What's in this session?

  • Rule #1: The Central Hub must be accessible be 24/7 (4:40)
  • Rule #2: The Central Hub must be accessible from any device (5:35)
  • Rule #3: The Central Hub must be able to capture, store, and distribute information (6:05)
  • Example #1: Big blue wall (8:30)
  • Example #2: In the sanctuary (11:15)
  • Example #3: iPad stand (Mount-It! with Kiosk Pro App) (12:00)
  • Example #4: Pop-up signs (13:20)
  • Example #5: Table-top stand (Lamicall) (13:20)
  • Example #6: Volunteers to help (15:05)
  • Example #7: Table with wheels for portable setup (19:25)
  • Example #8: Screens and custom marquee (19:55)

Show notes and resources

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Super Church Lobby Kiosk Setup Guide – you’ll learn how to configure a lobby kiosk that can facilitate every next step in your church

The Transcript

Alex Mills: The Central Hub is a strategy churches use to boost engagement, and it exists to see your congregation take more next steps. This is important, because we don’t want churches filled with passive spectators but rather active participants. So, in this podcast we’re going to share with you eight different Central Hub lobby setups from real churches to get you inspired and to show you, whether your church is big, small, portable, young, old, whatever, the Central Hub can work in your context.

Filler: Amen.

Alex Mills: Well, hey there and welcome to Pro Church Tools, the show to help you share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift in 500 years. I’m your host Alex Mills. Joined as always by Brady Shearer.

Brady Shearer: Every church is trying to accomplish the same thing.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: We say that, hey, maybe you say it differently.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: You’ve got a cool church slogan, but at the end of the day we’re all trying to be a church that help people to love God, love others, and make disciples.

Alex Mills: That’s it.

Brady Shearer: Each of those stanzas, each of those objectives begins with a verb.

Alex Mills: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brady Shearer: Which requires an action.

Alex Mills: Yeah, it’s an action phrase.

Brady Shearer: You need your church to be doing stuff, actually getting involved.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Moving towards Jesus, acting like Jesus, and that requires so much more than just showing up for a service.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: This foundation is where the Central Hub strategy was born, because we were noticing that churches were having difficulty inspiring their church to take action. There’s a lot of different reasons for that, that we’ll get into, but this is why the Central Hub exists. In this episode, we want to show you real churches that have created central hubs using different spots in their church. These are physical locations.

Alex Mills: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brady Shearer: Maybe if you’re listening to this episode, it might be worth watching, because we’ve got real photos.

Alex Mills: Yeah, really cool ones.

Brady Shearer: I have to thank you for getting these, because inside of our Nucleus users Facebook group, it’s called Nucleus Insiders, you kind of sent out a message saying, hey let’s see your central hub. Because each of these are powered by Nucleus, and people sent in their photos.

Alex Mills: Yeah. Every once in awhile someone will post a central hub whether they just finished it and they’re super proud of it, or sometimes I’ll just come across one on Instagram and be like, I don’t follow these people. I found them in the explore [inaudible 00:02:02]. I’m like, hey, that’s a central hub.

So, I wanted to get a master list. I wanted to see everyone’s in one place. So, I asked last week. I said, hey, let’s see your central hubs, and we got some really, really cool feedback.

Brady Shearer: The reason the central hub is so powerful is because inevitably most churches confuse their congregations with what we call chaotic messaging.

Alex Mills: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brady Shearer: Where you’ve got a bunch of different promotions. You’ve got so many different things that your church can get involved in, small groups, events, ministries, services. But the problem is that we push people to so many different destinations to get involved. So, we’ll say things like check the bulletin.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Or go to the lobby, or visit our website. Download our app. Call the church. Email a ministry leader. Talk to the pastor. Those are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head. No, I wrote them down, but you know. The point here is that more choices generally leads to less decisions.

Alex Mills: Yep.

Brady Shearer: This is a paradox that a lot of us have difficulty understanding.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: But if you give people a ton of different options and then expect them to follow through, it’s difficult because one, it’s hard to remember which option is connected to which event.

Alex Mills: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brady Shearer: But also when we have so many different options, we start to get into this, well I could do this, but I could also do this. I know, I’ll do nothing.

Alex Mills: We’ve talked about it before. It is kind of counterintuitive, and you can’t really get ahold of it until you start to evaluate what you’re doing and start to track some of these metrics, and be like oh people aren’t signing up or taking as many next steps as we hoped. When you start to make these arrangements, you see those numbers go up, and it’s like, oh, they just needed fewer choices, right?

