It Only Takes A Spark

sparkler

It only takes a spark to start a whole blaze.

That’s not an original thought. I stole that line from song lyrics in this song.

This blog post is going to stray a little bit from just talking about church management software to talking about the overall theme of the blog: the process of progress.

A few years ago, a leader at the church our family was attending told me about a Facebook group: Church Communications.

At the time, I was just beginning to see how the database could be used as a tool in our overall communications and connections strategies.

To remind you, I began this journey with a focus on connections. It also began with a lot of spreadsheets, documents, and emails, before I realized that a database could do a lot of the work for me as the church grew.

As I got more involved in our overall communications and connections strategies, my responsibilities grew to include some graphics, web site design and content, and social media.

One morning this week, I purposely took my time getting to the office. I’d been serving a lot of volunteer (ie, unpaid) hours at the church and my kids needed some attention. We had the morning news on t.v. and the reporters were talking about IHOP (The International House of Pancakes), temporarily changing it’s name to IHOB to promote the fact that they also serve burgers.

That’s a lot of talk over one letter. It was trending on all of the morning news shows and all over social media.

Our church is fun. Really fun. Our Lead Pastor often interjects humor into his Sunday morning messages and we try to convey that in our communications. We also try to keep up with what’s happening in the world around us.

Remember Yanny vs. Laurel? I created a social media post that referenced that subject and our social media audience liked it.

What could I do with IHOB?

The spark.

I created a social media post using a stock photo image and a free on-line program. I didn’t overthink it. My daughter was with me at the kitchen table. She shook her head and chuckled.

Should I do it?

Yeah, mom, go ahead.

I shared it on our church’s Facebook page and Instagram account. I didn’t think it would go too far.

As I was waiting at the bus stop with my youngest son, I shared the same graphic with the Church Communications group on Facebook.

I got to work and showed our Executive Pastor. He liked it and even made a comment on the post.

I joked: the good news is that our Lead Pastor can’t fire me because he’s on a plane right now. I have my job for at least another two hours.

But something happened.

Not only did our social media audience respond positively to it, by the end of the day it had roughly 800 likes in the Church Communications group.

We even got a shout out from Fishhook. (Check out Fishhook’s Instagram.)

The whole blaze.

I never imagined that outcome.

But I am grateful. I’m grateful for our Lead Pastor who has set a tone – not just in the office, but also church-wide – that’s easy to follow and helps us relate to the community around us. I’m grateful for the gifts and talents God has given me and I’m grateful for the place where I get to use them. And I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made through the Church Communications network.

I think sometimes, as we’re looking at our communications, and helping people connect with our churches, it’s easy to establish systems, processes, marketing calendars, and social media post schedules. Routine is comfortable. Boundaries and schedules are safe.

But, be open to the times that you feel a prompting – a spark – to break the routine and step outside the boundary. The spark can lead to a whole blaze.

 

 

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Let’s Reconnect

busy blurry shopping mall

It’s been awhile since I last blogged. I’ve been busy. Like this picture, life’s been full and a bit blurry.

I’ve worked for an accountant during tax season. I’ve worked for an orthodontist on a school holiday. But I’ve never been as busy as I am now – working for a large church and trying to be a relatively decent wife and mother.

And – let’s face it – what I do with church management software isn’t that interesting to most people. I could blog about it every day. Most people probably wouldn’t read it that often.

So, grab some coffee and let’s catch up.

First: the CCB People Reimagined update. Do you love it or hate it? I love it. I’m learning a few new things about it every day. The rest of the staff was divided at first. I think I’ve helped tip the scales, but the first day one of my co-workers sent me a text that said, “What happened to CCB?”

We’re using some new technology  – some that integrates with CCB. We were looking for a texting option (ie, someone could text a keyword to a number and we would have the option of setting up an automated response). We went with a company that we could link to CCB. Because of that integration, we now have the option of connecting all of that to a process queue.

I’m finally at a stage where all form responses are linked to events and also feeding process queues. It means a little extra work for anyone (um… me) setting up forms and events, but the end result will be more accurate report data.

