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?

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.

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.

Class Attendance

classroom lecture college class student

Imagine that you’re trying to see how many adults you have present in small groups each week.

Imagine that you’re trying to see how many children you had on campus one Sunday and in which rooms.

Now imagine that data is stored in multiple places, accessible by different people.

Group leader, do you have your attendance?

Oh yes, I keep a detailed spreadsheet on my computer at home.

No, I never take attendance, but I remember who was there.

Yes here it is (scrawled on a napkin, complete with coffee stains, pulled from the bottom of a purse).

Now imagine that you can log onto your church management software and get that information within a few minutes. Maybe seconds.

And yet, I hear from churches every day that one of their top issues is: we don’t know where people are. I talk to other database administrators who say that they know a total number of ‘butts in seats’ on Sunday, but have no real attendance on individual people. They don’t know who is connected – or where.

As a process person, who is constantly reminded that we need to think about “people over process,” I want to share with you why attendance is much more than “part of the process.”

I’ll make a bold statement: I don’t believe that anyone either accepted or denied Jesus based on whether the church had accurate attendance records.

That’s a bold statement coming from a process person and one that hurts me to admit. Even with that being said, I absolutely believe that taking attendance is important.

I’m not going to over-spiritualize this. This is not a theological discussion. I leave those to people who are much more qualified.

But there are some basic reasons why attendance – accuracy and accessibility – is important.

We’re called to be good stewards of the resources God has given us.

That means physical resources. Church leaders need to know who is present, and which rooms. If one class is outgrowing their room and another class consistently has low attendance, it might be time to move some people.

It also means financial resources. A particular class may need more curriculum materials. Knowing actual attendance figures will help leaders to know how much that class needs.

Often, these decisions need to be made quickly. Having all attendance figures quickly accessible in one place, helps save time when making important decisions regarding resources.

Church leaders care about people.

I hope – that like our family – you’re blessed with a Pastor who gives a fantastic message each week. There is more to church than the Sunday sermon. There’s these things: fellowship, service, spiritual growth.

Those things happen best in the context of small groups or ministry teams.

Most Pastors I talk to do care about these things. Yet, taking individual attendance on a Sunday church service can be a daunting – or impossible – task as a church grows.

Knowing that people are connected in a small group, is important to most Pastors.

The next time your small group leader takes attendance, remember this is a not the church trying to be “big brother.”

If you’re a small group leader, the next time you’re asked to submit attendance through the church management software, this is not the powers that be trying to make your life more difficult.

Think of the software as a central communications tool. It’s a tool that will empower church leaders to make important decisions based on accurate information, accessible to them when they need it, and will help them better care for everyone in the church.

Past or Future

data charts graphs

This week I wondered out loud: at what point are we willing to sacrifice past data in order to get a database healthy and moving forward?

Our church isn’t there. We’re not at that point.

But I know other database administrators who are at that point or have gotten to that point in the past. I also know that there will be database administrators who get to that point in the future. I may be one of them one day.

So I’ve put together a preparedness plan. I hope you never need this. I hope I never need this.

Here are five things to check before restructuring your database:

1. Do you need a new database? Sometimes we don’t know how to to use our current database and ‘no one wants to learn.’ If “everyone hates it,” is it just time to go with a new one? There is no single database that will meet the needs of every church. Determine your church’s needs, then use a database that will meet those needs now and as the church grows.

2. What time of year is it? I had a Pastor once set an Easter deadline for getting the database healthy. If you’re using your database for financial entry, it might ease the minds of your congregation to make major changes at the end/beginning of a calendar year (for tax accounting reasons).

3. Are there any other organizational changes happening? Anytime your church leadership introduces major church-wide changes, you will have a better chance of your congregation ‘buying into’ a change in the database.

4. DO NOT DO IT ALONE. This is not a uni-lateral decision. You may be at a point where people are saying they hate the database and don’t care what you do. If your church has more than three people, someone does care. Find that person or those people and think through the changes you’re about to make. Remember that each piece of the database has the potential to effect another piece. Changing a group type or department may have an effect on the attendance groupings. Changing the attendance groupings will have an effect on check-in. Talk to the people who are most likely to be impacted.

5. Export and save. Even if you think you have ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ data, you still have data. Do some exports and back-ups before deleting. You may need it one day.

Of course, before doing any of this you should pray. Ask God for direction in all your decisions.

