Church Technology Conference - RX 2022 speaker

Translation in church technology: new tools for belonging

Oct 7, 2022 | Blog, News

The next frontier in church technology: main takeaways

  • The RX 2022 conference featured church technology innovators and builders creating real solutions for churches.
  • When one church surveyed its members, it found that 90 languages were represented! Many multi-site churches serve diverse cultures and communities; they regard translation as mission-critical to build communities with a sense of belonging.
  • Although churches may prioritize live streaming, giving, and church management, translation and accessibility needs inevitably surface.
  • Spf.io was previously marketed as translations and captions. Now, we say it empowers churches to create belonging across cultures, languages, and generations with our tools.
  • With spf.io as the gateway to translation, a church can immediately offer subtitles in more than 60 languages at their next service, whether it is in-person, online, or hybrid. Spf.io tech transforms what is possible for church ministries – it offers integrated human & AI solutions that can make all services accessible and multilingual without burning out staff and volunteers.

RX 2022 was a successful conference that brought together innovators and builders, creating real solutions to transform what is possible for churches to do. As a sponsor, we at spf.io were surprised and greatly inspired by how many churches and vendors wanted translation services.

For megachurches, translation is mission critical, not a nice-to-have. Thriving ministries suffer when people leading translation ministries leave the church. By using human + AI solutions that enhance (not replace) existing services, churches can create sustainable translation ministries and increase their communities’ sense of belonging.

-Chris Lim
spf.io founder

Summary

RX 2022 was a successful conference that brought together innovators and builders, creating real solutions to transform what is possible for churches to do. As a sponsor, we at spf.io were surprised and greatly inspired by how many churches and vendors wanted translation services.

For megachurches, translation is a mission critical, not a nice-to-have. Thriving ministries suffer when people leading translation ministries leave the church. By using human + AI solutions that enhance (not replace) existing services, churches can create sustainable translation ministries and increase their communities’ sense of belonging.

Churches are actively looking for translation solutions that integrate with existing tools and workflows. Spf.io does just that. It is an all-in-one translation tool that makes the impossible possible – for example, offering translation for 90 different languages at once. It only requires one person to run and works especially well for churches using manuscripts. With spf.io, accessible multilingual services are just a click away for churches who care about creating belonging in their communities:

View full transcript: Translation in Church Technology

Chris: Hi everyone, this is Chris and Kim-Fu from spf.io.
We just recently returned from the Rock RMS conference (church technology conference) in Phoenix, Arizona.
And it was a really incredible, eye-opening experience for the two of us.

So we wanted to just have this conversation, debriefing on this public channel so that you guys can also learn about our experience.

You want to start?

Kim-Fu: Sure. Yeah, it’s an awesome experience. This is kind of a tech conference, dedicated to churches. So I got to hear from over 100 people that came to our booth, the kinds of things that they are needing for their church.

And it’s just mind-blowing to know that they have so many needs as far as serving the populations. And for them, the language diversity is essential in the business world. It’s mission critical, it’s a must-have, it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must have.

So I’m so excited to hear all the different validation they gave us as to how important spf.io can be for their churches. I look forward to following up with those leads, and hopefully we can bless them with the solutions that fit their needs.

Chris: Yeah, I was definitely surprised, I think, because coming from the Pacific Northwest primarily, where translation for many churches is not a felt need, I was surprised to be in Arizona where, because the Hispanic population is so large, and they had people from all over the country, from New York and California and elsewhere, there are a lot of churches that didn’t need any kind of convincing that this was an important thing.

Translation is already on their mind, it’s already something they’re trying to do, and they’re looking for solutions that can help them make a sustainable translation ministry.

I think we heard a lot of stories from different churches that had at one time a thriving ministry, but then someone who was leading that would leave the church, and then it would start to just kind of dissolve, and it would be really hard to sustain offering translated services.

And so it was really cool to be able to present spf.io as a solution that, by using humans and AI, people don’t need to speak Spanish. For example, to be able to provide translation into Spanish, by captioning the services in English and then generating the Spanish translation off of it, they could have a more sustainable translation ministry. And that was a really cool validation of one of the approaches that we’ve taken with building our product.

The other one being that we do support live streaming audio for those who want to use interpreters so that it doesn’t have to replace the translation ministry. It was really cool to see that this seemed like it was something very promising that made a real need for the people who were at the conference.

Kim-Fu: Yeah, I totally agree. And just listening to the keynotes and presentations, you know, I feel like the pace of innovations, the energy that people brought into the conference…

You know, when I saw the keynote, it was just packed with people. Yes, it’s not as big as reinvent or AWS, but it is several 100 people with 500-600 people, very packed in that conference room during the keynote. And then the number of classes that they offered and the new features that they launched, It’s a powerful event.

