Not Hanging On A Cross

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“You’re not hanging on a cross.” I have a friend who says that to me any time I decide to whine or complain. She reminds me that I’m not hanging on a cross and that somebody did hang on a cross. For me.

I’ve used her exact words with other people. Life sucks sometimes. Get over it. You’re not hanging on a cross.

Earlier this week, I called a friend of mine who lives in another state. It had been way too long since our last phone conversation. She reminded me of a lesson she and her husband (an Executive Pastor) learned several years ago: there’s a difference between being called to ministry and working for a ministry.

Today was a day I was grateful for these friends. And my family.

Ministry isn’t easy.

You’ll lose sleep, cry more than you thought possible, and sacrifice times with your family. Times like nights, weekends, holidays, major holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, sporting events, and Sunday afternoons.

You’ll have minor wins – like finding a way for your church to get some free custom printed mugs.

You’ll have setbacks – like forgetting to save three hours worth of work on a major graphic design project. (Ask me how I know?)

You’ll make mistakes. And you’ll realize that there are some people  who equate the church with Jesus in such a way that when the church makes a mistake they think Jesus makes mistakes.

Then you’ll lose more sleep, cry more, and find something else to sacrifice – all because Jesus is perfect. And your goal is to be more like Him.

I have a great job. I have an awesome boss. I get to be a part of helping people find and follow Jesus and I get paid to do it.

My workload is heavy right now and I’ve got stuff [still] on my to-do list from last week last month four months ago. Take my neurotic obsession with our church management software and website content and development, combine it with my goal of perfection, and the result is my current to-do list. Make that an ‘overdue’ list.

And, yet, Sunday comes.

Every. Single. Week.

And as much as I try to get ahead, I find myself printing bulletins later in the week.

So there I was today – bulletins not printed, trying to pull information and correct image sizes for some other communications assets – and I get a call. A sick kid. My cell phone rang. My daughter’s voice on the other end, “Mom…” A. Sick. Kid.

Give me credit. I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream. I didn’t throw anything. I did read Exodus 20:13.

I did email my boss.

People over process.

People. Over. Process.

We’ve been talking a lot this week about processes and what needs to change to meet the needs of a growing church.

I wrote: we need to work on changing some processes because I don’t ever – ever – want to have to choose between a sick kid and printing bulletins.

I called my husband, who fortunately had enough margin and flexibility in his schedule to work from home.

In ministry you’ll lose sleep, cry, and make sacrifices.

But you’ll also realize how blessed you are to have a family and friends.

And at the end of a difficult day week four months, you’ll be thankful that you’re not hanging on a cross, and that you’ve been called to ministry to help people know the one who already did: Jesus.

It Only Takes A Spark

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It only takes a spark to start a whole blaze.

That’s not an original thought. I stole that line from song lyrics in this song.

This blog post is going to stray a little bit from just talking about church management software to talking about the overall theme of the blog: the process of progress.

A few years ago, a leader at the church our family was attending told me about a Facebook group: Church Communications.

At the time, I was just beginning to see how the database could be used as a tool in our overall communications and connections strategies.

To remind you, I began this journey with a focus on connections. It also began with a lot of spreadsheets, documents, and emails, before I realized that a database could do a lot of the work for me as the church grew.

As I got more involved in our overall communications and connections strategies, my responsibilities grew to include some graphics, web site design and content, and social media.

One morning this week, I purposely took my time getting to the office. I’d been serving a lot of volunteer (ie, unpaid) hours at the church and my kids needed some attention. We had the morning news on t.v. and the reporters were talking about IHOP (The International House of Pancakes), temporarily changing it’s name to IHOB to promote the fact that they also serve burgers.

That’s a lot of talk over one letter. It was trending on all of the morning news shows and all over social media.

Our church is fun. Really fun. Our Lead Pastor often interjects humor into his Sunday morning messages and we try to convey that in our communications. We also try to keep up with what’s happening in the world around us.

Remember Yanny vs. Laurel? I created a social media post that referenced that subject and our social media audience liked it.

What could I do with IHOB?

The spark.

I created a social media post using a stock photo image and a free on-line program. I didn’t overthink it. My daughter was with me at the kitchen table. She shook her head and chuckled.

Should I do it?

Yeah, mom, go ahead.

I shared it on our church’s Facebook page and Instagram account. I didn’t think it would go too far.

As I was waiting at the bus stop with my youngest son, I shared the same graphic with the Church Communications group on Facebook.