We’ve talked about a study before, and this is kind of anecdotal at this point, because I can’t quote it. But it was like a company set up a jam installation in a grocery store, right? Let’s say the first time they had three types of jam. Come try these jams. Then the next day they had like 27 types of jam. It was on the day that they had three types of jam that sales went up.

Because it’s like, oh, do I want strawberry, peach, or apricot? Obviously it’s strawberry, but when there’s 27 jams, it’s like I don’t know if I want blackberry lime jam or if I want strawberry rhubarb. We got overwhelmed. So, the same thing is true in churches. When you want small group signups and you’re giving people eight ways to sign up for small groups, they get a little overwhelmed and end up don’t taking that next step.

If we believe that walking with Jesus is an active thing. And we like to say it around here, more next steps equals more life change. If that’s what we want to see in our people at our church, then we have to facilitate a better way for them to take that step.

Brady Shearer: The central hub consolidates every single next step to a single destination. There are three rules to make this happen, because when you only have one destination, you have to make it available in certain ways. Otherwise it cannot act as your central hub.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Rule number one is that the central hub must be accessible 24/7. This is why we suggest using a website. We built Nucleus. It’s our church website builder. It helps you create a central hub for this reason, because we want people taking next steps on Sunday after service, before service, but we also want them to be able to take a next step when they are in the break room on a Wednesday morning and they see a post on social and are inspired to take that next step.

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: We don’t want them to have to think, oh, okay. When I’m at church on Sunday, I’m going to make sure I do that. Except we’re not at church this Sunday, because we’re going to the cottage.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: But next week… and then it’s too late.

Alex Mills: Exactly.

Brady Shearer: Maybe they’re laying in bed at night, flicking through social instead of focusing on sleeping, and then they see a promotion. They’re like, oh I could do this right now, then, and there. It needs to be accessible 24/7. When we see churches implement something like this, they automatically see more next steps simply because of availability.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: Rule number two. The central hub must be accessible from any device. This is why we recommend not using a downloadable app for your central hub, because web traffic is still 35 to 40% on desktop. So, if you are using your central hub and you’re using an app to facilitate that, you’re automatically kind of negating 35%, 1/3 of all web traffic, which again is a breaking of the rule.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Because we need it to accessible from every device at all times. Then finally the central hub must be able to capture, store, and distribute information. So, those are the basic rules to making it happen. We just wanted to share one bit of feedback we got from a guy named Chris Taylor. Chris said, “Before our central hub, people at my church had so much trouble knowing where to go to find information. Email addresses were constantly forgotten, bulletins were thrown away, our connection desk was cluttered. But with the central hub, our members know exactly where to look.

This is the power of the central hub. Maybe not in the first week that you introduce it.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: Maybe not after the first month, but after a couple of months and definitely after that first year. When every single announcement that you have, when every single event that you host, when every single ministry that you’re looking forward to has a single next step, and it’s the same identical destination every single time, it can radically transform your church’s communications. Because people always know, no matter what’s coming up, no matter what they want to get involved in, no matter what information they need to acquire, they can always go to the exact same place every single time.

This allows people to acquire information on their own. They don’t always have to call the church and be like, what was that thing again.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: It allows them to sign up on their own. Again, this increases next steps, which is the entire point of what we’re doing as churches.

Alex Mills: Yeah, this process takes time. I walk through this with churches all the time, how to transition from having 10 different ways to sign up for an event, to having one way to sign up for every event. There is a transition period. You hit on it. It’s not going to happen in the first week. Maybe not even in the first month. Churches are like ships, right? You have to kind of turn them slowly.

One of the strategies that we find when transitioning to a central hub is you have to… I’ll hear from churches a lot. Hey, we’re just not getting the sign ups we hoped to at our central hub. Oh, well how are you facilitating sign ups? With the website and with a sign up sheet at the back of the church. It’s like, oh well, you have to get rid of that sign up sheet at the back of the church. There has to be one central location for every next step, and it’s going to be a changing period.

It’s going to be uncomfortable at first, but before you know it, people’s questions… they’re going to stop asking you questions like, hey, where and how and what? It’s like, oh no. I know that there’s one place to do everything, and it’s this one place.

