Discomfort

man on crutches

Yesterday I was talking with a friend. Her church had recently implemented a First Time Guest tent – outside the building. At their church, it’s a place where first time guests go, receive a gift, and meet someone who can answer questions and take them to another destination – the worship center, children’s check-in, etc.

They moved their Next Steps desk inside the building to a corner that’s quiet – which lends itself to easier conversation.

The changes they made are nothing new. Many churches across the country have similar designs.

However, her executive team gave her an argument, “we want our volunteers to be comfortable.”

I gave her a counter argument: was Jesus comfortable when he was hanging on a cross?

What we really want to do is equip our volunteers to do the job they’ve been called to do.

So, let’s take a step back and look at volunteer recruitment and WHY we volunteer.

I love our church. I’m grateful to be where I am. Most aspects of my job I get paid to do. There are other things I willingly do as a volunteer. Among my counterparts at other churches, this is common.

I volunteer in these areas out of obedience to God. I don’t do it out of guilt, or to fill a void. I do it because God has called me to do it. God has never promised His calling will be easy. He did promise it would be worth it.

If I were to volunteer in any other area, that area would suffer. (Ask me sometime about my brief stint in pre-school and children’s ministry.)

As part of serving God, there have been sacrifices and discomfort. I’ve sacrificed financially, I’ve sacrificed time with my family, I’ve been cold, hot, hungry, wet, and uncaffeinated.

But I’ve never been hanging on a cross.

 

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Define Passion

Worship Jesus

Last night I got to watch my son play guitar in a band that was leading worship for about 1,000 people – mostly teenagers.

But what struck me the most wasn’t his talent. And it wasn’t the deafening roar of the crowd responding to the band. It also was not the fact that teenage girls were asking for his autograph.

What struck me the most were the times he pulled back. The times when he stepped up to the mic, sang a few words of a line, and backed up as the lead singers continued. The times he took his hands off his guitar and raised them in worship.

My son’s been playing guitar for about 7 years. He started playing in his church’s worship band around 5 years ago. Recently he’s assumed the role of Worship Leader for the youth group.

Just after high school, someone asked him what he wanted to do. He said he wants to be a worship leader. Someone said, “you already are a worship leader. You just want to get paid for it; have it be your job.”

This summer he’s part of the band leading worship at a beach camp operated by our state’s Baptist convention. The Baptist convention also organizes the band, and the drama teams. Over the years, I have heard people say they don’t like “denominational politics.” I am not even sure I have enough knowledge of the subject of denominational politics to form an opinion. But what I saw this weekend – all operated by our state’s denomination – was well-organized and pointed to Jesus.

My son loves to play (with) his guitar. He’s loved music since he was a baby and from the first time he had a guitar in his hands, he couldn’t keep his hands off of it. When he wasn’t learning how to play, he was fiddling with the strings or just tapping it.

Over the years, we’ve heard noise from that guitar at inappropriate times.

“Be quiet. We’re trying to sleep.” Guitar.

The Pastor is praying. Guitar.

The Pastor is preaching. Guitar.

The sound booth asks all musicians to be silent while they check the mic of a singer. Guitar.

The worship leader actually asked him to stop once. I don’t think he did.

He strummed unconsciously. And even strummed air guitar when his guitar wasn’t in his hands.

So last night, I saw him consciously and deliberately pull back and worship. And I saw growth. I saw a teachable spirit. And I saw someone willing to give up – even for a brief moment – what he loves – for Jesus.

And later that evening, one of the people serving with him said, “I love serving with your son. Matt has defined passion for me.”

Defined passion.

What does this have to do about progress? And processes?

Tomorrow morning people will walk into your church for the first time. Some will have preconceived notions of what church is – organized religion, denominational politics.

What will you do to show them that you’re different?

How will you teach them? How will you tell your story? And His story?

How will you move them from the “I want,” to the “you are?”

What will you give up – even for a brief second –  to help someone see  Jesus?

Define passion.

Ministry and Money

dollar sign notebook

Ministry and money. Talking about the two together in the same conversation sort of freaks people out. For me, it’s like someone talking about snakes. Never okay. Writing about ministry and money can be difficult. But, this time – for me – it’s not.

Because I have a story to tell and, well, as you’ll soon see – it all points to God. And He wants us to tell people about Him.

