When Process Stops So Progress Can Happen

A lot has happened in the last few weeks. First and foremost, I am no longer employed at Fairview Baptist Church. I’ll be seeking future employment. But in the interim, I am treasuring some time with my family and investing in them. I had put them on hold for a few years, serving a church in a high-capacity volunteer role (which took a lot of hours some weeks), then working as paid staff member.

I thought I was teaching my kids lessons on serving as Jesus served: selflessly and unconditionally. What I was really teaching them was that the church was more important than they were.

I still believe that serving the church is important. I still believe that even as paid staff, there are times when you will  have to work longer, unpaid hours, and in order to further God’s Kingdom, sacrifices will need to be made. In some ways, it’s good for our kids to see that.

But we have to find balance.

Balance is a tough word for me. Most leaders will struggle with balance because they cannot stop thinking about what drives them. (Read the blog post just before this one.)

I realized this week that some processes in some areas have to stop so that progress can be made in other areas.

I’ll be looking for a new job one day (hopefully with a church or ministry). I’ll even be doing some remote work from home on social media and web sites. Most of all, I’ll invest in my husband and kids.

I’ll be blogging about a different sort of process and progress. The process of loving your family, and the progress that makes at home.

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Why Are You The Way You Are?

There are days when all I think about is strategy and people.

The database. How do we maximize it’s use? How do we use this tool we’ve got to help us do our jobs better and smarter? How do we teach? How do we train? How do we help others understand it’s value?

Social Media posts. The internet never sleeps. We are on 24 hours, 7 days a week. How are we responding to the world around us? How are we telling our stories to our community? Do they know us? Do they trust us?

Our web site. Does it reflect who we are? Is it clear? What are our exit rates off pages? Our Google rankings? How do we make it better? How do we make it the best?

I pray over the people I don’t even know who are searching for something. Do they trust that we are here to help them find the answer?

When they come, what do they see? What is their experience? How and where are we getting them connected? Do they understand each next step? Is it clear? Is it confusing?

How and what are we communicating?

Everything communicates.

Everything.

Why are you the way you are?” A friend asked me that exact question this weekend.

This Explains Me.

 

 

Follow Up: Revisited

Back in January, I wrote a short post on event follow-up. I want to explore follow up (and next steps) a little more in depth.

Look at the images above. In the spiral staircase images, I’m not sure if I’m going up, going down, or they are rotors of fan blade that will chop off a limb if I try to get through them.

However, in the picture on the right, I am visually oriented. I know I’m at the bottom, and I see light at the top. I also can see the steps I need to take to get to that light.

First, let’s define an event. An event is anything you do. From every Sunday (each service), to a once-a-year large scale event.

Second, let’s define follow-up. Follow-up is any next-steps action item that  you take or that you’d like your guests to take.

Third, let’s define guests. That’s anyone in any way connected to your event who isn’t you. I often look at my team as guests. I’m there to serve them. And as a team, we’re there to serve everyone else.

What’s next?

At The Event – Make The Next Step Clear

My husband and I recently attended a very large dinner for a local charity. I’m not sure how many people were there, but I’m guessing around 500. Maybe more. During that dinner, it was very clear what actions they wanted us to take afterwards to support their charity. There were only a few next steps. Each was explained in depth. We had no questions, upon leaving, as to how to get further involved.

If you’re hosting a fall festival this year, then make sure you have promotional material available for other events happening at your church. Make their next steps very clear.

For follow-up, have some door prizes that people can register to win. Two key questions on any door prize entry form are:

1. Do you regularly attend church? (With check boxes for yes or no.)

2. If so, which church do you attend?

Put your church management software to work with these door prize entries. I’d set up a form for any door prize entries and enter them into your ChMS. Or go my favorite route and have people enter their information online. Have a few tablets or laptops available for door prize registration. Then use a plug-in or app to help randomly select winners. One thing that was really helpful was to see how people were connecting to our church. I set up a form for door prize entries and from that, I could see who came to our church as a first time guest.

