Running a Company That Serves Churches

I started TrainedUp in July 2015. We help churches train volunteers and leaders. We do that with software and content.

The software is a training tool that lets leaders build simple online courses with videos and follow-up questions. Learners watch the videos and answer the questions. Leaders can see the progress of their Learners through each course. There are some clever features that make it a uniquely simple experience, but that’s the gist.

The content is a library of done-for-you training video courses that are ready to use right inside each TrainedUp account. The course topics cover just about every area of ministry training possible, from low-level volunteer best practices to high-level leadership skills. There’s even a sizeable portion of the library covering discipleship topics, because developing leaders in ministry is about more than just skills training.

Why I Started TrainedUp

I started TrainedUp to solve some of the problems I had as a ministry leader. I’d always had trouble getting volunteers to meetings. Even offering meals wasn’t enough to get people to show up.

I built the first version of TrainedUp while on vacation with my family. While the kids napped in the afternoon, I pieced it together. And that first version was rough. It was, somehow, both too complicated and not powerful enough.

But that first version scratched my own itch and caught the attention of some friends in ministry. They saw the potential and looked passed the pimples. Their initial feedback was invaluable in making TrainedUp better.

Why Serving Churches is Different Than Serving Businesses

I’ve learned a lot about serving churches since 2015. I’ve learned that following traditional B2B or B2C sales and marketing advice isn’t much help. Churches are neither consumers nor businesses.

Churches are slow to make unilateral, cross-ministry decisions. I found that out the hard way by making the first version of TrainedUp only available to entire churches. That’s just too slow. And one dissenting voice can ruin the deal.

Ministry leaders often have their own individual ministry budget, but those budgets are notoriously tight year-round. And most expenses within that budget are earmarked before the budget is even finalized. That means making a purchase decision in the hundreds of dollars midway through the year is a hard sell…even if they love the product.

There’s also rarely an extrinsic motivation to making software purchases in a church. We’re not going to increase revenue or profit margins. We’re not going to directly impact attendance numbers and we don’t claim to help them move the needle on any other measurable stat. Our brand promise is qualitative, not quantitative, so tying our product to any measurable win is difficult.

That’s not to say that TrainedUp doesn’t provide significant ministry wins. It does. It’s just not a win that fits in a traditional ministry evaluation column. We’re working on that, though.

One significant challenge we’ve faced is reaching and engaging new churches. There are few “hubs” of online community where ministry leaders all hang out. Social media platforms are undercutting organic reach. Facebook is making it more difficult to target faith-based ministries with paid advertising. Pastors aren’t very active on LinkedIn for the most part and Twitter is a mess. Nobody buys software while scrolling their Instagram feed.

There are still plenty of experiments to try. We’ve had some success with sponsoring influencers and are starting to see the fruits of content and organic search.

Why Serving Churches is an Incredible Blessing

I’ve worked in other industries serving other markets and there’s nothing like helping ministry leaders succeed. There’s something special about knowing that my work is helping pastors shepherd their church or develop future ministry leaders. My work has significance, not just here, but eternally.

But there’s also the people. Our customers are pretty great folks, by-and-large. Sure, there’s the occasional grump, but 99% of the people we interact with are kind and generous and encouraging and positive and hopeful. They come to TrainedUp wanting to improve their ministry in meaningful ways and we get to be there with an option for them.

We get emails from excited leaders telling us about the training progress they’re making with their teams. That’s a very good feeling.

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