Please don’t take what I’m about to write as some “prosperity Gospel.” It’s not. It is about choices, commitment, and obedience. Yes, at the end of this story, I received a blessing, but it was long-awaited and I’m summarizing in a short post, a story that could take hours to tell.

A few years ago, I found that sweet spot where ability, affinity, and affirmation all meet. I love guest services, and more specifically, seeing people take their next steps and get connected to the church. The time between first-time-guest to membership class (at our church we call it Partnership Class – you may call it something different at your church) is my absolute favorite! Assimilation is one of my favorite words. Following up with our guests when they “check the box on the card” will drive me to commit hours as service almost equal to the number of hours for which I get paid.

My son and I go to Guatemala on missions trips. They cost money. In Guatemala, I serve with our medical/dental team. Medical and dental supplies cost money. My kids like to go to church camps and retreats. Those cost money.

So when I told our Pastor I’d like to take the hospitality at some of our connections events to the next level, I also told him I’d commit some of our own personal funds to make that happen.

Why? Because I’m passionate about the ministry – I’m committed to do whatever it takes. And I know this is the ministry to which God has called me. Even when I’m tired, I’m committed to it – out of obedience to Him. When I know a Partnership Class is coming up, I budget for small things – bottled water, k-cups, chocolate, mints.

So a few weeks ago, at the grocery store, I was buying our family’s groceries and a few extra things for a church event and I maxed out my weekly budget. (I actually went $4 over budget, so if you know my husband, don’t tell him. Oh wait, he might be reading.)

Anyhow, after leaving the grocery store, I realized I had to pick up prescriptions. Funny thing – a stroke leads to several new medical expenses. We don’t have the best insurance. For some reason we have both high premiums and high deductibles. That doesn’t lend itself to a lot of margin in our budget.

So pulling into the pharmacy, I had a dreaded realization: I may need to use the credit card.

The cashier said to me, “it looks like you’ve met  your deductible. Your prescriptions won’t cost you today.”

Yes. I walked out of the pharmacy holding what should have been $250 in prescription medication without paying a dime.

If I told you these things happened all the time, I’d be lying. They don’t. Over the years, we’ve made a lot of sacrifices for ministry-related items and church-related expenses. It’s taken a lot of faith, trust, and sacrifice.

But that day God gave our family an unexpected blessing.

Take your next step. Give. Serve. It may not be easy. Do it anyway. God’s already given you the ultimate gift of his son, Jesus. We couldn’t ask for anything more. But maybe – just maybe – you’ll have a cashier say to you, “this won’t cost you today.”

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.

 

 

Five Things I’ve Learned This Year About Assimilation

school hallway door

We are a homeschooling family. And yes, I work outside the home. I have regular office hours and I volunteer. And we’ve made it work thanks to family, friends, and an awesome computer-based curriculum that allows my children to do ‘school’ from almost anywhere.

We have four kids. That’s four distinctly different personalities and four different sets of needs. So last year, we decided that one of our children may fare better in public school.

He was entering 5th grade – in our county that’s the last year of elementary school. Which means there was a high likelihood that the rest of the kids (and parents) had been together already for 5 years (K-4th).

Our family had some new things to learn and I learned a few things about assimilation.

1. Tell people what to expect.

On orientation day, I had no idea where to park, which door to enter, and where to go once I was in the building. It wasn’t too hard to figure out, but knowing in advance would have eased some anxiety. Our church publishes a social media post every Saturday morning telling people what to expect on campus.

2. Assume people don’t know.

When we walked in on orientation day, we checked in and then were told that my son’s teacher was in the gym. So I had to ask, “where is the gym?” At church, assume people don’t know. Try not to use acronyms or insider language.

3. Get your internal processes in order.

I visited the cafeteria on orientation day. I asked how to set up a lunch account and was directed to a web site. “Do I need any information once I log on?” “No. It’s very self-explanatory.” Once I logged on, the first piece of information it asked for was his student ID number. I didn’t have a student ID number. When I called the school to ask about it, they said new student ID numbers would go out “within a few weeks.” Take a look at your processes – do an audit to find any changes that need to be made.

4. Connect people to people.

It can be very uncomfortable to walk into a new place – not knowing anyone – especially when you realize that everyone else has known each other for years. What I wouldn’t have done for someone to “hold our hands” those first few weeks. Consider the benefits of someone acting as Next Steps Director (chief hand-holder) at your church.

