Embracing technology does not mean sidelining traditional values or practices. Instead, it offers an opportunity for ministries to reach broader audiences and make a more significant impact in today's interconnected world.
In today's episode, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Stuart Smith, director of International Student Ministries Canada in London, Ontario, to discuss how technology, specifically Text In Church, has helped him and his team to use technology to reach international students and expand their ministry impact.
Stuart highlighted the power of automated workflows in tools like Text In Church. They save you time, send timely messages, and ensure personalized interactions without being glued to your phone.
His central message revolved around the idea that technology should serve as a means to strengthen a ministry, not overshadow it. The goal is to discover tools that align seamlessly with your ministry's mission and facilitate deeper connections with people.
Stuart's experiences and insights show us that it's not about the gadgets; it's about the people. With the right tech tools and a heart full of passion, you can reach more souls and spread love and faith in today's digital world.
Specifically, this episode highlights the following themes:
Links from this episode:
For more valuable information from Tech in Church, be sure to check out these:
Most churches really struggle to communicate consistently with their people and that can leave them feeling disconnected. Text In Church is an easy-to-use 2-way texting system created for churches to connect with their members and guests beyond Sunday mornings to make them feel known, noticed, and loved.
Text the word, CONNECT, to 816-429-9396 to start your free 60-day trial of Text In Church today to see just how easy it is.
The Tech In Church Podcast is a Text In Church team production. For more information about this podcast, go to https://podcast.textinchurch.com. For more information on Text in Church, visit https://textinchurch.com.
Stuart Smith [00:00:00]:
Tools and technology serve to exist to serve the mission of your organization, not the other way around. Second thing is, most of your volunteers are likely involved because they love interacting with people and doing the work of ministry, not because they have a fascination with tools. So make sure to select tools and create systems that maintain the required information, but that streamline the via and maximize interactions with people.
Nina Hampton [00:00:39]:
Hello and welcome to the Tech in Church podcast, where we talk to everyday church communicators who use simple tech tools to go from frazzled to focused. My name is Nina Hampton and I'm with my co host, Jeanette Yates. We believe that you should spend less time managing, worrying about synology, and more time doing what you love in your ministry and in your personal life.
Jeanette Yates [00:00:59]:
I am so excited about today's interview. I get to introduce to all of you Stuart Smith. Stuart and his wife Mary serve the students of London, Ontario through International Student Ministries of Canada. They have two grown children, and fun fact I just learned about Stuart is that in his day job, he is also working in the tech world. So today's interview may get a tad bit more tech than our others, but we are here for it. Hey, Stuart. How are you? Welcome to the podcast.
Stuart Smith [00:01:28]:
I'm very well. It's good to be here with you, Jeanette and Nina.
Nina Hampton [00:01:32]:
Awesome. Well, Stuart, especially just because I think we're usually talking to people who are in a church doing service every week, but I think your ministry is a little bit different. So if you wouldn't mind, could you introduce us and tell us a little bit about yourself and your ministry?
Stuart Smith [00:01:46]:
Sure. Well, I've been serving in London, Ontario, Canada, as the city director with International Student Ministries Canada for about nine years. Together with my wife, we work with a cross organizational team, not just from our ministry, there's four staff from our ministry, but we have staff from other ministries as well, and also volunteers from 15 plus churches. And we're called London International Students, and we've got a website by that name, Londoninternationalstudents.com, and we strive to work together to help to meet the physical, social, and spiritual needs of the more than 20,000 international students that are in our city each year to study. These students come from all over the world. We lost track when we met students from 65 countries. The majority of the students are from what is called the 1040 Window, which is a messiological term for the part of the world where the most closed countries are and the most unreached people groups are. So we organize many events for our students and for Canadian followers of Jesus to provide an opportunity for them to become friends. And we're an all volunteer organization, and most of us have regular jobs outside of the ministry, so we've got limited time available to communicate and to follow up with people.
Nina Hampton [00:03:19]:
Okay, yeah, that's incredible.
Jeanette Yates [00:03:21]:
Yeah, that's a lot of I just learned a lot. I knew about Stewart's ministry a little bit because we communicate a lot in the Text In Church community Facebook group, but I did not realize it was all volunteer like all of you guys are doing, or that it was just on.