Prior To The Event – Make The Next Step Easy

If you are promoting your event on-line, have a next step ON LINE. One of the challenges we ran into with the golf tournament was that I’d market it online, but the next step was “contact us and we’ll mail you a registration form” or “stop by _____________ (this location) and pick up a registration form.” We weren’t meeting people where they were. They were already online viewing information, but our exit rate off those pages was higher than I would have liked. Now, one of our church partners is allowing us to use their church management software for online registrations and payment. I’ll give you an update after it’s implemented.

For follow-up, Acknowledge everyone. If your event has financial sponsors, acknowledge them. You’re following up throughout the year and building relationships. I’ve had the privilege of helping a national charity with a local golf tournament. As often as possible, I acknowledge our sponsors leading up to the tournament, but I also mention them on our social media pages all throughout the year. There’s a local jeweler who donates a door prize each year. I’ll be mentioning their business on our social media page around the holidays (and at Valentine’s Day). There are several local churches who partner with us, allowing us use of their facilities, resources, even allowing their staff paid time off to help with the tournament. I’ll mention those churches as often as possible on our social media pages.

Even if you paid for a venue, acknowledge their hospitality. Did you rent a hotel ballroom for a charity dinner of 500? Write the venue a letter of thanks for hosting your event, even if you were a paying customer. If there any servers who went above and beyond the call of duty, mention them by name.

Our church once served at a downtown festival hosted by our local Chamber of Commerce. I’ll admit, it was a miserable day. It rained and it was cold and it wasn’t a good day for an outside, downtown, street festival. On the Monday after the event, I took flowers to the women who work at our local Chamber of Commerce and thanked them for giving our church the opportunity to serve the community. I also wrote note cards to the businesses who allowed us to run our power cords from their businesses to the street outside.

The next thing I knew, our church was getting mentioned on social media by the Chamber of Commerce. Did I do it for the mention? No. I did it because I wanted to intentionally form a relationship between our church and local community. We’re  here to make a difference. I wanted them to know that.

Keep your event participants updated on what you’re doing throughout the year, whether through social media or direct email marketing, let them know the results of what they did or contributed.

After The Event – Make It Fast

Timing is everything. Have you ever gotten a thank you note for a Christmas present…in July? Last year I was able to help a Youth Pastor with a large scale youth event. The event was on a Friday night and we had follow-up postcards in the mail on Monday. They were very simple: thanks for coming, here’s what coming up, here’s where you can view pictures of the event. The follow up was simple. It was also effective. We saw some new families connect to the church through that event.

During my time as a Next Steps Staff Director at a local church, I viewed every Sunday as an event. No, I’m not talking about gimmicky, marketing, ‘new-theme-every-Sunday’ type of event (although there are some churches who have done that, and if – after prayer, counsel, and discernment – you believe that’s what God has called you to do, then you should do it). I’m talking about the fact that every Sunday happens. We have a church service. I did not rest until every connect card had been read, every first time guest had been contacted (at the time I was writing hand-written notes to each first time guest), and every prayer request had been prayed for and sent to our Lead Pastor and Prayer Team Leader. The first time guest note cards were dropped at the post office on Sunday evenings. Every week. Timing is everything. Your guests took time out of their lives to visit you. Don’t take that lightly. As guests progressed through our system, the follow up strategy changed (week to week). I know of many churches who give their Pastoral and office staff Mondays off. When leading our Next Steps team, Sunday afternoons and Mondays were my busiest times. I don’t think they could have paid me to take time off.

I’d love to hear your follow up and next steps strategies. Tell me how your view follow ups and next steps.

 

 

Forms Are Our Friends

forms checklist

Forms are our friends. Why? Funny You Should Ask…

Deciphering Code

I have known medical doctors who have better handwriting than some church members. All of that handwritten information has to go somewhere. It’s usually entered into a database. Is that an ‘l’ an ‘i’ or a ‘1’?

A System Uncluttered

Forms allow us to gather information without creating another profile in our system. If you have 400 church members, but 800 people registered for an event, you don’t have to create an additional 400 profiles in your system for people who only came to one event. In 1978.

Forced Conversation With Friends and Forced Following God

No longer can you walk up to a sign up list and take a sneak peek to see if your friends are going. First: what has God called you to do? Does God want you to attend that event? Or sign up to bring a casserole? Each and every decision should only be about following Him. So if God’s calling me to do something, it doesn’t matter if my friends are doing it or not. If that’s not enough reason, then (second) talk to your friends. A real, live, in-person, conversation. “Hey, I was thinking about signing up for _________. Did you sign up?” Or “I just signed up for _________. I’d encourage you to do it as well.”

