When Words Cannot Express…

Helping our college-aged children make decisions about their future, and one of our younger children starting a new school, and planning a family vacation, and and and…

…wasn’t enough change.

Nope. Not enough change for our family.

Earlier this year, God also called us to a new church. And sometimes, even when you know it’s God, and even when your joy is found in following His will, it’s tough.

Very rarely on this blog will I mention a church by name. I know a lot of people at a lot of churches and para-church organizations and because of our professional relationships, I get to know things about their churches and organizations and we talk about what’s happening and how they are navigating their own challenges.

But I’m about to mention this church. Because they are setting an example.

We began attending in June,

However, we have not taken the next step to join with the church as members.

And then this week…

There was a death in my family. And I was faced with booking some last minute travel and making some last minute schedule changes.

So here we are: having left one church; not yet members of another. And I had a second moment of feeling alone.

But unlike some other areas of my life, the church we are attending is displaying Jesus and showing his love. This church – these people – have reached out to me in so many ways.

I sent an email to the Pastor around 11pm on Monday. On Tuesday morning I woke up to emails and texts (he had used the database to email the prayer team…since this blog is all about databases and processes). One person actually wrote out a prayer for me and my family in an email. Throughout the day on Tuesday I received calls, more emails, more texts.

My boss himself is stepping in to handle some things that should fall directly on my shoulders. He’s picking up my responsibilities. Servant Leadership.

So thank you, Fairview Baptist Church. Words cannot express how much I thank you for what you have shown our family and how grateful we are to know yours.

 

Feeling Alone

Recently  God called our family to make a change. It many ways it wasn’t an easy decision. It meant taking a new look at things we’d always felt were right or wrong. It meant going someplace we said we’d never go.

But in other ways it was easy. Because after a lot of prayer, counsel, and discernment, we knew it was where God was calling us.

This change also meant a new routine and thus, I find myself not regularly seeing the friends I had been seeing regularly.

Yet, I haven’t really connected with a new group of friends.

The old group of friends can’t understand why we’d make this decision.

The new group people seem like they already have their circles.

And I feel like this:

Parking Lot

Alone.

And I remember, that with God, I’m never truly alone. He’s got a plan, a purpose and a reason for this season.

Does this happen in our churches?

What about our church guests?

When I run a report of first time guests who didn’t return for a second visit, I want to hear their voices.

I want to ask:

Did you feel welcome or unwanted?

Was there confusion and chaos or did you feel calmness and clarity?

Did you feel alone or did you feel like you were among family?

Every Sunday we have first time guests who are doing something they’ve never done before: coming to our church. Which means, they aren’t doing whatever it was they did any previous Sunday.

Any change has the potential to cause someone to feel alone.

I pray this is never the case in our churches.

Support: From

This morning I posted about giving support to. You can read the entire post here.

It started like this:

This week I had some issues with the web site and the database.

I had confidence in my own abilities.

I can do this.

Fail.

I read through support documentation. I watched videos.

Another fail.

In the end I had to call tech support.

What did I get?

After-hours, personal, customer service and tech support.

Above and beyond the call of duty.

The best.

First class.

(And somehow, in each case, they were able to maintain the integrity of their own brand, and let me know the boundaries.)

Can I change the colors? Yes.

Can I change the fonts? No.

Can I upload media on a Saturday night  at 8pm when the site editor seems to be locked up?

Absolutely. Yes. You can. We are here to help!

It’s still Saturday night at 8pm, what happened to my menu colors?

We’re working on it.

Can I change the fonts?

No. (Still.)

And then – at the end of each call – I had the support rep. ask if they could pray for me, for our church, and for our business (the mission) we are working on together.

Think about this cycle: I called with a degree of frustration in my voice (and in my heart), I had people who set aside whatever they were doing to help me – to listen to my frustrations and walk with me through the problem-solving process, and at the end of it, we were praying together.

And I thought…

I summed up all of the thoughts I had about how I serve people.

But I also thought…

About how we receive support. And from whom.

How often do I try to do it all alone? And then, when I do need help, is my first thought to pray? To ask God for His help? To ask God what He wants?

While I was trying to make things happen in my time – and before I called support – I called friends. One friend knew a lot about databases, processes, and web sites, but knew very little about the church. Another friend knows a lot about church structures, but very little about database applications. So when I finally called proper support, I was thoroughly confused (and frustrated).