Nina Hampton [00:03:40]:
The scale that it was like having 20,000 students. Is it like multiple colleges? Universities? Are there like a lot of schools in the area?
Stuart Smith [00:03:49]:
Our two main institutions are the University of Western Ontario or Western University. They call themselves now and then Sanchaw College. There's some language schools and some other smaller schools. Among those 20,000, there's also a number of high school students and even elementary school students. There's some countries in the world where we see grade six, seven, eight kids coming to school, and sometimes younger than that. Sometimes the parents will come with them because the parents want to give their kids an opportunity to have a Canadian education.
Jeanette Yates [00:04:30]:
Wow, we could have a whole episode just on your ministry and what you do, which I kind of want to do. So many questions. Bonus episode coming later, you guys. But it sounds like one of the things that you talked about is that it's the scale. There's so many students that you're serving, and you also mentioned that limited time availability to connect and communications. And so that leads me to my next question, which know, one of the things that we talk about here in the Tech in Church podcast is how tech solves problems. And so I would love for you to tell us about a specific problem that your ministry or you were facing in your ministry and how you were trying, but maybe not quite succeeding in it.
Stuart Smith [00:05:11]:
Well, one of the things that we do regularly during the school year, even during the summer, we have other events as well. But during the school year, we run a dinner once a month. It's called Focus, which stands for friends of Overseas College and University Students. And so what that is, is a potluck dinner. Canadian followers of Jesus come and bring food, and students come and help us eat it. But right from the start, we never know how many volunteers are coming. We never know how much food they're bringing, and we don't know how many students are coming. So there's been lots of times when we've gathered around because it looks like we don't have enough food, and we say, God, we remember how Jesus took a few fish and some loaves and Fed 5000. Could you do it again? I think our biggest dinner, we had 240 people out. So we have a speaker that speaks on a topic of value to international students. But the big thing is we sit around roundtables with eight people at each table. We aim for some students and some volunteers at each table because that's really the secret sauce to our dinners is that opportunity to get to know each other. But prior to COVID, we would set these up as Facebook events, and we'd ask people to register. We'd say, Please register, so we know how many tables to set up, because it's no small trick to set up that many tables and chairs. But we really found this to be less than effective. In fact, we found that we could usually count that there would be three to five times as many people show up as what actually showed up. That was always a challenge. And then going along with that was collecting contact information. We tried having sheets and having people fill out their name and their phone number and their email address. And one thing that we discovered is that some people's handwriting is more legible than others. I'd get these pages, I'm like, what is this? I have no idea.
Nina Hampton [00:07:29]:
I have not a clue. Is that a four or a goodness?
Jeanette Yates [00:07:34]:
Well, now I know, Stuart, why you always tell me on my Facebook events, when we have them in the Text In Church group, whether or not you're coming because you feel my pain, you just want to know if you're going to come. And I think every church person listening right now is like, oh, my goodness. If they would just let me know if they're coming to the event, whether on that Facebook event, take the two.
Nina Hampton [00:07:57]:
Minutes, just not even the 15 seconds to let me know.
Jeanette Yates [00:08:02]:
So that's totally relatable. We feel you there for sure, right?
Nina Hampton [00:08:05]:
Yeah. So when it comes to that issue and just running into I mean, I'm getting stressed out on your behalf, thinking about it like having, oh, we only prepared 100 hot dogs and 200 people showed up, and you got to do the last minute Sam's Club run.
Jeanette Yates [00:08:22]:
Oh, my goodness.
Stuart Smith [00:08:22]:
Yeah. See, it's worse than that because we do potluck dinners, which means the volunteers bring the food. Oh, yeah. So we've always had in our back pocket, if worse comes to worst, we'll just order a stack of pizzas, but we've never once had to do that. God has been very faithful.
Jeanette Yates [00:08:40]:
Stuart Smith [00:08:41]:
Nina Hampton [00:08:43]:
So when it comes to that problem that you were seeing, collecting contact information, and then on top of that, getting an accurate count, how did you go about solving that? What strategies did you use? How did you tackle handling that problem or at least resolving it a little bit more than you were seeing?