We’re All On The Same Page

In a real life example, I had a social media manager publish a post that an event was ready for registration. However, the event wasn’t on our facilities calendar, it wasn’t listed on the web site, and the person who ran the database thought she had another week to get the sign up form link activated. A form, with specific dates, and information about the event, keeps everyone on the same page.

Everyone Who Needs It, Has Access

Just like keeping everyone on the same page, a form ensures the appropriate people have access. I’ll use our own church (Fairview Baptist Church) as an example. I usually do the weekly printed bulletin. Our Senior Pastor also has access to publish the bulletin. (In a church largely overrun with with PC’s, we use InDesign on Macs.) Earlier this year, I created a church communications & event form so that all ministry leaders could submit communication and event information via this form. The form initially comes to me, but all Pastor staff and deacons have access to it. Frequently, I pass car accidents on the way to work. Accidents happen. Medical emergencies happen. Life happens. Gratefully, I’ve had very few issues that  have impacted my ability to get my job done. But if that ever happens, knowing that our Senior Pastor has access to the information and could potentially take care of the bulletin in my absence, is comforting. If someone simply emails me their information, the only person who has access to that is me. And if I’m ever in a situation where an emergency impacts my ability to check my email, then no one knows that information.

What are your favorite uses for forms? What are some ways you use forms in your software with your church?

CCB Lead

 

I’ve had a chance to play with the CCB updates today. I’m impressed.

How do you like these updates?

Lead – a great tool that capitalizes on your churches digital strategy { CCB users }. Gone are the days of overlying on your Church Clerk for member contact information, or needing to rush home to access your ‘member spreadsheet’ stored on your personal computer. Download it today https://www.churchcommunitybuilder.com/lead-app

via LEAD – a new app for Leaders — CCB Support

Ministry vs. Marketing

smartphone laptop

Ministry vs. Marketing
Job is defined as:
a paid position of regular employment.
Work is defined as:
activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.
Do you see the difference?
A quick search yielded these results from scripture on the topic of of work:
Of these, my favorite is Psalm 90:17:
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.
Another quick search yielded not as many references to the term, ‘job’ (Unless it was with a capital ‘J’ – a person’s name.)
There was this – from 2 Chronicles 34:13:
had charge of the laborers and supervised all the workers from job to job. Some of the Levites were secretaries, scribes and gatekeepers.
They were referred to as ‘workers’ first. The workers had jobs.
During the course of my typical work…at my job… I get to manage our communications outlets – the database is one of my primary internal communication tools, but I also get to manage our public-facing communication tools: web site, social media channels, etc.

This week I’ve felt challenged to look at how we use our communications assets – specifically social media.

What if…

We used this more as ministry; less as marketing.
We told people what was happening in our church now, instead of just upcoming events.
We told stories of what God is doing now; not just what we believe  He’s going to do.
We invited people to what’s happening today; not just to planned events weeks from now?
We posted more scripture and fewer ‘buzz words’ and ‘catch phrases’?
We quit using the terms ‘branding’ and ‘style guide’ and replaced them with ‘clear communications’ and ‘not confusing’?
What if…
We ministered more and marketed less.
I have a great book on church marketing. Actually, that’s the name of the book: Church Marketing.
But I also have some great books on how we should view our entire lives – all we do – as a ministry.
I don’t want to market our church.
I want to minister to our community.

 

Focus and Perspective

lego camera

In late 2016, Fairview started using Breeze ChMS. Breeze is easy to use and their customer service is outstanding.

In early 2017, we went with Ministry Designs for our web site. Easy to use. Great customer service.

We have a theme.

I decided I really wanted to use Breeze as a central “hub” for all church scheduling. I can list our rooms and other areas on campus, enter all event information, and display graphics. Plus I can give all Pastors, Deacons, Ministry Leaders, and Church Members access to view the calendar.

Unfortunately, my other idea to create a separate Breeze Calendar for events that would be displayed on the public calendar wasn’t so easy.

