An Early Christmas Present

Christmas gift present lights

Yesterday I got an early and much appreciated Christmas gift.

If you read this blog regularly, you will know how much I liked my job. Yet, at the end of the day, there were parts of it that definitely qualified as work. (Isn’t there always.)

You’ll also know that it’s really hard for me to “turn it off” sometimes most of the time okay, okay, all the time. See, I really REALLY like what I do. You might call it my hobby. Or my passion.

Read this.

But, clearly, there were some things about my job that my family wasn’t liking. And they made sure I knew.

The first day of my official unemployment, I was a bit stressed thinking about staying connected to my peers, keeping up with trends in technology and communications, and – let’s be honest – our family finances.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. (Because that always works, right? I may have momentarily forgotten any scripture that says we should go to God first.)

Gratefully, God didn’t throw me completely under the bus. As a matter of fact, a Pastor that I greatly admire managed to connect me with some communications clients. They are social media and web content clients that I knew I’d be able to maintain even if I got a ‘real’ job.

A local arts non-profit has asked me to serve as their Communications Director. I’m excited about this opportunity. It’s a volunteer position, but they will give my daughter free tuition in their classes. That’s worth a lot.

But I couldn’t let go of some of the worry. (Clearly, I forget to read my Bible sometimes.)

I made a mental note of the job I wanted, the geographical area, my job duties, the hours, the organizational structure of the church or ministry, I had it nailed down and when I prayed, I prayed specifically for that job (not even knowing if it existed).

Yet, instead of believing that God was FOR me (and who could be against me), I began looking at any opportunity I could find. I think the term “throwing darts to see what sticks” could apply. One day I decided I could teach pre-school (I can’t). Another day I decided I could work in retail (probably not a good idea, either). Working in the medical or dental field? I do that on missions trips. I don’t want to do it all day, every day.

So a few weeks ago we were sitting in church and the Pastor was talking about taking our questions and concerns to God. Got it.

But…

Seriously, dude, there’s a but to that!?!?!?

When you do, you have to have your yes on the table first. Basically, he likened it to signing the contract agreement first, then reading the fine print after.

I’ve heard that before, but that day it really resonated.

As we left church, I made that statement. I’m done looking for a job. My  yes is out there to whatever you have for me, whenever you have it. Lead us where you want us next.

That very night, all six of us ended up going to the same place. If you’ve ever had college-aged kids, you know that’s a miracle. Normally, we have to pay our kids to hang out with us. But that night, all six of us. In the same car.

I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in 7 years – at least. Her name wasn’t even on my radar as far as connecting with. I was surprised to see her, yet ecstatic. The most awesome thing was that after all these years, she seemed happy to see me. I love my friends. Even when I don’t see them for 7 years.

She said she’d kept up with me on social media and wondered what was happening lately. I told her that I really wanted to find a new job, but wasn’t sure what that would look like.

What do you do?

I told her what I do, what I felt like I was good at and then I said, “I don’t know what it looks like, but I do know it has to be with a church or ministry.”

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. She knew of the perfect job for me.

Oh snap!

Is it too soon? Have I communicated to my family that they are number one? Have we learned a lesson from this? Are there still more to be learned (isn’t there always)?

I decided to send my resume. It couldn’t hurt.

The ensuing whirlwind – meeting with the Pastor, talking to an Elder, another meeting.

Multiple confirmations from my husband and kids – multiple prayers answered and some things that just only could have come from God.

The perfect job I described to God was right there on the table.

And I still feel like I’m dreaming, but it’s very real. Do I get to say, “I’m living the dream?” I am.

December 14 – exactly one month to the day that my last job came to an end – the Lead Pastor looked at me and said, “I’d like to move forward with this.”

Technically, I start in January.

There’s a lot I can’t – and don’t want to – share right now. This story belongs to my future employer. It’s their story to tell and I’ll give more details when they feel comfortable.

What I can share is that God hears our prayers and answers them in His perfect time. I can share that God orchestrates everything – that nothing is a coincidence. Every person I’ve seen and talked to over the past few weeks has been a part of what is right now. These are people I hadn’t expected to see – people I hadn’t expected God to put in my path. But He did, and I’m grateful.

