It’s not fine.

broken glass

“It’s fine.”

I say that often.

Most people around me have learned that by vocal inflection, that phrase can mean different things.

It really is fine.

It’s not fine, but we’ll deal with it [later].

It’s not that great, but good enough.

And I also remind people that God is working, even when we are not.

Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to have a fully functioning web site or award-winning social media. If a ministry doesn’t get promoted, God will still continue to work in and through that ministry.

But the Bible does instruct us to share His story, to tell others of His greatness, to do our work with excellence – as if working for Him, and to use the gifts, talents, and abilities He gave us to serve,  honor, glorify, and point others to Him. (That was one sentence, folks!)

So at the end of the day, even when it isn’t really fine, it is fine. Because we serve a God that is greater than anything that’s not fine.

But what about when it isn’t fine?

Last week, I edited a response form.

I realized after a few edits that it really needed to be archived and I needed to create a new form.

Because of my knowledge of   love for   neurotic obsession with our church management software, our web site, and other communication channels, creating a form is no small task.

What’s the header image?

What are the automations?

Is it connected to a group or event?

Who gets notifications?

Who are the form managers?

Is this promoted anywhere?

Is it connected to a button on the web site?

Do we need a url redirect?

Is the information correct on announcement slides? In the bulletin?

So, after the form was created, checked, double checked, and linked to our web site, I sent the final product to one of our Elders.

He asked for one update to the web site and said the form was good to go.

Good. To. Go.

On Sundays I get to serve at our “What’s Next” desk. (Your church may call it “Next Steps.”) It’s a place where our guests can register for upcoming events, connect with a small group or ministry team leader, or find out more information about something they saw or read about.

We have three tablets which display quick links to our current response and sign up forms.

The Elder who I had worked with this week walked over and began scrolling through the forms.

It wasn’t there.

A simple setting in Church Community Builder: the box next to ‘display on list of forms’ had not been checked.

I apologized. I could not believe that I had overlooked that last step.

And he looked at me and said, “it’s fine.”

No. It’s not fine.

I asked him to send a text or email to remind me to make the correction.

I decided then and there to stop saying, “it’s fine” when it really isn’t.

It’s time to tackle issues, address problems, fix things that are broken, and work better, smarter, and harder today than we did yesterday.

The next time you hear me say, “it’s fine,” it really will be.

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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.]

 

 

 

Digital Bootcamp: Recap

computer coding

Last week my friend, Tom Pounder, had me lead a week of Digital Bootcamp. If you’re on Facebook, here’s the link to the page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theDigitalBootcamp/

Check it out and ask me any questions about church management software.

I’ll give you a quick recap of bootcamp. But first, I wanted to thank Tom. Tom and I had talked about me leading a week prior to my stroke. (I blog about the stroke in another post.)

To catch you up, I had a very small,  minor stroke on Good Friday. As strokes go, if you’re going to have one, I had the kind you want to have. My “deficits” are minor. But one thing that was affected is speech. It’s not super noticeable. My oldest daughter said there are days when she doesn’t notice it at all.

With speech affected, I was hesitant to do live video.

But often God calls us to do things that we can only do with Him so that He’ll get all the glory. (Which He should get anyway, but we aren’t always good at that.)

This was one of those times. So I went live each weekday and talked about the most exciting of all church communications topics [read that with sarcasm], church management software.

Most of my peers don’t love software like I do. To them, it’s a necessary evil. But I get it. I’m somewhat of a data/metrics “nerd” and the software (and all of it’s glorious features) are right up my alley.

Here’s a recap of the daily topics Monday – Thursday.

Assimilation. It’s why I started using the software. Getting people from the first visit, to the second visit, the third visit, and then to full engaged in the church – connecting them to small groups and meaningful service opportunities.

Public access areas and graphics. There are areas of the software that require a username and  password and there are other areas that are accessible to the public. We need to pay attention to what the public sees, and upload graphic/image files where we can.

Customization. Use custom field features wisely. Determine what your church will need and make it yours. We have fields for whether someone is approved to drive a van and we also have a field for t-shirt size.

Custom reports and administration. A few of our reports include an Assimilation Process Report and weekly attendance metrics. We also use the software to track use of our rooms and resources.

On Friday, I went a little “off topic” and talked about the importance of putting people over processes. A Pastor once told me, “I can train anyone to do data entry, but only you can do what you do with people.” (Remember, I first began using the software as part of an assimilation plan.) He was right. As tempted as I am to spend long hours behind my computer, I have to remember that this is not just a business – it’s a church – and church is about people. Fortunately, I get to work at a church I’d attend even if I didn’t work there with people I love.

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.

 

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.’

Balancing Act

Balance girl bridge

In addition to the database, there are some other things I like: strategy, connections, social media, web content management, and graphics. I really focus a lot on visual consistency.

Someone recently asked me how I merged the visual side of my brain with the analytical side of my brain.

Here’s the answer:

I try to understand both sides of the table. I’ve worked with people who are 100% ‘analytical’ people. Some of our best friends serve in Executive Pastor roles. I get where they are coming from and don’t disagree with them.

I also understand that we live in a ‘visual’ oriented world and statistics show that people want their information in 140 characters or less.

The great thing about most of the current Church Management Software programs is that most of them offer integration with the public web site and other integration areas.

For example, CCB will give you the option of publishing an event to a public web site. When creating the event in CCB, you also have the option of an event-image. You can then share that event on social media. The CCB event image should be a 16:9 ratio so I usually create a second image square to share on other social media channels. In addition to your event image, you can have an image on the sign up form and sign up forms can be directly shared on social media. With small changes, you can have the same image for the event, and the sign up form, as well as other social media channels.

For your CCB forms page, you can further edit the image so that rather than a great wall of text, your sign up page displays a ‘clickable link.’ You can even create small buttons that will display on the confirmation page.  These buttons can direct people back to the forms page, back to your church web site, or back to your CCB log-in or home/welcome page. Using a graphics program, create the buttons in whatever size or color you need to meet your branding specifications. This makes it easier if you’re using ipad kiosks to sign up for events.

Not only do these create visual consistency for your end user, they can  help save you time. Once an event is entered in the software, it will automatically go to your web site, saving you valuable time and reducing the chance for errors that could come from either using ‘cut-and-paste’ or typing the same information twice.

What are some ways you’ve synced your ChMS with your web site and social media?

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…

 

Guinea Pig / Test Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CCB Lead

 

I’ve had a chance to play with the CCB updates today. I’m impressed.

How do you like these updates?

Lead – a great tool that capitalizes on your churches digital strategy { CCB users }. Gone are the days of overlying on your Church Clerk for member contact information, or needing to rush home to access your ‘member spreadsheet’ stored on your personal computer. Download it today https://www.churchcommunitybuilder.com/lead-app

via LEAD – a new app for Leaders — CCB Support

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?