No, it doesn’t exist yet, but I wish it did. If any super web-savvy people (who also happen to have a ton of money or can get people to invest) could pull this off, they could make a killing off of this idea for an application. It would be especially helpful in youth ministry but organizations of all sorts could benefit. Heck, maybe it’s out there and I haven’t found it yet. Here’s my idea:
The idea is a one-stop place online to manage all contact information for everyone that needs to get information from you: parents, students, whatever. With all the information on that site, you go to one place, type in information you want to send to everyone, and then it sends it out in whatever format it needs to depending on which avenues of communication people have signed up for.
In order to streamline communication, one input on the site (i.e. “Mission Trip deposits due tomorrow”) would be automatically converted as necessary and distributed through the following avenues to each member of the group depending on what accounts they have set up. I think with all the APIs and third party apps floating around out there that most, if not all of the following would be possible.
- Email – Obviously teenagers don’t use this but their parents do. Still the best way for me to communicate en masse with parents. Depending on your platform you could also email your own youth ministry blog and automatically create a blog post.
- Facebook wall post – I don’t think Facebook messaging is as effective as a wall post.
- Twitter – If people have a twitter account, it gets sent there.
- MySpace – I’m not sure if this is possible, but I still have a few kids left on MySpace and it would be nice to include them in communication.
- Text Message – One of the best ways to inform teens of things is through texting.
- RSS – That way if you want to do any fancy RSS-to-newsletter or automatic blog posting you can set that up.
- Voice: phone tree message – Especially with some parents, the answering machine or voicemail is still a good form of communication. This would likely have to be input separately from the text information (but maybe not, see below), but likely wouldn’t take but a minute.
- What else am I leaving out?
So, getting the information out would be pretty sweet, but inputting information could be streamlined as well
- Website administration interface – Obviously, you should be able to log in to your account and send out info to other people, but that may not be the more efficient way of doing things.
- Email – It would be pretty easy to give each main account certain email addresses (different ones for each distribution group perhaps) that administrators could send an email to that would automatically be sent out through the program.
- Text Messaging- Same goes for text. On vacation in the Bahamas and forget to remind everyone youth group is canceled? Text the info to your group’s number and everyone gets the info.
- Voice – There might be some way to integrate this with Jott.com so you could convert voice to text and email it up to your account. And/or it could save the voice audio and automatically send that out via a phone tree while the transcript is sent out via the text avenues.
- Twitter – Twit an @reply to a unique profile and it’s sent out to everyone.
This would be one of the cool features. Each person could login with either their email address, their Facebook name, their cell phone number, whatever, and manage their communication options. They can input all of their account information and update things as it changes. You could have different lists set up for devotionals, announcements, Confirmation, High School, Junior High and people could subscribe or unsubscribe to them as they like. With this setup, the whole church could be on the same account and people just subscribe to the relevant information. Then, when you want to tell people to bring cookies to Youth Night Out, the program sends it out to everyone on the appropriate list via all the communication avenues they selected.
The idea is once you do all the front end work of setting up user groups all you ever have to do past that is send out information to people. No more moving people into different email lists, keeping your phone records updated, remembering to add the kid who just got a cell phone to your text messaging group. Everyone can manage all their own information.
Can it happen?
Well, I think it can happen. I just don’t know if it’s cost-effective to do all of this together. I know some of these features are available as stand-alone programs that cost $20+ a month or more. That could mean $100+ a month. Is this worth $1,000 or more a year?
I know that a program like this would make my life much easier and allow me to hit everyone in whatever medium they use to stay in touch with people without having to go through three or four different avenues. What do you think?