Stuart Smith [00:09:01]:
Well, prior to COVID happening, we did have text in church for a year or two before that, we tried to get people to we were just wanting to use that to collect contact information, and it met with some success. But that was back in the day when you had to text the code and then you get the form back. And we had a real problem with people would text the code and then they wouldn't fill out the form. So now we've got a number, but we have no idea who they are. But when COVID happened, it really ramped up our use of text and church. So during COVID eventually we were allowed by our health authorities to have outdoor events of a limited size, but we really didn't want to take the risk of turning people away at the gate if too many people signed up. So at one point, we were allowed to have events of 25 people, and I don't want to be the guy to tell person 26 to say, sorry, we're full. You got to go home. So we would use all of our platforms to promote the event, but we wouldn't give the details of exactly where it was. We would tell them what it was, but not exactly where to meet and the time and that sort of thing, so we wouldn't have people showing up that didn't sign. So we would use our website, and I'll pass all these on so that he can put them in the show notes that people can check them out if they want. We have a website. We have an instagram account. We have a Facebook page and a Facebook group. And we would also use text in church to text everybody that's texted our event in the past. And we would invite people, if they're interested in the event, to click on a link, and that takes them to connect card, make it really easy. We just collect their first name, last name, email address, and mobile number. We also ask if they need transportation, and we allow them pick which spot that they want us to meet at. And then especially now with the changes that have happened in the connect cards so we can pull all those comments back, which only a couple of months ago it was a lot of work to do that, but I actually make up subgroups for each event, for each pickup place. And then I send reminders the night before. And reminder a couple of hours before. And even if we're running the traffic and the bus is late for the second pickup spot, I can quick fire off a note. So when people register, they immediately get a text thanking them for registering, and then it asks them to check their email because we sent them an email with more details. So that's where we tell them where to meet. I do things like I put a Google Pen location in so it's easy for them to find where to meet. We did a trip to Niagara Falls a couple of years ago, so in there we gave links for some of the big tourist attractions in Niagara Falls so they could pick where they want to see. And then if the event has limited capacity, we monitor the group, and when it reaches capacity, I just change the workflow so that subsequent registrants get a text that thanks them for registering and says, hey, our event is full, but you're on the waiting list. And so because I have a full time job, I don't have the time to spend my whole day on email or text. But I also really appreciate text in Church as well, because my whole team sees all this traffic. Our whole team uses it for various things. But that's a great safeguard as well, because in this day and age, if somebody were to say, oh, Stuart's putting the moves on me.
Nina Hampton [00:13:27]:
There is a history that everyone can that the rest.
Stuart Smith [00:13:29]:
Of my staff can say, well, I've seen all the messages. That's not true. Or if myself or one of my team was doing something appropriate, the rest of us would go, hey. Plus, we also can go back and see for every one of our contacts, which events have they registered for? Or sometimes we go, oh, that guy that came to our Focus Dinner back in October, what was his name? And we can go back and we can look at the event and at least have a crack at getting that. So it really makes our life a lot easier.
Jeanette Yates [00:14:12]:
So there are a couple of things that you said that I just want to highlight here. One, I love the idea of getting people interested in the event, but not telling them where it is, and especially for the age group that you're working with, that is so, like, we know where the party is, right? Do you want to come? I mean, that's just great. A great strategy.
Stuart Smith [00:14:32]:
It's the thirst principle. I don't know if you're familiar with the thirst principle, but the thirst principle is you give people enough to quench their immediate thirst and make them want more rather than it's not very comfortable to drink from a fire hose.
Nina Hampton [00:14:55]:
I've never heard that before and I'm going to use it now.
Jeanette Yates [00:14:58]:
Me neither. And again, once again, we are learning. That's why we ask.
Nina Hampton [00:15:02]:
That's really why this podcast exists, because me and Jeanette need ideas and we need to be schooled on things. Yeah, no, that's great.
Jeanette Yates [00:15:11]:
I love that. The third experience, I'm going to be talking about that in the Facebook group. We'll have to talk about that Facebook group. So that's great. I love it. But another thing that you said, and I remember reading this in your notes, and I was like, we really want to highlight this, too. One of the benefits of having a system where your communications are held is that accountability piece. And it's important for all aspects of ministry, but certainly when you're working with students, younger people, and I just think it's so important, we often get on the member experience side. People will say, well, how do I delete a message? And it's like, Well, I don't think you're not going to do it. You can't delete it, you can archive it.