And we’ve got almost all of our volunteer positions updated – including gifts, talents, passions, ability, personality style, etc.

Of course, there’s technology we use that is outside of the church management software.

We’ve installed a chat feature on our web site. It’s not connected to our church management software, but it is all a part of ‘communications’ and ‘assimilation.’ Two of my favorite words.

And I introduced our staff to Church Metrics. We can get most of our metrics data from CCB, but having a secondary platform will help us find any holes in the first platform.

Our Lead Pastor has allowed me to design a few new pieces of literature – all aimed at getting people connected – and further connected. He also didn’t fire me when I used the word ‘poop’ in a social media post.

I think we’re caught up for now. Comment and let me know how you feel about the CCB changes.

 

 

My Head In The Clouds (aka: the most fun blog post I’ve ever written)

girl cloud bubble

Today our church was a polling location. People in and out all today exercising their right to vote.

The polls open early. Really early.

County election officials would need access by 5:45am.

I offered to open the building. Our Executive Pastor told me that was fine as long as I promised to leave by 2:30pm.

I half-heartedly agreed.

I didn’t mind getting up early. I’m a morning person by nature and I got a lot accomplished in the quiet morning hours.

My commute was easier than ever. There’s not a lot of other traffic on the road at 5:00am.

I was going about my day and feeling productive – knocking several things off my to-do list – when our Executive Pastor appeared in my doorway.

“Time to go home!”

“I have things to do.”

“They will still be here tomorrow. Go home.”

“But I like it here.”

“I’m glad. Go home.”

He told our Lead Pastor who agreed with him.

“The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken. Go home.” (Yes, he referred to our Lead Pastor as The Great and Powerful Oz.)

forcibly ejected

kicked out

excommunicated? (no…that’s too strong)

I packed up my laptop and “to-do” folder and headed out the door.

It really was a nice afternoon. I was able to pick my son up at school, take him out for ice cream and have dinner on the table when my husband got home.

So…you’ve read this far…how does this relate to church management software, and progress, and processes?

As I sit here this evening and everyone is winding down, I have several data entry lists in front of me and I am getting caught up on a few projects. Because – although he escorted me out of the building –  the software is cloud based.

 

[I love the people I get to work with, love our church, and love what I get to do. In an earlier blog post I wrote about listening to others – allowing others to speak into your life. Today was one of those days and I’m grateful every day that God has me at this place.]

 

 

 

Serving Others

lift moving box

99.99 (999999999)% of my job is serving others. I’m either helping our Pastoral staff and ministry team leaders run statistical reports – attendance, assimilation, etc. – or preparing items for our guest services team to use on Sunday.

During times that we don’t have a front desk volunteer, I get to greet guests and answer incoming phone calls in the office.

And I get to assist our Lead Pastor and his wife with some of our special events (things like dinners with church partners and Partnership classes).

I like serving others. And I don’t mind that my boss has never put me on stage – or screen (have I ever mentioned how smart he is?).

We even have a database field for ‘how they heard about our church’ and one of the things I get to do using our forms feature is track how people first got connected to our church.

I’ve found that many people get connected through service. Either people from our church have reached outside the walls of our church to serve someone and that person decides to come on a Sunday see what we’re all about. Or someone has a gift, skill or talent and they want to donate their time to one of our service projects (this happens sometimes even if they don’t already attend our church). During the time of serving, they get to know us and decide to come on a Sunday and see what we’re all about.

See how serving can work in so many ways to help lead people to find and follow Jesus?

I get to see that through data entry and attendance reports.

But there’s nothing like coming out of the office, out from behind the computer screen, and serving people.

I get to do it by serving with our Guest Services team each Sunday. I serve at the check-in desk, welcoming new families to our Children’s Ministry, and I serve at our What’s Next Desk – helping people take their next steps at our church.

Serving on Sunday mornings wasn’t part of my original job interview, and I doubt our Pastor would fire me if I told him I just needed a break on Sunday mornings. Serving on Sundays is something I GET to do and I look forward to doing it.