I think this has a broader application. When you’re going through a challenging time or trying to solve a problem, where is the first place you turn? Do you turn to friends who may not know about the situation? Are they giving you biblically-based and sound advice or do they tell you what you want to hear? Does acting on their advice create more confusion?

God wants us to come to Him first. Believe and trust His answers. Believe and trust He will make a way.

Support: To

This week I had some issues with the web site and the database.

I had confidence in my own abilities.

I can do this.

Fail.

I read through support documentation. I watched videos.

Another fail.

In the end I had to call tech support.

What did I get?

After-hours, personal, customer service and tech support.

Above and beyond the call of duty.

The best.

First class.

(And somehow, in each case, they were able to maintain the integrity of their own brand, and let me know the boundaries.)

Can I change the colors? Yes.

Can I change the fonts? No.

Can I upload media on a Saturday night  at 8pm when the site editor seems to be locked up?

Absolutely. Yes. You can. We are here to help!

It’s still Saturday night at 8pm, what happened to my menu colors?

We’re working on it.

Can I change the fonts?

No. (Still.)

And then – at the end of each call – I had the support rep. ask if they could pray for me, for our church, and for our business (the mission) we are working on together.

Think about this cycle: I called with a degree of frustration in my voice (and in my heart), I had people who set aside whatever they were doing to help me – to listen to my frustrations and walk with me through the problem-solving process, and at the end of it, we were praying together.

And I thought…

Am I passing this same level of personal customer service on TO the church? Am I setting a standard with the software or the web site that puts the church as a whole first? Do the church leaders feel like they are important, while we are still maintaining the integrity of the brand?

I hope so.

Have I communicated to the church (as a whole) that I love her? Have I communicated that nothing I do is out of selfishness or vain conceit, but that every communication, administration, or ‘church connections’ decision is based on how we, as a church, are connecting people to Christ and assisting in their walk with Christ?

I hope so.

Does the church know I pray for her?

I hope so.

Do the ministry leaders know I pray for them each individually by name?

I hope so.

And have I listened to the  needs of the ministry leaders to try to provide individual, personalized (and even after-hours) support?

I hope so.

I have the benefit of working with a lot of Christian-owned companies whose leaders understand that end of the day, we’re all on the same team, trying to accomplish a bigger and greater mission. And I get work with people at those companies who will make sacrifices for the mission. Even when it means after-hours, personalized, service.

Jesus displayed servant and sacrificial leadership. This week, I  had a few support people who displayed Jesus.

And my goal/challenge this week: to do the same.

 

 

Key Access

janitor keyring 2

There’s been a lot of talk among my peer group this week about settings and access.

Today I was looking at my key ring.

There are 6 keys. Four are to my office. 1 for my car. 1 for my house.

But the potential.

Our family owns six vehicles. There’s four cars (one for each driver), an old truck that we use for hauling, and a motorcycle. There’s a key for each one. Two of the vehicles are older models and have two keys (one for the doors, one for the ignition). That alone is eight keys just for vehicles.

I have a key to my mother’s house, a key to a storage shed, a key to our riding lawn-mower, and a key to our camper.

For a grand total of twelve.

If I combined those twelve with the keys to my office, I’d be carrying sixteen keys on my key ring.

Sixteen!

That doesn’t include those small, little, pesky keys – luggage, padlocks, desk drawers, filing cabinets, etc.

Here’s why I don’t carry them all with me every day:

  • It would be too heavy and over time, I get tired.
  • It would take up too much space in my purse – space that could be used for lip gloss, money…or ibuprofen.
  • It would be too difficult to get where I needed to go – sorting through 16 keys just to open a door or start a car.

So I don’t carry all sixteen. Each person in our family carries what they need.

But… (because isn’t there always)

We keep duplicate copies of our keys in a safe place that we can all access.

If my husband or one of my children locks themselves out of their car in another part of town, I can stop what I’m doing, go home, get their key, and come help them. None of us ever intends to lock ourselves out of our car (or the house), but we know who we can call if we do. And only the four of us know where those copies are kept and how to access them.

How this relates to our Church Management Software and data settings and security:

In my experience, it’s been very helpful to make sure the keys are distributed. Each person should have the keys they need to access their ministry vehicle. Each person should have the keys they need to unlock the doors they need to do their jobs.

We shouldn’t give one person too many keys to carry on one key ring all of the time – that’ll lead to tiredness, other job aspects not getting done, and jobs – in general – taking too much time (because that’s a lot of keys to sort through).

