A Chemistry Conversation with Boyd Pelley
Matt Steen and Boyd Pelley, have a frank conversation about two powerful words in the church world—marketing and data—and how they can improve your discipleship, invite culture, and revolutionize how people engage.
In this Chemistry Conversation, Boyd Pelley takes the lessons he’s learned coaching hundreds of Churches on how to use their data to double engagement, track discipleship, and zero in on a community's felt needs.
About Boyd Pelley:
Boyd Pelley is a seasoned Small Groups’ Pastor who took the frustrations of tracking progress and created a tool that gives Churches what they need to succeed. Boyd’s passion to “really shepherd” people drives everything they do at Churchteams. Together, Churchteams builds the framework to give ANY church the ability to build disciples, teams and reach their community through coaching and data
As always, we are here for you, and we're praying for churches and teams all over the United States!
Read the Full Transcript
Matt Steen: Well hey, it’s Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, and this is another Chemistry conversation. I am really excited today. I am joined today by Boyd Pelley. Boyd is the President, Co-Founder of Churchteams. And you launched this, what? It’s been like 20 years, give or take.
Boyd Pelley: Yeah, we started 21 years ago as a small group software.
Matt Steen: Small group software. But you’ve been… you’ve been in ministry for approximately forever.
Boyd Pelley: Exactly right. That was about 10 years into being full-time on a church staff when we started this. Yeah, there’s a lot of time before that.
Matt Steen: You’re the all-around discipleship guy. That’s why you created this. Which is why I’m kind of excited to talk to you today because you’ve lived the church world, but now you’re really kind of ingrained, not just in the tech world, but in the church tech world, which is its own odd beast.
Boyd Pelley: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I would even say the discipleship part of the tech world even.
Matt Steen: It’s super nichey. What are you learning, man? When you look around the church world, what are you seeing and what are you learning?
Boyd Pelley: Yeah, absolutely. You know what. It’s been like this a long time. There’s been interest in technology. But you know, one thing I think that with COVID, with all the stuff that’s happened the last year and a half, it’s been interesting to see what the church has done in terms of technology. Not just in live streaming things, which is just obvious, right. But besides that, the other ways to interact with folks. Remember when QR codes came out? What was that, like 20 years ago? And died on the vine very quickly. And all of a sudden, they’re back.
Matt Steen: They’re back.
Boyd Pelley: Like crazy because of the touchless things. And they’ve upgraded a lot of technology related to it. Ever since the iPhone about 3 or 4 years ago built in a QR code reader, it’s taken off. So we see that. Obviously, different places, a lot of different ways that people can use that. We see churches using QR codes for all kinds of things. Texting is another way, just relating to the mobile. Of course, we’ve done the text to church thing for all the different ways you can use texting, to interface the database. Probably the other thing that it looks like there is a trend is people really wanting all their data together. Over time, because of the innovation of technology, you had all these different software companies that innovated different features, so they had a niche, and pretty soon the church is keeping data in five different places. So what we’re seeing is a lot of companies like Churchteams and many other that are trying to help churches bring all their data together under one umbrella. Lots of different things happening in our industry to do that and lots of different approaches to that.
Matt Steen: So they’re bringing it all in-house, getting people one login instead of 17 different across different platforms.
Boyd Pelley: Yeah, exactly. And that way you have all your data in one place. There’s a lot of value to that, especially when you want to do analytics and you want to start pulling in - like I want to see what percentage of our people attend small groups 50% of the time and give more than once a month or once a month. Well, you can’t have attendance data in one place and giving data in another place and pull that kind of stuff together. Stuff like that.
Matt Steen: You said a scary word there a minute ago. It started with an “A.” The analytics piece. Some people get a little nervous about the analytics, but I’m guessing that part of what you’re seeing - and tell me I’m wrong - is churches really leaning into taking the data that they’ve got. How are you seeing churches use that and use it for gospel purposes?
Boyd Pelley: Yeah. There are some pretty amazing things. And honestly, I think we’re just going to have to get used to that because that really is the future. We foresaw years ago to capture all the data in one place so that you can give. And some of the language you hear in different places now is to give data a seat at the table around decision-making. And pastors and executive teams, they want to have data to support their subjective assumptions. Or they want something more than last week after church the chairman of the elders came up to me and said this is what’s going on. Well, that’s nice that that person felt that way and great feedback, but what is the data telling us about that? Are there some things we can do with data? Not just surveys and things, you can do that. But real data. Real data points of people attending things, people giving, people signing up for things, prayer requests, notes on people, registry, all those kinds of things that are objective data. The idea there is really to be able to just provide the feedback to folks on how church is doing. I can talk some more about that if you want, a few more details if you like.
