Merry Christmas from the IconCMO Staff. We hope you have a safe and happy Christmas!! In observance of Christmas Icon Systems will be closing at 12:00 on the 24th and will resume normal buisness hours Friday the 26th.
Let’s get a few facts out of the way first. There is no one solution that will work for every fellowship, synagogue, Christian or other churches. Secondly, church software shouldn’t be picked based on bottom line pricing – ever. Click here to see why. Pricing shouldn’t be reviewed until after the church made the decision ‘will the software work in our organization’.
When choosing software, several factors to consider are ROI, church transparency, member’s data organized well, communication to church members, church directory creation, and is reporting compliance obeyed. Compliant reporting for contributions and accounting in one system is essential, plus it keeps the church from unnecessary politics – internally or externally.
In this blog, we will try to give some guidelines only based on church size. However, the church should have brainstorming sessions of what they want for features. Additionally, the church should review what is and isn’t working right, and where do they plan on being in a few years.
Below we review membership software in comparison to size of church. While this isn’t the only matrix to look at when deciding to take a step towards using church software, it’s important to understand how the size of the organization may affect the ‘when’ and ‘which software’ questions. Church software comes in all different variations, where some work well in small to medium size churches but not large churches, whereas others work really well in large churches but the complexity is too much for a small church.
The household numbers are just loose guidelines. To translate from a member to household count, you can take the member count and divide it by 3. So if you have 500 members, you would have about 166 households. The church should be counting active, friends, and other statuses in this count as you should be tracking and communicating to all of them at some level.
Small churches (under 75 households) – Smaller churches have an idea we need to be bigger before looking at software. This is a myth for several reasons. It is easier to organize when you are smaller, as it’s more manageable than when you grow larger and have a lot more clean up. Additionally, tracking relationships of people and communicating to them becomes irreplaceable. A big mistake is relying on someone (typically a pastor or secretary) to remember all the relationships of people in the church. Even if the church decides to use simple tools to track visitors, donations, members, worship notes, and other data elements – you need to have something in place, other than a person’s forgetful memory. Or the church could use a church membership database.
Let’s use an example about managing data early – my Dad taught me to clean out my car each day when I came home from work. It made it easier to keep it clean this way than cleaning it out every few weeks which takes longer to do. Clutter piles up and you have to remember if you should throw this or that in the garbage or keep it. The same holds true with cleaning your house. Waiting to get software when you think the church is big enough is the same idea – by the time the church is big, there is so much clutter, it will take weeks, if not months, for you to clean it up.
Check back later for the next installment of this blog, discussing the medium and larger churches.
The youth culture: (cont.)
This is the second part of a two part series. If you haven’t read the first part you may want to read it first before moving on.
In the last blog, we asked if the younger culture’s questioning should be dismissed or looked down at? The answer is, NO. The older generation should embrace this great opportunity to learn about the younger generation and mentor them. Some of my fondest memories were when I use to visit a neighbor that was an Air Force retiree and we would talk for hours on the back porch about life or he help me fix my bicycle. He was a great mentor in my life and his actions showed he cared.
One thing I have learned is, when you have a questioning audience, you develop a better understanding of the subject. Additionally, investing your time into 1 or 2 younger people is essential to understanding how to relate to them, guide them through struggles, and most of all, help when you can. Actions do speak louder than words. If all you do is dismiss their ideas, then you are giving them a reason to dismiss you and eventually leave for what they feel is a better way of life. The younger generation should not be viewed as the rebellious culture, because they question certain beliefs or try to have a deeper understanding by questioning others. On the flip side, the younger generation could learn a lot from previous generations. Each generation should respect the others’ viewpoint – Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalist, although you may not agree with it.
The one thing I was hoping to see is if sermons might be changing because the listener is changing. However, I didn’t see evidence that actual sermons are changing to help facilitate the youth’s desire to participate in the weekly sermons. To engage the younger audience we do see changes in the worship service by creating different venues, or creating different small groups. However, the sermon itself has not changed much in the way of delivery.
Listeners, especially the younger generation, are wanting more engagement with the speaker(s). In other words, they don’t like to just be preached at by the pastor, but instead have the opportunity to ask those hard and unfiltered questions. They don’t want to be a listener all the time, especially when a preacher won’t listen to their side of the story or answer their questions. This is a dramatic change from past generations because historically preachers took the stage and delivered their sermon with little audience interaction.
Why do they strive to have a more interactive sermon? It comes down to relationships. The younger generation are forming their own path with others. They are tighter in their relationships with one another – almost to a fault. Youth culture is ‘high on relationships and low on structure’ according to Pastor Wolf. If you think about churches today and in the past – how are they structured? They are heavy on structure as in the programs offered, buildings for worship, sermons presented by one person typically, denominational rules and policies, etc. Churches represent a top down approach as to the way things are completed. This is the exact opposite of what the younger culture seeks. The youth of churches like interaction, however is this how things are presented in a Sunday’s service? Most would agree – it isn’t.