5. Make information accessible and over-communicate.

This is something the school did quite well. Every Sunday afternoon we received a phone call and text letting us know what to expect in the week ahead. Our Son’s teacher sent texts often. There were a few rare instances where we didn’t have the information we needed, but a majority of the time, our son’s teacher communicated well. In our churches, regular communication is important. Do a communications audit – your bulletin, announcement slides, web site, social media, and any other assets. Are they regularly updated? Are you communicating clearly?

Our son graduated last week. He’s moving on to middle school. I’m grateful for our time at that school and for the lessons we all learned.

Let’s Reconnect

busy blurry shopping mall

It’s been awhile since I last blogged. I’ve been busy. Like this picture, life’s been full and a bit blurry.

I’ve worked for an accountant during tax season. I’ve worked for an orthodontist on a school holiday. But I’ve never been as busy as I am now – working for a large church and trying to be a relatively decent wife and mother.

And – let’s face it – what I do with church management software isn’t that interesting to most people. I could blog about it every day. Most people probably wouldn’t read it that often.

So, grab some coffee and let’s catch up.

First: the CCB People Reimagined update. Do you love it or hate it? I love it. I’m learning a few new things about it every day. The rest of the staff was divided at first. I think I’ve helped tip the scales, but the first day one of my co-workers sent me a text that said, “What happened to CCB?”

We’re using some new technology  – some that integrates with CCB. We were looking for a texting option (ie, someone could text a keyword to a number and we would have the option of setting up an automated response). We went with a company that we could link to CCB. Because of that integration, we now have the option of connecting all of that to a process queue.

I’m finally at a stage where all form responses are linked to events and also feeding process queues. It means a little extra work for anyone (um… me) setting up forms and events, but the end result will be more accurate report data.

And we’ve got almost all of our volunteer positions updated – including gifts, talents, passions, ability, personality style, etc.

Of course, there’s technology we use that is outside of the church management software.

We’ve installed a chat feature on our web site. It’s not connected to our church management software, but it is all a part of ‘communications’ and ‘assimilation.’ Two of my favorite words.

And I introduced our staff to Church Metrics. We can get most of our metrics data from CCB, but having a secondary platform will help us find any holes in the first platform.

Our Lead Pastor has allowed me to design a few new pieces of literature – all aimed at getting people connected – and further connected. He also didn’t fire me when I used the word ‘poop’ in a social media post.

I think we’re caught up for now. Comment and let me know how you feel about the CCB changes.

 

 

Serving Others

lift moving box

99.99 (999999999)% of my job is serving others. I’m either helping our Pastoral staff and ministry team leaders run statistical reports – attendance, assimilation, etc. – or preparing items for our guest services team to use on Sunday.

During times that we don’t have a front desk volunteer, I get to greet guests and answer incoming phone calls in the office.

And I get to assist our Lead Pastor and his wife with some of our special events (things like dinners with church partners and Partnership classes).

I like serving others. And I don’t mind that my boss has never put me on stage – or screen (have I ever mentioned how smart he is?).

We even have a database field for ‘how they heard about our church’ and one of the things I get to do using our forms feature is track how people first got connected to our church.

I’ve found that many people get connected through service. Either people from our church have reached outside the walls of our church to serve someone and that person decides to come on a Sunday see what we’re all about. Or someone has a gift, skill or talent and they want to donate their time to one of our service projects (this happens sometimes even if they don’t already attend our church). During the time of serving, they get to know us and decide to come on a Sunday and see what we’re all about.

See how serving can work in so many ways to help lead people to find and follow Jesus?

I get to see that through data entry and attendance reports.

But there’s nothing like coming out of the office, out from behind the computer screen, and serving people.

I get to do it by serving with our Guest Services team each Sunday. I serve at the check-in desk, welcoming new families to our Children’s Ministry, and I serve at our What’s Next Desk – helping people take their next steps at our church.

Serving on Sunday mornings wasn’t part of my original job interview, and I doubt our Pastor would fire me if I told him I just needed a break on Sunday mornings. Serving on Sundays is something I GET to do and I look forward to doing it.

But now that you’ve read how I feel about serving, I want you to read what our Pastor says about serving. I know I’ve already referred to him as smart. He’s also a very gifted writer. Read about serving others and what our church is doing here: www.claytoncrossings.com/dayofservice. (While you’re at it, pour some coffee and take time to read his other blog posts. They’re pretty darn good!)

