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.

 

Advertisements

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.

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.’

Souvenirs

souveniers

 

Recently my husband and I went on a vacation. I found myself one day, wandering the market, looking at souvenirs. Should I buy the kids t-shirts they’ll grow out of? Should I buy jewelry, toys, trinkets? Will they like the style and color of jewelry I pick out? Or will it sit in a drawer – never worn? Will the kids play with the toys? Will they break? Will they fight over them? Will the trinkets sit on a shelf, collecting dust, becoming a burden?

As I wandered the market – each booth blending and blurring together – items at one seemingly identical to the others – my mind drifted to our church management software.

I love that fact that we customize our fields. And that we can add additional custom fields. But are we taking it too far in some cases? Are we creating fields that are unmanageable? Want to track people’s favorite foods for the next church-wide dinner? We can do that. Want to know their favorite music? Their favorite restaurants? Their favorite type of cheese? We can do all of that. Under the profile fields, I’ll add in a field for favorite cheese.

But what happens if the church grows exponentially? What happens when the cheese ministry leader gets called to another ministry? Say, maybe, the fruit ministry?

And now – when you export that spreadsheet – there are huge gaps – missing information. And then we spend our time trying to chase down information, filling gaps that ultimately, may not be that important.

At the end of our shopping, I realized that the best ‘souvenir’ I could bring home, was a well-rested, clear-headed, refreshed and renewed version of myself. One that wasn’t feeling distracted or irritated. A version of myself that wasn’t stressed from trying to pack breakables into an already full suitcase or stressed whether someone would like the jewelry or toys I’d picked out.

Take a look at your profile fields. Do you need to know all of them? Is it time to get back to the basics? Look at what you’re realistically using the software for and what you want out of it. I have a friend who compares life to shooting. You aim first, then shoot. You don’t fire and hope it lands somewhere near the target.

Decide why you have the software and what you really want and need it to do. Build your profile fields around that.

Chances are,  you don’t need to keep track of favorite restaurants…or cheese.

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.

Support: To

This week I had some issues with the web site and the database.

I had confidence in my own abilities.

I can do this.

Fail.

I read through support documentation. I watched videos.

Another fail.

In the end I had to call tech support.

What did I get?

After-hours, personal, customer service and tech support.

Above and beyond the call of duty.

The best.

First class.

(And somehow, in each case, they were able to maintain the integrity of their own brand, and let me know the boundaries.)

Can I change the colors? Yes.

Can I change the fonts? No.

Can I upload media on a Saturday night  at 8pm when the site editor seems to be locked up?

Absolutely. Yes. You can. We are here to help!

It’s still Saturday night at 8pm, what happened to my menu colors?

We’re working on it.

Can I change the fonts?

No. (Still.)

And then – at the end of each call – I had the support rep. ask if they could pray for me, for our church, and for our business (the mission) we are working on together.

Think about this cycle: I called with a degree of frustration in my voice (and in my heart), I had people who set aside whatever they were doing to help me – to listen to my frustrations and walk with me through the problem-solving process, and at the end of it, we were praying together.

And I thought…

Am I passing this same level of personal customer service on TO the church? Am I setting a standard with the software or the web site that puts the church as a whole first? Do the church leaders feel like they are important, while we are still maintaining the integrity of the brand?

I hope so.

Have I communicated to the church (as a whole) that I love her? Have I communicated that nothing I do is out of selfishness or vain conceit, but that every communication, administration, or ‘church connections’ decision is based on how we, as a church, are connecting people to Christ and assisting in their walk with Christ?

I hope so.

Does the church know I pray for her?

I hope so.

Do the ministry leaders know I pray for them each individually by name?

I hope so.

And have I listened to the  needs of the ministry leaders to try to provide individual, personalized (and even after-hours) support?

I hope so.

I have the benefit of working with a lot of Christian-owned companies whose leaders understand that end of the day, we’re all on the same team, trying to accomplish a bigger and greater mission. And I get work with people at those companies who will make sacrifices for the mission. Even when it means after-hours, personalized, service.

Jesus displayed servant and sacrificial leadership. This week, I  had a few support people who displayed Jesus.

And my goal/challenge this week: to do the same.

 

 

Key Access

janitor keyring 2

There’s been a lot of talk among my peer group this week about settings and access.

Today I was looking at my key ring.

There are 6 keys. Four are to my office. 1 for my car. 1 for my house.

But the potential.

Our family owns six vehicles. There’s four cars (one for each driver), an old truck that we use for hauling, and a motorcycle. There’s a key for each one. Two of the vehicles are older models and have two keys (one for the doors, one for the ignition). That alone is eight keys just for vehicles.

I have a key to my mother’s house, a key to a storage shed, a key to our riding lawn-mower, and a key to our camper.

For a grand total of twelve.

If I combined those twelve with the keys to my office, I’d be carrying sixteen keys on my key ring.

Sixteen!

That doesn’t include those small, little, pesky keys – luggage, padlocks, desk drawers, filing cabinets, etc.

Here’s why I don’t carry them all with me every day:

  • It would be too heavy and over time, I get tired.
  • It would take up too much space in my purse – space that could be used for lip gloss, money…or ibuprofen.
  • It would be too difficult to get where I needed to go – sorting through 16 keys just to open a door or start a car.

So I don’t carry all sixteen. Each person in our family carries what they need.

But… (because isn’t there always)

We keep duplicate copies of our keys in a safe place that we can all access.