But now that you’ve read how I feel about serving, I want you to read what our Pastor says about serving. I know I’ve already referred to him as smart. He’s also a very gifted writer. Read about serving others and what our church is doing here: www.claytoncrossings.com/dayofservice. (While you’re at it, pour some coffee and take time to read his other blog posts. They’re pretty darn good!)

How do you serve your church?

Digital Bootcamp: Recap

computer coding

Last week my friend, Tom Pounder, had me lead a week of Digital Bootcamp. If you’re on Facebook, here’s the link to the page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theDigitalBootcamp/

Check it out and ask me any questions about church management software.

I’ll give you a quick recap of bootcamp. But first, I wanted to thank Tom. Tom and I had talked about me leading a week prior to my stroke. (I blog about the stroke in another post.)

To catch you up, I had a very small,  minor stroke on Good Friday. As strokes go, if you’re going to have one, I had the kind you want to have. My “deficits” are minor. But one thing that was affected is speech. It’s not super noticeable. My oldest daughter said there are days when she doesn’t notice it at all.

With speech affected, I was hesitant to do live video.

But often God calls us to do things that we can only do with Him so that He’ll get all the glory. (Which He should get anyway, but we aren’t always good at that.)

This was one of those times. So I went live each weekday and talked about the most exciting of all church communications topics [read that with sarcasm], church management software.

Most of my peers don’t love software like I do. To them, it’s a necessary evil. But I get it. I’m somewhat of a data/metrics “nerd” and the software (and all of it’s glorious features) are right up my alley.

Here’s a recap of the daily topics Monday – Thursday.

Assimilation. It’s why I started using the software. Getting people from the first visit, to the second visit, the third visit, and then to full engaged in the church – connecting them to small groups and meaningful service opportunities.

Public access areas and graphics. There are areas of the software that require a username and  password and there are other areas that are accessible to the public. We need to pay attention to what the public sees, and upload graphic/image files where we can.

Customization. Use custom field features wisely. Determine what your church will need and make it yours. We have fields for whether someone is approved to drive a van and we also have a field for t-shirt size.

Custom reports and administration. A few of our reports include an Assimilation Process Report and weekly attendance metrics. We also use the software to track use of our rooms and resources.

On Friday, I went a little “off topic” and talked about the importance of putting people over processes. A Pastor once told me, “I can train anyone to do data entry, but only you can do what you do with people.” (Remember, I first began using the software as part of an assimilation plan.) He was right. As tempted as I am to spend long hours behind my computer, I have to remember that this is not just a business – it’s a church – and church is about people. Fortunately, I get to work at a church I’d attend even if I didn’t work there with people I love.

I Am Not Getting Fed

spoon candy

As the Master Administrator of our church management software, it falls within my scope of duties to make people inactive.

When I talk to my other friends who work in connections and/or database management at their churches, I know I am not alone in what I am about to write.

It actually hurts to fill in the data in the profile fields: “membership stop date,” or “reason left.”

The exact wording may be different from software to software, but – in general – it’s the same concept. There may be a date field, or a text field, or both. But it all boils down to: someone has left the church.

Believe it or not, in our church and in talking to my counterparts at other churches – the senior leadership cares about each person. In a larger church, it may be difficult to form deep relationships with each person, or even know each person by name. But Monday through Friday reports are being run and attendance in classes is being reviewed.

I know this because, not only am I asked to run these types of reports, but I am in regular communication with people at other churches who are also running these reports and discussing how we can do better at connecting with people.

And yet, this still happens – for many reasons. People move. God calls people with different strengths in ministry to different places to serve Him. But, the ‘reason’ that hurts is when people say, “I’m not getting fed.” (disclaimer: I haven’t dealt with this at my current church – yet.)

If you are mature enough in your faith to understand that statement, then you are mature enough to feed yourself. When my children were babies I fed them pureed baby food. On Easter Sunday, I watched them feed themselves prime rib roast.

On (rare) occasions, I will cook a large meal for my family – roast, sides, dessert – I labor over those such meals and it hurts when my family doesn’t like it.