Is it time to change the sermon format or has your church experimented with other ideas that try to reach the various generational cultures? Which ones were successful or not? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
The idea for this blog came from reading an email from Steve the editor of CCMag, when he posed the question “How long do you preach and why”?
My next stop was Google to see what others had to say. I also wanted to see if others had similar thoughts as I did on occasion when listening to a sermon. Tom Rainer did an unscientific survey just to see what kind of responses he would get back on sermon times. Most sermons fell into the 26 – 45 minutes time range as seen in his survey results. In addition to the survey there are over 150 comments from others including pastors, that I found insightful.
Below I listed some of the more insightful ones that I came across.
- The more prepared a pastor is the shorter they go in the sermon. Examples were – reading a manuscript verses an outline which allows adaptation, adding time to the sermon.
- One pastor that visited another country had this to say – He asked the country’s native pastor ‘how long should I preach’? The native country’s pastor, looked at him and said ‘Preach until the Holy Spirit tells you to stop’.
- Some say it is a form of art for speaking in front of an audience and maintain their attention. You have to be in tune with majority of your audience.
- Others say it is a poor measuring tool and should not be considered.
- Does it have something to do with content and delivery that make people either ignore the clock or watch it?
- While others advised, with elderly or others that are sick, they can’t sit for long times and need to move.
- Some say there’s a formula to figure out how long you should preach.
- Does it depends on the generation you are asking – youth vs. middle age vs. elderly?
All of this to say there are a lot of views about this subject, and I don’t think any one person knows the right answer as any of them can be valid.
I found number 8 to be of interest as there is a lot of chatter and some studies about why certain demographics are leaving the church. Some people say this is happening at a faster rate among the younger culture. Other say that they eventually come back to the church.
The youth culture:
Is there a growing chasm between the older and younger generation? Are pastors torn between trying to please both when sermons are delivered? Is this why larger churches have different venues which are geared to various generational preferences (old hymns vs. contemporary or upbeat songs)? The older generation grew up in a church with an authoritative voice, whereas the younger generation wants to participate in discussions and voice questions expecting them to be answered, raise doubts, or other ideas that are worthy to be explored. Should this questioning be looked down at or dismissed?
This is the first part of a two part series.
I thought it would be nice to put together a post in honor of Thanksgiving. Taking a moment to pause and reflect on what the holiday is really about is refreshing amidst the traveling, football, and shopping chaos. So last week I sent out an email to the entire Icon Systems office asking everyone what they were grateful for.
I fully intended on summarizing everyone’s answers to make the list short and sweet. However, the responses I received from my co-workers were so awesomely heartwarming I couldn’t bring myself to paraphrase their answers.
What we’re grateful for
- Being able to serve churches across the United States
- Caring co-workers and meaningful work
- Wonderful co-workers and a purposeful career within a great company
- A job where I can focus on serving people and the Church directly, rather than focusing on profits
- The privilege of working with the kindest group of customers ever
- Being a part of the Icon Systems team and being able to help people
- The family and friends God has blessed me with
- Friends and family
- Learning experiences in parenting 😉
- My wonderful wife and four boys, and for the chance to join the Icon team
- Knowing that I don’t need to be perfect—because Jesus has been perfect in my place
From all of us at Icon Systems, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
The photo is a picture I took a few years ago; I was walking through a park in my neighborhood and found a heart-shaped leaf that had fallen on the path.
A while back, one of our customers presented us with a scenario involving a large credit card refund that we thought had the makings for some good discussion here on the blog. [Read more…]
Do you see more producers or consumers in the church or the community?
For example, do you see others:
- consume more raw materials in a week than what they produce, or vice versa, or
- produce something for the greater good of humanity verses consume things that bring humanity down, or
- in the church consume the church’s resources instead of helping produce resources for the church.
Let’s focus on the last example.
Consumer vs. Producer – probably the best way to distinguish the difference is to use an example of Joe. Joe comes to church on Sunday and goes to two Bible classes, takes in the worship and sermon, then leaves for the day. He doesn’t come back to church any other days to help out around the church and doesn’t donate his time to the church’s mission. In this sense he is consuming the classes but not giving much back. Now let’s take a look at Joe in a different scenario. He still takes in the classes, worship, and sermon; but he cleans the church’s bathrooms weekly, mentors men every Friday, donates time to the Christmas fundraising event, and provides free plumbing services to the church.
Before we tell Joe, in the first scenario to pull his weight, we should be aware of a few things. 🙂 I don’t believe that there’s anyone that’s truly just a consumer or a producer. Everyone at some time is either a consumer or a producer and it changes throughout the day – sometime minute by minute. The question one should ask is, ‘do you give back in some way greater than what you have taken’? Another caveat, is when someone is a new visitor to your church, most of the time they are learning about the organization any way they can or many times they are in real trouble looking for answers. In these instances, and possibly others, they will probably be a consumer for majority of their time spent at church. This consumption behavior may go on for awhile when a person is new to the church. The church should gradually mentor them into being a producer, in some capacity, that’s greater than what they consume – in all walks of their life. They should be a producer in their home life, mentoring their children, at work, taking interest in others, etc. How much better will the world be, if we had a little less consuming and little more producing for society’s enrichment?