Embed codes weren’t doing what I anticipated and I couldn’t get Breeze and Ministry Designs integrated. I joked: Fairview Baptist Church, Breeze, and Ministry Designs were NOT forming a holy trinity.

Then a few weeks ago, we had integration success. I was able to directly integrate our Breeze calendar to display on our web site.

Success. Fireworks. National Holiday. Happiness.

I literally emailed our Pastors, IT Committee Chairman, and the guy who heads up the Greeters/Connections team at 10pm on a Friday night.

This was going to be great! Now, when I entered an event in the ChMS, and I published it to the public calendar, it would automatically display on the web site. No longer would I have to copy and paste information from the ChMS over to the web site and vice versa. No more chances for typos, different information on the two different sources. If the date and time was changed or updated, if the event description changed, if the location on campus changed…if anything was updated or changed in the ChMS, it automatically went to the web site.

It would also free up some time.

You see, it’s quite common in the ‘church communication world,’ to work long, often-unpaid, hours. A majority of my peers (and I) consider our jobs more of a ministry and less of a ‘job.’ We use the term ‘serve’ rather than ‘work.’ And most of us genuinely enjoy what we do. Because we know we’re serving someone greater (Jesus Christ). Our bosses are usually Pastors – sometimes our own Pastors if we’re blessed enough to also attend the church where we work serve (who sometimes list Jesus Christ as the ‘contact person’ or ‘event coordinator’ on our communications request forms). You can laugh at that, but it’s true. The web site, social media, and ChMS are just tools we use in getting to play our small part in connecting people to a church family and to Jesus Christ.

And while I certainly don’t mind putting in an extra 10-20 hours a week in ‘service hours,’ there are weeks that it’s just not practical. I do love what I do. In many respects, it’s my hobby. Some people like knitting or horseback riding. I like working with the church management software and the web site. But sometimes, other things (and people) need my attention. I have a husband. I have four kids. I have friends. I’d like to keep all of them around for awhile and not become the crazy cat lady (except instead of cats, it would be fonts).

Plus, it can lead to burn out.  Just Google ‘church Pastor burn out.’ You’ll find a lot of articles on not just Pastors, but church staff and volunteers who leave their churches often because of burn out. Nobody wants that. I like my job. I like my church. Since I know what can cause burnout, I’d like to avoid that.

So there it is. This awesome integration that is going to increase accuracy in information, possibly reduce errors, and increase productivity. This is good for the church. This is what’s best.

This sounds like I just won the Church Communications Lottery.

But wait. Take a step back. What else happens?

We’re going to  have to retrain group leaders how to take attendance. We’re going to have to take a fresh look at the events page on our web site and how that’s displayed. We’re going to have to look at how small groups are listed (right now it’s publicly displayed as one single ‘Life Groups’ time on Sunday mornings; this would force us to take a look at listing each group separately/individually). [For the record, I’m a fan of listing each group separately.] But this changes what group leaders see when they log in (display). This changes ease-of-use and aesthetics.

So, I decided to pull the plug and keep doing what I’ve been doing.

Wait! What!? Why!? Why pull the plug on the possibly the best software update and integration to date?

A few reasons. I’ve already addressed. It changes ease-of-use and aesthetics. It requires (re) training people who aren’t entirely comfortable with what we have. We’ve had the software less than a year. Not everyone is using it. Not everyone is trained. Those that are, are just now comfortable with it. A few are just now understanding why we use it. It’s too soon to pull the rug out from under them and replace it with a new rug.

Next: why should they trust me? Everything I do is guided by my relationship with Christ. Every decision starts with prayer. I have a few very trusted peers at other churches who work with their ChMS and web sites. I have to use wisdom an discernment and at the end of the day, I believe that the Church is the Bride of Christ and we have to play a part of presenting her blameless and spotless. Unblemished. But – do the church members know that? Do they trust that? I’ve worked there just over a year. Have I earned enough trust to make a change?

I love software updates. I understand why software companies make them and I understand how they (usually) benefit their clients (the churches). But do the church members I serve know that? Have I successfully communicated that to them?

And while organization, administration, accuracy, streamlined productivity, and reduced possibility of burnout is important, there is something more important.

And that is earning trust, setting examples in leadership, and truly loving and caring about the people we get the privilege to serve.