I can share that problems should be tackled head on. It would have been easy to sweep things under the rug and hibernate. Instead I looked at my family and apologized to them for the blinders I’d had on and for how I’d put the church first. How could we move forward as a family? What did they need from me in order to feel like we had a healthy family again?

I read a blog post this week about someone being on a plane that had some issues prior to taking off. In the end, all they had to do was turn the plane off and back on to re-set the computer system. I think that’s what God did. Turn it off, now turn it back on. In only one month.

Hearing the Lead Pastor say he was comfortable moving forward… hearing his wife ask if I could start early and have it be volunteer work (um, yes!)… knowing that my husband and kids were ready for this (again)… and realizing it was one month to the day.

Yesterday I received one of the best early Christmas presents I could have asked for.

Oh, and I’ll still be working with Church Management Software. The blog will go on…

 

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8 Free Things Your Church Can Do To Serve Your Guests This Christmas.

8 free things for christmas

Most of the time, this blog is dedicated to how we use Church Management Software. I also know that the software is just a tool we use in the overall guest strategy process: getting our first time guests connected to our church and committed to our mission. So today we’ll look at the overall process of guest services.

I’ll admit it. I’m a big fan of some things people would call attractional. Have a hot cocoa bar or stock your coffee bar with some extra seasonal treats (peppermint mocha creamer).

Have a photo booth, have Santa (yes, in church!). You might want to stop short of a car give-away or hiring a helicopter to drop money from the sky. Unless, of course, you’ve earnestly prayed and God is calling you to do that. Then by all means, do it.

But for some churches, the budget for these things just isn’t there.

Here are 8 free things you can do to serve your guests this Christmas:

1. Check your web site and social media. This is the first step in your guest services process. People are checking you out online before they decide to visit your physical property. Is everything accurate? If a sign up or tickets are required for a special Christmas service, is there a way to respond online? Are your event images, event branding, and church branding visually consistent?

2. Have greeters stationed outside the door. Once I’m on the property, is it clear that I know where to go? I’m a big fan of parking teams, but if you don’t have a parking team, at minimum, have a door greeter or two stationed OUTSIDE the door. Yes, I know it’s cold. Gloves. Hat. Warm coat. A smiling face. Your first time guests are in their car and you may have multiple entrances. Make sure there is someone outside welcoming them.

3. Have your staff and volunteers park furthest away. I know of a church that meets in a shopping center/strip mall. They frequently ask their staff and volunteers to park in the back. Should your staff and volunteers park off-site and carpool or can you arrange a volunteer shuttle? Do whatever it takes to free up prime parking spaces for your guests this Christmas.

4. Declutter. We’re in a season of Nativity Sets and flowers. Great. How much of that is there because it’s necessary and how much is there because a prominent church member donated it and that’s where it’s always been? I have a friend who is a real estate agent and when someone is trying to sell their home, the first thing she tells them is to declutter. Get all of your stuff off your counter tops and shelves because people want a clean slate. They want to envision their stuff in your home. Do you have so much in your ‘home’ that people can’t imagine being a part of it? Give them open space to imagine themselves being there.

5. Clean. Unless you’re not in the habit of cleaning regularly, this will cost you. At minimum you need some cleaning cloths and a multi-purpose spray. I hope you already have this. Go in Saturday night and take out the trash, wipe down bathrooms, make sure there’s plenty of toilet paper and make sure it’s two-ply (yes, I went there). Are the soap dispensers full? Okay, so this may cost you a few dollars (be thankful for dollar stores). Run the vacuum, and check for stray pieces of trash in the worship center. You get the idea. Tidy up.

6. Communicate and explain. Your church may take communion differently than the one I normally attend. That’s okay, but do I know that? For example, I know one church that passes the communion plates and each family prays together as a family and takes communion in their own time as music is softly playing. Another church passes the plates, waits until everyone is served, and their Pastor leads them in taking communion together, and yet another church has communion stations. It is not served, you go take communion as you’re led. None of those are ‘bad’ ways to take communion. Each is very different. But would you know what to do if you weren’t told?

Explain what you’re doing every step of the way. Believer or non-believer, if I don’t go to your church, I don’t know your traditions. In addition to this, tell people a little bit about your church and how they can get involved going into 2018. Tell them about small groups, children’s ministry, your next big event, etc.