Brady Shearer: So, let’s show you some examples of real churches. We’ve got images for each. All of these central hubs are powered by Nucleus, our church website building platform. You can get a free trial. No credit card required. Start building your own central hub. All you need is, what, a name and an email?

Alex Mills: That’s it.

Brady Shearer: Nucleus.church is the URL to get started. So, this first example that we have here, just to paint a mental image or a verbal picture or a mind’s eye graphic…

Alex Mills: Got it. Or you could watch the episode and actually see it with your eyes.

Brady Shearer: That’s fair. Okay. So, there’s this wall. It’s painted navy blue.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: It says next steps, and there are three different ledges. Now, this church told us that on Sundays that’s where the kiosks are set up.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Which are simply just iPads that are displaying their Nucleus website, but this picture was taken throughout the week. So, they’re missing right now. What’s important about this specific central hub is the big blue navy wall.

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: Because a lot of people ask, okay what should we call our central hub?

Alex Mills: And they come up with the most clever names. Sometimes even acronyms.

Brady Shearer: What?

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Someone uses our strategy, the central hub strategy, and then they use…

Alex Mills: Not anymore.

Brady Shearer: Fair. So, what we love about this, and we do this at my church, which is where this idea came from. I didn’t come up with it, but I’ve been inspired by my church to use it.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: You can have a name for your central hub.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: You can call the connect center. You can call it the welcome center. You can call it the info desk. But when referring to it publicly from the stage, we always recommend, if you can, paint the wall a certain big bright color, and then just say, hey, go to the big orange wall. Go to the big blue wall.

Because not everyone knows, especially visitors, who are some of the people you definitely want them to take next steps, because you might only have one or two chances. For new people, they might know what the connect center is or the welcome desk. I mean, maybe it’s nicely labeled, but if you just say big blue wall, that is going to be perfect for almost every single person to find.

Alex Mills: Nobody needs to be impressed by some sort of clever name that you came up with. You’re looking for people to take next steps. So, make it as clear as possible. If somebody’s visiting your church for the first time, when they walk in, it’s like sensory overload, right? There’s a lot of stuff going on. This is what I love about this strategy. If you paint a wall bright orange, it could say welcome wall. It could say welcome center. It could say whatever you want. They’re probably not going to read what’s on the wall, but when they’re sitting in your service and you say hey, we want to connect with you. Come meet us at the big orange wall after the service. They’re going to remember.

They don’t know what it said up there, but they saw that big orange wall. So, it’s just such a helpful communication tool. You’re going to see more people take next steps, especially those first time visitors. I love this strategy.

Brady Shearer: Well, you could also call it the welcome center, which would stand for, of course, we especially love Christians opting into more…

Alex Mills: Visitor [crosstalk 00:11:08].

Brady Shearer: No, E. What’s E?

Alex Mills: Welcome. [crosstalk 00:11:10]

Brady Shearer: Where’d the V come from?

Alex Mills: I don’t know.

Brady Shearer: Welcomev?

Alex Mills: I forget.

Brady Shearer: I had six letters done. I needed one.

Alex Mills: I know. Five down, one for me.

Brady Shearer: [crosstalk 00:11:18]

Alex Mills: Don’t use an acronym.

Brady Shearer: The next one we have, this one is titled the connect center. The reason we wanted to include this one was because as far as I can tell, this central hub is not in the lobby, but it looks like it’s in the sanctuary.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Because there’s a really tall lofted ceiling. You could also see soundproofing panels that are on the wall. So, this is actually interesting, because we always think about the central hub being in the lobby.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: But if you have it, let’s say, in your actual sanctuary, you can just say go to the back of the room.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Which is another thing similar to saying go to the big blue wall in the lobby. You can just say, hey, go to the back of the room, and you can take your next step there.

Alex Mills: Yeah. Although that one doesn’t look like a pop up, it’s a great idea for someone, for a church who is a pop up church. If you’re meeting in a movie theater, and let’s say you don’t have access to the lobby, you could just set it up at the back wall and like you said still use that verb. Meet us at the back wall.

Brady Shearer: This next central hub that we have up here, we wanted to highlight the iPad stand. This iPad stand is from a company called Mount It. It kind of encases your tablet. So, if you’re using an iPad, it kind of encases it, and it obviously props it up from the ground.

Alex Mills: It’s got a lock on it, too.

Brady Shearer: Oh, that’s right. So no one could steal your iPad.