Matt Steen: Yeah, I’m curious about this because we don’t… church still in many ways - this is going to get me fired, I don’t know about you - but church in many ways is still very old-fashioned. We’re not known for really leveraging the data that we have well. But what I’m hearing you say is part of this season of being forced to rely on technology and being forced to, frankly, use our church management systems the way that they were designed is also giving us the ability to pull in data, whether it’s attendance related or giving or related or what, to be able to support some of those decisions. Typically, back in the day that was a building decision, but it sounds like you’re seeing it used in other ways as well.
Boyd Pelley: Yeah. And part of the things I think we’re going to see more coming, some of the things we’ve been thinking about and working on the last year, nine months to a year, have been things like, what does a disciple look like in the church? Well, a disciple’s going to have a commitment level when Christ is first placed in their life. 2 Corinthians 5:17, they’re going to have some indication that they love Jesus. “By this, they’ll know you’re my disciples by the love you have for one another.” And so taking core verses like that and then asking the question, what are the information in the database. They’ll give us an indication of how people are loving each other. And so it would be a thing like we have this call it community attribute on people. And the way that’s populated isn’t by the admin assistant going in and selecting a dropdown and saying this person is highly committed or highly engaged in community. Instead of that, what we do is with some of the intelligence, with some of the things because you’ve got this data, you can actually set up a report that the system will do automatically and nobody ever has to touch it that will go into your data, look at, say, people who attended a small group five or more times in the last 13 weeks, and then based on that it will set this other field that they are regularly involved in community. As opposed to somebody who just happens to be enrolled in community. And then it will populate that, and you can actually go into that member profile and see, even color-coded, here’s their commitment level, here’s their community level, here’s their serving level, here’s their leadership level, here’s their stewardship level, those things. And it’s based on the system running reports automatically to give you feedback based on real data. Which is really interesting. And then you combine those together church-wide.
Matt Steen: That’s fascinating. So many times we talk about our discipleship pipelines or discipleship pathway, whatever the trendy phrase is today, but I think we hesitate to put some of those metrics on it. In some of the ways, we’re using the information we have to make an assumption on where somebody is, and then we probably need to have a conversation with somebody to make sure it’s checking out in the wash.
Boyd Pelley: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And some of that is, what classes did they attend? Did they attend and complete that Leadership 101 course that we do? Well that’s one piece of information. Well guess what? We have a benchmark and date in the database that tracks that. But then also, do we find that after that they started a small group and now they’re a small group leader, or they’re serving in youth ministry or something? Those are data points as well. So you can kind of pull those together to say, okay, in leadership development this person is at that level based on the information that’s in there.
Matt Steen: That’s awesome. Able to track people as they go through and actually see if you’re helping people grow spiritually. That’s phenomenal. I think I know where you’re going to go with this, but the question I typically ask is, what are you seeing on the horizon. It sounds like more and more this is what we’re going to be seeing.
Boyd Pelley: Well, I think honestly, it’s going to happen both ways. It’s going to happen on the discipleship side like that, that we can develop the data, which is why it becomes important that we’re capturing data. Because right, the information out is only as good as the information in.
Matt Steen: Absolutely.
Boyd Pelley: So we have to work on some of those systems to get the information. But being able to track the different signs of discipleship. And that’s all they are, really, is they’re signs of discipleship. They’re pointing a direction. They can’t tell you for sure. Just because somebody went to the Maturity 201 class doesn’t mean they’re a mature Christian, but it points a direction. It’s a sign. So yeah, and then to be able to do metrics based on that, to see church-wide here’s where we’re at over time. How long is somebody involved in our church before they tend to take the next step, those kind of things. So that’s coming. And the more that we’re concerned about, or the more that some of this artificial intelligence comes into our technology, the more we’ll see that. Look at how some of that technology is used by social media platforms and advertising and stuff like that. We know, right, They understand our behavior really well and can get us some feedback, sometimes knowing us better than we know ourselves. Right? On the flip side of that is on the evangelism side. I think part of what we’re going to see going forward is churches doing more with their websites than having them just as a brochure. Of hey, if you want to come, come here, it’s at this time. Or even, as awesome as they are, you see a lot of churches the last few years that have a “prepare for your visit” thing on the website. As good as that is, that has an assumption that somebody is ready to come. And a lot of times, our evangelism that we do is about inviting people to come on Sunday. Well, any of us that have been out there, there’s a certain level of growth or interest that somebody has to respond to an invitation. And I think the more we get away from that world where everybody grew up around a church or in church and they’ve kind of moved away, so you invite them to come, it’s familiar territory for them, they have something in the background to come to. The further away we can get from that, the more we’re going to have to have to fish - I think about it as fishing a little bit deeper to where the wild fish are that have never had the experience and would not more think about coming just with an invitation than you and I might think about going to, I don’t know, a Hindu temple. Just because it’s so foreign to our experience. But I think will happen is what happens in typical marketing campaigns is, rather than having a website devoted to our marriage ministry, “Come to our marriage thing on Tuesday night.” Rather than that, we have a page. At least the top part of the page is set up as, “Having marital issues? Click here and hear a testimony of someone who is exactly where you are.” And three or four short minute testimony, someone identifying with them. And then saying, “Click here and sign up, and we’re going to give you some best tips that people with successful marriages in our church have learned.” Sign up essentially for a drip campaign. You get their information. You’re not inviting them to come to anything. You’re offering help right from there. So the church becomes a place to do that. And church management software offers registration for people to sign up, offers the workflow to be able to embed the video in, to do all that content thing so that you’re taking the person at a point of need, moving them to a point of now they’re curious. And through that curiosity and getting some real help. Now they’ve seen some clips of the sermon. They kind of have an idea of what the pastor is like, what the church is like. So now an invitation doesn’t seem as weird. Because we have kind of developed them to come along. And I think that’s the other side of technology, church management software in particular can help with. Because then you’re going to have all that data to be able to move people through that. Really, on both sides of the equation, reaching deeper on the evangelism side, tracking the discipleship side more closely. That’s where I see church management software headed.