And I can tell that the people that came, they’re so eager, they like to create things that are useful for the church. And to me that is very affirming and very energizing for me, personally, to go to that conference.

Chris: Yeah, I think as a builder myself, I felt like this is the first Christian conference that I’ve been to that felt like a tech conference.

Although there’s been a lot of, you know, theology of faith and church technology conferences I’ve been part of in the past, this is actually the place where the builders are, and that’s actually really fun. It comes with that kind of energy.

The plenary keynote was like almost like an Apple presentation of “one more thing,” and then they release a new feature: Rock RMS on Apple TV. It’s really exciting to see the possibilities that are being pushed forward.

You know, one other interesting thing for me being at the conference was, we were a vendor, we were a sponsor, and we were surrounded by these other companies that are also serving a similar kind of church market, you could say.

And the number of vendors that I talked to, or other sponsors I talked to, that encountered the need for translation in their work with customers, It was really surprising.

It may not be the bulk of their customers, but many, many people came to us talking about, hey, actually, we have customers who asked us for a solution, and so it’s really great to hear about spf.io, because now we have something we can refer our customers to.
That was really surprising for me because for the longest time we felt like in our marketing, it was really hard to get in front of the churches that have a need for translation already.

But it sounds like maybe through these other avenues, whether it’s live streaming, giving, church management, and those kinds of things, then the need for translation pops up on the radar.

Kim-Fu: Yeah. And there’s one, well there are two experiences that really touched my heart.

During the keynote, I saw the Deaf in the room and with two ASL interpreters, and he sat kind of like in the back row seat, right? And he was looking at the interpreters. So he missed the opportunity to see the big screen, all the presentations, right? The slides. And to me, that’s a big miss. Right?

I wish that the captions were displayed on the big screen itself. Then that allows the Deaf or the hard of hearing to sit anywhere they want, and they’ll be able to read it. Of course some people, I mean especially the Deaf, they would like to see ASL interpreters. So in that case, I think the interpreters should be probably on the stage, and allowing the people to see it.

It is a big room. I mean, even the screen itself makes the keynote speakers very, very tiny. I have the pictures and the snippets of the speech and you can tell it’s such a big room, such a big screen too.

So that’s one experience that really, I feel like that’s a missed opportunity.
I wish that spf.io could contribute to that moment where we allow the Deaf to engage, to participate, beyond the translation.

The other thing is also, this one church that came to us when they surveyed the members, there are over 90 languages spoken in that congregation. Again, it just blows my mind.

I told them that I thought that spf.io is already quite ahead, you know, by telling them that we have 60 languages that we could support today [spf.io currently supports speech recognition for 60 languages and more than 100 for translation]. Now they’re saying 90 [languages].

I’m curious to see the list and where the gap is and make sure that spf.io, we address that gap, and be able to address the needs that the church is looking to fill.

Chris: That’s incredible.
Because it would be virtually impossible to create a ministry that would have volunteers for all 90 languages to interpret.

But with spf.io, they could basically get into all 90 off of just the English captions. And support it every week, which yeah, I’m really excited to follow up with them and see how we can help them to provide language accessibility for all those different language groups.

I did find that 90 is a mind-boggling number. And it’s something that definitely changed my perception, not having grown up in megachurches, that these churches have 5, 10, 20k members. And that’s on the scale of a college campus of people. And that makes sense why they talk about multi-site, multiple campuses and everything like that.

At that scale, solutions like Rock RMS or spf.io, I think that that’s where technology really shines because there’s just no way that this scale can be served in a more high touch, human-oriented solution, even though humans in the loop matters, even though relations matter, that’s really where technology shines.

So that was pretty cool to just get a sense of the scale of the kinds of problems and things that people are dealing with and to see that spf.io can make a difference there.

And it’s just incredible that they could even create community, create belonging, for 90 languages with what they’re already doing today. I think that’s really amazing.

Kim-Fu: To view it as a mission-critical, that – that is just amazing. You know, it’s not just a nice to have, right?
It’s like, “Hey, this is critical to our church, to include them.” So the sense of belonging will increase when you enable them to participate.

Chris: Yeah, that’s been one of the biggest changes that we’ve made to our marketing spf.io. We used to talk about just translation and captions and we used to talk about how it’s for creating a foretaste of God’s kingdom in the language diversity and the worship, which are all true things.

But now we’re starting to change how we talk about it, to say spf.io is for belonging, and we want to empower churches to create belonging across cultures, across language, across generations with our tools. We’re providing this all in-one-kit that churches can decide how they’re going to best deploy for that purpose.