Nina Hampton [00:15:54]:
Jeanette Yates [00:15:55]:
And sometimes people, their first initial thing is like, oh, I just want to delete it. It's in my way. And it's like, well, once you explain the accountability piece, they're like, oh, actually, that's genius. And so I love that you brought that up because that is so important. And now I want for you to tell me. So you kind of talked through the technology itself, but I want you to tell us, not just me, we're talking to all of you guys there, but tell us, what role did the technology play? Like, how did it actually make that strategy work best for you?
Stuart Smith [00:16:30]:
Well, you may have heard of a guy named Archimedes, and Archimedes, ancient Greek scientist and philosopher, he had a very famous saying I don't know if you ever heard of before, but he said, if you give me a long enough lever and a fulcrum to place it on, I can move the Earth. So technology enabled us to have an asymmetric impact by using the limited time that we have available to connect with hundreds of students and other volunteers and ensure that more people are being made aware of the opportunities that are available for them to participate in. Plus, we're able to communicate. And it amazes me that I think students are not dumb. They know there's an automated system, but they feel a personal connection that way. And certainly in studies I've read, and even in my own life, between work and ministry and personal, I have five different email addresses that I monitor every day. If I read 10% of the emails that come in, I'm doing good. And I don't think I'm unusual, but the texts that come in, I read just about 100% of those. Right.
Jeanette Yates [00:17:58]:
With text, too. It's like you're reading it before you even realize you're reading it.
Nina Hampton [00:18:02]:
Right. Yeah. It just captures your attention in a different way, too.
Jeanette Yates [00:18:10]:
So as soon as you said Archimedes, I started flipping through the rolodex of my high school brain high school and college. Thank you for bringing us all up to speed and thank you for sharing. Can you say that quote one more time? I thought it was so good, if.
Stuart Smith [00:18:26]:
You give me a long enough lever and a fulcrum to place it against, I can move the world.
Jeanette Yates [00:18:33]:
Yeah, that's amazing. I think that's worthy, Nina.
Nina Hampton [00:18:36]:
That's what I was going to say. You stole what I was going to say. That's what I was going to say. That's the quote. That is the T shirt quote of the episode.
Jeanette Yates [00:18:43]:
We always get a T shirt quote.
Nina Hampton [00:18:44]:
Every time, every episode, we always have.
Stuart Smith [00:18:46]:
A T shirt quote. And I'm like, Just make sure you attribute the quote correctly. It's not my.
Nina Hampton [00:18:53]:
It I'll give him credit, but I'll do it through like.
Jeanette Yates [00:18:57]:
That where it's like the Michael Scott so and so said. Michael Scott said.
Nina Hampton [00:19:01]:
Yeah, right, exactly. It'll be it'll be something like, you know, you talk about how not just like, technology in, you know, gave you the ability to communicate, especially with you guys working full time. That's wild to me that the majority of the people in your organization, yourself included, have full time vocational careers, and you guys do everything that you do for these students in a volunteer capacity. So one that's incredibly impressive and commendable, if I can just say that. But if you could talk about how the technology that you use, your social media platforms, how Text and church has really impacted the success of you guys implementing these strategies because it's not talking about the dotted I's and the cross. T's is great, but really, when your teams takes a step back and looks at the impact of just this thing as a whole, what is it that you guys see?
