Discomfort

man on crutches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I’ve never been hanging on a cross.

 

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Let’s Reconnect

busy blurry shopping mall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Serving Others

lift moving box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you serve your church?

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.

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.’

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Manger scene

Christmas Eve and Christmas services have started. My daughter’s church had their service last night. Another local church had a ‘living nativity’ last night. My son will play with his church band three times tomorrow. There’s a church nearby that has services today (they are having a hot chocolate bar and a photo booth!). A few members of our family are attending a service tomorrow morning.

At this point, you’re probably expecting this post to be about follow up, connecting with your guests, updating your web site, and helping your guests take their next step.

I think you already know how I feel about all of that. If not, here’s a recap:

  • Follow up should be immediate. Get those connect cards entered in Sunday evening and send follow up emails right away. If your follow up plan includes phone calls, you could let those go on Christmas Day, but don’t wait a week.
  • Connect with your guests. Have greeters and info people visible and over-communicate every step of the way during your service.
  • Update your web site. Remember that your visitors may go home with questions or wonder what’s next. An updated web site will help them find some answers. (Don’t forget to update your social media, too!)
  • Help them take their next step. A lot of people make a New Year’s resolution to go back to church. You want to have staff and key leaders available to help them do that.

But what this post is really about is permission to not do all of these things.

That’s right. Permission to let it go.

What if you get 50 connect cards entered into your system on Christmas Eve night, but haven’t stopped to pray with one person?

What if you say hello to 100 people, but don’t stop to ask any of them how they are doing?

What if you update your web site and social media Christmas Eve night, but don’t consider who might be seeing those updates?

What if you have all of the next steps in place, but no one takes them?

Use wisdom and discernment this Christmas season and find balance between working as unto the Lord, and letting the Lord work in and through you.

Merry Christmas!

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?

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?

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.