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?

Class Attendance

classroom lecture college class student

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

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

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

Group leader, do you have your attendance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Church leaders care about people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

When Process Stops So Progress Can Happen

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

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

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

But we have to find balance.

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

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

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

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

Focus and Perspective

lego camera

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

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

We have a theme.

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

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

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

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

Success. Fireworks. National Holiday. Happiness.

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

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

It would also free up some time.

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

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

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

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

This sounds like I just won the Church Communications Lottery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Few Of My Favorite Things

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

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

Profile fields that offer ways to help people connect.

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

Forms.

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

Ensures everyone gets the same information.

Helps with pre-planning and organization

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

Follow-Ups and Process Queues.

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

What are your favorite things?

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.