Stuart Smith [00:20:04]:
Yeah, well, I think one of the keys with platforms and platforms are evolving rapidly. Facebook we use quite a lot, but Facebook is a lot more popular with people in my age bracket than it is with college university students. And you can't keep up with all of them, but you need to keep up with several of them. And one of the key things is that any piece of your online presence needs to point to all the other ones. And one thing we do, for example, with our Facebook group, it's a private Facebook group because we want to protect our students from people who are out to scam them. One of the hugest problems that we have is people who are in the business of selling essay writing services. That's called cheating. Now, it's very tempting, but we have had students get kicked out of their programs. We've had a PhD student get kicked out of a program because actually a couple of them. So we want to protect them. So it's a private group. So we have some qualifying questions that they have to answer before we let them in. But then what we do on a weekly basis, we send out a welcome email and we welcome all of the new members. And I think Jeanette does that in the Text and Church group as well. But we welcome all of the new members that does a couple of things. The new member gets to see it, plus it goes on their wall so all of their friends get to see the post and but they go, oh, what is this thing here? You don't want to have siloed tools. You want the tools to all provide easy on ramp and you always want to make things as easy as possible for people to reply to. I'm not a big fan of using connect cards with 15 questions on you can do it, but your complete rate is going to be a lot lower and your annoyance factor is going to be a lot higher. One of the ways that we integrate that is prior to each event, we prepare name tags for each person that's registered. So when you register your name is already there in the table. Well, it's nice, but the other thing that it subtly lets is all your name is not there. You must not have registered here. Please scan this QR code. And I can see that when I look at how many of have registered right in that time frame. That's a way to integrate a manual tool of the name tag with text and church and not to have to ask each person, did you register? And the name tags are helpful because many people don't know each other. Everybody knows who I am because I generally am see the thing. So people know who I am. And I meet hundreds of students and I've got a really good memory, but it's kind of hard to remember who's who. We all want people to be able to call each other by name. One thing that we do find is that about 80% of the people who register for events register as a result of an invitation text that they receive via text and church. So that's more than all of other platforms combined. And part of that, that's a principle in the business world and sales and marketing. It's much, much easier to sell an additional product to an existing customer than it is to find a new customer. And people are busy. They're not just roaming out of wonder if I can find something on Instagram to do this weekend, but when there is a connection there that makes them more responsive.
Jeanette Yates [00:24:50]:
Yeah, I've heard you talk about that before in some of our other meetups and stuff like that, Stuart, and it just blows my mind every time, but it goes to show you how. One of the things that we always talk about with texting is it is one on one. It's a one to one, even though when you're creating the text and Text in Church, you're selecting a whole group of people. But when I get it, it's from you to me. And that one on one connection goes such a long way into making somebody kind of more apt to sign up or register.
Stuart Smith [00:25:22]:
So it's important to think about how you word those texts. We got a very short thing, but don't say, Good afternoon, everyone. We've got the first name, so you want to make it sound maybe it can be even helpful if you're thinking of a particular person, write those few words of text as though you're writing to that one person because that'll come across that way to everybody else.
Nina Hampton [00:25:52]:
I think that's something too.
Jeanette Yates [00:25:54]:
Absolutely. My church, and I'm going to call them out right here on this podcast. You guys church people, you know, I love you. But my church, I still have to remind them. They've had text and church for a long time because when I was working there is when we set up our account and they do half and half of the individual where it's like I get a text that says, hey, Jeanette, whatever. And then I also get plenty of texts that's like, all hands on deck. And I'm like, oh, so anyways but I do love it when you can make that text. Now, sometimes you do need to just say, reminder all call or whatever. But I do always advocate for that personal touch with the texting and using the message variables to have the first.
Stuart Smith [00:26:44]:
If they've got something where they're trying to get people to sign up for something. If you have people say, if you can come, please click here, take them to Connect card, have them fill it out. Because then now one of the things I'm waiting on Text In church to do yet is to say I want to be able to send a message out to everybody who's in this group but who is not in this group. If you've got something where you really need help and you've sent it out to your contact list, that you could send it out to your contact list who haven't already signed up and say, hey, we noticed you hadn't signed up yet. If you're not able to make it, that's okay, but we could really use your help.
Nina Hampton [00:27:58]:
I will be talking to the team about that.
Jeanette Yates [00:28:00]:
Yeah, that's a really good I will.
Nina Hampton [00:28:04]:
Be shooting that up the ladder, that particular feature, because that's a great idea.
Jeanette Yates [00:28:08]:
Yeah. And it's so true to be able to say if this, but not that. Okay, so thinking about your process and the strategies that you used, you've been talking us through this potluck today. Is there anything you would have done differently or changed about the strategy or were there any unexpected obstacles, kind of talk us through any of that and what you did to overcome them?
Stuart Smith [00:28:32]:
Well, I think if I could have changed anything, it would have been to have Text In Church come up with Smart Connect cards a whole lot earlier.
Jeanette Yates [00:28:42]:
I know they were a game changer.