I’d also suggest being as open as you can with your congregation. If you’ve been a ‘cheerleader’ for the software and now (suddenly) they see you doing a major restructuring or even moving to another software, they will question you, your commitment, and your decisions. Trust is earned. Be honest and open about the ‘why.’

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?

When Process Stops So Progress Can Happen

A lot has happened in the last few weeks. First and foremost, I am no longer employed at Fairview Baptist Church. I’ll be seeking future employment. But in the interim, I am treasuring some time with my family and investing in them. I had put them on hold for a few years, serving a church in a high-capacity volunteer role (which took a lot of hours some weeks), then working as paid staff member.

I thought I was teaching my kids lessons on serving as Jesus served: selflessly and unconditionally. What I was really teaching them was that the church was more important than they were.

I still believe that serving the church is important. I still believe that even as paid staff, there are times when you will  have to work longer, unpaid hours, and in order to further God’s Kingdom, sacrifices will need to be made. In some ways, it’s good for our kids to see that.

But we have to find balance.

Balance is a tough word for me. Most leaders will struggle with balance because they cannot stop thinking about what drives them. (Read the blog post just before this one.)

I realized this week that some processes in some areas have to stop so that progress can be made in other areas.

I’ll be looking for a new job one day (hopefully with a church or ministry). I’ll even be doing some remote work from home on social media and web sites. Most of all, I’ll invest in my husband and kids.

I’ll be blogging about a different sort of process and progress. The process of loving your family, and the progress that makes at home.

Follow Up: Revisited

 

Back in January, I wrote a short post on event follow-up. I want to explore follow up (and next steps) a little more in depth.

Look at the images above. In the spiral staircase images, I’m not sure if I’m going up, going down, or they are rotors of fan blade that will chop off a limb if I try to get through them.

However, in the picture on the right, I am visually oriented. I know I’m at the bottom, and I see light at the top. I also can see the steps I need to take to get to that light.

First, let’s define an event. An event is anything you do. From every Sunday (each service), to a once-a-year large scale event.

Second, let’s define follow-up. Follow-up is any next-steps action item that  you take or that you’d like your guests to take.

Third, let’s define guests. That’s anyone in any way connected to your event who isn’t you. I often look at my team as guests. I’m there to serve them. And as a team, we’re there to serve everyone else.

What’s next?

At The Event – Make The Next Step Clear

My husband and I recently attended a very large dinner for a local charity. I’m not sure how many people were there, but I’m guessing around 500. Maybe more. During that dinner, it was very clear what actions they wanted us to take afterwards to support their charity. There were only a few next steps. Each was explained in depth. We had no questions, upon leaving, as to how to get further involved.

If you’re hosting a fall festival this year, then make sure you have promotional material available for other events happening at your church. Make their next steps very clear.

For follow-up, have some door prizes that people can register to win. Two key questions on any door prize entry form are:

1. Do you regularly attend church? (With check boxes for yes or no.)

2. If so, which church do you attend?

Put your church management software to work with these door prize entries. I’d set up a form for any door prize entries and enter them into your ChMS. Or go my favorite route and have people enter their information online. Have a few tablets or laptops available for door prize registration. Then use a plug-in or app to help randomly select winners. One thing that was really helpful was to see how people were connecting to our church. I set up a form for door prize entries and from that, I could see who came to our church as a first time guest.

Prior To The Event – Make The Next Step Easy

If you are promoting your event on-line, have a next step ON LINE. I’ve had the privilege of helping a national charity with a local golf tournament. One of the challenges we ran into was that I’d market it online, but the next step was “contact us and we’ll mail you a registration form” or “stop by _____________ (this location) and pick up a registration form.” We weren’t meeting people where they were. They were already online viewing information, but our exit rate off those pages was higher than I would have liked. Now, one of our church partners is allowing us to use their church management software for online registrations and payment. I’ll give you an update after it’s implemented.

For follow-up, Acknowledge everyone. If your event has financial sponsors, acknowledge them. You’re following up throughout the year and building relationships. On the golf tournament social media pages, often as possible, I acknowledge our sponsors leading up to the tournament, but I also mention them on our social media pages all throughout the year. There’s a local jeweler who donates a door prize each year. I’ll be mentioning their business on our social media page around the holidays (and at Valentine’s Day). There are several local churches who partner with us, allowing us use of their facilities, resources, even allowing their staff paid time off to help with the tournament. I’ll mention those churches as often as possible on our social media pages.

