Managing small groups at your church can be difficult and technology isn’t always the great savior it claims to be. Groups Engine hopes to be different. Eric Murrell has created two other premium WordPress plugins for churches, Series Engine and Prayer Engine. He brings his practical experience as the communications director of Long Hollow Baptist Church to the table.
We talk with Eric about how Groups Engine can help with your small groups. And stick around, we’ve also got a free copy of Groups Engine to give away.
Why did you create Groups Engine?
Eric Murrell: In my role as the communication director at Long Hollow, we’ve done several large pushes to join a small group over the past few years. As a part of those, we always pushed people to the web to find a group, and each time our inboxes would fill up as folks became frustrated with the search tool our content management system provided; we ended up just manually matching people up with a group on a one-by-one basis.
After encountering that situation for the third time this January, I began work on Groups Engine. I wanted to create something that included powerful group search, but in as way that was beautiful, easily understood and painless to manage.
What does Groups Engine offer that other church management systems or church social networks can’t match?
Eric: In my experience, most of the existing tools out there are extremely ridged and narrow in scope. There’s a lot to mention here, but here are a few of the biggest differences in my mind…
1. Ease-of-Use – There’s no point in having a groups tool if both your visitors and your staff hate using it. Groups Engine offers elegant groups search that every user can understand, and a refined group management system that your staff will actually keep up-to-date.
2. Flexibility – Every church does groups differently, and Groups Engine was built with that in mind. It takes only seconds to change the colors, add and remove columns from group search, or even change labels throughout the Groups Engine browser.
Your staff can also use our simple embed code generator to build custom group search on several pages of your site. Imagine a page of just women’s groups, or maybe just the groups related to one of your campuses. It’s a big win for many ministries.
3. Maps – If you have a lot of groups that meet off campus, a map view is essential for getting people plugged in. Groups Engine generates this automatically, and it’s one of the first options your users will see.
4. Mobile – Groups Engine was built from the ground up to look great on phones, tablets, and every other device you can throw at it. Your visitors won’t have to wait until they get home to find a group on your website.
5. Reporting – Our intuitive report library is lightning-fast, and gives you access to the data you need most: groups lists, leader lists and overview of recent group contacts. No learning a complex new system. No waiting for a report to load on a server.
6. Contact Management – Groups Engine’s streamlined contact system may be our most popular feature. Visitors to your site can contact group leaders with a simple form, and group leaders can follow up with your staff with just one click (no log in required). Your group staff can now spend their time doing ministry instead of badgering group leaders to log in and update a database.
Small Groups can often be the lifeblood of the church, but it’s harder to see them in action and get people plugged in. How does Groups Engine make that easier? Have you seen examples of this at your church?
Eric: I think Groups Engine can help in a few areas.
The map view has been huge for our church, especially since many people commute to worship with us on Sunday mornings. The ability to enter a postal code and view Bible studies near them has already helped dozens of new folks get connected.
Our sharing links are also a big help. Group leaders can link folks directly to their group’s info on your website, and visitors browsing though the group list can easily share the groups they like on Facebook and Twitter.
Finally, Groups Engine makes it really simple to bring attention to a small subset of your groups. If you’re in the middle of a giving series, and want to write a blog post that pushes people to join one of your financial study groups, Groups Engine makes it possible.
Since you can list groups in different ways all over your site, it’s obvious that groups are part of your DNA (and not just another thing to do on Sunday morning).
Other than plugging people into groups, what are other ways churches can communicate about their groups and share the ministry happening there?
Eric: With our church being so large, it’s all too easy to just blend in with the crowd. We want people to join groups because that is typically their “church family.” It’s who brings meals when you have a baby, who visits you in the hospital, and who notices when you haven’t been to church in a month.
Occasionally we’ll spotlight a group, group leader, or a type of group to let people see examples of life change and encourage them to grow as well. Groups Engine makes it a lot easier to point those groups out.
Thanks Eric. You can learn more about Groups Engine here.
Groups Engine Giveaway
Eric is giving away a free copy of Groups Engine. All you need to do to enter is tell us how small groups are making an impact in your church. Let us know. Here’s how it works:
Post a comment telling us how small groups are making an impact in your church. We’ll draw one winner at random on Wednesday, Aug. 27 to receive a free copy of the Groups Engine WordPress plugin. One entry per person, legit email address required.
Congrats to Lance! Thanks to everyone for entering.
How are small groups making an impact in your church?
Note: We have an affiliate relationship with Groups Engine, Series Engine and Prayer Engine, and we receive a small referral fee for purchases made through those links.