My prayer for all of my church communications peers is that we can know when to look past the processes and procedures and focus on the hearts of the people and recognize our jobs as ministries.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

desk computer phone smartphone coffeeThis week I had a video chat with some people of Breeze. They asked me what my favorite part of the software is? I went with what we use the most: sorting and emailing.

But the more I think about it, those might not be my favorite things. Here’s a few things I really like. Not just with Breeze, but also with CCB, and any church management software.

Profile fields that offer ways to help people connect.

Most people profiles are going to contain very basic information: name, address, phone number(s), email. But I love it when we go deeper with custom fields: gifts, talents, abilities, interests. By running regular search reports on those fields, we can help people connect to areas of service – and to other people. Most software companies offer ways to customize your profile fields. Take advantage of those. Then regularly run those reports and make sure people are getting connected.

Forms.

I’m about to do a whole blog post on why forms are important, but here’s a few key points:

Ensures everyone gets the same information.

Helps with pre-planning and organization

No more “lost” emails. Saved digital record of form submission.

Follow-Ups and Process Queues.

Whatever your software calls them, I love them. When a first time guest is entered into the system, a follow up is assigned to a pastoral staff member (the youth pastor for any new students in the youth group; our senior pastor for any new families). Once that follow up is complete, the Pastor can add notes, and check the ‘complete’ box. Then we run regular reports on completed follow-ups, in conjunction with event attendance reports to see how people where people are connecting.

What are your favorite things?

mom.com

As I sat down to write this, my son referred to my blog as “mom.com.”

And so begins this ridiculously long blog post about the random things God has been teaching me.

99.99% of the time, this blog is going to be devoted to church management software. Mainly because I like church management software. It’s what I think about for fun.

But I also think about the church web site (which is slowly edging out the church management software for the #1 spot), guest services and assimilation, and handful of other church-y things. And I also don’t forget that it’s about God. It’s about how He is molding us and shaping us into who He wants us to be for His glory. It’s about growth. It’s about change. It’s about connecting people to church and people to people. It’s about facing challenges and recognizing His blessings. It’s about finding peace in the midst of a trial.

And so…every so often…I’m going to break from writing all about church management software and databases and just give you a glimpse into our lives. And how God is working in our family. And what he’s teaching me – as a mom…and in other areas.

This summer has been challenging for our family. Any change – even recognizably good change – brings it’s own set of challenges.

A few weeks ago, my youngest son – who is in public school after 5 years of homeschooling – had a difficult week. There were some things that brought him to tears, which in turn, brought me to tears. And I questioned. I questioned a lot.

Was I supposed to go back to work? Should I still be home with him? What if we’d put him in public school two years ago when we first had an inclination that he might do better in that setting? What if we’d never put him in at all?

So as I was listening to my son’s fears, concerns, and cries. And as I myself was crying and questioning, I received a hand-written note card from my boss. Except that he didn’t write it as a boss. He wrote it from the perspective of a Pastor.

To some of you, this might be nothing. But when I got that card in the mail, I realized he was already thinking of our family as part of the church family and not just of me as an employee. And I realized how grateful I am to serve there.

Then God took it to a whole other level (He always does!).

One of the things my son was struggling with at school was making new friends. He felt a little left out. But this week he received a birthday party invitation and he is extremely happy. And I was able to use this situation to teach him how powerful prayer is. I told him that last week, when he was so unhappy, that we had people praying for him (for both of us), and this week he’d gotten a birthday party invitation. Not only that, but when I called to RSVP, the other boys’ mom seemed genuinely happy that my son was coming. I showed my son the note we’d received from my boss Pastor, and I made sure he realized how much God loves us.

This week, two other churches contacted me about team structure, leadership development, and volunteer development. I’m not even sure why they contacted me or how they got my name, but it’s truly humbling to think that not only could I play a small part in what God is doing at Fairview Baptist Church, but that He’s allowing me to play a small part in what He’s doing in and through other churches. I always think there are probably 1,000 other people out there more qualified than I am and I am grateful each day for the opportunities He gives me.

In talking to another church leader, I (we) realized that we can approach paid staff (both Pastoral and other) in two ways:

The first is that we can look at them primarily as paid staff members who also attend our church. We look first at their position, title, and authority. We look at their job duties and expectations first, before looking at them as part of the church family. And in some cases, they are never looked at as part of the church family.