Even if you paid for a venue, acknowledge their hospitality. Did you rent a hotel ballroom for a charity dinner of 500? Write the venue a letter of thanks for hosting your event, even if you were a paying customer. If there any servers who went above and beyond the call of duty, mention them by name.

Our church once served at a downtown festival hosted by our local Chamber of Commerce. I’ll admit, it was a miserable day. It rained and it was cold and it wasn’t a good day for an outside, downtown, street festival. On the Monday after the event, I took flowers to the women who work at our local Chamber of Commerce and thanked them for giving our church the opportunity to serve the community. I also wrote note cards to the businesses who allowed us to run our power cords from their businesses to the street outside.

The next thing I knew, our church was getting mentioned on social media by the Chamber of Commerce. Did I do it for the mention? No. I did it because I wanted to intentionally form a relationship between our church and local community. We’re  here to make a difference. I wanted them to know that.

Keep your event participants updated on what you’re doing throughout the year, whether through social media or direct email marketing, let them know the results of what they did or contributed.

After The Event – Make It Fast

Timing is everything. Have you ever gotten a thank you note for a Christmas present…in July? Last year I was able to help a Youth Pastor with a large scale youth event. The event was on a Friday night and we had follow-up postcards in the mail on Monday. They were very simple: thanks for coming, here’s what coming up, here’s where you can view pictures of the event. The follow up was simple. It was also effective. We saw some new families connect to the church through that event.

During my time as a Next Steps Staff Director at a local church, I viewed every Sunday as an event. No, I’m not talking about gimmicky, marketing, ‘new-theme-every-Sunday’ type of event (although there are some churches who have done that, and if – after prayer, counsel, and discernment – you believe that’s what God has called you to do, then you should do it). I’m talking about the fact that every Sunday happens. We have a church service. I did not rest until every connect card had been read, every first time guest had been contacted (at the time I was writing hand-written notes to each first time guest), and every prayer request had been prayed for and sent to our Lead Pastor and Prayer Team Leader. The first time guest note cards were dropped at the post office on Sunday evenings. Every week. Timing is everything. Your guests took time out of their lives to visit you. Don’t take that lightly. As guests progressed through our system, the follow up strategy changed (week to week). I know of many churches who give their Pastoral and office staff Mondays off. When leading our Next Steps team, Sunday afternoons and Mondays were my busiest times. I don’t think they could have paid me to take time off.

I’d love to hear your follow up and next steps strategies. Tell me how your view follow ups and next steps.

 

 

Focus and Perspective

lego camera

In late 2016, Fairview started using Breeze ChMS. Breeze is easy to use and their customer service is outstanding.

In early 2017, we went with Ministry Designs for our web site. Easy to use. Great customer service.

We have a theme.

I decided I really wanted to use Breeze as a central “hub” for all church scheduling. I can list our rooms and other areas on campus, enter all event information, and display graphics. Plus I can give all Pastors, Deacons, Ministry Leaders, and Church Members access to view the calendar.

Unfortunately, my other idea to create a separate Breeze Calendar for events that would be displayed on the public calendar wasn’t so easy.

Embed codes weren’t doing what I anticipated and I couldn’t get Breeze and Ministry Designs integrated. I joked: Fairview Baptist Church, Breeze, and Ministry Designs were NOT forming a holy trinity.

Then a few weeks ago, we had integration success. I was able to directly integrate our Breeze calendar to display on our web site.

Success. Fireworks. National Holiday. Happiness.

I literally emailed our Pastors, IT Committee Chairman, and the guy who heads up the Greeters/Connections team at 10pm on a Friday night.

This was going to be great! Now, when I entered an event in the ChMS, and I published it to the public calendar, it would automatically display on the web site. No longer would I have to copy and paste information from the ChMS over to the web site and vice versa. No more chances for typos, different information on the two different sources. If the date and time was changed or updated, if the event description changed, if the location on campus changed…if anything was updated or changed in the ChMS, it automatically went to the web site.

It would also free up some time.

You see, it’s quite common in the ‘church communication world,’ to work long, often-unpaid, hours. A majority of my peers (and I) consider our jobs more of a ministry and less of a ‘job.’ We use the term ‘serve’ rather than ‘work.’ And most of us genuinely enjoy what we do. Because we know we’re serving someone greater (Jesus Christ). Our bosses are usually Pastors – sometimes our own Pastors if we’re blessed enough to also attend the church where we work serve (who sometimes list Jesus Christ as the ‘contact person’ or ‘event coordinator’ on our communications request forms). You can laugh at that, but it’s true. The web site, social media, and ChMS are just tools we use in getting to play our small part in connecting people to a church family and to Jesus Christ.