Alex Mills: Yep.

Brady Shearer: Those churchgoers.

Alex Mills: They’ll take it. The kids. It’s the youth.

Brady Shearer: It’s the kids.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: We also recommend using the Kiosk Pro app when creating your central hub kiosk. We have a complete guide on creating a super church lobby kiosk, which is what we call it. We’ll have that link in the show notes and description with all the links to these actual products. But what the Kiosk Pro app allows you to do is it allows you to remove all the navigation.

Alex Mills: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brady Shearer: So, you can go to your Nucleus, let’s say lifeabundant.info, and you can use this app, the Kiosk pro app, to remove all of the navigation.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: So, it looks like this native application within the tablet, and then no one can navigate elsewhere.

Alex Mills: Yeah, it’s locked down. You can’t hit the home button on the iPad and go to the home screen and start taking selfies or whatever, right? It’s locked down on that screen, which is really helpful. So, you don’t see any skins from the app or anything. It just looks like your website would if you visited it on your own tablet or your own computer, but it’s very helpful, because it locks the tablet down on that site.

Brady Shearer: Next central hub is one that’s very simple. The reason we wanted to highlight this one is because you’ll see in a lot of these images, tables, lighting, really nice wall mounts. There’s a marquee. There’s screens. You might be thinking that’s a lot. We are a portable church, or we just don’t have that much money.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: We don’t have the ability to create something so monumental and extravagant. Hey, that’s okay. This church, they got their tablets set up with their stands, but all they have is these kind of expandable posters that collapsed. These would be super simple to set up. You can get these expandable posters anywhere from print shops. This would allow you to set up a central hub really in a matter of minutes, but it still looks elegant.

Alex Mills: Yeah, and you can put it anywhere.

Brady Shearer: You don’t also need to use one of these full standing up stands. You can use cheaper stands for your tablets. These stands in this next image are tabletop stands. The ones that we recommend are called Lamicall, L-A-M-I-C-A-L-L stands.

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: These are not the exact Lamicall ones, but they’re very similar. You don’t need one that locks up the tablet and has its own stand from the ground. If you can just put it on top of a table, you can save probably $100 per stand.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Which could be really meaningful, and you could just put them on a table like this, and they still look nice.

Alex Mills: I should say something about this one. If you’re watching, you can see that this looks almost like, I don’t know, like an ice cream stand or something. It’s built with pallet wood. It’s kind of small. It says the hub on top. I believe if I remember correctly this one is actually on wheels.

So, this church built this little hub location and slapped it on wheels. So, if they need to move it or if they need to repurpose it throughout the week, they can use it. So, it’s very cool.

Brady Shearer: The next one we want to highlight particularly, because what you’ll see in this picture is a number of different tabletop kiosks. They’ve got their iPads. They’re on these tabletop stands that they’re on these tables. But what you’ll see is four different people that are standing at this central hub. One of the things that people ask when they’re implementing their central hub is what about people that maybe aren’t as familiar with technology or aren’t as apt to use technology?

What we recommend is that you position volunteers, perhaps even older volunteers, at the central hub so that when someone does take that next step to show up, and they are a bit apprehensive about using this Nucleus application, because they haven’t done it before. You can be there, right there. Hopefully someone their age, because well if they can do it, so can I.

Then you can walk them through it in person and show them how easy that it is to use. Then once they’ve done it once, they’re that much more likely to be able to do it again on their own. Not just at the kiosk on a Sunday necessarily, but they could do it from any of their own devices, their computer, their phone, their tablet, at home throughout the week.

So, this is a great way to speed up the learning curve with your congregation. Not to just leave it as self-serve, like just do it yourself, but to actually have someone there showing them how to do it. For instance, my movie theater, it’s so funny how many parallels there are between movie theaters and churches when it comes to next steps. My movie theater just recently in the last year implemented only self-serve kiosks. So, you can’t go up and just say I would like to see Spider-Man at 7:00 and then them give you a ticket.

What they did for awhile was they had people that kind of were hovering around these kiosks so if someone showed up and they were having a bit more difficulty at the beginning, they could help them. But if you were able to do it on your own, you also didn’t have to wait up for that individual. It’s a year later, and now I don’t really see those employees hovering around there, because I think everyone has got the hang of how to do it themselves.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Because they actually walked people through it for the first year.