Your Pastor (and mine) labors like that each week to bring a message to the congregation and while I have not confirmed this with my own Pastor, I would imagine that it hurts when someone leaves the church with the reason ‘I’m not getting fed.

In talking further to my counterparts, it is common to miss services on Sunday because someone inevitably has a database question, a communications question, or we just love serving with our guest services teams and helping people get connected. But most of us don’t need Sunday mornings to get ‘fed.’ We are connected in other ways – through small groups and listening to sermons online.

So now that we’ve determined that ‘not getting fed‘ can cause your database administrator to have a stroke (stroke jokes are flying around our office right now), hurt your Pastor, and that you have options to feed yourself, here are a few things to do if you feel like you’re going down that road.

1. Talk openly to your Pastor. Ask him (or her) to help you in your spiritual journey. Believe it or not, your Pastor cares about you. If it’s really time for you to leave, do so gracefully and do nothing to cause division or strife within the church.

2. Say no to anything that is keeping you from worship service for awhile. I am a huge fan of serving in the local church. Serving takes sacrifice, and you may miss a worship service or two (or eighteen), but when you feel like you’re not getting fed, talk to your service leader. Ask for a temporary break from service. Take some time to fill up before jumping back in to serving others.

3. Attend another church. Find another church that has alternate service times and visit every once in awhile. I, personally, would and could NOT do this regularly as I would feel too divided. I would also worry that I would eventually run into people I knew and rumors would get started. Ouch. But visiting another church can be good every once in awhile – not just to sit and listen – but also to talk to their leaders and get some ideas you can take back to your own church.

4. Listen later. Our church uses Facebook live video during each service and also has a podcast. I often listen to our Pastor as I drive to work Monday morning.

While I agree that it’s important for us to be ‘fed’ and to stay ‘filled up’ so we can pour into others, I also think that as we grow and mature in Christ, we need to take some responsibility for our own feeding.

I Am Not An Empire

listen neon sign

When I started this blog, I promised a few glimpses into my personal life.

It can’t be about church processes 24/7.

You’ll soon see why it’s critically important to ‘turn off’ once in awhile.

“I’m trying to save you from yourself.”

My boss (also my Pastor) has said that to me more than once.

“You need go relax or you’re going to have a stroke.”

My husband has said that to me multiple times.

“I’m not going to have a stroke.” – I said it with rolled eyes.

But, I did. Yes, I did.

Good Friday. Two days before Easter. Less than a week ago.

I. Had. A. Stroke.

Fortunately, it was small. If you’re going to have a stroke, this is the kind to have.

I have minor ‘deficits.”

I have numbness in my face and mouth – similar to when you receive novocaine at the dentist.

My speech is somewhat effected.

My typing is effected. I have to watch my hands on the keyboard.

I’ve already had one therapy appointment. It’s already helping.

I can drive, I can walk, my vision  hasn’t been effected. I haven’t lost memory.

I have a lot for which to be thankful..

One of my best friends recently wrote a blog post about saying, ‘no.’

“I’m trying to save you from yourself.”

“You need go relax or you’re going to have a stroke.”

I wish I had listened. I would be a different person today.

As I was leaving the office today for an appointment with a doctor (and discussing my recovery), our Executive Pastor commented, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Our Lead Pastor reminded me that I’m a human – not an empire.

 

 

 

Podcast Topic: Assimilation

laptop mac coffee desk work computer

Last week I recorded a Podcast. I’ll post the link and the relevant information when it airs.

The topic was: assimilation (I’m sure you’re surprised) and using church management software as a tool to see how people are connected.

Here’s a brief recap:

1. You have options. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. Your first time guest my get a hand-written note card, an email, or a formal ‘business’ letter on church letterhead. They may meet the Pastor on the first visit, during a membership class – or never. The Pastor may hold a guest reception in a dedicated room. Or just simply be visible and available in the lobby – or in the parking lot (yes, I’ve seen that).

