From Bulletins to Bonjoro

20 08 2020

This COVID-19 thing has been a beast for my ministry. It feels like we have produced more video content and taught more people how to use video on social media in the last five months than the previous couple of years combined. Don’t even get me started talking about Zoom. 

One of the biggest struggles we have faced is how to connect with the multitude of our people who are not really connected with one of the focus ministries of our church. For instance, if an adult doesn’t have a child in our Kids or Students ministries, or if an older adult is not a Facebook user, chances are they are not hearing or seeing what is actually still going on.

Even though our small groups are still meeting off-campus and online, and hundreds are coming to our building to worship (wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distancing), we haven’t printed a bulletin in over five months. And right in the middle of all of this, the vendor we used to create our “digital bulletin” removed that module from their product offerings. We had to begin all over again to hunt for a new way to present the information we want all our people to know.

We had a few qualifiers in mind, though. First, it had to be simple. Simple to create and simple to access. We didn’t want to have our people download another app. (We already use Planning Center Online’s Church Center App). We wanted to be able to create a URL link for it that could be accessed via a QR code, a text message, or even a Linktree button. Next, it had to look good and function well on phones. And lastly, we’d like to be able to have sermon notes baked in.

After hunting for the magic bean for several weeks, we settled on what we believe is a good compromise. That last qualifier was the tricky part. Since we found the majority of our people either already had YouVersion’s Bible app or already knew about it, we decided to take advantage of that app’s “Events” module for our sermon notes. So that part, even though it was another app, was covered. We can provide a link to the notes right in the digital bulletin that will open the Bible App and go directly to the sermon notes. So that box is checked. 

For the digital bulletin, we landed on BLTN (https://usebltn.com). While BLTN is set up to use an SMS subscription to access, we have found that even though we aren’t promoting the subscription service (at the moment), it works in our environment very well. 

The only reason we aren’t promoting the subscription service right now is because we use Clearstream (https://clearstream.io) as our mass texting service. We chose Clearstream because it integrates into our Planning Center Online ChCMS (PCO). Therefore we don’t want to have folks texting another number, especially when we use 97000 for so many things. Fortunately, BLTN provides a link to each bulletin we create which we can push out in several different ways each Sunday.  

Let me take a sidebar here to explain our primary hooks. We hang our hat on Linktree (https://linktr.ee). While we know that some software bits and sidecars were created to be an integral part of an app, like Linktree is to Instagram, we try to think of other ways to use them. Linktree is one of those kinds of sidecars. While it was designed to provide Instagram users a way for their followers to access content beyond what could be spelled out in the bio section of the account, we have found it can also be used outside of the Instagram bubble.  

Additionally, we have been using texting services as response and decision cards for over ten years. We have had our share of keywords and shortcodes. What I’ve learned over that time is we need to consolidate as much as possible when using this tool. To that end, we use one keyword to one shortcode for 90% of our paths. For us, it’s MOOR to 97000. MOOR because our church name is Broadmoor Baptist. And because of its a play on the spelling of more, as in “more information.” When a person sends that message, they get an auto-reply immediately with a link to our Linktree Pro page. Go ahead. Try it. Text the word MOOR to the number 97000.

Now back to the bulletin. To make it simple for the comm office to post the bulletin, we use Rebrandly. Rebrandly is a URL shortener that is connected to one of our domains. We use moorinfo.tv as our communication path domain. So instead of a long cryptic string of letters, people see a simple, clean URL. Our bulletin can be accessed at moorinfo.tv/bulletin, for instance. We have created a QR code (using flowcode.com) that is connected to moorinfo.tv/bulletin. We also have a button on our Linktree that is connected to the same URL. The link on our website… same URL. All the ways one can imagine are linked to one URL. So the only thing we update each week after we publish the bulletin is the Rebrandly link. We change the URL of that specific custom domain link to the new link BLTN provides each week. This process saves all kinds of time on the backend.

Now an interesting thing happened along the road to finding BLTN. Once we signed up, I received an email from Justin Funk, one of the founders of BLTN. The message came in the form of a little one-minute video clip. There was Justin, sitting outside in what appeared to be his backyard. It looked like he might have just finished mowing the grass. I have no idea where he lives, but it looked a little bit like the hill county in central Texas. I could see the horizon with some rain-filled clouds in the background. It was very obvious this wasn’t a green screen canned video message. He called me by name and introduced himself. He pointed out a button next to the video that I could use to set up a time to go through the software with him, and he generally just wanted to make contact with me. I was blown away. I sent the link to my Digital Coordinator. We both felt there was something about getting that video message that made us want to connect more deeply with this company. It was kind of weird… in the right way. 

Of course, that got me thinking. Why did this little 60-second video make me feel that way? I dug deeper into the fine print of the email and figured out the source was a company called Bonjono (https://www.bonjoro.com). The folks at Bonjono do an excellent job detailing out the why. I signed up for the free trial and found it to be a game-changer. 

Remember how I mentioned that we use texting for our decision and response cards? We also use “text MOOR” for our guest cards. All of which are on our Linktree, of course. When someone clicks a link in our Linktree, an online form appears. That form is built in the PCO People app with a workflow attached. So when a person completes and submits a form, someone on one of our ministry teams gets an email letting them know a form has been submitted.  

We used to send a standard email to say we got their form, and we are excited about their decision or whatever. Blah, blah. But now we can send them a little video that shows exactly how excited we are about their decision. Or thank them for taking the time to come to our church or watch online. We can offer a call to action right away. We can send these video messages directly from our phone using the Bonjoro app. The recipients can even reply to us using a chat feature in the app. 

The first time I used this tool was a couple of Sundays ago. I was waiting for a table at my favorite Sunday lunch place, and I was checking my email. I saw that someone had completed a First Time Guest form. I remembered how Justin’s message to me was so impactful. So I popped open the Bonjoro app and created my message to this newcomer. I was outside on the patio, and I just wanted to make contact as soon as I could. Click here to see it.

Now she knows what one of the minsters on staff looks like and knows her information has been received. People close to me say I can appear standoffish and somewhat intimidating – unapproachable, in fact. Because I know this about myself, I try hard to be approachable and more open to others. I think because of this, it took me about seven attempts to get my first video message right! Could we have just sent her a plain ole email? Yes. But I can speak from experience on this. Getting a video message is so much more interesting and engaging. Especially when it’s unscripted but done with real intent. 

The one thing I have to deduct points on about Bonjoro is that it’s email-based only. It is designed as a sales tool to be connected with Customer Relationship Management programs (CRM). Most companies use the more formal contact approach of email. Many might also call customers. But they very rarely text a customer.  

That being said, when we create a form, we always ask the question, “How would you prefer to be contacted?” We provide options such as text, phone call; home visit; email; or regular mail. The vast majority of our respondents ask us to contact them via text. In some cases, we don’t even get a working email address from them!  

There is a way to work around this inside the Bonjoro app, but it adds an extra step or two. The bottom line is this is an excellent option for many churches to use as a part of their first impressions workflow.  

Crazy times call for crazy methods. As churches, we have to find a way around the obstacles that have been put in front of us. Hopefully you will take the opportunity to try out the options I’ve talked about here. Even if you never use them, I hope they will help spark your imagination about using other digital tools to reach people during this pandemic and beyond!


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One response

20 08 2020
Ruthy Starkey

Impressive work to make the right choices. Love Broadmoor even though I only participate remotely now (live in Minden). FYI…the Bonjoro link for the video did not work, but the Bear phrases were fun….
Ruthy Starkey

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