Rewind: A Recap

repeat remote rewind

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to lead Digital Bootcamp for my friend, Tom Pounder. Tom decided to have me revisit an article I wrote over a year ago for another friend of ours, Kenny Jahng.

I talked about using all of our digital assets to get people connected to, and assimilated into, the life of our church . But not just to church – we’re getting them connected to Jesus.

Here’s a recap:

Make sure your digital first impressions match what people will experience at church. If your church is fun and high energy, reflect that on your social media and your web site. If your church is a little more traditional, reflect that. Make sure you listen to each sermon and let your Lead Pastor set the tone for what you’re doing.

Use all of your digital assets available. We recently launched a texting service that allows us to connect with guests from the moment they walk in the door. We launched an online community group, and we have live chat available on our web site.

Make sure your internal communications (ie, workflows) are in order so that what you share externally is accurate. For example, if you share on social media that it’s time to sign up for an event and share a link, make sure that link is live and active.

Equip your volunteers. You’ve worked hard all week to make sure your web site and response/RSVP forms are live and active. You’ve created social media posts to promote events. Make sure you give all of your volunteers the information they need to answer guests questions on-site on Sunday. Avoid the “I Don’t Know” factor.

And finally – remember it’s about people. And getting them connected to Jesus. Stay on top of trends and listen to your guests’ stories. A few months ago, a printing error resulted in the ’email’ line being omitted from our response cards one week. No one caught it until after service on Sunday and I was moderately stressed. But just last week, a guest brought me a card with the email line blank. When I asked her for her email she said, “I don’t check my email, can you text me?”

In this fast-paced world, we have to be willing to adapt accordingly.

Our Pastor preached an amazing sermon this morning about what our church will do reach people. One of the things he said was, “we will leverage everything within our reach to help people find and follow Jesus.”

“we will leverage everything within our reach to help people find and follow Jesus.”

I’m grateful for a church that embraces technology, change, and people.

 

 

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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.]

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

New

ocean close up sea water dawn sun

Have you ever seen dawn? I saw it this summer. My husband and I were on a cruise ship that was due to dock early one morning. We woke up and watched a new day break from our balcony. We were pulling into port just as the city was waking up.

It was amazing to see the start of something new.

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling like I needed a day off. I hadn’t slept well the night before. My throat hurt. My eyes hurt. My nose needed running shoes.

But I really wanted to go into the office. There was work to do and I love what I get to do.

I took some vitamin C and ibuprofen, drank hot tea, used some eye drops and got out the door.

The morning didn’t go as planned.

I created and posted the worst social media post ever.

I cancelled a lunch meeting because I knew I just couldn’t get through it.

And I discovered a potential problem in our database that had me comparing the database to a life-threatening illness.

Knowing my love for the database, the problem was probably not with the database, but with my attitude yesterday morning.

And then I decided tacos and guacamole were the answer to all of life’s problems (nevermind the fact that there are stacks of Bibles in my office telling me that Jesus is the answer) so I convinced my co-workers to put me in the back of a car and take me out.

As we were driving back from lunch, I received a text.

My boss firing me for the aforementioned social media post.

It was from a friend I hadn’t talked to in months.

She wrote: “Praying for you. Isaiah 43:18-19.”

I logged onto my Bible app and looked it up.

“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”

How did she know I needed that?

She didn’t.

God did.

And God made everything new (although I’m still convinced tacos and guacamole played a small part).

My boss did not fire me for the ‘worst social media post of the year.’

He actually invited me to be a part of a leadership meeting.

I came up with a step-by-step action plan for fixing the potential problem with the database.

By the end of the day, I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave. I joked to our Executive Pastor that I would bring a cot and live there. He unjokingly told me, ‘no.’

Problems will come up in our days. The database won’t work in a way we expected. Technology may fail. We may just be having one of those days.

Be grateful we serve a God who promises to never fail us.

Yesterday I was grateful for grace and forgiveness.