2. You need data. If you’re just starting to put a formal plan into place, this could mean a few things. Either talk to other churches of similar size and structure and ask them to share their data or be willing to change your course after a few months. Start with one plan and if you find that your numbers aren’t hitting your goals, be willing to change.

3. You can’t control everything. I love the connect cards that give people the option to join a team. I enter that information into the church management software. From there, I will ask each ministry team leader to contact those people and enter information from their own follow up into the church management software. In that process, there is a piece I cannot control: the actual follow up by the ministry team leader. Once it’s been assigned to a ministry leader, they own their ‘how.’ Some ministry leaders may prefer email, some text, some a personal phone call. That’s up to them. The only time they’ll hear from me is if their process isn’t documented in profile notes each week.

4. You’re setting up an expectation. If your first time guests meet the Lead Pastor and get an email from the Pastor’s email address, they will assume they always have access to the Lead Pastor. Most Lead Pastors that I know want to know their people and don’t mind this. However, as the church grows, you could have thousands of people assuming they have immediate access to the Lead Pastor. As the church grows, check-in with your Lead Pastor and see if current processes are causing stress on him or his family. If they are causing stress, it’s time for a change.

5. Be flexible. It’s about people. You may have a solid plan that includes a first time guest email. And then on day a person walks in who is ‘off the grid.’ No email. No smartphone. No social media. Make a note in that person’s profile so that you know. Keep a log somewhere. Instead of an email, this person gets a hand-written note card.

What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go and search for the stray? – Matthew 18:12

At the end of the day, remember this is not your call. Set up a time to review current processes with your Lead Pastor and make sure you present him with options and data so that he can make an informed decision. Then communicate and execute his decisions. Don’t second-guess his decisions, even if you disagree. I heard a speaker once say, “it’s not true submission until there’s a disagreement.”

Remember our instruction in Hebrews 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

 

Bonus Content:

From Sunday to Monday. It’s Sunday at noon at most of the key volunteers have gone home.

Now it’s up to church staff on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning to filter through connect cards and notes.

If you’re a Sunday volunteer, check in with your church staff to see if any of the Sunday morning procedures are causing any stress or confusion on Monday morning.

(For myself and my counterparts at other churches, it is very common to work late nights, weekends, and often unpaid ‘overtime’ hours. It is common to miss corporate worship in order to serve. Rarely, do we complain about this, as we understand our roles in ministry.)

If you’re on church staff and you realize that some Sunday procedures could be re-structured to reduce stress or confusion on Monday morning, communicate that to your volunteers. Be as transparent as possible with office procedures and let them know that their small changes on Sundays can help lead to a more organized and productive office during the week.

I’ll be recording some additional podcasts, as well as some content in April.

I’ll post links as soon as they’re available.

Lead With The Authority You’ve Been Given

smartphone mobile hand coffee

While I write this from the perspective of a database administrator, this could apply to any communications role.

I walk into our Lead Pastor’s office.

“Question. In CCB…”

Before I can finish, his facial expression is changing…

He doesn’t care.

He understands the need for the database.

He may even want to understand the database.

But, he doesn’t love the database.

In fact, he understands enough, just enough, to know he doesn’t have time to learn more.

But me? I love the database. Maybe a little too much.

Not only do I understand it, I understand it’s inner workings. I joke in the office, “if this gig doesn’t work out, I’ll go into Church Management Software Forensics.”

“Is that a thing?” my co-worker asks.

“I could make it a thing.”

CCB has an online platform for other software administrators. They call it The Village.

My co-worker calls me The Mayor.

Back to our Lead Pastor.

He listens to my rambling question, and my proposed solution. I’m pretty sure he only pretended to listen.

Then he says, “yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

Every. Single. Time.

I’m pretty sure I could start any conversation with “Hey in CCB…” and it would end with “yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

“Hey in CCB, I want to buy a new car and book a vacation to a tropical island.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

He doesn’t care. He doesn’t have time.

But I don’t want him to care, nor do I want him to have time. I don’t.

Because, in reality, he does care.

And that’s why he hired me.