The second is that we can look at them as part of the church family, who – because of position, title, authority, and expected duties  – we honor and appreciate by giving to them financially.

In a perfect world, I believe you’d see a good blend of both of those views all the time. However, after much discussion, I admitted that as a church staff member, I’d rather see the second. I’d rather be seen as part of the church family first, employee second. One of my favorite quotes is by Tim Keller: Our daily work can be a calling if we reconceive it as God’s assignment to serve others.

What about you? How do you think you are viewed and how would you like to be viewed? Is there a third option we didn’t consider? Or have we completely missed the mark?

And finally this week – I began a new Bible study on the Book of James. And almost immediately, I had to admit how selfish and prideful I’d been in many areas. You see, at our old church, I oversaw the database and first impressions teams. I was always at the info desk which means that I usually had all the info. I entered events into the database, which in turn went to the public calendar (web site) and I created online sign up forms that would be displayed in the lobby.

But going to our new church is different. The person who held this position before me, did not attend, and seeing my face on Sundays is a new thing for some members to process. People have said, “this is new. We’ve never done this before.”  I get it. It’s new for us, too. And thus, I have yet to serve on a Sunday. And I miss that.

But maybe in all of this, I’d become too reliant on my own talents and abilities and not fully reliant on Him and what He can do. I found contentment and fulfillment what I did, rather than who I did it for (Him). I took pride in what I had done, not fully giving credit and glory to Him and thanking Him for the gifts and talents He had given me.

This week, I received an email from Google indicating that our searches, clicks on our web site, and other actions had taken a dramatic increase of the past month.

There would have been a time when my immediate response would have been to pat myself on the back. But instead, I found myself ‘speechless’ before God. I could not believe my efforts had produced these results. And I had nothing by thanks for Him.

 

There are still some things I miss about serving on Sundays – pre-service team prayer, meeting our first time guests and first time guest follow up – to name a few – but I’m also exceedingly grateful that God has given me new opportunities to learn and grow in other areas.

Tonight in the car, my youngest son said, “Mom, the Bible is 100% true. All of it.”

And with that, I’ll get back to Church Management Software and processes. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into our family’s life. Until next time…

 

Souvenirs

souveniers

 

Recently my husband and I went on a vacation. I found myself one day, wandering the market, looking at souvenirs. Should I buy the kids t-shirts they’ll grow out of? Should I buy jewelry, toys, trinkets? Will they like the style and color of jewelry I pick out? Or will it sit in a drawer – never worn? Will the kids play with the toys? Will they break? Will they fight over them? Will the trinkets sit on a shelf, collecting dust, becoming a burden?

As I wandered the market – each booth blending and blurring together – items at one seemingly identical to the others – my mind drifted to our church management software.

I love that fact that we customize our fields. And that we can add additional custom fields. But are we taking it too far in some cases? Are we creating fields that are unmanageable? Want to track people’s favorite foods for the next church-wide dinner? We can do that. Want to know their favorite music? Their favorite restaurants? Their favorite type of cheese? We can do all of that. Under the profile fields, I’ll add in a field for favorite cheese.

But what happens if the church grows exponentially? What happens when the cheese ministry leader gets called to another ministry? Say, maybe, the fruit ministry?

And now – when you export that spreadsheet – there are huge gaps – missing information. And then we spend our time trying to chase down information, filling gaps that ultimately, may not be that important.

At the end of our shopping, I realized that the best ‘souvenir’ I could bring home, was a well-rested, clear-headed, refreshed and renewed version of myself. One that wasn’t feeling distracted or irritated. A version of myself that wasn’t stressed from trying to pack breakables into an already full suitcase or stressed whether someone would like the jewelry or toys I’d picked out.

Take a look at your profile fields. Do you need to know all of them? Is it time to get back to the basics? Look at what you’re realistically using the software for and what you want out of it. I have a friend who compares life to shooting. You aim first, then shoot. You don’t fire and hope it lands somewhere near the target.

Decide why you have the software and what you really want and need it to do. Build your profile fields around that.

Chances are,  you don’t need to keep track of favorite restaurants…or cheese.