When You Don’t Like It

Let’s face it. There isn’t a lone single Church Management Software that will fit every church. If there were, there would be no marketplace competition. There would be no comparison charts. There would be one software that offered all of the features that every church needs.

It doesn’t exist.

It’s why churches spend months, sometimes years, making a decision on which software to use. It’s why people play with demo versions in their free time and offer suggestions to churches on which software they should use. It’s why churches sometimes switch to different companies based on their growing and changing needs.

Even some software companies themselves will tell you when their software doesn’t meet your church’s needs. Sometimes, they’ll even help migrate your data for free.

But, at the end of the day, sometimes we have features we just don’t care for, we find it difficult to navigate, or what we want isn’t offered within that software.

This can be particularly frustrating for those ministry leaders who aren’t tasked with using the software on a daily basis. Perhaps you’re a small group leader and you’ve been told you need to use the software for small group messaging and attendance. What’s wrong with the way you’ve been doing it? Perhaps you’re a ministry team leader who has recently been told you need to use the software for volunteer scheduling? What’s wrong with our old calendar-grid spreadsheets?

While nothing is ‘wrong’ with the way you’ve been doing things, sometimes church leaders need data that can only come from using a church management software.

Typically areas of the software are linked, or fields are auto-updated This means the church leaders don’t need to assimilate data from different spreadsheets and emails. The software takes care of that for them, which saves them valuable time.

Here’s some suggestions if you find yourself in a position of ‘just not liking it’:

Do:

  1. Ask why. You’re a ministry leader and in some churches that means you’re a volunteer. If you are paid staff, you’re probably putting in some unpaid overtime hours. It’s okay to ask your leaders why they need you to use the software.
  2. Be a cheerleader. Those serving on your team and other ministry leaders may be struggling with change, as well. Support your leaders by being a ‘cheerleader’ for the software.
  3. Just do it. At the end of the day, there are things we’re not going to like. As one Pastor said, ‘it’s okay to admit that there are parts of your job you don’t like.’
  4. Keep it private. If you really don’t like the software or how it’s used, talk privately to your Pastor or the database administrator.
  5. Ask for training. Learn the software. Ask for training as often as you need it. Ask if a leader or administrator will lead a team training for your team.

Don’t:

  1. Go rogue. Remember that each action you take within the software may impact another area of the software. Don’t take too many actions until you understand how they might impact another leader in your church.
  2. No public shaming. Other leaders are probably also being asked to use the software. Other church members are learning to navigate this. There’s a reason your church leaders have chosen this software. They need it. Help them in their endeavors.
  3. Be a complainer. You may not like it, but we can choose joy. Keep a smile on your face!
  4. No public shaming. I’ll say it again because it bears repeating. You are a leader in the church. People are looking up to you. You’ve been asked to make this change and you should assume that your church leaders have entered this phase with a lot of prayer, and counsel. This is probably not a decision they took lightly. As a leader, if you are struggling with change, it’s safe to assume that others not in a leadership position are also struggling with change. Stay positive and encourage them. Even on days you don’t feel like it.
  5. Don’t do it alone. If training is offered – attend. If you need private training during an off time, ask for it. If you get off work at 11pm and want trained at a midnight, just ask. If your team needs trained on a Saturday morning, make sure there’s coffee. Your software administrator is probably happy to help.

Remember, there’s no perfect software and sometimes, even when we think we’ve found the best one, there are aspects that just don’t work the way want them to.

Trust your church leaders and know we’re all on the same team!

Support: To

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

I had confidence in my own abilities.

I can do this.

Fail.

I read through support documentation. I watched videos.

Another fail.

In the end I had to call tech support.

What did I get?

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

Above and beyond the call of duty.

The best.

First class.

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

Can I change the colors? Yes.

Can I change the fonts? No.

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

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

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

We’re working on it.

Can I change the fonts?

No. (Still.)

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

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

And I thought…

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

I hope so.

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

I hope so.

Does the church know I pray for her?

I hope so.

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

I hope so.

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

I hope so.

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

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

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

 

 

Relieved and Grateful

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

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

And I was definitely planning on church this morning.

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

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

I answered.

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

My heart skipped a beat.

Immediately thinking = worst case scenario.

Hello.

Yes, is this Marcy Carrico?

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

That was it.

Relief.

That was all.

Sarcasm almost kicked in.

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

I did NOT say that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…how does this relate to Church Management Software?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

coffee laptop desk

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

Except today.

Oh, how I was looking forward to today.

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

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

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

And then the church member.

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

I’ll investigate that for you.

Would you come to my class Sunday and help me?

No. I can’t on Sunday.

Why?

I will not be at church Sunday.

Where will you be?

Here:

couch woman laptop

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

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

Guilt trip, anyone?

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

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

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

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

I’m grateful to be here.