But, it’s good to know that there are other people who can access the keys to my job on those rare occasions that I get locked out.

 

 

Relieved and Grateful

This is long, but just sit tight. I’ll tell how this relates to Church Management Software.

As I’ve already told you, I was working on 36 hours of relative peace and quiet. I’d made great headway on getting two areas of the house organized. I’d taken my son out to dinner and had some great conversation with the 18-year-old.

And I was definitely planning on church this morning.

What I haven’t told you is that any time any of my family members is away from home, out of town, especially overnight, my phone ringer is turned all the way up and my phone stays charged and with me. I’m available 24/7. I probably have some sort of psychological disorder that is triggered by my kids being away from my presence for more than 38 seconds (yes, I’ve timed it), but that’s for another post.

So this morning at 4:39am my phone rang.

I answered.

The person on the other end identified himself as a county Sheriff.

My heart skipped a beat.

Immediately thinking = worst case scenario.

Hello.

Yes, is this Marcy Carrico?

Yes.

Ma’am this is ______________ from the Wake County Sheriff’s Office…

My thoughts… My mom. Her house. My husband. The kids. Our house. Our cars. My oldest son? Is he still asleep in his room? Our neighborhood? Is everyone okay? Is everyone safe?

…I’m sorry to be calling you at this hour, but…

My thoughts…something is wrong. Something. Is. Wrong. This day. Sunday. We have plans. Now what…?

…we’re at (address of the church) and the alarm has gone off seven times overnight. We’ve tried calling other people on the list, but no one has answered so alarm company gave us your number.

That was it.

Relief.

That was all.

Sarcasm almost kicked in.

You’ve tried calling other people on the list? I think I’m number 287. Right behind the guy who hasn’t been at church in 20 years, but hasn’t officially transferred his membership. And right before last week’s first time guests.

I did NOT say that.

Maybe (or maybe not) I thought about giving them a phone number of someone who lives closer to the church than I do.

But since my adrenaline surge had already kicked in, I decided I’d take this one.

I told him where I lived, when I could reasonably leave my house and about how long it would take me to get there.

I got dressed as soon as I could, taking what I’d need for hair and make-up with me. I was there by 5:20.

The Sheriff walked into the building with me as I turned off the alarm. Just wanted to be sure everything was safe. We figured out it was some ill-placed interior decor that was prone to swaying as the air vents turned on and off overnight. I offered him coffee. He declined.

It would have been so easy to turn this into a time of ‘grumbling and complaining.’ Instead I realize how grateful I am and how much I have for which to be thankful.

No one is hurt. Everyone is fine. And I was reminded that seven is the holy number of God.

So…how does this relate to Church Management Software?

I think a lot of times when we’re looking at user access settings, or other sensitive data, we might tend to jump to worst case scenarios.

This person wants or has access to this information… but… what if…?

What if they make a mistake? What if they don’t do their job? What if they use this information to somehow hurt our church body?

We look at systems and people critically. With a degree of fear. And that fear leads to our own pride and degrees of self-righteousness.

But when we give that fear to God, we can appreciate what each person on the team brings the table and be relieved and grateful that we are not doing this alone.

How A Church Management Software Got Me Out Of My Comfort Zone

As we’ve already established, this is my comfort zone:

coffee laptop desk

The only thing it’s missing is my phone which is always nearby (skin grafted to the palm of my hand).

Except today.

Oh, how I was looking forward to today.

There are six of us living in our relatively small-ish 3-bedroom, 2-bath house. I love my family. I LOVE MY FAMILY. But, there are times when you crave peace, quiet, a space alone, time to clean out a closet without distractions, and a good chick flick.

Due to different schedules, vacations, and grandparents, I realized my oldest son and I were going to have roughly 36-hours at home alone.

That’s 36 hours of peace, quiet (well, he’s a guitarist with multiple amps, so maybe not so quiet), space alone, time to clean out a closet (or two), and maybe even a good chick flick.

And then the church member.

I am having trouble with my class attendance and follow up report.

I’ll investigate that for you.

Would you come to my class Sunday and help me?

No. I can’t on Sunday.

Why?

I will not be at church Sunday.

Where will you be?

Here:

couch woman laptop

On my couch. Watching a televangelist. Maybe even eating bon-bons.

“Hmmm…” She said, “bon-bons or the WORD OF GOD?”

Guilt trip, anyone?

