When To Give Them Keys

teenager car keys“Mom, can I have the keys to the car? I’d like to go out.”

“Sure, son. See you soon.”

Except that ‘son’ hasn’t passed a driver’s test. He doesnt’ have his license. He never even gotten his permit. He hasn’t taken Driver’s Ed class. And he’s never driven this car.

Would you do it?

I hope not.

And yet, we do it every day with our software access.

New staff member? You get staff access.

New ministry team leader? You get ‘group leader’ status.

New teacher? Don’t forget to take attendance.

Software administrators get frustrated when data is entered outside of the boundaries of standard operating procedures.

Executive Pastors get frustrated when their end reports are inaccurate.

And our new-hires and ministry leaders are frustrated because they don’t know what they did wrong.

Here are a few things that can help avoid some uncomfortable situations and unwanted scenarios:

1. Training. This is my favorite word. Set aside some intentional training time for new-hires, new group leaders, no ministry directors, etc. Make it part of the onboarding process. The more access they have, the more training they need.

2. Continuing Education. Just as software administrators receive emails from software companies regarding software updates, so should the people using the software. Anytime there is a software that will effect their area of ministry, make time to talk to them about it.

3. Clear Expectations. Do the teachers know they are supposed to take attendance? Do the ministry team leaders understand they are expected to use the software to plan events and schedule volunteers? Do group leaders know this is used as the primary means of communication? Make sure they know what’s expected.

4. Written Documentation of Policies. Written documentation protects you from being accused of favoritism. There’s temptation to make one person sit through an hour-long training session, while you let another person slide because you know he or she is a computer genius and has a PhD in Computer Science. Don’t do it. Develop a set of standards. Write them down. Everyone should follow policy.

5. Revoke Privileges. This is my least favorite thing to do. If you break a traffic law, your license could get suspended or revoked. If someone is using the software in a way that is causing you to consistently go in behind them and “fix” or “undo” what they’ve done, revoke their privileges and have a private conversation with them. Chances are very good they simply forgot to do something or this topic was overlooked in the original training. In most cases, privileges can be reinstated after they’ve had a ‘software refresher course.’

The good news is that most of the current ChMS programs on the market today, have ways to fix, or undo, any data entry errors. Also remember that this is just a software program – a tool in the process – and that any relationship with a co-worker, fellow church member, and friend is to be treasured far more than the systems, processes, and tools we use.

Don’t Do It Alone

baseball teamJust like you can’t do it all; you also cannot do it alone. Being the software administrator, you’re probably also in some type of leadership position at your church. While teaching others how to manage their own areas of the software and not trying to do it all, you also need other leaders around you. Here are some ways that have helped me:

  1. Join/Commit to a church. I was talking to a friend recently who does freelance graphic design for several churches. She considers it a service and charges a very small fee, even sometimes providing services free of charge. Yet, she’s not currently a member of any church. She’s got two small children. She’s struggling with a few issues. She has no church family. (They’ve been visiting a church for about a month, but are finding the membership process to be difficult. I told her I’d write a whole blog post on that. I will.)
  2. Get in a small group. Depending on the size and structure of your church, it could be difficult to develop deeper relationships by just attending church. If you’re not already involved in a small group, do it.
  3. Serve somewhere else. I often joke that my comfort zone is at my desk with my laptop creating a buffer between myself and the other person any other people. It’s not really a joke. To get myself out of my comfort zone, I began greeting on Sunday morning. I started as a door greeter, moved to lobby greeting, and quickly found my ‘home’ at the information desk (or Next Steps area). (The joke then was that I had a table and ipad kiosk between me and the people, rather than a desk and laptop. Again, not really a joke. This is very real.) But that got me out of the office, and with people. And I found that I really, really enjoyed that. I was using the software to see our first time guests move through the system. I was the first point of contact for first time guests – I hand wrote each note and send my business card. Meeting them seemed logical. I enjoyed it so much, that now it’s difficult to NOT serve in that capacity.
  4. Find a peer group. Some software providers have peer groups. I am a member of the Church Communications group on Facebook. Find peers outside of  your church that you can talk to about what you’re doing. If you can’t find one, start one.
  5. Pay for it if you need to. Earlier this year, I participated in Connections Confab at Summit Church in Durham, NC. It was a small group of people. I learned a lot. I have 12 new BFF’s. It wasn’t cheap. It was, however, worth every penny. Join professional groups. Ask your church if it’s in the budget. If not, skip the expensive coffee shops for a few months and save up. You’ll be glad you did.
  6. Find friends and do something outside of church. For me, the biggest struggle. I genuinely like what I do. I enjoy it. I think about when I’m off. I did it for a few years on a volunteer basis (ie, unpaid). This is my thing. Yet, I purposely make myself think about things other than church data. We go camping and to a local comedy club with our best friends – who don’t attend our church. I play video games with my youngest son. (I’m way ahead of him on Angry Birds.) I have a friend I see a few times a year just to go see low-budget horror movies at the $2 movie theater (that sells $17 tubs of popcorn). Two of my favorite authors would not be found in the Christian section: John Grisham and James Patterson. Even if only for an hour or two at a time, stop thinking about church data – and do it with people outside of your church.

Managing the database is not an easy job. Get some people around you that will make you smile and laugh. Get some people who will pray for you when things don’t go as planned. Don’t do leadership alone.

More on why it’s important for the whole Church to work together.

This evening I received an attendance reminder for an event.  An event that was canceled.  I’m listed as a group leader and with CCB, there’s an option when setting up an event, to have automatic attendance reminders sent to the group leader(s) of the group hosting the event.

The event that was canceled.

The event that was canceled that is also listed on the public web site calendar.

The event that was canceled that is also listed on the public web site calendar that also has a form available to sign up that is listed on the public list of forms.

Shall I go on?

With many Church Management Software programs, there are options to link things to your public web site or display them on public lists. Assuming that your software administrator is working closely with the web site designer and communications director (if those three areas of responsibility don’t already fall to one in the same person), with one click, what is entered into CCB can automatically go to your public web site.

*View this log-in page for The Gathering Community Church.  (Notice in the upper right the links to Forms, Find A Gathering Group, and Calendar.)  If you click calendar, please ignore the hockey game slated for January 14, 2017.  That will be deleted soon. If you click forms, please ignore the link to the hockey game sign up form.  That also will be deleted. Not soon enough.

A case like the one I’m looking at this evening, is further reason that you should make sure all of your ministry team leaders are working closely with each other and with your software administrator, to maximize the use of your church management software and understand how it connects the entire Church.

Including the public web site.

*I hope that by the time you read this, the hockey game won’t be listed on either of those pages.