Weathering A Storm

man old church

Our area is facing a major hurricane in a few days. Stores are sold out of bottled water, bread, and canned goods.

Yet, as my daughter pointed out, there was plenty of dry shampoo.

People who would normally survive on coffee and Coca-Cola are buying enough bottled water to feed a small church plant, but they are not buying dry shampoo.

So, our only assumption is that they are using all that bottled water to wash their hair.

I’ve seen churches put their church management software to good use during times like these.

If you’re tracking gifts, talents, or abilities, and you have customized your options as needed, you could potentially run a report on all people who have the ability to board windows or use chainsaws.

I’ve seen churches use their forms feature to give people a way to communicate needs. I’ve seen them use their needs feature to organize help.

Today, though, I want to talk about what we should expect from the local church during this time.

If you’re a church member, or even if you haven’t been to church in  years, you may have expectations of the church.

They should be a shelter.

They should provide food.

They should provide water.

That’s not the role of the church.

The role of the church is to connect you to Jesus.

While, many churches have great facilities to shelter people, there are just as many with no kitchens, no showers, and facilities that would make sheltering less than ideal.

What churches should do is offer prayer. They should offer to tell you about a God who will sustain you. And, if able, directions to the nearest official county shelters.

County officials are paid to monitor weather and road conditions.

Hospital employees get paid to treat your medical conditions.

Church employees get paid to help you know Jesus – and make sure there’s soap and toilet paper in the bathrooms. But mostly to help you know Jesus.

Churches should use their social media channels to provide ways for you to connect with Jesus and provide quick links to official news sources.

I have a friend who works for our city government. I’ve been told that their priorities for power restoration are official shelters, hospitals, and police and fire stations. Churches aren’t on that list.

It’s important to realize that church employees also have homes (despite popular belief, we don’t live at the church), and that they may not have power or ability to communicate.

But it’s also important to realize that church employees are probably losing sleep. Because it’s more than a job – it’s a calling. A calling to serve and love people.

Your local church may look different during a disaster. Church leaders may not be able to navigate flooded roads. Downed power lines may make it impossible to print a bulletin or follow normal communication channels. A few years ago, a hurricane hit our region and several churches were closed the following Sunday morning. The churches that were open operated with “skeleton crews” and limited resources, but it didn’t stop them from sharing The Gospel.

We’ll weather this storm. The effects won’t last forever.

God is steady and unchanging.

And the church will do what it takes to give you what you need. You need Jesus.

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It’s not fine.

broken glass

“It’s fine.”

I say that often.

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

It really is fine.

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

It’s not that great, but good enough.

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

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

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

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

But what about when it isn’t fine?

Last week, I edited a response form.

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

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

What’s the header image?

What are the automations?

Is it connected to a group or event?

Who gets notifications?

Who are the form managers?

Is this promoted anywhere?

Is it connected to a button on the web site?

Do we need a url redirect?

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

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

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

Good. To. Go.

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

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

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

It wasn’t there.

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

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

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

No. It’s not fine.

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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.

 

 

My Head In The Clouds (aka: the most fun blog post I’ve ever written)

girl cloud bubble

Today our church was a polling location. People in and out all today exercising their right to vote.

The polls open early. Really early.

County election officials would need access by 5:45am.

I offered to open the building. Our Executive Pastor told me that was fine as long as I promised to leave by 2:30pm.

I half-heartedly agreed.

I didn’t mind getting up early. I’m a morning person by nature and I got a lot accomplished in the quiet morning hours.

My commute was easier than ever. There’s not a lot of other traffic on the road at 5:00am.

I was going about my day and feeling productive – knocking several things off my to-do list – when our Executive Pastor appeared in my doorway.

“Time to go home!”

“I have things to do.”

“They will still be here tomorrow. Go home.”

“But I like it here.”

“I’m glad. Go home.”

He told our Lead Pastor who agreed with him.

“The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken. Go home.” (Yes, he referred to our Lead Pastor as The Great and Powerful Oz.)

forcibly ejected

kicked out

excommunicated? (no…that’s too strong)

I packed up my laptop and “to-do” folder and headed out the door.

It really was a nice afternoon. I was able to pick my son up at school, take him out for ice cream and have dinner on the table when my husband got home.

So…you’ve read this far…how does this relate to church management software, and progress, and processes?

As I sit here this evening and everyone is winding down, I have several data entry lists in front of me and I am getting caught up on a few projects. Because – although he escorted me out of the building –  the software is cloud based.

 

[I love the people I get to work with, love our church, and love what I get to do. In an earlier blog post I wrote about listening to others – allowing others to speak into your life. Today was one of those days and I’m grateful every day that God has me at this place.]

 

 

 

Podcast Topic: Assimilation

laptop mac coffee desk work computer

Last week I recorded a Podcast. I’ll post the link and the relevant information when it airs.

The topic was: assimilation (I’m sure you’re surprised) and using church management software as a tool to see how people are connected.

