SmartEvents: Handling Payments

smartevents_mainscreen copy

We use SmartEvents for all of our online even registration at Mount Pleasant Christian Church.  You may have questions about making payments.  This article should help you with as much as we virtually can.  (This works best if you have already activated your account.)

The image above is the top of the main screen when you go to the main page of the MPCC SmartEvents account.  https://mountpleasant.smartevents.com

From here, you need to look in the top right corner at the little text that says “login”.

smartevents_mainscreen_login

The most common mistake people make is clicking on the event title.  That is fine when you are registering for an event for the first time.  However, when you are making a second payment or paying off your balance, it makes things messy and confusing.  The little login in the top right is your friend.  Always go to him.

Once you click there, you’ll see this, the login screen:

smartevents_login

This is a very important step.  It’s easy to get confused and mess this up, so please read carefully.

SmartEvents is setup so you can use the same email with different passwords to denote different family members.  For example, I use my email with one password that logs into my account.  I use the same email address and a different password and I now access my son’s account.  (This is a little confusing.  I have requested that the company modify the login setup.  But this is how it works right now.)

So, it is very important that after you register and activate your account, you remember which email address and password goes with which person.  If you forget, simply Email Me requesting it be reset.  Be sure to be specific about which family member you would like reset.  Then, I’ll reply to you with a reset email and password so you can login correctly for the correct person.  From there, you can change the password to something confidential.

If you don’t do this, you do what so many people have done.  You create a new account.  No information is saved for autofill.  It’s more work for you.  It’s annoying for me.  I have to go in and merge the different accounts into one.

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll see this screen.

smartevents_loggedin

In this example, I’ve logged into my son’s account, so that is why his name shows up in the top right.  Notice that next to events you now have a My Account tab; the top right shows which user you have logged in as; and the login tab has now changed to a logout.

From here, there is a list of events, if you have registered for more than one in the past.  You need to find the line with the event that has an outstanding balance due.  It will look something like this:

smartevents_myaccount_event

When you click on view you will be taken to a screen that has all your information related to this event registration.  It will look something like this:

smartevents_view_00

You have found a goldmine here!  You can see in bold print how much money you still owe for the event:

smartevents_view_01

Now you have two options.  This can be very simple or very frustrating.  Follow my advice and it’ll be simple.

You can simply click Paypal and pay online with your Paypal account.  Or, you can bring cash or a check to the church in an envelope with the registrant’s name on it and event name.  Paid.  Simple.  (By the way, here’s the best way to drop off payment or forms and make sure I get them in a way that is simple for all of us: Dropping Off Payment or Forms)

If you try to figure out a way to use your credit or debit card without Paypal, you’ll get frustrated.  We pay fees to SmartEvents for registration.  We also pay fees to Paypal.  In trying to keep costs down, we have not setup the church SmartEvents account to be able to accept credit or debit cards, because there would be an additional, high fee involved, which would increase the cost for our events.  So, that’s the reason we only are setup with Paypal for online payments.

As a side note, remember that at the bottom of this page, you can see a list of any forms that are required for this event.  If you need to submit any, they will show up similar to this.

smartevents_view_02

You can click on each to get a pdf copy for you to fill out and submit.

Make sure when you are done, you click logout on the top right of the screen.

Now you know how to simply make a payment with SmartEvents.  (Cue the rainbow and theatrical soundtrack, along with applause!)

As always, please email me if you have any questions.  And remember, we do have four computer workstations setup in the Student Ministries Center that all can access SmartEvents.  If you need help working through registering for an event, setting up your SmartEvents account, resetting your email address and password, getting the forms you need, or making a payment, I’d be happy to walk you through it with an in-person tutorial!  Just email me to setup a time that is convenient for both of us.

Wacky Weekend: 2012 November

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Here are a few highlights from this past weekend.

Wacky Countdown & Story of Thanksgiving

We started things off with a wacky countdown that showed a turkey being “hunted” by a pilgrim, with a funny ending at the Thanksgiving meal.