And the reason why that’s been helpful for me in talking about it; that especially at this conference, I felt like it was validated.
I think that in the past talking to the churches who don’t see the need for translation, it just becomes like you said, it’s not mission-critical, it’s like a vitamin. It’s nice to have, they don’t really need it – but by talking about creating belonging, it’s something that every church can relate to, It’s something that’s critical to their community.

And it also shows that when they don’t have translation, they actually really do exclude people. You know, it’s not enough just to say, oh, everyone can speak English or something like that. There are people in their communities who have a need, and still come, because they get those relational benefits, they still want to belong.

And through translation, through captioning, we can empower them to do so much more.

Kim-Fu: Totally. And there’s one, I think he came with his two team members, I think. Anyway, they came to our booth, and then one guy told me there are 17 campuses. Wow. It took me a while to process that, right? 17 campuses.

That’s like, you know, University of Washington, what, total students is about 50,000 maybe? They told me that they have a membership of 50,000 members spread out across 17 campuses. That’s almost the size of the University of Washington, when you think about that, you know.

You put in that scale, you realize that yeah, it just makes it impossible without software, and then they continue to include more and more people who don’t speak English into their church. They’re just going to continue to grow, right?

And each campus, they have their own sets of data, the populations, you know -what languages that are spoken in that in that particular location. So it’s all driven by data. They’re looking at the metrics, how to include these people.

So like I said, it’s just very energizing. Not just inspiring, but also energizing that knowing that churches are responding, which I believe [is] what God desires.
God desires for the church to worship together, not separately.

I just want to echo Dr. Martin Luther King when he said Sunday is the most segregated hour in America. It’s sad, right? He said that in what, 1968 maybe? And still, we are still the most segregated – I mean, Sunday is the most segregated hour in America.

So I hope that through these conferences and through what we’re doing at spf.io, we make it so easy for any church. Doesn’t matter whether they have 17 campuses or [are] only a church with a membership of 100 people, it doesn’t matter. They have the ability to offer accessibility for the Deaf, for the hard of hearing. And also with this language diversity based on the zip code, they can include those languages in the church, every single Sunday, with just one click away.

That’s what’s spf.io is. So I’m excited about the opportunity and the possibility.

Chris: Yeah, I think that there’s one church, one IT person from a church that I talked to at the conference who – you know, we don’t always talk about manuscript mode and spf.io, but as I started to mention it – he’s like, “Oh, we manuscript.” His church has multiple campuses, and they have a teleprompter, and their pastor preaches from that.

And I was just like, man, you guys can start offering, you know, 20 languages on your services as of this coming Sunday because of the manuscript capabilities, it’s that easy. And it’s going to be really nice for everyone because it’s going to be a fantastic experience. And so that was also eye-opening to me.

You know, sometimes it seems like most churches don’t manuscript, but for the ones that do, I really hope that things like this conference gets the word out: that when you manuscript, there’s really no reason not to use spf.io because it’s going to go so smoothly.

And the translation will be so accurate. You can already start advertising immediately as of next Sunday that you’re going to have worship services that have translation at least into all these languages, which lets you then focus on the harder work of how can you incorporate more of those languages in the service down the line and include people from these language communities in what you do. But just that starting point of accessibility, because you get captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and then you get translation with it.
It’s almost a no-brainer.

So I really appreciate being able to go to this conference because it created awareness, I think. Sometimes you mention what Martin Luther King said, and many people in the church talk about the way – that it’s segregated and divided, and it shouldn’t be that way.

And what I loved about going to this more tech side is that this is a place where we can explore solutions, you know. The solutions aren’t just more teaching, they aren’t just more words. There’s actually technology, there’s actually innovation that lets churches do something about it.

And by adding translation, it really does change what’s possible, but sometimes I think people don’t get to see that firsthand.
And so when we can demo it, like we got to do a demo at our booth of both the manuscript mode and the speech translation, live speech translation – and people could see it on the TV and be like, “okay, so when I talk and I see the translation there,” and you can get it on your phone and in the audience view, they start to get an imagination for what they could do differently.

I’m hoping that we can – I know we did the demo for the conference – but I’m hoping we can do a great video or something that can communicate this online on our website. [It would] just be a really effective way to share the vision, at least, of what’s possible with the people who I think genuinely care, but for the longest time haven’t had a tool that lets them actually address it.

And so all that we end up reverting to is more workshops, more training, more teaching, because that’s what pastors and churches know, when actually a technology in this case can really transform what’s possible.

Kim-Fu: And they can start right away, right? They could start right away.

If they want to be multilingual, they pick English and Spanish as a pilot. And [the] pilot can start any time, you know, they don’t have to wait a long time until they get the ministry set up, you know? And all it takes is one leader, one person, having the desire to deliver it, and it’s done.