Okay, okay, I’ll be here. Meet me in the office and we’ll go over attendance.

The guilt trip continued to the next stop until we reached our final destination.

I’ll go to her class. I’ll stay in her class and maybe even participate. I’m even staying for church.

But, truthfully, I don’t think I’d have been happy staying at home this morning.

I’m grateful to be here.

Don’t Do It Alone

baseball teamJust like you can’t do it all; you also cannot do it alone. Being the software administrator, you’re probably also in some type of leadership position at your church. While teaching others how to manage their own areas of the software and not trying to do it all, you also need other leaders around you. Here are some ways that have helped me:

  1. Join/Commit to a church. I was talking to a friend recently who does freelance graphic design for several churches. She considers it a service and charges a very small fee, even sometimes providing services free of charge. Yet, she’s not currently a member of any church. She’s got two small children. She’s struggling with a few issues. She has no church family. (They’ve been visiting a church for about a month, but are finding the membership process to be difficult. I told her I’d write a whole blog post on that. I will.)
  2. Get in a small group. Depending on the size and structure of your church, it could be difficult to develop deeper relationships by just attending church. If you’re not already involved in a small group, do it.
  3. Serve somewhere else. I often joke that my comfort zone is at my desk with my laptop creating a buffer between myself and the other person any other people. It’s not really a joke. To get myself out of my comfort zone, I began greeting on Sunday morning. I started as a door greeter, moved to lobby greeting, and quickly found my ‘home’ at the information desk (or Next Steps area). (The joke then was that I had a table and ipad kiosk between me and the people, rather than a desk and laptop. Again, not really a joke. This is very real.) But that got me out of the office, and with people. And I found that I really, really enjoyed that. I was using the software to see our first time guests move through the system. I was the first point of contact for first time guests – I hand wrote each note and send my business card. Meeting them seemed logical. I enjoyed it so much, that now it’s difficult to NOT serve in that capacity.
  4. Find a peer group. Some software providers have peer groups. I am a member of the Church Communications group on Facebook. Find peers outside of  your church that you can talk to about what you’re doing. If you can’t find one, start one.
  5. Pay for it if you need to. Earlier this year, I participated in Connections Confab at Summit Church in Durham, NC. It was a small group of people. I learned a lot. I have 12 new BFF’s. It wasn’t cheap. It was, however, worth every penny. Join professional groups. Ask your church if it’s in the budget. If not, skip the expensive coffee shops for a few months and save up. You’ll be glad you did.
  6. Find friends and do something outside of church. For me, the biggest struggle. I genuinely like what I do. I enjoy it. I think about when I’m off. I did it for a few years on a volunteer basis (ie, unpaid). This is my thing. Yet, I purposely make myself think about things other than church data. We go camping and to a local comedy club with our best friends – who don’t attend our church. I play video games with my youngest son. (I’m way ahead of him on Angry Birds.) I have a friend I see a few times a year just to go see low-budget horror movies at the $2 movie theater (that sells $17 tubs of popcorn). Two of my favorite authors would not be found in the Christian section: John Grisham and James Patterson. Even if only for an hour or two at a time, stop thinking about church data – and do it with people outside of your church.

Managing the database is not an easy job. Get some people around you that will make you smile and laugh. Get some people who will pray for you when things don’t go as planned. Don’t do leadership alone.

Software Administrator: Don’t Do It All

sound boardAs a software administrator, I found myself in a position that wouldn’t be considered ‘healthy.’ I was managing the software alone. I input events, made sure the event  image matched the print and web site materials (especially if the event was linked to the public web site). I made sure all event information was communicated the same across all platforms. I also checked financials and ran financial reports for our finance team, controlled who had access to the software and at what levels. I managed our physical resources (using the software) – including rooms and other resources (tables, chairs, A/V equipment, etc. I built the check-in system for events. I built forms for registration. Almost no one else used the software, yet everyone knew it was there. Working for them.

That was a long paragraph.

With a lot of “I”‘s.

Something needed to change.

So I began to train people.

I taught our children’s leaders how to build check-in systems. I taught our ministry leaders how to schedule events. I taught our hospitality leader how to manage rooms and resources. I taught our finance team how to run financial reports.  I taught a youth leader how to build sign up forms which linked to events.

And they began to work together. Each person saw that their actions within the software didn’t only impact their area of ministry, but how it impacted others. Soon, a team began to form.

I was always available for back up. They know that I still am available for back up.

