Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church Podcast. Today our guest is Deborah Ike. Hi Deborah, how are you?
I am doing well. How are you today?
Excellent. Deborah, I am excited for you to be able to speak to our listeners, the executive pastors and administrators out there because you have a lot to say to them. Why don’t you just give a start to some back story of who you are and how you got to where you are now?
Sure. I got started in ministry pretty early on and did a lot of mission trips as a teenager, and I am interned with an organization right out of high school – a missions organization and worked in their finance department. So I got some direct experience in ministry pretty quick there. From there I worked in, got my degree in computer information systems of all things and ended up doing accounting in the consulting world. I worked for Deloitte Consulting for a few years and I have worked in project management and risk management for a large company in Oklahoma, and really wanted to combine my heart for ministry with my head for business, so to speak. And that’s where my company Velocity Ministry Management came into play. It is really just trying to serve the church and help executive pastors, church business administrators with all of the behind-the-scenes support functions that make ministry happen.
So that’s what you are involved in now? When did you start Velocity?
I started it in 2012; so it was part time for a little bit there, but now I am full time on it.
Yeah, whenever you were in kind of the ministry world doing more of this business administrative stuff, did you feel out of place or did you feel like you had a role to serve? Do you feel like people listen to you? Or how were you perceived during that time?
Oh gosh, definitely a little bit of an oddball just because I look at the ‘how you do ministry’ and I automatically see all of the stuff that it takes to make, let’s say an event happen or a church service happen or organizing volunteers, managing a project. My brain immediately goes to all the to-dos, all the tasks, and all the coordination and communication that’s necessary. And while that’s definitely a quality that’s needed and the skill set that’s needed, it’s not what people think of when they initially think of going into ministry. I doubt most people that end up being a pastor, went to seminary, just dying to learn how to read financial reports for their church. That’s not what God placed on their heart to do. But unfortunately, that’s just kind of is part of the gig. So for me, what I try to do is explain what I offer; what I try to bring to the table is supporting those who are doing, which might call could and cook from my ministry.
So walk us through a little bit about the typical church that comes to you for help. What kind of church is it? What are the things they are struggling with?
Most of the churches I’ve worked for are in the probably averaging 500 plus on a weekend. They either have an executive pastor or they might be looking for one, and they have maybe somebody who handles the finance office, and that’s by default their business administrator. Typically what I’ve done is I’ve help them trying to figure out what church management system to select. So walking them through, okay what are our processes today that we would want to use software to make more efficient and what are our criteria? You know access something that people can jump into with both feet without really thinking through their requirements first, and so you want to take a step back and go through the detail process there. I’ve also done a lot of work helping churches playing events, so events from anywhere from 1200 to 10,000 people – help them through that whole process of planning that and pulling those off successfully. So my project management background comes into play there. So that’s just examples.
And that’s event planning, something you’ve written about recently, right, that’s been a big thing?
It is, yeah. I recently came out with the church event planning toolkit and really just took my experiences from project management. I’ve earned my project management professional certification, have over ten years’ experience in that field, and then my experience in helping churches plan events and just wrote down what my process ended up being and then how I developed that and then trying to give folks a very simple way to just get started. And so it’s a short book but it also includes templates you can download and customize for your church and stuff like that. So I really want to just give someone a literally a tool kit they could use to plan the next event.
Yeah, and pretty much every event I have ever been a part of or seen in a church usually is just hey, we have to do this. Somebody who doesn’t have experience or who did it last year or whoever is there signs up to do it. So what are the holes that the average person is going to miss when it comes to something like event planning?
Well, in those examples that you mentioned churches are great at just making stuff happen, right. We will hook together and bootstrap it and make it work. But what ends up happening when you do take that approach is you wear yourself out – you burn out your staff, your volunteers are getting frustrated because of miscommunication or total lack of it, and the event isn’t as successful as it could be. So the holes that I see is first people don’t take the time to really clarify the vision of an event. It’s just okay, we’ve always done this event, and so we are going to do it again this year, which nothing wrong with repeating a successful event but make sure you are clear on exactly why are we doing this again this year. Or if it’s something new, what are our goals? Who are we trying to reach? How do we define success? How do we measure that? What does it look like? Before you spend time, money, resources on planning some big event, make sure you know why you are going down that road first and then really putting together a detailed plan. I know this sounds really nerdy and not very exciting but honestly, you need a project manager or an event planner, whatever you want to call them, to talk to each department in the church and find out okay, communications folks, what information do you need to create the flyers and update the website and create an event registration page – whoever is doing day core, what do they need to know about it and how much time do they need to put the staging together? So there is all kinds of factors to consider and you need somebody to be the central hub of information and document all of that into a single plan, and then keep everyone accountable to meet their deadlines and getting the thing done on time and in budget.