Matt Steen: And that’s awesome. I like how you describe the evangelism piece because it seems like… well shucks, it sounds like we’re actually developing relationships with somebody before we invite them to come out, doesn’t it?
Boyd Pelley: Exactly right. And a couple of churches that I’ve seen that do that, what they’ll actually do is they’ve got the page, they’ve got their people to understand that and know the page. So they’ll put that on their social site, so their friends that are coming by can come, jump on, get some help on their marriage, and then through that process it becomes natural to relay back to that person who had that as well as relay to the church. It also has this component of bringing your congregation into it, not just by inviting them to come on Sunday, but allowing them to introduce it to their neighbors and friends to get some help.
Matt Steen: That’s awesome. I love the way that you’re thinking about this. I mean, I’m a little geeky about this stuff too.
Boyd Pelley: I know you are.
Matt Steen: And so much of this is that other dirty word in the church, is the marketing piece. But if we’re thinking like marketers and how do we move people closer and closer to the point where we can make that invitation. I love the tools that you guys are making for that. Tell me, I feel like… this has been a great conversation. I don’t want to monopolize all of your time today, but before we wrap up, what encouragement would you share with pastors that are watching this today?
Boyd Pelley: Probably a lot of pastors are looking at it and they’re like me. When we got our first website for our company, I thought, “I got my website done.” So I checked it off. Website is now done and move on. Except for, it’s not. Because three or four years later, you’re going to have to come back. Things have changed. The message is changing. You have to find tune it. You have to redo it. So the point there is, we have to stay learners, and we have to stay on the edge. Think about the series you did on marriage five years ago and how it might be very different if you did the same series on marriage today. Or family or something like that. Because the world has changed, so it’s going to change. The same way with technology. It’s going to evolve and grow and change, so you can look at technology systems that were obviously built 20 years ago and they’ve not changed a whole lot since then. Or they’ve tried to staple something on, something like that. But the encouragement to pastors is really just to stay a learner. And especially as we have more digital natives coming into leadership roles, they’re just going to assume that. They’re not going to freak out when Google changes the navigation around. That’s just what Google does. That’s how that works.
Matt Steen: That’s called Tuesday, right?
Boyd Pelley: That’s called Tuesday. So staying a learner, knowing that things are constantly going to change and get a refresh, and those constant innovations will drive technology forward. So I would do that. I would encourage church leaders that way. Also, interesting enough, with the technology that they’re using, especially church management system, it is just to keep an eye on their church management. Does it look like it did ten years ago? Is it still doing the same sort of thing? There’s a lot of changes happening in our industry. A lot of acquisitions, a lot of different things happening. And some of those I’m not sure how much innovation they’re going to bring. They might bring some acquisitions and merging things together. That’s one of the strategies of converging tools is acquiring and linking different things together. But in terms of fresh innovation, like we were talking about today, looking around and seeing those. That would be an encouragement. Keep an eye out. Be a learner on some of those. And keep the expectations high, be alert. I think it’s going to be a different world. It’s headed to be a different world. And technology is kind of in the middle of that. It’s going to be a really important part of the future world. Technology is going to get easier because there’s much more focus on user interface and user experience to simplify things. There’s going to be automation. Like the reports I was talking about that are somewhat complicated, but just set up and let the system take care of it. Overall I think stay a learner, be honest with your questions about technology you use, and then know that good technology going forward is going to help you figure out how to use it, even.
Matt Steen: That’s great, that’s great. Boyd, thank you so much for the time, man. I greatly appreciate it. I love the tool that Boyd and his team have put together. If you haven’t checked out churchteams.com, go do that. How about that? Check it out. You guys have got a ton of content on your site. Some of your blog posts are super helpful. Go Google more about Boyd that way. Would love to see people engage with you and your crowd as they start to lean into some of the tools you guys give them. Boyd, thank you.
Boyd Pelley: You bet. Thank you, Matt. Thank you for what you do to help churches bring the right teams together. I think it’s awesome.
Matt Steen: Thank you.