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.

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.

 

My Favorite Tools

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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?

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.

CCB Lead

 

I’ve had a chance to play with the CCB updates today. I’m impressed.

How do you like these updates?

Lead – a great tool that capitalizes on your churches digital strategy { CCB users }. Gone are the days of overlying on your Church Clerk for member contact information, or needing to rush home to access your ‘member spreadsheet’ stored on your personal computer. Download it today https://www.churchcommunitybuilder.com/lead-app

via LEAD – a new app for Leaders — CCB Support

Ministry vs. Marketing

smartphone laptop

Ministry vs. Marketing
Job is defined as:
a paid position of regular employment.
Work is defined as:
activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.
Do you see the difference?
A quick search yielded these results from scripture on the topic of of work:
Of these, my favorite is Psalm 90:17:
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.
Another quick search yielded not as many references to the term, ‘job’ (Unless it was with a capital ‘J’ – a person’s name.)
There was this – from 2 Chronicles 34:13:
had charge of the laborers and supervised all the workers from job to job. Some of the Levites were secretaries, scribes and gatekeepers.
They were referred to as ‘workers’ first. The workers had jobs.
During the course of my typical work…at my job… I get to manage our communications outlets – the database is one of my primary internal communication tools, but I also get to manage our public-facing communication tools: web site, social media channels, etc.

This week I’ve felt challenged to look at how we use our communications assets – specifically social media.

What if…

We used this more as ministry; less as marketing.
We told people what was happening in our church now, instead of just upcoming events.
We told stories of what God is doing now; not just what we believe  He’s going to do.
We invited people to what’s happening today; not just to planned events weeks from now?
We posted more scripture and fewer ‘buzz words’ and ‘catch phrases’?
We quit using the terms ‘branding’ and ‘style guide’ and replaced them with ‘clear communications’ and ‘not confusing’?
What if…
We ministered more and marketed less.
I have a great book on church marketing. Actually, that’s the name of the book: Church Marketing.
But I also have some great books on how we should view our entire lives – all we do – as a ministry.
I don’t want to market our church.
I want to minister to our community.

 

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.

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.