Then, we included a fun, short video that told the story of Thanksgiving . . . basically. http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/11000/The-Story-Of-Thanksgiving-Basically

The Interlude

We’ve done this dance before, but had shelved it for a while.  Sometimes, a fun factor is about bringing something back again.  Not everyone is a huge interlude fan.  However, in an “all-play” activity like a crazy group dance, this one incorporated movement, energy, interaction, and just-plain-fun!  Here’s the backstory article to the dance: http://www.uni.edu/this-is-uni/interlude-dance

You can watch the instructional video to dance along at home here:


(Special thanks to Jay Reynolds, Middle School Team Player at Hope Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, for introducing this to me.  And special thanks to  Dave Harris and Steve Stone of digitalstache for putting together these resources to compliment the dance!)

Lions (Slinky)
We introduced the students and leaders to a fun song about how God is greater than anything in this world. It’s called Lions. However, you will probably call it “That Slinky Song”.  After watching this video, you’ll understand.
You can also download the song here on iTunes: Lions
And you can check out more about the band, their ministry, and purchase resources on their website: speedwood
I referenced one of the band members, Michael, battling cancer.  Here’s their “kickstarter” video that tells his story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3gsQtkNAwE&feature=plcp  (The live double cd they talk about is now done and available here: https://www.speedwood.com/store/index.php?sku=lostandfoundcomesalive&cat=cds)
Brain Breaks
On Saturday, we did some games from Brain Breaks, by the good folks at Cranium.  I keep one of these in my office for inspiration and fun.  I recommend having one of these around your house whether it’s a family game night or just 15 minutes you want to fill with interaction instead of passing like ships in the night.  Cranium describes Brain Breaks as: “With more than 200 games that can be played in 60 seconds or less, families race to beat the timer using classic guessing, acting, sketching, sculpting and word-puzzling skills.”  Yeah, that’s about right.  Check it out!

Look Up Look Down

We played a simple game that you could play with your family, maybe even in a vehicle on a long road-trip, although I recommend the driver not play.  Here are the instructions.  We didn’t include the scream option . . . this time.

Make It Rain

Sunday morning, we even made it rain in the Student Ministries Center!  (Don’t worry, no one got wet.)  This may not work so well with just your family, but if you get a chance to do this with a large group it is tons of fun.  Here’s a video I found of it being done “choir style.”  I do have to say, their version of thunder sounds better than ours did.  I first did this when I was in middle school and love leading it with a crowd whenever I have the chance.

There are other things I did that aren’t as easy to share.  Hopefully, you’ve found something fun here for your family, ministry, job, etc.!  As you can see from my links, I collect ideas from lots of different people and places.  Sometimes being creative or wacky is more about finding some great idea than it is trying to develop something on your own.  However, I have found that as I interact with others and process their ideas, that process often leads to some of the best original ideas I have had.  Enjoy and be wacky!

A Note About Images

(A note about the turkey picture.  I found some great pictures looking through Flickr using http://compfight.com.  Every time I used an image, I included a note somewhere on the image with credit to who took the picture or created the image.  On some of our posters, I even contacted the individual if I wasn’t clear what their permissions were for their image.  Everyone was very helpful!  A little help is never far away!  By the way, parents, this can be a great tool to get images for school projects that really stand out in the crowd!  Always remember to credit the source and ask for permission.)

Below are some of the images we used to promote the November Wacky Weekend.

Wacky Weekend: A Backstory

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Time for a little backstory on the Wacky Weekend.

I observed a phenomenon in student ministry. There are certain weekends where some people travel and are out of town due to a holiday, extra day off of school, good weather, or any number of other reasons. On those weekends, attendance is usually down. I had wrongly assumed that a large number of families in our community all took off on these weekends.

Turns out . . . not so much. I discovered that what was really happening was this. Some families were traveling and away from our church for the weekend. Then, many families who were still around had students who thought, “Man, NO ONE is going to be at church this weekend. I’m not going.”