Here’s a brief recap:

1. You have options. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. Your first time guest my get a hand-written note card, an email, or a formal ‘business’ letter on church letterhead. They may meet the Pastor on the first visit, during a membership class – or never. The Pastor may hold a guest reception in a dedicated room. Or just simply be visible and available in the lobby – or in the parking lot (yes, I’ve seen that).

2. You need data. If you’re just starting to put a formal plan into place, this could mean a few things. Either talk to other churches of similar size and structure and ask them to share their data or be willing to change your course after a few months. Start with one plan and if you find that your numbers aren’t hitting your goals, be willing to change.

3. You can’t control everything. I love the connect cards that give people the option to join a team. I enter that information into the church management software. From there, I will ask each ministry team leader to contact those people and enter information from their own follow up into the church management software. In that process, there is a piece I cannot control: the actual follow up by the ministry team leader. Once it’s been assigned to a ministry leader, they own their ‘how.’ Some ministry leaders may prefer email, some text, some a personal phone call. That’s up to them. The only time they’ll hear from me is if their process isn’t documented in profile notes each week.

4. You’re setting up an expectation. If your first time guests meet the Lead Pastor and get an email from the Pastor’s email address, they will assume they always have access to the Lead Pastor. Most Lead Pastors that I know want to know their people and don’t mind this. However, as the church grows, you could have thousands of people assuming they have immediate access to the Lead Pastor. As the church grows, check-in with your Lead Pastor and see if current processes are causing stress on him or his family. If they are causing stress, it’s time for a change.

5. Be flexible. It’s about people. You may have a solid plan that includes a first time guest email. And then on day a person walks in who is ‘off the grid.’ No email. No smartphone. No social media. Make a note in that person’s profile so that you know. Keep a log somewhere. Instead of an email, this person gets a hand-written note card.

What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go and search for the stray? – Matthew 18:12

At the end of the day, remember this is not your call. Set up a time to review current processes with your Lead Pastor and make sure you present him with options and data so that he can make an informed decision. Then communicate and execute his decisions. Don’t second-guess his decisions, even if you disagree. I heard a speaker once say, “it’s not true submission until there’s a disagreement.”

Remember our instruction in Hebrews 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

 

Bonus Content:

From Sunday to Monday. It’s Sunday at noon at most of the key volunteers have gone home.

Now it’s up to church staff on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning to filter through connect cards and notes.

If you’re a Sunday volunteer, check in with your church staff to see if any of the Sunday morning procedures are causing any stress or confusion on Monday morning.

(For myself and my counterparts at other churches, it is very common to work late nights, weekends, and often unpaid ‘overtime’ hours. It is common to miss corporate worship in order to serve. Rarely, do we complain about this, as we understand our roles in ministry.)

If you’re on church staff and you realize that some Sunday procedures could be re-structured to reduce stress or confusion on Monday morning, communicate that to your volunteers. Be as transparent as possible with office procedures and let them know that their small changes on Sundays can help lead to a more organized and productive office during the week.

I’ll be recording some additional podcasts, as well as some content in April.

I’ll post links as soon as they’re available.

Lead With The Authority You’ve Been Given

smartphone mobile hand coffee

While I write this from the perspective of a database administrator, this could apply to any communications role.

I walk into our Lead Pastor’s office.

“Question. In CCB…”

Before I can finish, his facial expression is changing…

He doesn’t care.

He understands the need for the database.

He may even want to understand the database.

But, he doesn’t love the database.

In fact, he understands enough, just enough, to know he doesn’t have time to learn more.

But me? I love the database. Maybe a little too much.

Not only do I understand it, I understand it’s inner workings. I joke in the office, “if this gig doesn’t work out, I’ll go into Church Management Software Forensics.”

“Is that a thing?” my co-worker asks.

“I could make it a thing.”

CCB has an online platform for other software administrators. They call it The Village.

My co-worker calls me The Mayor.

Back to our Lead Pastor.

He listens to my rambling question, and my proposed solution. I’m pretty sure he only pretended to listen.

Then he says, “yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

Every. Single. Time.

I’m pretty sure I could start any conversation with “Hey in CCB…” and it would end with “yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

“Hey in CCB, I want to buy a new car and book a vacation to a tropical island.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

He doesn’t care. He doesn’t have time.

But I don’t want him to care, nor do I want him to have time. I don’t.

Because, in reality, he does care.

And that’s why he hired me.

He knows I understand the structure of the church. He knows our family fully supports the vision and mission of the church. And most of all, he knows that on a scale of 1-10, my knowledge of CCB is a 12.

He also knows, a Pastor’s primary role is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

I want him to make time for that. I want him to care about that.

I also want him to care about his wife, his children, his neighbors.

There are church members with real hurts and real needs. I want him to care about those. But I don’t want him to care about a database.

I often tell our Pastor, “go preach, pray, and write a book.”

He’s the leader.

And, every single Sunday he’s got to bring a message to a wide audience. Young, old, non-believers, new-believers, and strong-believers. Any given Sunday.

Why would I ever – ever – expect or even want him to be thinking about the database?