I got to work and showed our Executive Pastor. He liked it and even made a comment on the post.

I joked: the good news is that our Lead Pastor can’t fire me because he’s on a plane right now. I have my job for at least another two hours.

But something happened.

Not only did our social media audience respond positively to it, by the end of the day it had roughly 800 likes in the Church Communications group.

We even got a shout out from Fishhook. (Check out Fishhook’s Instagram.)

The whole blaze.

I never imagined that outcome.

But I am grateful. I’m grateful for our Lead Pastor who has set a tone – not just in the office, but also church-wide – that’s easy to follow and helps us relate to the community around us. I’m grateful for the gifts and talents God has given me and I’m grateful for the place where I get to use them. And I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made through the Church Communications network.

I think sometimes, as we’re looking at our communications, and helping people connect with our churches, it’s easy to establish systems, processes, marketing calendars, and social media post schedules. Routine is comfortable. Boundaries and schedules are safe.

But, be open to the times that you feel a prompting – a spark – to break the routine and step outside the boundary. The spark can lead to a whole blaze.

 

 

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.

 

 

Digital Bootcamp: Recap

computer coding

Last week my friend, Tom Pounder, had me lead a week of Digital Bootcamp. If you’re on Facebook, here’s the link to the page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theDigitalBootcamp/

Check it out and ask me any questions about church management software.

I’ll give you a quick recap of bootcamp. But first, I wanted to thank Tom. Tom and I had talked about me leading a week prior to my stroke. (I blog about the stroke in another post.)

To catch you up, I had a very small,  minor stroke on Good Friday. As strokes go, if you’re going to have one, I had the kind you want to have. My “deficits” are minor. But one thing that was affected is speech. It’s not super noticeable. My oldest daughter said there are days when she doesn’t notice it at all.

With speech affected, I was hesitant to do live video.

But often God calls us to do things that we can only do with Him so that He’ll get all the glory. (Which He should get anyway, but we aren’t always good at that.)

This was one of those times. So I went live each weekday and talked about the most exciting of all church communications topics [read that with sarcasm], church management software.

Most of my peers don’t love software like I do. To them, it’s a necessary evil. But I get it. I’m somewhat of a data/metrics “nerd” and the software (and all of it’s glorious features) are right up my alley.

Here’s a recap of the daily topics Monday – Thursday.

Assimilation. It’s why I started using the software. Getting people from the first visit, to the second visit, the third visit, and then to full engaged in the church – connecting them to small groups and meaningful service opportunities.

Public access areas and graphics. There are areas of the software that require a username and  password and there are other areas that are accessible to the public. We need to pay attention to what the public sees, and upload graphic/image files where we can.

Customization. Use custom field features wisely. Determine what your church will need and make it yours. We have fields for whether someone is approved to drive a van and we also have a field for t-shirt size.

Custom reports and administration. A few of our reports include an Assimilation Process Report and weekly attendance metrics. We also use the software to track use of our rooms and resources.

On Friday, I went a little “off topic” and talked about the importance of putting people over processes. A Pastor once told me, “I can train anyone to do data entry, but only you can do what you do with people.” (Remember, I first began using the software as part of an assimilation plan.) He was right. As tempted as I am to spend long hours behind my computer, I have to remember that this is not just a business – it’s a church – and church is about people. Fortunately, I get to work at a church I’d attend even if I didn’t work there with people I love.

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?

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?

Follow Up: Revisited

 

Back in January, I wrote a short post on event follow-up. I want to explore follow up (and next steps) a little more in depth.

Look at the images above. In the spiral staircase images, I’m not sure if I’m going up, going down, or they are rotors of fan blade that will chop off a limb if I try to get through them.

However, in the picture on the right, I am visually oriented. I know I’m at the bottom, and I see light at the top. I also can see the steps I need to take to get to that light.

First, let’s define an event. An event is anything you do. From every Sunday (each service), to a once-a-year large scale event.

Second, let’s define follow-up. Follow-up is any next-steps action item that  you take or that you’d like your guests to take.

Third, let’s define guests. That’s anyone in any way connected to your event who isn’t you. I often look at my team as guests. I’m there to serve them. And as a team, we’re there to serve everyone else.

What’s next?

At The Event – Make The Next Step Clear

My husband and I recently attended a very large dinner for a local charity. I’m not sure how many people were there, but I’m guessing around 500. Maybe more. During that dinner, it was very clear what actions they wanted us to take afterwards to support their charity. There were only a few next steps. Each was explained in depth. We had no questions, upon leaving, as to how to get further involved.