So, I faced a challenge. (not a problem – a challenge. I’m an optimist. All problems are challenges that need to be accepted and conquered. That comes from seeing problems as simply requirements to get your homework done in school. No one said, “Sorry teacher. I can’t finish my homework. It has too many problems!” However, it’s sad how many adults give up on things because there are “problems.” So . . . I see challenges, not problems.)

The challenge was how to get the students who were in town on these various weekends to want to come to church regardless of who was going to be there. Then, once they came, instead of saying, “Man, NO ONE is here.”, they would instead say, “Man, look at EVERYONE who is here.” (Now, I know not EVERYONE would be here. But this is the way students think and express themselves . . . especially in working with preteens and young teens in 5th-8th grade like I do.)

That’s when I came across this article in a blog by my friend Kurt Johnston, who is also a junior high pastor.

Kurt: No Way

I went and wrote a quote from this article on the wall in my office and drew a big speech bubble around it. (Okay, to be fair, part of my office wall was painted with white IdeaPaint so it’s my dry erase board. But technically, I get to write on the wall in my office.)

And then I read a newer, related post Kurt had made.

http://www.juniorhighministry.com/2011/04/12/no-good-ruts/

There was some really good stuff here! Kurt sparked a brainstorm in me that erupted onto my office wall.

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(Yes the image is blurred on purpose. We are only starting to use some of the ideas from this brainstorm. It’s like I’m letting you see the wrapped present but not letting you peek inside.) 😉 (And yes, my painted wall has a wooden border and marker tray. One of our awesome facilities staff members at church added it for me after he painted my wall with the IdeaPaint.)

And then I started to think about Apple. (The technology company based in Cupertino, California. Not the fruit. Although if you are thinking about the fruit, Granny Smith are my favorite kind of those apples.) I’ve been a huge fan of Apple for a long time. Full disclosure: I even worked as a Mac Specialist at the Apple Store in Indianapolis for eight weeks in 2007. Although, it was so much fun, it’s weird to call it work.

Anyway…Apple keynotes are some of the most well-planned events and presentations any business does. I have learned a ton from watching the late Steve Jobs in how he delivered presentations. But before those events and presentations happened, Apple would promote the event. Yet, they only promote the event officially one week out. That’s it. 7 days! Who can plan an event and get a ton of people to show up when you only give them one week’s notice?! Who can get people to wait eagerly online to see the video of the presentation and updates on their website when they’ve only sent digital invite pieces out to a select number of people and done so one week out?! Yeah. Apple. That’s who.

However, that promotion method works because of mystery and expectation. Basically, from the time one presentation/event is done, rumors and speculation circulate all over the internet and social media as to what Apple will do next. People experience wonder and get excited, waiting for the official announcement while carefully studying all the various possibilities the rumor mongers spread around.

What if I could tap into some of that to help build stability, excitement and growth in student ministry? I could! Why not? Now, I couldn’t just announce what we were doing one week out. Let’s be honest. As much as I love the ministries I lead, there’s not a whole lot of buzz on the internet or social media to get the kind of response Apple gets.

However, what if I promoted an event and gave absolutely zero details about it? What if I simply said, “You don’t want to miss it!” Would students respond?

I opened up the thesaurus and searched for words like weird, strange, fun, etc. I came up with “Wacky.” I searched online and was reminded of a classic tv show I used to watch reruns of as a kid: Wacky Races! Jason, our media arts specialist on staff, created a logo inspired by theirs for our now titled, Wacky Weekends!

I picked five weekends with typically low attendance that I believe were more psychological than connected to people physically not being in our community.

The first was Labor Day weekend. We had one of our highest weekend attendances that weekend this year for our first Wacky Weekend! Our second was this past weekend, Thanksgiving weekend. We were at or slightly above normal, much in part, I believe, to Wacky Weekend!

Now, please hear me out on this. I am not taking out what God does. However, in student ministries, we have the freedom to mix things up, to experiment, to include a “no way” factor in ways other ministries can not. So, for five weekends this year, we are abandoning all we normally do on a typical weekend with 5th-8th graders to have these weekends full of fun and surprise. (and honestly, these are turning out to be as fun for me and the volunteers as they are for the students!)