I was faced with a problem recently and I knew the answer. In my gut, I knew what to do. Yet, I sent a support ticket into the software company. Their solution was my solution. I’d been right.

Our Pastor has given me (his words), “a pretty big sandbox to play in” when it comes to the software. That just means he’s given me some authority and has promised to back up any decisions I make.

God has gifted each of us differently. For me, that means discernment, leadership and administration. Our Pastor is a Pastor. I am not.

But I hesitate before making the final decision…

And each time I walk into his office with a database question, the facial expression changes.

It’s fine. I trust you.

Today, church communicators – whether your primary role is with the database, social media, the web site, first impressions, or any other communication role – lead with the authority you’ve been given and support others as they do the same.

 

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.

New

ocean close up sea water dawn sun

Have you ever seen dawn? I saw it this summer. My husband and I were on a cruise ship that was due to dock early one morning. We woke up and watched a new day break from our balcony. We were pulling into port just as the city was waking up.

It was amazing to see the start of something new.

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling like I needed a day off. I hadn’t slept well the night before. My throat hurt. My eyes hurt. My nose needed running shoes.

But I really wanted to go into the office. There was work to do and I love what I get to do.

I took some vitamin C and ibuprofen, drank hot tea, used some eye drops and got out the door.

The morning didn’t go as planned.

I created and posted the worst social media post ever.

I cancelled a lunch meeting because I knew I just couldn’t get through it.

And I discovered a potential problem in our database that had me comparing the database to a life-threatening illness.

Knowing my love for the database, the problem was probably not with the database, but with my attitude yesterday morning.

And then I decided tacos and guacamole were the answer to all of life’s problems (nevermind the fact that there are stacks of Bibles in my office telling me that Jesus is the answer) so I convinced my co-workers to put me in the back of a car and take me out.

As we were driving back from lunch, I received a text.

My boss firing me for the aforementioned social media post.

It was from a friend I hadn’t talked to in months.

She wrote: “Praying for you. Isaiah 43:18-19.”

I logged onto my Bible app and looked it up.

“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”

How did she know I needed that?

She didn’t.

God did.

And God made everything new (although I’m still convinced tacos and guacamole played a small part).

My boss did not fire me for the ‘worst social media post of the year.’

He actually invited me to be a part of a leadership meeting.

I came up with a step-by-step action plan for fixing the potential problem with the database.

By the end of the day, I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave. I joked to our Executive Pastor that I would bring a cot and live there. He unjokingly told me, ‘no.’

Problems will come up in our days. The database won’t work in a way we expected. Technology may fail. We may just be having one of those days.

Be grateful we serve a God who promises to never fail us.

Yesterday I was grateful for grace and forgiveness.

I was reminded yesterday that Godnot tacos and guacamole – does make all things new.

 

 

My Favorite Tools

writing-implements-1285329_960_720

This morning I was talking with a client about a strategy we’re going to use in promoting an upcoming conference. One of the things I told her was that I wasn’t just going to do everything, but that I was going to include her in the why and how of everything I was doing.

I don’t want to just DO – I want to leave her with the tools she’ll need if she ever needs or wants to do it herself. I want to give her all-access to all of my tools. I want to leave her and this ministry better than I found it. We’re working on a conference for 2018. If she needs me for 2019, I’m happy to help. But even better would be if she is empowered to not need me for the 2019 conference.

Some would say I’m working myself out of a job. Maybe. Our real job is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19).

So, other than the database (by far my favorite tool I use for church connections, assimilation, and organization), here are a few of my other favorite tools.

1. Mission Insite. Empower your faith-based or nonprofit organization with the tools to answer today’s most difficult strategic challenges. You may already have access to this. Check to see their current clients: http://missioninsite.com/our-clients.

2. Canva. Create graphics, apply for a free business plan and upload your brand colors, fonts, and create templates. I love Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, and the entire Adobe Suite. It’s not always practical. There are a lot of churches that only provide programs like Microsoft Publisher to their admin. staff. Canva is great for creating and also team collaboration.

3. Heatmap tools. Real time analytics for your web site. This will help you see where and how people are interacting with your web site.

4. Ministry Designs. WordPress is awesome, but not always easy for the staff of a small-to-medium sized church. Ministry Designs helps me empower my clients to work on their own web site. I told my client today, I am going to hold your hand through this initial process. Soon you’re going to be able to say, “I do web sites.”

5. YouVersion Events. (Any of Life.Church’s resources are great.) Upload your event, add information about your church, Bible verses, a sermon outline, weekly announcements, a link to an online connect card, etc.

6. Google Keep. With Google Keep, I can create daily to-do lists and share the with collaborators so that they can see what I’m working on and add, delete, or comment on items. You can create lists with check boxes or in ‘note’ form.

Other tools I will use are TechSoup, GSuite for e-mail, Google/MyBusiness for business analytics, MailChimp, Asana, and graphics from graphics.church, Church Butler, and SundaySocial.tv.

Now it’s your turn. What are some tools you love to use?