Yeah and one thing you said earlier about – a lot of times the event happens, it’s just that the volunteers are so burnt out because it’s such an arduous manual task to try to pull off these events. So the person who did last year is probably not going to volunteer this year because they know how much work has been put into it. What kind of insights, developments, innovations have had occurred in technology or resources people may just not be aware of that can help relieve a lot of that manual pressure?
Yeah, so there is a lot of new online tools that are available for – I think they are originally developed for traditional project management but they are great for event planning and even just managing smaller projects throughout your church. So my personal favorite is Asana. I use that for my own business and it’s great. You can put all your tasks in there, you can have several projects within that tool, and so you can assign people to a task and due date, share files within it, all that kind of stuff. Basecamp is another one that I’ve heard a lot of churches using. So there is different tools out there that you can use to facilitate the communication, to reduce the number of meetings and emails that you have to deal with. And so those are a couple of examples of some innovations that the churches can leverage and a lot of them are at least free on a trial basis or free up to a certain number of users. So you can test it out and see if it’s going to be a great fit for your church before you really need to invest any money in pain – a monthly subscription fee or something like that.
Yeah, you also talked about that you look at other software church management type things that are out there. What are some of the – just in general, what are some of the advancements that you’ve seen in the last three to five years that maybe weren’t available before?
I think a lot of the great power in the church administration or the CHMS tools is the integrations that a lot of these companies have developed with other software. I mean like church community builder has a lot of different APIs they have developed – I am sure there is plenty of others – but being able to use something like QuickBooks with your CHMS, like you don’t have to mess with having finances in the same places where you have your church database, but you can still have the data talked. The systems talk to each other, so you do not have to re-enter data twice. You know stuff like that, that it makes it a lot easier to take – you get out of it what you put into it, right. So the first thing you’ve got to do is make sure that you have a process and a clear purpose, and how you are going to use the software and considering how we are going to use the software to facilitate discipleship, evangelism, following up with the first time guests, helping people get into small groups, stuff like that. So documenting those process flows and how you want to use a tool and then finding the tool that best is the best fit for what you need and refer your budget and then putting it into place. So you can’t expect a tool no matter how cool it is, no matter how many bills and whistles it has, you can’t expect that tool to magically fix a broken process. It just won’t work. You definitely have to do the painful work upfront to fix your processes if they are not working effectively today, and then put a great tool in place to make those processes run more efficiently and take less time from your staff so that they can go have one on one conversations with people, and they can be – you are doing the ministry that they have the heart to do.
Yeah, I think that’s fantastic advice. Whenever I see people especially whom we talk a lot about processes and trying to automate those types of things, usually you need to start with a pen and paper, you don’t need to start with software, you need to figure out exactly what it’s going to look like, you need to write it down, you need to say who is going to be involved in this. What do we want it to do? Do we want it to integrate with our financial software? Do we want it to integrate with some HR software that we are using? What are those tools? And then you go find the tool. If you start with some flashy tool that’s out there, then you are going to be limited by what that tool can do and it’s all you are going to think about. So that’s great advice I think through.
And you may end up spending way too much money that you need to because you bought the tool with all the bells and whistles, but you don’t really need it yet. So it can definitely be a budget saver if you take the time to figure out okay, what do we really need and what software out there will grow with us. Okay, we can use the scale down version first, and then we can grow into the bigger picture later.
Awesome awesome, we’ve been geeking out about technology a lot. Let’s get us something low tech. Give me something hands on that is a good tip for XPs out there to help them manage their churches better?