And I’m excited that – I mean 2 people that came by, one is our own customer – I was so surprised, “CTK Bellingham, oh you’re from CTK?” I didn’t realize that they are Christ the King, right? Yeah. C. T. K. Stands for Christ the King in Bellingham.

So they actually sent people to this conference because the church is using the platform Rock RMS, and at the same time, they’re using spf.io. No wonder they have a lot of questions about integration and all that.

I’m glad that they have successfully launched, they have successfully piloted, and they bought a bunch of Kindle tablets for the elderly. They realized that the elderly who lost their hearing, the hearing aids are not compatible with the loudspeakers. So having captions on the tablets and making the fonts bigger addresses the accessibility needs immediately for the elderly.

Chris: Great.

Kim-Fu: So I’m glad that they’re able to roll this out.
And so I’m hoping that they’re actually going to produce video to demonstrate the accessibility and the multilingual aspect of spf.io and how it benefits the church overall. They are planning to add more and more languages to reflect the diversity in the city of Bellingham.
So I’m excited about that too.

Chris: And I think Christ the King, during the pandemic, they produced a multilingual – I mean not a multilingual – just like a video of all their members singing this one song together.

And then I talked about Project Pentecost and the multilingual video.
So they encouraged me like, “Dude, you got to do this, you got to make the multilingual version that includes all the nine languages that we have translations of that song into.”

And I think that there’s another element that I saw, that again, we don’t always lead with that, we don’t always market it, but the beauty of it, the art, the worship, the connection, when you can highlight all those languages together, singing that we are the Body of Christ song that’s been translated to nine different languages and stuff.

I think it helps as another thing that we can bring to churches that can help to cast the vision of what they’re seeking to do.

Kim-Fu: Yeah.

Chris: And maybe we can partner with CTK to produce something like that, according to whatever language diversity they have in their congregation.
But yeah, the last bit I think I would mention is, I really appreciated Jon Edmiston, who is the founder of Rock RMS.

He took some time to just chat with me in depth to see, what are the possible opportunities for spf.io to integrate with the platform? It’s an open source platform for relationship management for churches and that open source nature makes it a little bit like WordPress for churches in the sense that many, many major churches are funding development of new features for it.

And then small churches can benefit from that as well.

And so it’s a very interesting ecosystem that they’ve created around this, a very interesting community that they’ve created around this. And one of the things that I learned from talking to him was, there’s a few opportunities for translation and stuff in the product, but it seemed like the highest priority one would be to integrate with the media library, the media element capabilities of Rock RMS, where any time the church uploads a new media asset, maybe you could synchronize with spf.io, to get an automatic translation or to get a human translation of it, or captioning as well.

So now that we’re starting to offer human-based captioning services or translation, in addition to the AI-based tools, if we could build an API, he told me that they could probably integrate with that.

And then every one of the churches that uses Rock RMS could, with one click or something, have a plug-in, you know, something like that – so that any time they create a new teaching video, new content, new sermon, you can also get translation with it and then have that embedded on their website.

And it can really further, I think, the vision of every church accessible in any language in terms of its online presence, by doing that.

Kim-Fu: It’s a game-changer.

Chris: So that’s one of the takeaways for me out of this conference, there’s so many as you know, product-wise, there’s so many priorities, and it’s overwhelming sometimes, but it was really helpful to talk to him because I think that we narrowed it down. That that would be the best use of our effort in the short term to really advance this partnership

Kim-Fu: Totally.
I still remember that during, I think it was the last night when we had dinner, you know, together with a bunch of people, and one engineer immediately sent us a follow up email after that dinner, that he wanted to, you know, he wanted to use spf.io for his church.

So that’s the kind of interest, you know. And you can feel it that they have these huge needs, and they’re looking for solutions, solutions that they can roll out right away. So I’m excited about that too.

Chris: I think this is already a pretty good recap of what we learned.

And one last thing that I learned was just, it’s a different mindset, many of these churches are growing, they invest in church technology and innovation, and it’s helping me to see that as much as we seek to make, you know, spf.io’s price point accessible for the majority of churches, however big or small they are, in order to make this really sustainable, we need to think about it from the perspective of effectiveness, you know.

What does it take to really make an amazing multilingual experience that people can belong, that creates belonging for people in these churches? So that was another big feedback and take-away that I learned, just talking to Jon, talking to the others there, it’s possible to create this ecosystem to serve the church.

And in terms of pricing and everything like that, there needs to be a sustainable price, so they can continue to exist and support these ministries. So I know that is specifically tailored to us with spf.io and how we’ve sought to do our pricing, but it was very encouraging to hear that and to think through what that means for the future of how we how we present spf.io, not as just a point solution of just translation, but really as a platform for belonging.

So that’s something I’m going to continue, explore. And hopefully what we can do is deliver even greater quality and greater value for the churches that use spf.io.

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