Don’t neglect internal communication.

If your children’s ministry is doing something different than normal, make sure you tell your greeter ministry so they can be prepared to answer questions as guests arrive.

7. Say goodbye. Have a greeter stationed at every outside exit. Tell your guests goodbye and thank them for coming. I  don’t just mean from the worship center to the lobby. Say goodbye as they exit the building. “Bye. Thank you for coming. Have a Merry Christmas.”

8. Follow up right way. Yes, I get it. It’s Christmas Eve (Sunday) or Christmas Day (Monday), but I guarantee you there is someone willing to make the sacrifice. Get those guests entered into your database (Church Management Software was going to play a part in this post somewhere) and follow your normal follow up procedures. If your follow up procedures include a Monday phone call, that could wait until Tuesday. For 2017, I would get them entered Sunday night and send an email that night thanking them for coming, telling them what’s next and how to get connected. Whatever you do, don’t wait a week. It’s normal for churches to take a week off between Christmas and New Years. As a connections person, I had a tendency to work or serve when it was normal for others to be off. I want to get those guests connected and if coming to church more is part of their New Year’s Resolution, I want to help them with that.

All of these things are 100% free. What else can you think of to add to this list?

Full Steam Ahead

train steam

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how some of my actions (and words) had been communicating to my kids (and husband) that the church and my work and service for her was more important than they were.

Understand that when you work for a church or ministry, there will always be some unpaid hours that have to be viewed as service. No one goes into church or ministry work to get rich. The Church is the Bride of Christ and we have to serve her selflessly. And, for some leaders, it’s really hard to ‘turn it off.’ For me, my mind is always drifting back to communications and connections. Always.

But my kids felt that. And they weren’t always happy about it.

So I’ve been intentionally investing in them and it’s been awesome. But there’s been that small voice in the back of my head.

How do I stay connected to my peers? How do I stay up-to-date on current trends and technology? What happens when we decide it’s time for mom to go back to work?

And – let’s be honest – even though there’s no “get rich quick scheme” in ministry, there’s college, insurance, and other bills. Another regular income would be great.

I reached out to a few close connections and was able to pick up a few clients that would allow me to work from home on web sites and social media.  They aren’t high paying clients, but they are people I want to help and it will help add to my resume. Even when I get a new job, these are clients I’ll be able to maintain on the side.

I had friends give me advice. Conflicting advice.

Wait 3-6 months, find a large church, and blend in with the crowd.

Get plugged in right away, serving during the time you’re not working can be like therapy.

I love my friends. They don’t always agree with one another.

Last weekend, starting with Sunday’s sermon, God worked in some incredible ways. From places we went, people we talked to, and a host of other things. The perfect job came across my way. If I had sat down and written out everything I was looking for in a job and employer, this would be it.

This week I’ve had to talk to the kids and ask: is it too soon for me to go back to work? Have we learned what God is trying to teach us? Basically, “are y’all good with this?”

Confirmation came from Alan. He’s on board with this. The kids are all okay with it, too.

Full steam ahead. We hope.

Please pray with our family, that if this job is God’s will, the details will work out and everything will fall in to place. If it’s not God’s will, we will accept that move on, but so far, things are on track!

 

Guinea Pig / Test Family

guinea pig bibleThis morning our family visited a new church. This week, I had spoken with the Lead Pastor and one of their Elders and they both knew of my love for knowledge of neurotic obsession with CCB (Church Community Builder) software.

Their web site and social media gave us enough information to know where we needed to go and a general idea of what to expect when we got there.

Their greeting team did a great job of telling us the important information: where to take our kids, where the bathrooms were, where to get coffee. We were walked to (not pointed to) the children’s check-in area.

It was there that this magic happened. The Elder serving at the children’s check-in desk was helping to explain to someone a new thing they were trying with CCB check-in and said, “she [pointing to me] wouldn’t mind being  our guinea pig and testing this for us.”

Wouldn’t mind!? That’s a bit of an understatement. Does this guy know who I am and what I love? Jesus. Family. Coffee. Church Management Software. I try to keep it in that order. I’m not always good at it.