If you’re hosting a fall festival this year, then make sure you have promotional material available for other events happening at your church. Make their next steps very clear.

For follow-up, have some door prizes that people can register to win. Two key questions on any door prize entry form are:

1. Do you regularly attend church? (With check boxes for yes or no.)

2. If so, which church do you attend?

Put your church management software to work with these door prize entries. I’d set up a form for any door prize entries and enter them into your ChMS. Or go my favorite route and have people enter their information online. Have a few tablets or laptops available for door prize registration. Then use a plug-in or app to help randomly select winners. One thing that was really helpful was to see how people were connecting to our church. I set up a form for door prize entries and from that, I could see who came to our church as a first time guest.

Prior To The Event – Make The Next Step Easy

If you are promoting your event on-line, have a next step ON LINE. I’ve had the privilege of helping a national charity with a local golf tournament. One of the challenges we ran into was that I’d market it online, but the next step was “contact us and we’ll mail you a registration form” or “stop by _____________ (this location) and pick up a registration form.” We weren’t meeting people where they were. They were already online viewing information, but our exit rate off those pages was higher than I would have liked. Now, one of our church partners is allowing us to use their church management software for online registrations and payment. I’ll give you an update after it’s implemented.

For follow-up, Acknowledge everyone. If your event has financial sponsors, acknowledge them. You’re following up throughout the year and building relationships. On the golf tournament social media pages, often as possible, I acknowledge our sponsors leading up to the tournament, but I also mention them on our social media pages all throughout the year. There’s a local jeweler who donates a door prize each year. I’ll be mentioning their business on our social media page around the holidays (and at Valentine’s Day). There are several local churches who partner with us, allowing us use of their facilities, resources, even allowing their staff paid time off to help with the tournament. I’ll mention those churches as often as possible on our social media pages.

Even if you paid for a venue, acknowledge their hospitality. Did you rent a hotel ballroom for a charity dinner of 500? Write the venue a letter of thanks for hosting your event, even if you were a paying customer. If there any servers who went above and beyond the call of duty, mention them by name.

Our church once served at a downtown festival hosted by our local Chamber of Commerce. I’ll admit, it was a miserable day. It rained and it was cold and it wasn’t a good day for an outside, downtown, street festival. On the Monday after the event, I took flowers to the women who work at our local Chamber of Commerce and thanked them for giving our church the opportunity to serve the community. I also wrote note cards to the businesses who allowed us to run our power cords from their businesses to the street outside.

The next thing I knew, our church was getting mentioned on social media by the Chamber of Commerce. Did I do it for the mention? No. I did it because I wanted to intentionally form a relationship between our church and local community. We’re  here to make a difference. I wanted them to know that.

Keep your event participants updated on what you’re doing throughout the year, whether through social media or direct email marketing, let them know the results of what they did or contributed.

After The Event – Make It Fast

Timing is everything. Have you ever gotten a thank you note for a Christmas present…in July? Last year I was able to help a Youth Pastor with a large scale youth event. The event was on a Friday night and we had follow-up postcards in the mail on Monday. They were very simple: thanks for coming, here’s what coming up, here’s where you can view pictures of the event. The follow up was simple. It was also effective. We saw some new families connect to the church through that event.

During my time as a Next Steps Staff Director at a local church, I viewed every Sunday as an event. No, I’m not talking about gimmicky, marketing, ‘new-theme-every-Sunday’ type of event (although there are some churches who have done that, and if – after prayer, counsel, and discernment – you believe that’s what God has called you to do, then you should do it). I’m talking about the fact that every Sunday happens. We have a church service. I did not rest until every connect card had been read, every first time guest had been contacted (at the time I was writing hand-written notes to each first time guest), and every prayer request had been prayed for and sent to our Lead Pastor and Prayer Team Leader. The first time guest note cards were dropped at the post office on Sunday evenings. Every week. Timing is everything. Your guests took time out of their lives to visit you. Don’t take that lightly. As guests progressed through our system, the follow up strategy changed (week to week). I know of many churches who give their Pastoral and office staff Mondays off. When leading our Next Steps team, Sunday afternoons and Mondays were my busiest times. I don’t think they could have paid me to take time off.

I’d love to hear your follow up and next steps strategies. Tell me how your view follow ups and next steps.

 

 

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.

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.