
One great feature of the sermon archive in Church Social is the ability to have multiple formats per sermon. Churches can add both video and audio versions. They can even set some as public (to be displayed on their website), and some as private (only available to members in the app). And, as of today, we've added a third format, PDF documents!
This week we have a bunch of small updates we wanted to share with you, and decided a summary blog post would be the best way to do that. We've made improvements to the messaging tools, family names, and have added more printable content to the app.
While Church Social helps congregations move much of their administration, communication and resource sharing online, there are still situations where good old-fashioned paper is desirable. One of those situations is the church photo directory. Many congregations still maintain a printed version of this. And even if they don't, it's still very helpful to provide this option for those members in the congregation who would prefer this medium. That's where our printable family sheets come in very handy!
Email continues to play a important role in Church Social. We currently send well over 150,000 emails each month between all our churches. And while we use a first-class transactional email service provider, there are always a few pesky emails (roughly 0.1%) that bounce, not making it to the desired destination.
Since we officially launched in 2012, our price has remained at $85/month for all churches, regardless of size. And while this made things simple for us, we've come to learn that some smaller churches struggle with this rate. Inversely, we've had larger congregations openly share with us that they would be willing to pay more for the service in order to support the continued development and long-term sustainability of Church Social.
As promised a few weeks ago, today is the day we plan to launch the new Church Social redesign! And while we're moving forward with that, we've decided to do a "soft launch" of the app first, only making it available to administrators and statisticians for now. There are a few reasons for this:
It's been over a year since we first announced our plans to do a ground-up redesign of Church Social. You have all been extremely patient with us, especially considering our original mid-2017 goals. Thank you for that. And we've got some great news! We've set an official launch date of February 1, 2018.
Late last year we announced that we had started a ground-up redesign of Church Social. In addition to a brand new look for the app, we promised some exciting new features including a powerful new report builder, a new groups feature, improved document and sermon archives, a new bulletin board and more. We are thrilled with how this is all coming together. And while we don't have an official launch date set, the plan is to release it before the summer is out!
Welcome to our first official "how to" blog post! While Church Social does not offer livestreaming services, it is certainly something we're asked about a lot. To date we haven't been able to help churches all that much as we simply didn't know enough about the process. Well, that changed over the Christmas break!
It's been quite some time since we last gave an update on Church Social. It's amazing how time goes by. It seems like just yesterday we were sharing our plans for 2016, and here we are in mid-November. Once again we've been blessed with a year of growth, welcoming ten new congregations. We added a number of new features, including a new library archive and recurring calendar events. We completed the transition to WordPress for public websites, and were excited to offer free SSL certificates to those customers. We worked hard to improve email delivery rates, with the emailer now sending out well over 100,000 emails per month! We doubled down our support efforts, significantly reducing customer support response times. We even purchased a new domain.
We're excited to announce that we're the proud new owners of the domain churchsocial.com. We've had our eyes on this domain for quite some time, but being a two word "dot com" it came at a high asking price. In fact, the domain was first registered all the way back in April of 2001, roughly 15 years ago!
Email is a critical component of Church Social. We send thousands of emails every day, and tens of thousands every month. These emails include messages sent to members using the emailer, schedule reminder emails, welcome emails, password reset emails, and more. Our users rely on these emails, and it's important to us that we achieve high delivery rates. To that end, we've made some exciting improvements to how email works in Church Social.
One of the most requested Church Social features has just landed: recurring calendar events. You are now able to create calendar events that repeat daily, weekly or monthly. Simply enter a event start Date, and then select one of the repeating options from the Repeats drop down list. You can also specify a Repeat until date if the event does not repeat forever. Give it a try, we have done our best to keep this feature nice and simple!
While more and more "stuff" seems to be moving online, one thing many churches still have is a physical library of books. Today we're excited to announce a new Church Social feature that we believe will make these libraries a little more effective: a searchable library book directory.
2015 has been a quiet year for Church Social. We haven't released any big new features. We haven't been active on social media. We haven't communicated on a regular basis. We've even been slow in responding to support emails. Some of you may be wondering where things are at. We understand that, and we apologize for the silence.
The Church Social emailer just got a big update. You can now send attachments as well as add basic formatting to your emails (links, bold, italics, lists, etc). The emailer now also auto-saves your message while you type, preventing you from loosing your work. Let us know what you think!
Coming soon to Church Social is a completely reworked "family sheet generator", which will replace the existing member photo directory binder sheet generator. It will initially have three themes: a classic full page version, a compact A5 version, and also a council information card. This will make it SUPER easy to create printable photo sheets for binder style directories. Stay tuned for more on that!
Today we launched our brand new redesigned website! This new website coincides with some big changes we're making at Church Social. We're now offering WordPress websites and hosting as an alternative to our website builder. This will allow us to focus our energy and resources on building a better app, while still helping congregations create great looking public websites. Have a look around!