“Wouldn’t mind.” Make that: “happy to…” “I’d be mad if you didn’t ask me…” “I’ll report for work on Monday morning. Where’s my office?”

Okay, I didn’t say that. I thought it. I didn’t say it out loud.

I did tell him I’d blog about it. So here it is.

Their childen’s team did great and when I pointed out that it may be taking too long to check in a new, first-time guest and made a suggestion about about what I’d seen and helped with at other churches, they listened. I don’t know if they’ll do what I suggested. But they showed an interest in what I said. (They may be blogging about the crazy first-time guest who tried to tell them how run their church.)

The Children’s Pastor took us from there to where we’d leave our youngest son. (Again he didn’t point; he walked us to our destination.) Our middle-school daughter had the option of staying with us or participating in a Bible study. This morning, she chose to stay with us. He asked me how I came to love church management software. I told him that while serving as Next Steps Director at another church, I saw it’s power and ability in helping us get guests connected and retaining them long-term. He said he’d only really been using it for about a year. (It’s okay, I’m here to help. I’ll report for work Monday morning. Where’s my office?)

Side note: I’ve been known to tell churches that they didn’t even have to pay me. That I believed so much in this software helping them, I’d help them implement it for free. With two kids in college and rising insurance rates, my husband has suggested that I rescind that offer.

We saw a few friends. One we saw just last week. Another we hadn’t seen in 19 years. It was great to see them both.

After service, we got to chat with the Pastor and his wife. The Pastor asked us to send an email with our feedback. I’d send an email if I had anything critical to say. Because I have nothing critical to say, I’ll post publicly on my blog.

This morning was fantastic. I have no doubt, we will be back.

And any time you need a guinea pig to test a CCB feature, please use our family. We are happy to help.

 

Volunteers Needed and Wanted

The good thing about not having a job is that I am able to spend more time with (intentionally invest in) my kids. I’ve been able to pick up my son from carpool in the afternoons. I’ve been able to get to know my neighbors a little better. I’ve been able to meet some new friends. I’ve been able to reconnect with people from our old homeschool group. I’ve been able to organize a little bit around the house. And did I mention grocery shopping while everyone else is at work.

The bad thing is that when your job is (was) at a church, you’ve also ‘lost’ your church family.

So, we’ve been visiting a church and learning a little bit about how (and when) we get further connected.

One of my favorite books is this book. by Jonathan Malm. This book is a quick, easy, read. I’d recommend getting a copy for everyone on your guest services team. One of my favorite (or least favorite) is Chapter 45: Unwanted Volunteer. Jonathan describes a time when he and his wife were looking for a new church, found a church they liked, and were eager to volunteer. They signed up to volunteer and never heard back from anyone. They felt unneeded and unwanted.

He goes on to talk about the need for systems and processes to get people connected. He even points out the need for us to make sure we are responding to questions from unexpected places like social media.

“A church that responds quickly to people is a church that loves people.” (p. 146)

Put your church management software to work to help you love people.

If your software allows, have some custom fields that reflect your church’s ‘language.’ For example, you might have a category of “Interested In Serving” with several options for where someone is interested in serving.

Connect cards are your friends. I’m in favor of connect cards being filled out every week. If your church doesn’t have weekly connect cards, have some sort of way for people to respond. Even if you have a sign up kiosk somewhere else. In some ways, a computer or ipad kiosk may be more helpful for you than connect cards. You’ll see why in a minute.

Data entry should happen Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. This means you’ll be taking all of the data from your connect cards or exported from your sign up kiosk and filling in data fields in your church management software. In some software, you can set up a form to auto-fill the profile data fields. If your software offers that and you have a computer kiosk, your data entry job just got that much easier (or non-existent). You may still want to double-check kiosk form entries against profile fields, but it’ll be a whole lost easier than data entry. Exporting form entries to update fields are easier than connect cards because you’re not deciphering handwriting.

Regular custom reports should be run immediately after data entry. If you know data entry will be done on Sunday afternoon, make sure custom reports are set to run and be sent to ministry team leaders on Monday morning.

You should also use the notes field of your software for any follow up notes (make sure your ministry team leaders have appropriate access).

Your church management software can make sure no leaves your church feeling unneeded or unwanted.