Yeah, the first thing that pops in my mind is go talk with some of your key volunteers, take them out for coffee or ask them to come in for Sunday dinner or something, and just find out what’s really going on because as an executive pastor or someone on staff at the church, you are eat, sleeping and breathing ministry the whole week. And you are also at a level of management or leadership where you are not necessarily hearing what’s going on the front lines and your key volunteers – those faithful folks that consistently show up every week, they are the ones who hear first time visitors wondering where a kid’s check in is or trying to find the room for the small groups or Sunday school classes or different things, or they are the ones that are frustrated because they don’t know what is expected of them and that goal post keeps moving and they are not sure what the staff really wants. Go talk to them and just have a little sit down and say, “Hey, what can we do better? Are there any ideas or suggestions you have for the ministry area that you volunteer in?” – stuff like that. And you never know what you will hear and take action; take action on what they say. Obviously you probably can’t implement every suggestion but when you are able to put into place something that a volunteer suggested, give them the credit. Let other volunteers know,”Hey Suzie, you had a great idea for kid’s ministry, and we put that into place. And here’s the outcome. Thank you so much for your feedback. If you guy, if anyone else has any suggestions, please let us know”, stuff like that. It builds credibility and trust between you and your volunteers, and it shows how much you value their opinion.
Yeah, that’s really good. I like that a lot – just giving that front line information, like you said when you are in the church Monday to Sunday, you see the church through the staff eyes and someone start to see it through a member, through a volunteer. Great, when you are going to a church you’ve never been to before, you are interacting with them, what are some of the early signals that tell you that either this church is pretty sound and maybe just needs to ramp up a few things or this church is a little bit in trouble when it comes to administrative type things? What are some of those signals that you look for?
Well, especially if I am a first time guest, I’d be curious about how they want to gather my information. So is it a contact card in the back seat pocket in front of me, is it – do they have a church app that they want me to go to and fill out information, whatever that looks like. And then do they follow up? Do they send me an email within a week or a text message or a phone call or something like that? That’s one big key because every church wants to grow. So if they are not taking the time to have a good process in place for capturing guest information and following up with them, that’s a symptom of some broken processes I would expect. I don’t have any kids yet but for parents, I am sure one of the first things they are going to be looking for is okay, what does kid’s check in look like? How smooth is it? Are the volunteers friendly? Does this look like a good environment for my child? Does it look safe and clean and healthy? – all of that. So those are kind of the top two. Other than that like does the service order seem fairly organized? You don’t want to organize things so much that you leave out any room for God to change things up a bit that day, but you also want to be a wise steward of your time, of the time of people that are coming and ensure that you have a plan. Even if you decided to alter or tweak the plan at the last minute, you should go in with a plan and that should be fairly obvious.
Deborah, what’s something that you can say to XPs out there when you – you are going to give them some consultations or some help for things, what some encouragement you could pass along to them that you would think is good for everyone to learn?
Honestly, the main thing is what you do matters; what you do is supporting, is providing that structure for your senior pastor to flourish and the gifting that God has given him. You are ensuring that the finances are managed well, that you are being an excellent steward of the money that God’s entrusted to you. You are keeping the staff on target with their responsibilities, making sure the facilities of your church are running smoothly and efficiently, if you’ve got a great environment for people to come to each service. And that’s a big deal – you may not be on the front stage ever or very often but what you do behind the scenes makes what happens at the altar, at the end of service actually happen. It facilitates that, it supports it. And so yes, administration is a gift that God has given you as a talent that He has entrusted to you, and so don’t ever be embarrassed by that or think it’s a second rate gift because it isn’t. Leverage it, use it to the fullest extent you can to honor God and just serve His kingdom and trust that He knew what He was doing when He placed those giftings and that desire in you to support the church in that way.
Great, I think that’s something that everyone can take away from. Again, I use that quote – everyone out there, you are doing a good job, you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. You have a special gift just like you, Deborah. I mean from early age you knew that that’s what you were supposed to be doing rather than trying to form yourself into something else – just finding a way to use what you are. That’s great. Well, thanks so much for being on the show, Deborah. You can find out more about her ministry at velocityministrymanagement.com. Like we said a lot of stuff about church event planning, more things to do with project management, about good church management, administrative type things, lots of resources on your page. Anywhere else we can connect with you, Deborah?
And the other internet place is my freelance writing website deborahike.com. I also write for a couple of church publications and other companies that serve the church. And so that’s another resource. You can check out some of those articles there.
Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for being on the show. We appreciate your insights and wish you blessings on your ministry.
Thank you. I appreciate you having me.