How do you serve your church?

Podcast Topic: Assimilation

laptop mac coffee desk work computer

Last week I recorded a Podcast. I’ll post the link and the relevant information when it airs.

The topic was: assimilation (I’m sure you’re surprised) and using church management software as a tool to see how people are connected.

Here’s a brief recap:

1. You have options. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. Your first time guest my get a hand-written note card, an email, or a formal ‘business’ letter on church letterhead. They may meet the Pastor on the first visit, during a membership class – or never. The Pastor may hold a guest reception in a dedicated room. Or just simply be visible and available in the lobby – or in the parking lot (yes, I’ve seen that).

2. You need data. If you’re just starting to put a formal plan into place, this could mean a few things. Either talk to other churches of similar size and structure and ask them to share their data or be willing to change your course after a few months. Start with one plan and if you find that your numbers aren’t hitting your goals, be willing to change.

3. You can’t control everything. I love the connect cards that give people the option to join a team. I enter that information into the church management software. From there, I will ask each ministry team leader to contact those people and enter information from their own follow up into the church management software. In that process, there is a piece I cannot control: the actual follow up by the ministry team leader. Once it’s been assigned to a ministry leader, they own their ‘how.’ Some ministry leaders may prefer email, some text, some a personal phone call. That’s up to them. The only time they’ll hear from me is if their process isn’t documented in profile notes each week.

4. You’re setting up an expectation. If your first time guests meet the Lead Pastor and get an email from the Pastor’s email address, they will assume they always have access to the Lead Pastor. Most Lead Pastors that I know want to know their people and don’t mind this. However, as the church grows, you could have thousands of people assuming they have immediate access to the Lead Pastor. As the church grows, check-in with your Lead Pastor and see if current processes are causing stress on him or his family. If they are causing stress, it’s time for a change.

5. Be flexible. It’s about people. You may have a solid plan that includes a first time guest email. And then on day a person walks in who is ‘off the grid.’ No email. No smartphone. No social media. Make a note in that person’s profile so that you know. Keep a log somewhere. Instead of an email, this person gets a hand-written note card.

What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go and search for the stray? – Matthew 18:12

At the end of the day, remember this is not your call. Set up a time to review current processes with your Lead Pastor and make sure you present him with options and data so that he can make an informed decision. Then communicate and execute his decisions. Don’t second-guess his decisions, even if you disagree. I heard a speaker once say, “it’s not true submission until there’s a disagreement.”

Remember our instruction in Hebrews 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

 

Bonus Content:

From Sunday to Monday. It’s Sunday at noon at most of the key volunteers have gone home.

Now it’s up to church staff on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning to filter through connect cards and notes.

If you’re a Sunday volunteer, check in with your church staff to see if any of the Sunday morning procedures are causing any stress or confusion on Monday morning.

(For myself and my counterparts at other churches, it is very common to work late nights, weekends, and often unpaid ‘overtime’ hours. It is common to miss corporate worship in order to serve. Rarely, do we complain about this, as we understand our roles in ministry.)

If you’re on church staff and you realize that some Sunday procedures could be re-structured to reduce stress or confusion on Monday morning, communicate that to your volunteers. Be as transparent as possible with office procedures and let them know that their small changes on Sundays can help lead to a more organized and productive office during the week.

I’ll be recording some additional podcasts, as well as some content in April.

I’ll post links as soon as they’re available.

Get To

laptop desk pen notebook coffee

I’ve heard the term, “it’s not just another Sunday.” If you serve in guest services, you know what I’m talking about. It’s somebody’s first Sunday. It’s somebody’s first time walking into the doors of the church. Your church.
 
We don’t have to go to church on Sunday. We get to go to church on Sunday. Get to.
 
If you get the insanely awesome privilege of working at the church during the week, that statement can apply to any day. It’s not just another Monday. It’s not just another Tuesday. It’s not just another Wednesday.
The first visit extends beyond the “goodbye.” It extends into the week. It extends into those Monday morning meetings. It extends into the follow up with guests. It extends into updating the database profile. A person moves from ‘visitor’ or ‘guest’ to ‘member.’ The ‘baptism date’ now has data where once there was a blank field. And you get to see that.
You’ve got field-level tickets.
 
Tim Keller wrote: our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others.
 
Today we get to serve people.
Get to.