I was reminded yesterday that Godnot tacos and guacamole – does make all things new.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Manger scene

Christmas Eve and Christmas services have started. My daughter’s church had their service last night. Another local church had a ‘living nativity’ last night. My son will play with his church band three times tomorrow. There’s a church nearby that has services today (they are having a hot chocolate bar and a photo booth!). A few members of our family are attending a service tomorrow morning.

At this point, you’re probably expecting this post to be about follow up, connecting with your guests, updating your web site, and helping your guests take their next step.

I think you already know how I feel about all of that. If not, here’s a recap:

  • Follow up should be immediate. Get those connect cards entered in Sunday evening and send follow up emails right away. If your follow up plan includes phone calls, you could let those go on Christmas Day, but don’t wait a week.
  • Connect with your guests. Have greeters and info people visible and over-communicate every step of the way during your service.
  • Update your web site. Remember that your visitors may go home with questions or wonder what’s next. An updated web site will help them find some answers. (Don’t forget to update your social media, too!)
  • Help them take their next step. A lot of people make a New Year’s resolution to go back to church. You want to have staff and key leaders available to help them do that.

But what this post is really about is permission to not do all of these things.

That’s right. Permission to let it go.

What if you get 50 connect cards entered into your system on Christmas Eve night, but haven’t stopped to pray with one person?

What if you say hello to 100 people, but don’t stop to ask any of them how they are doing?

What if you update your web site and social media Christmas Eve night, but don’t consider who might be seeing those updates?

What if you have all of the next steps in place, but no one takes them?

Use wisdom and discernment this Christmas season and find balance between working as unto the Lord, and letting the Lord work in and through you.

Merry Christmas!

My Favorite Tools

writing-implements-1285329_960_720

This morning I was talking with a client about a strategy we’re going to use in promoting an upcoming conference. One of the things I told her was that I wasn’t just going to do everything, but that I was going to include her in the why and how of everything I was doing.

I don’t want to just DO – I want to leave her with the tools she’ll need if she ever needs or wants to do it herself. I want to give her all-access to all of my tools. I want to leave her and this ministry better than I found it. We’re working on a conference for 2018. If she needs me for 2019, I’m happy to help. But even better would be if she is empowered to not need me for the 2019 conference.

Some would say I’m working myself out of a job. Maybe. Our real job is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19).

So, other than the database (by far my favorite tool I use for church connections, assimilation, and organization), here are a few of my other favorite tools.

1. Mission Insite. Empower your faith-based or nonprofit organization with the tools to answer today’s most difficult strategic challenges. You may already have access to this. Check to see their current clients: http://missioninsite.com/our-clients.

2. Canva. Create graphics, apply for a free business plan and upload your brand colors, fonts, and create templates. I love Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, and the entire Adobe Suite. It’s not always practical. There are a lot of churches that only provide programs like Microsoft Publisher to their admin. staff. Canva is great for creating and also team collaboration.

3. Heatmap tools. Real time analytics for your web site. This will help you see where and how people are interacting with your web site.

4. Ministry Designs. WordPress is awesome, but not always easy for the staff of a small-to-medium sized church. Ministry Designs helps me empower my clients to work on their own web site. I told my client today, I am going to hold your hand through this initial process. Soon you’re going to be able to say, “I do web sites.”

5. YouVersion Events. (Any of Life.Church’s resources are great.) Upload your event, add information about your church, Bible verses, a sermon outline, weekly announcements, a link to an online connect card, etc.

6. Google Keep. With Google Keep, I can create daily to-do lists and share the with collaborators so that they can see what I’m working on and add, delete, or comment on items. You can create lists with check boxes or in ‘note’ form.

Other tools I will use are TechSoup, GSuite for e-mail, Google/MyBusiness for business analytics, MailChimp, Asana, and graphics from graphics.church, Church Butler, and SundaySocial.tv.

Now it’s your turn. What are some tools you love to use?

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…

 

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!