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…

 

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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.

When To Give Them Keys

teenager car keys“Mom, can I have the keys to the car? I’d like to go out.”

“Sure, son. See you soon.”

Except that ‘son’ hasn’t passed a driver’s test. He doesnt’ have his license. He never even gotten his permit. He hasn’t taken Driver’s Ed class. And he’s never driven this car.

Would you do it?

I hope not.

And yet, we do it every day with our software access.

New staff member? You get staff access.

New ministry team leader? You get ‘group leader’ status.

New teacher? Don’t forget to take attendance.

Software administrators get frustrated when data is entered outside of the boundaries of standard operating procedures.

Executive Pastors get frustrated when their end reports are inaccurate.

And our new-hires and ministry leaders are frustrated because they don’t know what they did wrong.

Here are a few things that can help avoid some uncomfortable situations and unwanted scenarios:

1. Training. This is my favorite word. Set aside some intentional training time for new-hires, new group leaders, no ministry directors, etc. Make it part of the onboarding process. The more access they have, the more training they need.

2. Continuing Education. Just as software administrators receive emails from software companies regarding software updates, so should the people using the software. Anytime there is a software that will effect their area of ministry, make time to talk to them about it.

3. Clear Expectations. Do the teachers know they are supposed to take attendance? Do the ministry team leaders understand they are expected to use the software to plan events and schedule volunteers? Do group leaders know this is used as the primary means of communication? Make sure they know what’s expected.

4. Written Documentation of Policies. Written documentation protects you from being accused of favoritism. There’s temptation to make one person sit through an hour-long training session, while you let another person slide because you know he or she is a computer genius and has a PhD in Computer Science. Don’t do it. Develop a set of standards. Write them down. Everyone should follow policy.

5. Revoke Privileges. This is my least favorite thing to do. If you break a traffic law, your license could get suspended or revoked. If someone is using the software in a way that is causing you to consistently go in behind them and “fix” or “undo” what they’ve done, revoke their privileges and have a private conversation with them. Chances are very good they simply forgot to do something or this topic was overlooked in the original training. In most cases, privileges can be reinstated after they’ve had a ‘software refresher course.’

The good news is that most of the current ChMS programs on the market today, have ways to fix, or undo, any data entry errors. Also remember that this is just a software program – a tool in the process – and that any relationship with a co-worker, fellow church member, and friend is to be treasured far more than the systems, processes, and tools we use.

When You Don’t Like It

Let’s face it. There isn’t a lone single Church Management Software that will fit every church. If there were, there would be no marketplace competition. There would be no comparison charts. There would be one software that offered all of the features that every church needs.

It doesn’t exist.

It’s why churches spend months, sometimes years, making a decision on which software to use. It’s why people play with demo versions in their free time and offer suggestions to churches on which software they should use. It’s why churches sometimes switch to different companies based on their growing and changing needs.

Even some software companies themselves will tell you when their software doesn’t meet your church’s needs. Sometimes, they’ll even help migrate your data for free.

But, at the end of the day, sometimes we have features we just don’t care for, we find it difficult to navigate, or what we want isn’t offered within that software.

This can be particularly frustrating for those ministry leaders who aren’t tasked with using the software on a daily basis. Perhaps you’re a small group leader and you’ve been told you need to use the software for small group messaging and attendance. What’s wrong with the way you’ve been doing it? Perhaps you’re a ministry team leader who has recently been told you need to use the software for volunteer scheduling? What’s wrong with our old calendar-grid spreadsheets?

While nothing is ‘wrong’ with the way you’ve been doing things, sometimes church leaders need data that can only come from using a church management software.

Typically areas of the software are linked, or fields are auto-updated This means the church leaders don’t need to assimilate data from different spreadsheets and emails. The software takes care of that for them, which saves them valuable time.

Here’s some suggestions if you find yourself in a position of ‘just not liking it’:

Do:

  1. Ask why. You’re a ministry leader and in some churches that means you’re a volunteer. If you are paid staff, you’re probably putting in some unpaid overtime hours. It’s okay to ask your leaders why they need you to use the software.
  2. Be a cheerleader. Those serving on your team and other ministry leaders may be struggling with change, as well. Support your leaders by being a ‘cheerleader’ for the software.
  3. Just do it. At the end of the day, there are things we’re not going to like. As one Pastor said, ‘it’s okay to admit that there are parts of your job you don’t like.’
  4. Keep it private. If you really don’t like the software or how it’s used, talk privately to your Pastor or the database administrator.
  5. Ask for training. Learn the software. Ask for training as often as you need it. Ask if a leader or administrator will lead a team training for your team.

Don’t:

  1. Go rogue. Remember that each action you take within the software may impact another area of the software. Don’t take too many actions until you understand how they might impact another leader in your church.
  2. No public shaming. Other leaders are probably also being asked to use the software. Other church members are learning to navigate this. There’s a reason your church leaders have chosen this software. They need it. Help them in their endeavors.
  3. Be a complainer. You may not like it, but we can choose joy. Keep a smile on your face!
  4. No public shaming. I’ll say it again because it bears repeating. You are a leader in the church. People are looking up to you. You’ve been asked to make this change and you should assume that your church leaders have entered this phase with a lot of prayer, and counsel. This is probably not a decision they took lightly. As a leader, if you are struggling with change, it’s safe to assume that others not in a leadership position are also struggling with change. Stay positive and encourage them. Even on days you don’t feel like it.
  5. Don’t do it alone. If training is offered – attend. If you need private training during an off time, ask for it. If you get off work at 11pm and want trained at a midnight, just ask. If your team needs trained on a Saturday morning, make sure there’s coffee. Your software administrator is probably happy to help.

Remember, there’s no perfect software and sometimes, even when we think we’ve found the best one, there are aspects that just don’t work the way want them to.

Trust your church leaders and know we’re all on the same team!

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.