Becoming a Producer.
What are some things people can help the church with to become more of a producer? There’s teaching adult or children, mentoring others, helping in the nursery, helping around the church grounds or cleaning, donations, etc. A few other examples that may not come to mind are welcoming new people and showing them around, evangelism, community service in the name of the church, and encouraging pastors – especially after a hard delivered sermon. Feel free to add any that you thought of in the blog’s comment section.
Here’s a blast from the past: Can you remember when produce was so inexpensive like the one in the picture? Be careful, you may date yourself. 🙂
If you haven’t read the first part in this two part series please read it here first.
Do a little fact finding – A scenario may be a person asking the church to help them pay a bill like utilities, phone, or gas. It’s appropriate to call a company’s billing department and let them know who you are and your helping this person pay their bill. Majority of the time companies are more than happy to give the bill’s balance because they just want to get paid and they don’t care by who.
Once you know the bill’s balance, who should you give the money too? When possible, it is best for the church to pay the bill for the person instead of giving the benevolence seeker the cash. Is this an inconvenience for the church? Yes, however the church knows that it will go to where it is intended. This methods assures there’s is no mishandling of the money from the benevolence seeker is. This accountability is especially important when it is a large sum of money.
Developing ties with community businesses may be important to develop like gas stations and grocery stores. Why? If someone is passing through you can call ahead and advise the store to put the person’s purchase on the church’s tab (up to a certain limit). This process would keep you from making the trip to the store. Then you can pay the store over the phone or have a monthly bill sent to you. Some businesses will hold your debit card on file for purchases in the future. Keep in mind that cards expire and you may have to update it every so often with the business.
Documentation is a must when administering these funds for a Benevolence Ministry. You want to be held above reproach when it comes to documentation and those who are helped with the monies. This protects you from any type of questioning from others and builds a trust relationship.
Auditing is another strongly recommended suggestion. You should have a non-family person that reviews the records on an annual basis. The person should be someone that understand accounting, contributions, and various GAAP procedures and understands which compliant software to use for non-profits. Some example are a banker, CPA, investment firm, etc.
A Benevolence Ministry Committee or a group of confidants to bounce ideas off of is an added bonus. Sometimes the person in charge may need to ask the question – should we help this person? It’s always wise to seek council when needed. By having more eyes and ears on the case, it helps the person administering the money and keeps everything legit. Additionally, everyone has different backgrounds and they can chime in on the level of generosity.
image credit bobrusk
What does church membership management and the Benevolence Ministry have in common? Let’s start with how the Benevolence Ministry gets it’s funding. Majority of the time this comes from the church’s members. It would be hard to fund this ministry without donors and the ability to track them in a church membership management system.
With a church membership management system, the church can track various pieces of information. Many times donors want to know how the donation is used when they are giving money to an organization. The church may want to report back to donors how the ministry is doing and how much it is helping others. Many church membership management systems also provide a tax receipt for their offering.
What about the people the church helps? Should they be in the church membership management system, although they may not be members? Answer – YES. Why? The church may invite them to social events that could help them not only spiritually but possibly get them back on their feet. The organization may want to give updates on the ministries. Churches often notify people about events of interest, like an upcoming job fair. It may be wise to know who you are helping and how often they are asking for help. This can help the ministry avoid people taking advantage of the Benevolence Ministry.
For donors, the organization can update them on how the ministry has helped others each month. Without a record of who’s helped, it’s hard to provide non-confidential information to the donors. In most organizations, statistics like number of people helped or how many shoes given away to needy children are acceptable to share. Many donors are encouraged when they hear about the number of people the ministry helped. Encouragement increases donations because the donors see progress towards a shared goal with the ministry. The organization’s internal reporting should show if the ministry is growing or shrinking in revenue and are controlling their expenses.
Helpful hints are coming in part two. Watch for it!
image credit bobrusk
A new group list export has been released in response to customer requests for an output format that can be used in mail-merge fashion to produce a pre-filled Sunday School registration form for each child. This export includes information for secondary households. It also assumes that a member group exists for the Sunday School class. Output can be either to a spreadsheet or tab-delimited format. You will find this new export under PEOPLE : Groups : Grp-Export –> Group List with Secondary Households.
The field layout for this export is as follows:
The key for the exported fields is as follows:
GRAY: These fields are in reference to the category and group specified in the export setup parameters.
BROWN: These fields are in reference to a group member’s member record.
PINK: These fields reference the PRIMARY household information of the group member.
GREEN: These fields reference the SECONDARY household information of the group member.
PURPLE: These fields reference phone numbers and email addresses from the PRIMARY household’s “head of household” member record.
PEACH: These fields reference phone numbers and email addresses from the SECONDARY household’s “head of household” member record.
Once you have exported the desired data, you can use your favorite word processor to create a mail-merge document, formatted as a registration form, in order to present a pre-filled form to the child’s parents.
The parents can check the information on the form and verify that it is correct, or they can write in any changes to be made. This method can save a considerable amount of time, both for parents and data entry personnel.