Sidenote: I also realized early on that since we have services Saturday night and Sunday morning, word might get out and spoil the surprise for the Sunday morning crew. So, in our planning, we intentionally include either elements or a whole event plan that is different on the same weekend from Saturday to Sunday. Wacky!

Okay, that’s the backstory to Wacky Weekend.

A Note About Images

(I found some great pictures looking through Flickr using http://compfight.com. Every time I used an image, I included a note somewhere on the image with credit to who took the picture or created the image. On some of our posters, I even contacted the individual if I wasn’t clear what their permissions were for their image. Everyone was very helpful! A little help is never far away! By the way, parents, this can be a great tool to get images for school projects that really stand out in the crowd! Always remember to credit the source and ask for permission.)

Smart Events: The Online Event Registration Solution

(This is part of my Technology and Ministry series.)

One of the biggest headaches in preparing for an event, especially in student ministry, is the registration process.

In order for me to get my group’s registration form turned in with our deposit, I first have to get students to register and collect their deposits.  That can be a paperwork nightmare!

What if all the registration details could be handled by families from home?

What if most of the payments would be processed automatically online?

What if sorting students into groups or assigning to multiple vehicles wasn’t such a hassle?

What if this was possible no matter what kind or size of event you were doing?

It is now!  Sound like an infomercial?  It’s not, but it should be.

Check out SmartEvents.com.

We have only been using SmartEvents at our church for a few months, but already it is becoming a favorite resource for both staff and families.

This resource allows you to post your event information online where anyone can view and register.

If an event is free, there is no charge for using the service.

If the event has a fee, you pay a small fee of 1.5%.  (Keep in mind, as with any online registration tool, you also pay a percentage to PayPal and any other payment processing resource you use.)  We only accept PayPal for online payments, to keep our fees at a minimum.  People also have the option to pay by cash or check in person.

Getting started is very simple.  Check this video out to see what I mean:

We link the SmartEvents main registration page to our facebook pages and our main church website.

People are loving this new system!

Assigning students into groups is as simple as drag-and-drop or even one-click “auto-assign.”

 

You have quick and easy visual cues to help you track and update payment information:

No more wondering who has which form to turn in.  You can easily track it and families can download it from the site 24/7!

You can setup custom pricing (early-bird discounts, scholarships), easily setup groups for rooms or vehicle assignments (with a sweet auto assign feature), and can even include an event schedule.

We love this site a ton.  You can see how we are using ours here:

https://mountpleasant.smartevents.com/

For folks who need help or who don’t have a good internet connection at home, we have a computer workstation setup in our lobby where they can login and register on site too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions.  This really has turned out to be a great tool for getting people registered for an event.  And I haven’t even touched on all the custom question options, various ways you can customize and export data into helpful reports, and how they plan to integrate this with PlanningCenterOnline!

On a side note, they are great at getting back with you when you have questions or feature requests.  This seems to be the same team who works on PlanningCenterOnline.  Right now, that resource is getting most of the attention for development.  However, Smart Events is a great start and better than anything else I have seen online.

It is simple.  Looks great.  And was definitely built with student ministry in mind!

Check it out!  I recommend getting setup and using it for a free event to see how it all works.

You might ask why people would register for a free event.  Thanks to personal experience and wisdom from others, we found two ways to get families to register for a free event: prizes and games.

1) You tell students that you will draw a name from all those who register online by the deadline.  Then, only those who registered online and by the deadline get a chance to win a gift card or whatever prize works for you.  Those who didn’t qualify definitely will make sure they do next time!

2) Ever hate announcing a game only then having to pick from the screaming group who gets to play?  On the registration form, create custom drop down lists of game choices.  Allow students to pick their top three in order.  Then, when you are ready to play the game, simply call out names from the lists you had ahead of time!

Whether it is a simple game night at church or a week long summer road trip, Smart Events does what it says.  It will “revolutionize the way you plan events.”