Using Technology Creatively During COVID-19
Interview with Stan Coker of Brushfire about new technologies for churches
By Kent Annan and Jamie Aten
The current pandemic has caused many churches to shift their strategies to new arenas. Some churches have had to develop online services or distribute polling for congregation data all within a matter of weeks. Using new methods and technologies is crucial during this time and now, more than ever, it is time to innovate and reach people.
As Founder and CEO of Brushfire, Stan Coker has guided the vision and direction of the company’s product, process, and team for over sixteen years. Brushfire is an event management software-as-a-service platform that provides assigned seat ticketing, general admission, and support for church services, concerts, conferences, and camps—anything where people gather. Stan believes success comes from collaboration, and he treasures relationship, partnership, and mutual respect. Realizing there was a very specific need in the Church and Ministry space, his desire to serve the Kingdom created a convergence that birthed Brushfire and formed what it is today. In this interview, he shares about how to poll your congregation, implement new technologies in staff teams, manage church service registration, and more.
KA: Where can churches access up-to-date research on COVID-19 trends related to Christianity, congregations, or church leadership?
SC: Most church networks, associations, or denominations have created resources for their churches on all things related to our current circumstances. Websites like reopeningthehcurch.com are full of helpful information for churches to consider when transitioning back to in-person worship services and activities. If you can’t find what you need there’s a good chance that a neighboring church or a resource partner has access to someone somewhere that has faced what you are facing. Check online resources often, as the CDC and local governments are updating regulations and recommendations that affect church gatherings on a regular basis.
JA: What are some effective ways to disseminate electronic polling or data gathering tools to church staff or an entire congregation?
SC: The team at Barna and Gloo have put together a Crisis Toolkit for Churches that includes tools for creating weekly surveys for congregations and church staff. These tools are especially helpful because they give pastors and leaders a look into how churches around the country are responding to the same questions and what the outlook is across the Church. During this time, there’s no reason for any church to face the uncharted territory alone. Learning from other churches and listening to your congregation is crucial to having a successful reopening experience.
KA: How would you recommend reaching those with less technology skills or access?
SC: Many churches have begun contact campaigns that consist of personal outreach to every individual within their church management database, leaving no stone unturned. My home church spent the first few weeks of quarantine with staff and volunteers making phone calls to the over 100,000 adults listed in our database. While these efforts are a great undertaking, they are yielding many new or renewed personal connections and reaching people that would otherwise be disconnected during this time.
JA: Implementing new software and tools in leadership teams can be difficult, especially when people are busy responding to a pandemic crisis. What are the best ways to become familiar with and implement new solutions within teams?
SC: Too often churches fail to act for fear of making a mistake or not pulling off the perfect implementation of a new strategy. If there has ever been a time to experiment or try new things and learn from them, now is the time! Frequent conversations about the efficacy of our methods and heading into new plans or processes with an open mind is the key to pushing forward during this season. The church must keep executing, evaluating, and pivoting. The people with skills that you need to serve your congregation with new and existing methods are already among you!
KA: Once surveys or assessments are sent out, how can the newly received data be used?
SC: Pastors and leaders can use the data to respond to needs more quickly than ever before. We’re hearing that churches are learning of new ministry areas, desires to return to worship, how to make online church better, and more from the surveys, conversations, and interactions they’re having week to week.
JA: How has Brushfire been helping churches reopen during COVID-19?
SC: Brushfire has the tools that churches need for registration or ticketing to reopen safely and seamlessly. Churches can track the capacity of weekend services using Brushfire’s robust registration tool. In addition, Brushfire has released a brand new feature that allows churches to automatically provide socially distancing when doing assigned seat ticketing for weekend services. The setup takes just minutes and our support team is able to fill in the gaps by providing valuable insight from other churches around the world.
Jamie Aten, Ph.D. is the Founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute and Blanchard Chair of Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL). His most recent book is A Walking Disaster: What Surviving Katrina and Cancer Taught Me About Faith and Resilience (Templeton Press).
Kent Annan, M.Div. is Director of Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership. He is author of You Welcomed Me: Loving Refugees and Immigrants Because God First Loved Us (2018), Slow Kingdom Coming (2016), After Shock (2011), and Following Jesus through the Eye of the Needle (2009).