Stuart Smith [00:28:44]:
When they came, I talked already a little bit about using the keyword. The keyword was it requires too much effort on the person, on the part of a person. A they've got to key in a ten digit number, then they've got to click on the thing and then fill out your form. Well, maybe they don't have data where they're at, so they can't click out the form, click on the form, and then they never do. But a simple Smart Connect card makes it really easy for people to sign up. And I'm a big believer in making it as easy as possible for people to respond and I really appreciate that. Text In Church has ramped up. The connect cards are way better than they used to be. And because we use connect cards so much, I especially like the frame. On the bottom, we put the description of which QR code it is, because our team carries in our photo album all the smart connect cards. So if we're talking to a student, we can say, here, scan this, and we might be talking to one student, and if there's three other students around, they'll come over and scan it. We weren't even talking to them. But in order to make that work, you've got to have the frame so you make sure you show them the right one. So those are a great combination to make it as easy as possible for people to respond. And this is a relatively new ministry. ISMC is almost 40 years old, but this was the first time it had been in london, so we started it from the ground up. Every obstacle that we faced was unexpected because we hadn't done this before. We didn't know what to expect. So we've really overcome each obstacle by praying for god's wisdom to overcome the obstacle. And god has been very faithful. Another one of my favorite sayings, and I'm not sure who originally said it, but I love it we need to remind ourselves that there are no obstacles. There are only opportunities. As a team, we examine the obstacle objectively, and we ask several questions. We say, can we go around this obstacle? Is there a clear path around the obstacle? Can we climb over the obstacle? And you and we try not to see the obstacle as a wall, but it's something that we need to come up with a way to deal with.
Nina Hampton [00:31:53]:
Yeah, for sure.
Jeanette Yates [00:31:54]:
That reminds me of my aunt telling me the going on a bear hunt. Have you all heard this story? Long story short, it's a story Where the kids participate. So you're going on a bear hunt. You're trying to find a bear, and you come to something. Can you go over it? Can you go around it? You got to go through it. You encounter all these obstacles before you even get to the remind. When I read this earlier, stuart, I was like, oh, this is like going on a bear hunt. You got to go. Can you go around it? Can you go over it?
Stuart Smith [00:32:24]:
Well, one more thing about obstacles. When faced with an obstacle, we need to not fall into the trap of pretending they don't exist because the obstacle does exist. That's true. Right? I have lots of adages I've picked up over the years, and one is the principle that you should always grab the bull by the horns because then you know where they are. And as a farm boy, I know the wisdom of that statement. You don't really want to get cornered by a bull because you may well get killed. But if you do, your best chance is to grab hold of the horns and hang on tight, because if you don't and so that's the same thing with a problem or an obstacle. Your best chance of survival is not to turn and run because it can run faster than you can.
Jeanette Yates [00:33:19]:
Okay, first of all, we've got like, four T shirts already.
Nina Hampton [00:33:24]:
Jeanette Yates [00:33:24]:
Several wardrobe shortlist say Bulls by the horn. Take the bull by the horn all the time. I have never heard that. Caveat to it, that explanation.
Nina Hampton [00:33:35]:
Jeanette Yates [00:33:36]:
Why you take the bull by the no, I never even asked the question. Why would you take the bull by the horn?
Nina Hampton [00:33:40]:
Silly? Because that's what I was about to say. It sounds silly. It sounds like a silly statement to make. So I'm like, I don't want to.
Jeanette Yates [00:33:45]:
Take the bull, but now I understand.
Stuart Smith [00:33:48]:
Yeah, well, I grew up with Holsteins, and my dad always had a bull around, and the bull could be 2200 to 2400 pounds. They're big, they're strong, they've got a very hard head.
Nina Hampton [00:34:04]:
This is really interesting. So there's one of my favorite authors it's kind of an aside a little bit. One of my favorite authors, what she's done? She writes books, basically about scripture and about the Lord. And one of my favorite things that she's done is that she'll go she's gone to a shepherd, like an actual shepherd, an actual Vitner, like somebody who makes wine for a living and took scripture to them and was like, explain this to me through your eyes. She went to a baker, like a baker of ancient grains, a professor of ancient grains was like, help me understand. So when Jesus talks about I'm the vine and you are the branches, help me understand that. When he talks about shepherd, knowing his sheep, knowing his voice, help me from a shepherd's perspective, understand that. And so you, as a self proclaimed farm boy, explaining taking a bull by the horns makes all the sense to me in the world. I would have never have thought about that.