Don’t Do It Alone

baseball teamJust like you can’t do it all; you also cannot do it alone. Being the software administrator, you’re probably also in some type of leadership position at your church. While teaching others how to manage their own areas of the software and not trying to do it all, you also need other leaders around you. Here are some ways that have helped me:

  1. Join/Commit to a church. I was talking to a friend recently who does freelance graphic design for several churches. She considers it a service and charges a very small fee, even sometimes providing services free of charge. Yet, she’s not currently a member of any church. She’s got two small children. She’s struggling with a few issues. She has no church family. (They’ve been visiting a church for about a month, but are finding the membership process to be difficult. I told her I’d write a whole blog post on that. I will.)
  2. Get in a small group. Depending on the size and structure of your church, it could be difficult to develop deeper relationships by just attending church. If you’re not already involved in a small group, do it.
  3. Serve somewhere else. I often joke that my comfort zone is at my desk with my laptop creating a buffer between myself and the other person any other people. It’s not really a joke. To get myself out of my comfort zone, I began greeting on Sunday morning. I started as a door greeter, moved to lobby greeting, and quickly found my ‘home’ at the information desk (or Next Steps area). (The joke then was that I had a table and ipad kiosk between me and the people, rather than a desk and laptop. Again, not really a joke. This is very real.) But that got me out of the office, and with people. And I found that I really, really enjoyed that. I was using the software to see our first time guests move through the system. I was the first point of contact for first time guests – I hand wrote each note and send my business card. Meeting them seemed logical. I enjoyed it so much, that now it’s difficult to NOT serve in that capacity.
  4. Find a peer group. Some software providers have peer groups. I am a member of the Church Communications group on Facebook. Find peers outside of  your church that you can talk to about what you’re doing. If you can’t find one, start one.
  5. Pay for it if you need to. Earlier this year, I participated in Connections Confab at Summit Church in Durham, NC. It was a small group of people. I learned a lot. I have 12 new BFF’s. It wasn’t cheap. It was, however, worth every penny. Join professional groups. Ask your church if it’s in the budget. If not, skip the expensive coffee shops for a few months and save up. You’ll be glad you did.
  6. Find friends and do something outside of church. For me, the biggest struggle. I genuinely like what I do. I enjoy it. I think about when I’m off. I did it for a few years on a volunteer basis (ie, unpaid). This is my thing. Yet, I purposely make myself think about things other than church data. We go camping and to a local comedy club with our best friends – who don’t attend our church. I play video games with my youngest son. (I’m way ahead of him on Angry Birds.) I have a friend I see a few times a year just to go see low-budget horror movies at the $2 movie theater (that sells $17 tubs of popcorn). Two of my favorite authors would not be found in the Christian section: John Grisham and James Patterson. Even if only for an hour or two at a time, stop thinking about church data – and do it with people outside of your church.

Managing the database is not an easy job. Get some people around you that will make you smile and laugh. Get some people who will pray for you when things don’t go as planned. Don’t do leadership alone.

Software Administrator: Don’t Do It All

sound boardAs a software administrator, I found myself in a position that wouldn’t be considered ‘healthy.’ I was managing the software alone. I input events, made sure the event  image matched the print and web site materials (especially if the event was linked to the public web site). I made sure all event information was communicated the same across all platforms. I also checked financials and ran financial reports for our finance team, controlled who had access to the software and at what levels. I managed our physical resources (using the software) – including rooms and other resources (tables, chairs, A/V equipment, etc. I built the check-in system for events. I built forms for registration. Almost no one else used the software, yet everyone knew it was there. Working for them.

That was a long paragraph.

With a lot of “I”‘s.

Something needed to change.

So I began to train people.

I taught our children’s leaders how to build check-in systems. I taught our ministry leaders how to schedule events. I taught our hospitality leader how to manage rooms and resources. I taught our finance team how to run financial reports.  I taught a youth leader how to build sign up forms which linked to events.

And they began to work together. Each person saw that their actions within the software didn’t only impact their area of ministry, but how it impacted others. Soon, a team began to form.

I was always available for back up. They know that I still am available for back up.

I was watching band practice one day and watching the sound board operator.

“Hey [guitarist] could you adjust your amp?”

No. Not quite right. Another adjustment.

The guitarist adjusted some pedals.

Good? No.

The sound guy made some adjustments on the board.

They each worked together making adjustments until it was right.

The sound board person continued to make adjustments with each person in the band – checking each instrument individually.

Then the band began to rehearse. Together. Each person playing a different instrument.

The sound board operator stopped them. More adjustments.

They all worked together until they got it right.

What struck me in this was the person with the most control was the sound board operator.

He didn’t jump on stage trying to be the lead vocalist. He didn’t play guitar. He didn’t play drums. He didn’t play any instrument at all. And he didn’t tell each of the band members how to play.

But he made sure that in the end, it sounded right to the audience.

I think software administrators are a little like sound board operators. I recognize that I’m not a great leader in many areas. There are a lot of instruments I cannot play. Most of the time, people are not going to see my name or know I’m there. But I want to help all of my ministry leaders get the most out of the software. I want them to know that I’m always there to help them make minor adjustments or back them up if needed.