If my husband or one of my children locks themselves out of their car in another part of town, I can stop what I’m doing, go home, get their key, and come help them. None of us ever intends to lock ourselves out of our car (or the house), but we know who we can call if we do. And only the four of us know where those copies are kept and how to access them.

How this relates to our Church Management Software and data settings and security:

In my experience, it’s been very helpful to make sure the keys are distributed. Each person should have the keys they need to access their ministry vehicle. Each person should have the keys they need to unlock the doors they need to do their jobs.

We shouldn’t give one person too many keys to carry on one key ring all of the time – that’ll lead to tiredness, other job aspects not getting done, and jobs – in general – taking too much time (because that’s a lot of keys to sort through).

But, it’s good to know that there are other people who can access the keys to my job on those rare occasions that I get locked out.

 

 

Relieved and Grateful

This is long, but just sit tight. I’ll tell how this relates to Church Management Software.

As I’ve already told you, I was working on 36 hours of relative peace and quiet. I’d made great headway on getting two areas of the house organized. I’d taken my son out to dinner and had some great conversation with the 18-year-old.

And I was definitely planning on church this morning.

What I haven’t told you is that any time any of my family members is away from home, out of town, especially overnight, my phone ringer is turned all the way up and my phone stays charged and with me. I’m available 24/7. I probably have some sort of psychological disorder that is triggered by my kids being away from my presence for more than 38 seconds (yes, I’ve timed it), but that’s for another post.

So this morning at 4:39am my phone rang.

I answered.

The person on the other end identified himself as a county Sheriff.

My heart skipped a beat.

Immediately thinking = worst case scenario.

Hello.

Yes, is this Marcy Carrico?

Yes.

Ma’am this is ______________ from the Wake County Sheriff’s Office…

My thoughts… My mom. Her house. My husband. The kids. Our house. Our cars. My oldest son? Is he still asleep in his room? Our neighborhood? Is everyone okay? Is everyone safe?

…I’m sorry to be calling you at this hour, but…

My thoughts…something is wrong. Something. Is. Wrong. This day. Sunday. We have plans. Now what…?

…we’re at (address of the church) and the alarm has gone off seven times overnight. We’ve tried calling other people on the list, but no one has answered so alarm company gave us your number.

That was it.

Relief.

That was all.

Sarcasm almost kicked in.

You’ve tried calling other people on the list? I think I’m number 287. Right behind the guy who hasn’t been at church in 20 years, but hasn’t officially transferred his membership. And right before last week’s first time guests.

I did NOT say that.

Maybe (or maybe not) I thought about giving them a phone number of someone who lives closer to the church than I do.

But since my adrenaline surge had already kicked in, I decided I’d take this one.

I told him where I lived, when I could reasonably leave my house and about how long it would take me to get there.

I got dressed as soon as I could, taking what I’d need for hair and make-up with me. I was there by 5:20.

The Sheriff walked into the building with me as I turned off the alarm. Just wanted to be sure everything was safe. We figured out it was some ill-placed interior decor that was prone to swaying as the air vents turned on and off overnight. I offered him coffee. He declined.

It would have been so easy to turn this into a time of ‘grumbling and complaining.’ Instead I realize how grateful I am and how much I have for which to be thankful.

No one is hurt. Everyone is fine. And I was reminded that seven is the holy number of God.

So…how does this relate to Church Management Software?

I think a lot of times when we’re looking at user access settings, or other sensitive data, we might tend to jump to worst case scenarios.

This person wants or has access to this information… but… what if…?

What if they make a mistake? What if they don’t do their job? What if they use this information to somehow hurt our church body?

We look at systems and people critically. With a degree of fear. And that fear leads to our own pride and degrees of self-righteousness.

But when we give that fear to God, we can appreciate what each person on the team brings the table and be relieved and grateful that we are not doing this alone.

How A Church Management Software Got Me Out Of My Comfort Zone

As we’ve already established, this is my comfort zone:

coffee laptop desk

The only thing it’s missing is my phone which is always nearby (skin grafted to the palm of my hand).

Except today.

Oh, how I was looking forward to today.

There are six of us living in our relatively small-ish 3-bedroom, 2-bath house. I love my family. I LOVE MY FAMILY. But, there are times when you crave peace, quiet, a space alone, time to clean out a closet without distractions, and a good chick flick.

Due to different schedules, vacations, and grandparents, I realized my oldest son and I were going to have roughly 36-hours at home alone.

That’s 36 hours of peace, quiet (well, he’s a guitarist with multiple amps, so maybe not so quiet), space alone, time to clean out a closet (or two), and maybe even a good chick flick.

And then the church member.

I am having trouble with my class attendance and follow up report.

I’ll investigate that for you.

Would you come to my class Sunday and help me?

No. I can’t on Sunday.

Why?

I will not be at church Sunday.

Where will you be?

Here:

couch woman laptop

On my couch. Watching a televangelist. Maybe even eating bon-bons.

“Hmmm…” She said, “bon-bons or the WORD OF GOD?”

Guilt trip, anyone?

Okay, okay, I’ll be here. Meet me in the office and we’ll go over attendance.

The guilt trip continued to the next stop until we reached our final destination.

I’ll go to her class. I’ll stay in her class and maybe even participate. I’m even staying for church.

But, truthfully, I don’t think I’d have been happy staying at home this morning.

I’m grateful to be here.

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.