Initial Implementation

I’m not going to sugar-coat this. The first week did not go well. I expected that. I welcomed that. I also cried.

Let’s go back to the first decision.

I wasn’t convinced this software was going to meet all of their (our) needs. I am still convinced that we will outgrow this software. Already, I’m getting questions about it’s functionality and my only response is, “this software won’t do that.”

When it was time for our first day of implementation, there were some church members who had unmet expectations of the software (I took this personally).

The problem I had to address was that I had unrealistic expectations of some of the church members. My mind naturally thinks like a Church Management Software. So I assume that everyone thinks like I do. They don’t. That’s okay. But, I forget that sometimes.

One of my biggest challenges then (and continues to be) is that I don’t attend the church where I work. It was going to be difficult to train and guide them through software implementation without some hands-on training.

Initially, I spent 2-3 weeks manually entering names in the system, using a prior church directory and cross checking it with an export list from the old church management system. I asked my bosses 18,000 questions about who went with each family, if people were still around, still members, or if they should even be entered into the system. I created a form that people could fill out online to give me names of family members, dates of birth, and other demographic information.

I created test events and checked in our one and only “fake” user (we named him Crash Test Dummy and if you print out a church directory, he’s in there). I needed to make sure I was comfortable enough with the software and had enough familiarity to introduce it to other people.

Even after that, I had limited connections to the Church. The circle of people I know is limited. I had spent one Sunday on campus, but my circle was (and is) still limited to the people who check in children, the men who serve in the office, and a handful of others.

So, I once again, asked my bosses if it would be okay if I was there on a few Sundays. Once again, I was grateful they allowed me to be present. For seven consecutive Sundays, I was allowed to serve them on their campus.

I spent time with the children’s check in volunteers and when children had been checked-in, I switched gears and met the men in the office to help as they entered weekly financial information.

The first Sunday did not go well. There were problems. I expected them and I was grateful for the opportunity to address them. I still wondered if we’d made the right decision. And I cried. As the weeks went by, the problems became less. Finally, after seven weeks, everyone felt comfortable enough to be on their own without my presence.

I have talked to other churches and feel like the ‘proud parent’ when I realize we implemented in seven weeks.

If your church is in the implementation phase, here are some things you should remember:

  • There will be mistakes and problems. You need to find those cracks in the system. If you don’t find them, you can’t fix them.
  • You will lose sleep. You may also lose your sanity. And a few friends.
  • You will work more hours than you could ever possibly imagine. No one may ever know how many hours you work. You probably won’t get paid for most of them. But God knows. And the rewards you are reaping will be eternal.
  • You. Can. Do. This.
  • It’s okay to tell someone, “this software doesn’t do that.” You had choices from the beginning. Not all software packages offer the same features. You chose the one you have and you need to work within in it’s structure.
  • In the end, it will be one of the most rewarding things you do. If used appropriately and to it’s fullest extent, will make one of the biggest impacts on your church.

I didn’t know it all then. I still don’t, as I’m learning some aspects of this software along with everyone else. And software companies will continually release updates, and make changes to features. We also have recently launched a new web site with a new host and design company (don’t check it today. It’s not final until March 15, 2017), and email provider.

I’m grateful for a Church body that extends grace and allows me to learn new processes along with them.

 

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