Alex Mills: Yeah, this is essential in another way, because not everyone in your church has an email address. Not everyone in your church has a device that’s connected to the Internet. So, what we’ve found in our context, because a lot of people say, hey Alex. We’ve got people in our church who I know don’t have an email address. So, I guess we still have to do paper sign ups. Well, maybe you don’t. Maybe you can have a volunteer walk them through signing up on the tablet after the service. If there’s no follow up required, or if it’s just like we did this for our women’s conference.

So there wasn’t any real follow up required. It was just receiving payment. So, there were a handful of folks in our church who either didn’t have a device or have an email address that we were able to submit a form on the device after the service with them, and they were able to do it right there, because they couldn’t do it at home, because they don’t have a computer themselves.

So, even for folks who aren’t as connected as some of us are, you can still help them take that next step on that tablet if they don’t have access to one.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, because the real power for your internal operations as a church is to have all of your information stored in a single database. So, you don’t have these sign up sheets over here, and some people signed up through the app, and some people signed up through the website, and a couple just called the church office. You’re trying to consolidate all of it, and it’s way too messy.

Alex Mills: [crosstalk 00:18:11] left an envelope on the pastor’s desk, too.

Brady Shearer: An envelope.

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: There’s cash inside, like sign me up for this, please.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Let’s say you have someone that doesn’t have access to the Internet. They don’t have an email address. Well, in your form, your sign up form, if you did need follow up, here’s another option. You could put in a phone number field. You could even put in a fake email address, like donoemail@me.com, use phone. That way when someone’s going through, they would recognize that’s not a real email, and then they could follow up through phone.

Alex Mills: There you go.

Brady Shearer: That’s another way to make sure that all of your information for this event for your internal side is in one spot.

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: But it also kind navigates around these fringe cases, because that’s why multiple sign up options exist. Church is like there’s no one solution that fixes everything. Well, that’s not true. Then we say, okay, we’ll have an app for the people that like apps, and we’ll have the website for the website folk, and we’ll have the sign up sheets for the sign up folks.

Alex Mills: Exactly.

Brady Shearer: You’re making things so much more difficult for you, and you’re making things more difficult for your congregation, because chaotic communications is a result of that. So, everybody loses. There are going to be these navigation solutions you have to come up with for the fringe cases.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: But we’ve found with the central hub there’s always a workaround. If you can find that workaround, you can keep your sanity by having everything in one spot.

Alex Mills: Sure can.

Brady Shearer: Next central hub that we want to illustrate here is one that’s on wheels, and this is an example of a church that if you’re portable, you could put it on wheels. You put it into the closet, and then you roll it out on Sunday.

Alex Mills: You can see that whole structure there. You can see it. It just looks like a table, kind of. They have those tabletop iPad stands.

Brady Shearer: Mm-hmm (affirmative). [crosstalk 00:19:47] bolt those down so they don’t fall off when you start rolling it around.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Or not. You don’t have to do that.

Alex Mills: You could use that table for any other purpose throughout the week if you needed to.

Brady Shearer: That’s true.

Alex Mills: Really, really cool.

Brady Shearer: Then finally we wanted to show you one of the most extravagant central hubs that we’ve ever seen.

Alex Mills: This one is out of this world.

Brady Shearer: It has its own marquee. It’s got three different screens that are definitely the size of me and Alex on top of each other.

Alex Mills: Mounted vertically.

Brady Shearer: Mounted vertically like ballers.

Alex Mills: Yep.

Brady Shearer: And then they have three different tabletop stands. We show you this not to say you need to this extravagant, but just to say no matter if you just have a single roll out poser that can collapse, or you have a complete construction build. The central hub works at any type of church.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: The strategy is what matters. There’s so many different ways. You’ve seen eight different examples to kind of manifest that strategy. But if you stick to it, if you use it exclusively, right? You start going to the gym and you’re not just eating a ton more calories at night, because we’re going to the gym. You still have sign up sheets available alongside your central hub. So, you’re kind of undercutting the whole strategy to begin with.

If you stick with it, you’re going to see big results. Head to nucleus.church. Get your free trial. Start building your own central hub. If you ever have trouble, hey, maybe you’ll end up talking to this guy, one of our customer success titans.

Alex Mills: [crosstalk 00:21:06]

Brady Shearer: Took awhile, but I found it. That’ll do it for this episode of Pro Church Tools. We’ll see you next time.

Filler: Amen.

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