Valleyview Alliance Church of Vestal was the first church to get online with steepleconnect.com, a new platform being offered by eSolve Solutions of Latham. The company is hoping to attract more congregations to the system, which is custom-tailored for the needs of churches.
continued A dynamic web presence has also resulted in people showing up for Sunday worship, and staying.
“Most of our shopping is done online now ... people are doing that for ministry as well,” Murphy said. “People are unlikely to just do a cold call to a church nowadays.”
For those who already belong to the congregation, Valleyview's site on steepleconnect offers a digital directory of church members (which also saves the church the cost and hassle of printing one) and a way to donate online. That's ended up being used often, especially by younger people who don't carry checks or cash.
“It has increased our giving at the church and really helped us recover from a deficit at our church. A lot of people traveling through the summer, they're not giving to the church,” Murphy said.
A feature that programmers are now working on is a “prayer wall,” said Cortesi, which would allow members of a congregation to post calls for prayers to a central board. Members out of the area or unable to make it to worship could keep up on goings on in this way, and also save church staff the hassle of putting together email bulletins.
Churches can pay $35 per month or $350 per year for use of the steepleconnect system, which includes eSolve Solutions helping with setup and support. That's more than setting up a free presence on Facebook, for instance, but Cortesi thinks churches will see the value on going into a system targeted at their needs.
“Some churches spend $2,000 to have somebody build [a website] for them, and they can't really change that. It costs them a lot of money to maintain it keep it up to date,” he said.
That's good for small churches that want a foothold in the digital world. Opinions on the necessity of an online presence are bound to vary, but for Rev. Murphy it's required in the present and the future.
“Our older congregants will get older and they will eventually die. The younger people and families we're trying to draw into the church are trying to use technology more and more as their principal mode of communicating with the church,” he said.
Learn more about steepleconnect.com and take a virtual tour at the website.