I was watching band practice one day and watching the sound board operator.

“Hey [guitarist] could you adjust your amp?”

No. Not quite right. Another adjustment.

The guitarist adjusted some pedals.

Good? No.

The sound guy made some adjustments on the board.

They each worked together making adjustments until it was right.

The sound board person continued to make adjustments with each person in the band – checking each instrument individually.

Then the band began to rehearse. Together. Each person playing a different instrument.

The sound board operator stopped them. More adjustments.

They all worked together until they got it right.

What struck me in this was the person with the most control was the sound board operator.

He didn’t jump on stage trying to be the lead vocalist. He didn’t play guitar. He didn’t play drums. He didn’t play any instrument at all. And he didn’t tell each of the band members how to play.

But he made sure that in the end, it sounded right to the audience.

I think software administrators are a little like sound board operators. I recognize that I’m not a great leader in many areas. There are a lot of instruments I cannot play. Most of the time, people are not going to see my name or know I’m there. But I want to help all of my ministry leaders get the most out of the software. I want them to know that I’m always there to help them make minor adjustments or back them up if needed.

First Time Guest Follow Up and Change

I want to revisit the “why we use it” question. Admittedly, I can get so caught up in the application of the process, that I forget why the process was developed in the first place.

To connect human people to our church.

There are a few times a year that we visit other churches. We purposely want to take a break from the norm, but I also want to observe their guest services process.

Recently my daughter visited a church. When she came home I didn’t ask about the message, I asked about her first time guest experience. Parking? Approach? Clear directions? Connect area? Connect cards? First time guest gift? Did anyone say hello and introduce themselves to you? (I wonder what database they use. I kept that thought to myself.)

You see, as much as this blog is about databases, it’s also about the process. The database should reflect our church’s process.
At one church, the Next Steps Director writes a hand written note card to welcome the first time guests. Guests are entered into the database and entered into a process queue (new entry > hand written note card > alert to Next Steps Director).
At another church, a formal letter is emailed, authored by the Senior Pastor. Guests are entered into the system and a a “follow up” is assigned to the Senior Pastor who then sends the email and checks ‘complete.’
Some churches send first-time-guest surveys. Some do not.
One church may ask guests if they’d like more information. Another church sends it – whether it’s been asked for or not.
I once visited a church that sent an email, but then called later in the week. The sole purpose of that call: thanks for coming and we’re praying for you. Do you have any prayer requests? What was missing: they didn’t specifically invite me back. They didn’t invite me to a group or a class. They thanked me for coming and they prayed for me. No strings attached.

In our database, we have categories of visitor, attender, member. I love watching people move through that process.

But there is that dreaded list of first time visitors who didn’t come back.

I’ve tried to look at things through the lens of a first time guest. What is their experience?

Through most of our lives, we have been blessed that God has specifically called us to a church for His purpose and reason. However, there was one time, when He called us to leave a church with no clear direction or next step. We were (gasp) “Church Shoppers.”

Three weeks into visiting a new church. Our third Sunday morning visit. We arrived early and found our seats. No one approached us. As we sat in our seats, we sat alone. We watched other people reach across pews to tap people on the shoulder with the sole purpose of introducing themselves. None to us.

Temptation to leave crept in. We stayed. We heard a great sermon. We don’t regret that we stayed. Would we return? Would the average first time guest return?

Several years ago, as a new Christian, I attended a church with seemingly no clear path to membership. I’d attended. I’d accepted. I’d said the prayer. I got it. But membership seemed elusive. Or exclusive.

How hard would I try to become a member? Or would I be content with simply attending? Giving sporadically. Not serving. Not invested in my church. Because if I’m not a member, it’s not really my church.

I share each of those experiences not to criticize each church. As a matter of fact, I’m grateful, still, for each of those churches and the positive impact each had on my life. But those experiences helped shape and guide how I view my ministry today.

If I called each of our first time guests over the past six months – the ones who didn’t return – what would they say? Am I prepared to hear what they would say?

If I called one of our attenders who hasn’t been to church in several weeks, what would they say? Am I prepared to hear what they would say?

You see, as much as I love our church. And believe I’ve clearly communicated our next steps, I want to be open to change. I want to find the balance between adapting to our ever-changing society while helping our Pastor preserve the integrity of our church.

As you are building your database, make sure it reflects who and what your church is. But always be willing to re-evaluate what you’re doing and be open to change.