By Joseph Mutidjo, Reporter, Smallbiztechnology
In one Episcopalian community just east of downtown Atlanta, parishioners can pull out their smartphone during church service, and no one raises an eyebrow.
Holy Trinity Parish in Decatur, GA, recently started making their service bulletins accessible online through QR codes. QR codes, or Quick Response codes, are those square, black and white, two-dimensional codes that have been popping up on print ads, billboards and even on television. When a QR code is read with a mobile device camera, it can open up a website URL or display contact details, videos, images and more.
Holy Trinity’s weekly service bulletin includes instructions for worship from the Book of Common Prayer, and notices of ministry opportunities. Since the printed bulletin can easily reach 20 pages, and with a regular Sunday attendance of about 250, the parish knew something had to be done to alleviate their paper usage.
“The Green Ministry is one of our core ministries and we are constantly looking for ways to use less paper, while still providing lots of information to parishioners on Sunday mornings,” said Laurie Foley, a long-time parishioner and brand strategist. “Our interim rector and communications committee imagined it and explored the possibility of QR codes with our electronic media director, who worked out the details. The Vestry, the lay leadership of the church, was encouraging.”
Apart from using technology to save paper, Holy Trinity also has a solar array on the church roof to help cut their power bill. Their solar system is tied to a web-based monitoring application, so parishioners can check power generation data online.
Holy Trinity generates their QR codes via Google Code’s Chart API, a free application. The code is currently printed inside the back cover of the service bulletin, and will soon be placed on bulletin boards. Parishioners can scan the code using one of the many free QR code reader apps available for mobile devices. Once scanned, they are directed to a page on the church’s website, which displays a PDF version of the bulletin. For those without a camera on their device, a shortened URL is also provided.
Since this unfamiliar technology was being introduced to a traditional congregation—“We’re Episcopalians so we’re not famous for embracing change!” remarked Foley—the QR code option was announced several times before and during services. It was also mentioned in the parish’s weekly emails and other regular communications. Certain individuals were identified for support to answer questions and help fellow parishioners set up their reader and learn how it works.
Apart from Google’s offering, there are a variety of other free and fee-based QR code generators available. Sites like QReate & Track and QReateBUZZ add analytic tools to its service so users can track in real-time the success of their QR code campaign.
QR codes are not only hip, but are effective and engaging marketing tools for small businesses and organizations. Placed on a business card or flier, it quickly grabs attention and tickles an audience’s curiosity. They’ve been creatively used to reveal special, code-only promotions, open funny videos and photos, and as in the case of Holy Trinity, advance a congregation into a more paperless era.