And while I certainly don’t mind putting in an extra 10-20 hours a week in ‘service hours,’ there are weeks that it’s just not practical. I do love what I do. In many respects, it’s my hobby. Some people like knitting or horseback riding. I like working with the church management software and the web site. But sometimes, other things (and people) need my attention. I have a husband. I have four kids. I have friends. I’d like to keep all of them around for awhile and not become the crazy cat lady (except instead of cats, it would be fonts).

Plus, it can lead to burn out.  Just Google ‘church Pastor burn out.’ You’ll find a lot of articles on not just Pastors, but church staff and volunteers who leave their churches often because of burn out. Nobody wants that. I like my job. I like my church. Since I know what can cause burnout, I’d like to avoid that.

So there it is. This awesome integration that is going to increase accuracy in information, possibly reduce errors, and increase productivity. This is good for the church. This is what’s best.

This sounds like I just won the Church Communications Lottery.

But wait. Take a step back. What else happens?

We’re going to  have to retrain group leaders how to take attendance. We’re going to have to take a fresh look at the events page on our web site and how that’s displayed. We’re going to have to look at how small groups are listed (right now it’s publicly displayed as one single ‘Life Groups’ time on Sunday mornings; this would force us to take a look at listing each group separately/individually). [For the record, I’m a fan of listing each group separately.] But this changes what group leaders see when they log in (display). This changes ease-of-use and aesthetics.

So, I decided to pull the plug and keep doing what I’ve been doing.

Wait! What!? Why!? Why pull the plug on the possibly the best software update and integration to date?

A few reasons. I’ve already addressed. It changes ease-of-use and aesthetics. It requires (re) training people who aren’t entirely comfortable with what we have. We’ve had the software less than a year. Not everyone is using it. Not everyone is trained. Those that are, are just now comfortable with it. A few are just now understanding why we use it. It’s too soon to pull the rug out from under them and replace it with a new rug.

Next: why should they trust me? Everything I do is guided by my relationship with Christ. Every decision starts with prayer. I have a few very trusted peers at other churches who work with their ChMS and web sites. I have to use wisdom an discernment and at the end of the day, I believe that the Church is the Bride of Christ and we have to play a part of presenting her blameless and spotless. Unblemished. But – do the church members know that? Do they trust that? I’ve worked there just over a year. Have I earned enough trust to make a change?

I love software updates. I understand why software companies make them and I understand how they (usually) benefit their clients (the churches). But do the church members I serve know that? Have I successfully communicated that to them?

And while organization, administration, accuracy, streamlined productivity, and reduced possibility of burnout is important, there is something more important.

And that is earning trust, setting examples in leadership, and truly loving and caring about the people we get the privilege to serve.

My prayer for all of my church communications peers is that we can know when to look past the processes and procedures and focus on the hearts of the people and recognize our jobs as ministries.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

desk computer phone smartphone coffeeThis week I had a video chat with some people of Breeze. They asked me what my favorite part of the software is? I went with what we use the most: sorting and emailing.

But the more I think about it, those might not be my favorite things. Here’s a few things I really like. Not just with Breeze, but also with CCB, and any church management software.

Profile fields that offer ways to help people connect.

Most people profiles are going to contain very basic information: name, address, phone number(s), email. But I love it when we go deeper with custom fields: gifts, talents, abilities, interests. By running regular search reports on those fields, we can help people connect to areas of service – and to other people. Most software companies offer ways to customize your profile fields. Take advantage of those. Then regularly run those reports and make sure people are getting connected.

Forms.

I’m about to do a whole blog post on why forms are important, but here’s a few key points:

Ensures everyone gets the same information.

Helps with pre-planning and organization

No more “lost” emails. Saved digital record of form submission.

Follow-Ups and Process Queues.

Whatever your software calls them, I love them. When a first time guest is entered into the system, a follow up is assigned to a pastoral staff member (the youth pastor for any new students in the youth group; our senior pastor for any new families). Once that follow up is complete, the Pastor can add notes, and check the ‘complete’ box. Then we run regular reports on completed follow-ups, in conjunction with event attendance reports to see how people where people are connecting.

What are your favorite things?