Jeanette Yates [00:35:04]:
When I say take the bull by the horns, it's like, I am in control. I'm going to take the bull by the horns and I'm going to take care of it. I'm going to pull up myself by my bootstrap. It's one of those things where really what you're saying when you're taking the bull by the horns, it's like, hold.
Nina Hampton [00:35:17]:
On and kind of surrender to the problem a little bit.
Jeanette Yates [00:35:21]:
It's going to work itself out, but you got to hold on. And it's a little bit different than I'm in total control. It's like, I'm going to do what I can with the situation that I'm faced with, which is a bull in my face. And so I'm just going to grab onto the hordes. So, yeah, I have learned so many new things today.
Nina Hampton [00:35:41]:
I'm going to have to journal about that later. I was going to say, my thoughts aren't done. If you let me continue to talk about it, I will.
Jeanette Yates [00:35:49]:
Yeah, it will be another an hour long podcast.
Nina Hampton [00:35:52]:
So can you tell us about a time or share a story that, you know, that strategy and implementing it with technology made an actual meaningful impact? Because I think and just the reason behind this question, we can talk about technology all day. We can talk about what we did and the connect cards that we created and the messages that we sent out and all of that. But I think the most impactful thing that we can do is tell about the actual stories of life change that happen as a result of those things. And so if you have something that you would be willing to share, able to share, that would be awesome.
Stuart Smith [00:36:21]:
I'd like to tell a story of a trip to Niagara Falls that we did in September of 2021. And Niagara Falls is a very popular place to go. It's one of the leading tourist attractions in the world. Everybody wants to go there. So this was another case where we used Text In Church for registration to make sure that we didn't have to be telling people, sorry, we don't have room to take you because one option would be to take a bus. But at the time the rules said you could only have one person each seat of the bus, which would make it very expensive. This is during COVID so we had some volunteer drivers that would take a few students in each car, so we had limited space, and so that worked great for registration. When they got the email that gave them details, one of the details was, we're going to ask you to contribute $20 to cover the costs of gas and parking. Niagara Falls is one of the most expensive places in the world to park. And this two days before, we sent out a text said, please e transfer the money to my wife and I. Their email address. Boom, boom, boom. It all came in night before you'd get a text and say, hey, Nina, are you looking forward to going to Niagara Falls tomorrow? Don't forget to set your alarm so that you can make sure you're at our meeting place by whatever time it was. Then at 745 the next morning, ding hey, Jeanette, this is your wake up call. And then at 02:00 in the afternoon, you get another one said. Ding hey, hope you're having a great day in Niagara Falls. Remember, we're leaving at three, so it's time to start heading back to where you're meeting your driver. And we could just have a great day hanging out with students. I didn't have to be on my phone all day. If somebody needed me, they could call me, but we didn't have to organize all that. And one of the cool things that came out of that actually, two years ago today, we had a tragic incident in London where there was a young guy ran over a Muslim family and killed four of them. Very tragic thing. I had put a note on our Facebook group that, you know, we're so sorry this happened. One of the things that makes us really sad, so many of my Muslim friends are telling me I'm afraid to even go out of my house. So it's such beautiful weather. If you'd like to go for a walk but you're afraid to go by yourself, send me a message and I'll find somebody to walk with you. I had many friends, Muslim and otherwise, tell me what a wonderful idea this was. But I had one young lady I'd never met before, said she'd like to have somebody to walk with. Well, we had a new volunteer who had just started with us, who was the only one of my volunteers that said, hey, I'd be happy to walk with somebody. It turned out that our volunteer had just graduated in computer science, and this young lady who wanted somebody to walk with was in her third year of computer science, the country that she was from in South Asia. Our volunteer knew a little bit of that. So this girl and her sister both came along to Niagara Falls, became very good friends. Last year, the sister got married. Our whole team got invited to their wedding. It was a Muslim wedding. It was wonderful. This spring, our volunteer got married and invited a bunch of international students to come. And among those students was the girl that she had walked with, her sister and her sister's husband. Her sister and her sister's husband live in Ottawa, which is about a six hour drive. Know, for those that say relationships can't really happen online, I beg to differ.
Jeanette Yates [00:40:43]:
Nina Hampton [00:40:44]:
Yeah, absolutely. That's amazing.
Jeanette Yates [00:40:47]:
Oh, my. That was thank you for sharing that. I'm speechless, but I'm also just so honored and feel very blessed to know you, Stuart, and to bear witness to the work that you and your wife and your volunteers are doing for the students there. And I'm going to come to a potluck.
