How Technology Has Changed the Church Phone Tree
We’ve always had reason to communicate quickly with many people, over vast distances. In the very distant past we sent important messages through the forests by whistling, or over mountain ranges by yodeling. The daily news could be spread using a kind of drumming Morse code. Impending danger warnings were delivered via smoke signals or carrier pigeons. Fortunately, over time, group communications evolved to a more effective vehicle for disseminating information with the “phone tree.”
It was a highly-organized method where a network of people could quickly and easily spread important news. These “trees” were often the way that churches communicated with their congregation to request prayers for members dealing with rough times and the “Church Phone Tree” quickly became their central communication platform. One person in the church office would call two people, those two people would each call two more and so on - the branches of information quickly spreading across the congregational tree.
The initial list took a while to compile, but once in place it was an excellent distribution pipeline for spreading essential messages. For many congregations, this method is still firmly in place and functioning well. But today the phone tree has gone digital. This means that the speed and accuracy of communication has improved. Sometimes in the past with a church phone tree network you might have experienced a little “broken telephone” behavior where some inaccurate details might have infected the pipeline. At other times, it was particularly time consuming as people were not always at home to receive the call or you weren’t always sure they had received your message you might have left. It was also vital that the contact information was up to date so there could be no breaks in the “branches” as the information needed to be spread from root to trunk to branch to leaves.
Generally, a church phone tree is about spreading information that needs rapid action. These days with automated messaging possibilities your tree is upgraded to the digital model and will get the necessary message out in a few minutes. It is equally effective to deliver messages that are not time sensitive. It becomes the perfect way to connect with your churchgoers immediately and clearly. There is no longer a need to rely on volunteers to work through the extensive tree to get the message flowing, you can now automate your church phone tree easily. Whether the message pertains to prayer chains, devotionals, schedule changes, volunteer requests, bible study group, choir and band rehearsals, changes due to inclement weather or special event announcements, an automated message can deliver your urgent notice with ease. One recorded voice message or a simple text message can be sent instantly to your group list in minutes.
We are witnessing an era where churches are embracing the power of technology to keep their congregations up to date and engaged. Churches are not only choosing to send out bulk messaging via automated text, they are also finding innovative new ways to use technology to keep their congregations together.
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The Vatican is deeply in favor of the positive uses of the internet. On their Church and the Internet page they mention Pope Pius XII's 1957 encyclical letter Miranda Prorsus, the Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication Communio et Progressio, published in 1971. The letter stated: “The Church sees these media as ‘gifts of God' which, in accordance with his providential design, unite men in brotherhood and so help them to cooperate with his plan for their salvation.”
A report by Faith Communities Today entitled, “Virtually Religious: technology and Internet Use in American Congregations” by Dr Scott Thumma stated, “Properly employed, technology can make members’ daily lives outside of the worship service richer with religious meaning. It can function as a medium to carry one’s faithful living into everyday life – whether sharing prayer requests on Facebook, tweeting about a recent sermon, surfing to religious websites, or actually participating in online worship services.”
Some congregations upload podcasts or MP3’s of the weekly sermon. Others have active blog sites and forums where the congregation interact with the church and their fellow congregation members. Others are using video to enhance their sermons and then they upload them to YouTube. This process is fostering stronger connections both inside and outside the church walls and injects new energy into the congregation.
Pastor Robert McKee of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Sunnyvale says, “At one time, the stained glass was a modern technology. People say a picture is worth a thousand words, well, a video is worth 10,000.” He uses a projector to display images of missionary work and how volunteers are assisting behind the scenes.
Rev. Janet Wheelock of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Mountain View says that their whole technological movement was designed to attract a group that wasn’t coming to church, and it worked. She says, “We have found for some people that media does seem to provide a familiarity to them. It’s ingrained in their culture. It’s been one of the most important learning, spiritual experiences I’ve had in my 20-year career.”
As each church embraces the potential of using technology to connect with their congregation, we see them revamping their traditional practices in favor of a more immediate connection. Call-Em-All delivers automated options to take your manual church phone tree into the digital age with easy to use functionality to ensure a connected congregation.
Ron Kinkade is the Director of Marketing at Call-Em-All, an automated calling and group texting company that provides solutions for small and medium sized businesses, large corporations, membership organizations, community groups, and individuals. Ron has more than 15 years of experience with a proven track record of success. Ron is a graduate of Illinois State University.