He knows I understand the structure of the church. He knows our family fully supports the vision and mission of the church. And most of all, he knows that on a scale of 1-10, my knowledge of CCB is a 12.

He also knows, a Pastor’s primary role is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

I want him to make time for that. I want him to care about that.

I also want him to care about his wife, his children, his neighbors.

There are church members with real hurts and real needs. I want him to care about those. But I don’t want him to care about a database.

I often tell our Pastor, “go preach, pray, and write a book.”

He’s the leader.

And, every single Sunday he’s got to bring a message to a wide audience. Young, old, non-believers, new-believers, and strong-believers. Any given Sunday.

Why would I ever – ever – expect or even want him to be thinking about the database?

I was faced with a problem recently and I knew the answer. In my gut, I knew what to do. Yet, I sent a support ticket into the software company. Their solution was my solution. I’d been right.

Our Pastor has given me (his words), “a pretty big sandbox to play in” when it comes to the software. That just means he’s given me some authority and has promised to back up any decisions I make.

God has gifted each of us differently. For me, that means discernment, leadership and administration. Our Pastor is a Pastor. I am not.

But I hesitate before making the final decision…

And each time I walk into his office with a database question, the facial expression changes.

It’s fine. I trust you.

Today, church communicators – whether your primary role is with the database, social media, the web site, first impressions, or any other communication role – lead with the authority you’ve been given and support others as they do the same.

 

Class Attendance

classroom lecture college class student

Imagine that you’re trying to see how many adults you have present in small groups each week.

Imagine that you’re trying to see how many children you had on campus one Sunday and in which rooms.

Now imagine that data is stored in multiple places, accessible by different people.

Group leader, do you have your attendance?

Oh yes, I keep a detailed spreadsheet on my computer at home.

No, I never take attendance, but I remember who was there.

Yes here it is (scrawled on a napkin, complete with coffee stains, pulled from the bottom of a purse).

Now imagine that you can log onto your church management software and get that information within a few minutes. Maybe seconds.

And yet, I hear from churches every day that one of their top issues is: we don’t know where people are. I talk to other database administrators who say that they know a total number of ‘butts in seats’ on Sunday, but have no real attendance on individual people. They don’t know who is connected – or where.

As a process person, who is constantly reminded that we need to think about “people over process,” I want to share with you why attendance is much more than “part of the process.”

I’ll make a bold statement: I don’t believe that anyone either accepted or denied Jesus based on whether the church had accurate attendance records.

That’s a bold statement coming from a process person and one that hurts me to admit. Even with that being said, I absolutely believe that taking attendance is important.

I’m not going to over-spiritualize this. This is not a theological discussion. I leave those to people who are much more qualified.

But there are some basic reasons why attendance – accuracy and accessibility – is important.

We’re called to be good stewards of the resources God has given us.

That means physical resources. Church leaders need to know who is present, and which rooms. If one class is outgrowing their room and another class consistently has low attendance, it might be time to move some people.

It also means financial resources. A particular class may need more curriculum materials. Knowing actual attendance figures will help leaders to know how much that class needs.

Often, these decisions need to be made quickly. Having all attendance figures quickly accessible in one place, helps save time when making important decisions regarding resources.

Church leaders care about people.

I hope – that like our family – you’re blessed with a Pastor who gives a fantastic message each week. There is more to church than the Sunday sermon. There’s these things: fellowship, service, spiritual growth.

Those things happen best in the context of small groups or ministry teams.

Most Pastors I talk to do care about these things. Yet, taking individual attendance on a Sunday church service can be a daunting – or impossible – task as a church grows.

Knowing that people are connected in a small group, is important to most Pastors.

The next time your small group leader takes attendance, remember this is a not the church trying to be “big brother.”

If you’re a small group leader, the next time you’re asked to submit attendance through the church management software, this is not the powers that be trying to make your life more difficult.

Think of the software as a central communications tool. It’s a tool that will empower church leaders to make important decisions based on accurate information, accessible to them when they need it, and will help them better care for everyone in the church.