Stuart Smith [00:41:09]:
You're invited. Do you want me to send you the QR code?
Jeanette Yates [00:41:13]:
I will fill out the form. And then, Stuart, as we kind of wrap up today, and really, I've already been so encouraged. More encouragement is great. I almost feel like, could he possibly I mean, I think you probably can, but I'm like, we've already been so encouraged. But if you had any more encouragement or advice for other church leaders that are looking to use technology to improve their systems or anything, maybe they feel overwhelmed in general or overwhelmed with technology. What advice or encouragement would you give to them?
Stuart Smith [00:41:51]:
Sure. Well, I have a few points that I'd make. One is that tools and technology serve to exist, to serve the mission of your organization, not the other way around your organization. Is not there to serve the tools and technology. Second thing is most of your volunteers are likely involved because they love interacting with people and doing the work of ministry, not because they have a fascination with tools. So make sure to select tools and create systems that maintain the required information, but that streamline the ministry and maximize interaction with people. There's a plethora of tools around. Don't try and use them all, but invest time and learn how to use your chosen tools well and use the best tool that you have in your toolbox for each task. And it's good to have a few toolbox, few tools in your toolbox. Another one of the sayings I've picked up is that when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And next thing would be that automated workflows tools such as Tic, those found in Text In Church, allow you to leverage quite a small amount of setup time to achieve prompt, timely and personalized interaction with people without having to spend your whole life tied to your phone. And then the last thing we talked about a little bit earlier as well, but in this day and age we so often read of poor choices made by people working in ministry. And a platform like Tic provides immeasurable value, making it possible for the whole ministry team to see the communications. So those would be the things that I would offer.
Jeanette Yates [00:43:49]:
Thank you for those wise words. And like I said, I do appreciate that you talked about that accountability piece too. If you want to wrap up and say the other things that are in number nine, that is totally fine because I think those are good as well.
Nina Hampton [00:44:02]:
I do as well.
Stuart Smith [00:44:03]:
I was waiting for them well. So as far as encouragement I'd give. If you're feeling overwhelmed, the first thing is every need is not an opportunity. And so I think it's really good to pray and ask God to help you discern the needs from the opportunities. One of the great advantages of being a volunteer is you have a lot more freedom to say, I don't see that as a need. If you're in a paid position and you're told to do something, it might be a really dumb thing and you kind of have to do it. But it's important if you're at a paid position and managing volunteers to be really sensitive to that because it's a good way to lose volunteers. Another one is that failure to plan on your part does not necessarily constitute an emergency on my part. I'll try and do what I can to help you, but I'm not going to work all night because you waited until the night before the event to tell me.
Nina Hampton [00:45:10]:
I think that one deserves a hoodie. I think that one deserves a hoodie, yeah.
Stuart Smith [00:45:15]:
Personally. And the other thing is to remember that we are each playing a part in God's mission. And God's given you the privilege of playing this role and fulfilling his plan. So if indeed it is God's plan, he is with you. And even if the task seems insurmountable, god will make a way where there seems to be no way.
Jeanette Yates [00:45:38]:
Yeah. Beautiful, Stuart. Thank you. So was when this is actually released, it is going to benefit so many people. But as we're listening to it today and doing this interview with you today, I just want to thank you so much for your time and your words of wisdom, encouragement and practical information that is going to be helpful to not only church volunteers, ministry leaders that are working with students, but really, the things that you talked about today could really be utilized for any type of event, any type of communication, and some of the specific principles that you put in place, making it easier, simple things like that. Focusing on the relationships, not the technology. All of those things are so important. So I just want to thank you again for your time and I appreciate you and I appreciate your involvement and participation as a Text In Church community member as well. And for those of you watching today, that is a wrap on today's show. We'd love to hear from you, so head to the comments of this video to share your favorite tech tool or tip with us. And if you have any questions or want to dive deeper into today's interview, we'd love to hear about that too.
Nina Hampton [00:46:50]:
And if you want to know how tech tools like Text in church can help you spend less time worrying about technology and more time doing what you love in your ministry and in your personal life. Make sure that you subscribe wherever you are listening to this episode so you won't miss out on future episodes. Meet me up.