The Rock Church is San Diego’s largest church. It was started in 2000 at San Diego State University by Pastor Miles McPherson, a former NFL player. In 2007, when the Rock launched its permanent building in Point Loma with 7,000 attendees, 12,000 people showed up! Outreach Magazine named The Rock America’s 2nd Fastest Growing Church that year, and the 4th Largest Church in Southern California in 2012.
In 2012, the church opened its North County site and broke ground on a third site in East County. The church is praying for 5 campuses by 2017. The Rock is well on its way to accomplishing its stated mission to "be a global and highly trusted model of relevant and innovative evangelism."
When it comes to data management, rapid growth often creates logistical nightmares. Here’s how The Rock took their data management from chaotic to crucial for ministry:
Lindsy Hines, the church’s Data Management Administrator since 2010, is an avid champion of Fellowship One. Her zeal for maximizing the church management software (ChMS) to its fullest potential has brought astounding improvements to the church’s data as a powerful ministry resource.
- The Rock’s data challenges and how Fellowship One helped
- The Rock’s unique systems
- The typical approach to evaluating church management software systems and the problems this view causes
- Why churches should think long term when comparing technology
- Why churches should prioritize the needs of their administrative staff over the congregational user
- Achieving buy-in with Fellowship One
The Rock began working with Fellowship One in 2001, but the only feature being used was Children’s Check-in. When Lindsy took over the data management role, the original purchaser of the software had been gone for 5 years. Lindsy saw that the massive potential of the software was barely even being touched and set out to make The Rock “better stewards of a system that could do so much, but was being used so little.""We wanted to be better stewards of a system that could do so much, but was being used so little."
Lindsy Hines, Data Management Administrator, The Rock Church
"At that time, everyone had their own way of tracking things and their own place to house that info (Google Docs, Excel, Email, Wufoo), and not only was the info not accessible to anyone else, it was unreliable! We couldn't get good, factual and reliable numbers. When a Ministry Leader, Pastor or Staff Member left, all the info and tracking went with him or her, and the next person started all over. We found inconsistencies in numbers, in reporting methods, and in the overall integrity of our information."
How Fellowship One Helped
Lindsy began by tracking church-wide numbers in Fellowship One, such as first-time visitors, first-time believers, people needing prayer, community groups, kids checking into children's ministry, and online giving. "When we ran our first reports, it was so great to be able to see exactly how many first-time visitors we had on any given week and to be able to email them instantly. I evaluated weekly giving, altar call numbers and first-time attendees, and then manually included what the Pastor taught on each of those weeks to show the correlation between all four items. The results were astounding!"
Lindsy confirms that the integrity of tracking, reporting and follow-up immediately improved, which means that the quality of member care escalated."When we ran our first reports, we were amazed at how many community groups and leaders we had."
The Rock’s Unique System
Lindsy says that “over the last 5 years we’ve run with our use of the system,” citing these areas:
Additional Portals: The church purchased two more portals, one for its Missions School and the other for its Pastor’s Summits and Conferences.
Security: The Rock borrowed the idea from LifeChurch.tv to use the Notes field to track “Red Flags” in a whole new way. It has since grown into the church’s main security tracking and communication tool. They do staff-wide trainings on “Red Flags” and have expanded what they track and how they track it. "The fact that it’s all in F1 is amazing!" Lindsy says.
Volunteers: "We just started requiring all volunteers, church-wide, to be tracked in F1 through an Attribute. Since we also require background checks, we began training each ministry to use report P9400 to run their own audits. Now they have a People List of all Active Volunteers from which to filter the report. The report shows whether the volunteers have the correct Attribute, as well as the date of their last background check. The results have been so cool! We’ve empowered each ministry to manage their own volunteer background checks and keep abreast of their active and serving volunteers."
Lindsy also uses:
- Contacts and Attributes for couples who’ve completed pre-marital classes and want to request a pastor to marry them
- Groups for off-site Sports and Outreach Groups
- Weblink for daily childcare registration
- Check-in for your thrift store and bookstore volunteers to check in off-site
- Attributes to track Graduation Date (rather than using Staffing Assignments for each year)
- Check-in for Check-out
The Typical Approach to Evaluating Church Management Software Systems:
When it comes to researching church technology offerings, Lindsy believes that "no matter what system the church is currently using, there is one key component they feel it lacks and when they go looking for a system they are immediately drawn to the ONE with a primary focus on the solution to their ONE big problem. They look at what is needed up front, they look at what they need now. They think about what is "pretty" or convenient for the user."
What they find:
- A tool that looks nice in which people can register or fill out an application without creating an account.
- A planning tool that gets volunteers into the system, assigns them a job, sets calendars, dates, and sends reminders, and which lets users log in to see details.
- A database with a simple and easy-to-use workflow with clearly defined and recorded steps.
- A system with a thorough visitor assimilation track that automatically gets people plugged in from their first visit to next steps.
"The problem comes later," Lindsy continues, "after they are 'all in' on those systems, after their missionaries or students are fundraising, their visitors are being plugged in, their volunteers are scheduled, and their work flow is clear. Then they start to think of all the possibilities they could do with the information they’re collecting.
"They inevitably want to expand it, do more with the information, collect more data, run reports on crazy stuff, and it's at that point that they realize their system doesn't do that. It's limited to the primary focus that drew them in the first place. It does ONE thing very well, not a lot of things. The creator of the system provided a solution to one problem, not a long term solution."
Why Churches Should Prioritize Long-Term, Administrative Needs over Flashiness or User Demands
Looking at the Big Picture
Lindsy is the first to recognize that there is no silver bullet in technology solutions. No one product is going to do everything you want it to do. "Fellowship One might not meet your cookie-cutter mold of the individual solution you want NOW, but it absolutely will sustain you in the long run. The creators of Fellowship One think Big Picture. The system is designed to look at the long run of what you might want to do once your visitors, volunteers, and first timers are in the system.""No one product is going to do everything you want it to do... but Fellowship One will absolutely sustain you in the long run."
Created With the Back-End Administrative User in Mind
"The front side of a lot of other systems is a user's dream; it looks pretty, it's easy to navigate, you don’t have to sign in, and churches are drawn to that because they think 'If it’s easier for the user, we'll get so much more congregational participation!' What they don’t consider is that if it’s confusing, limited or lacking on the administrative side, the Administrator will give up and become frustrated much more quickly than the user will.
"For example, members will complain: 'I wish I could give week to week without setting up recurring giving, and that the system would remember my credit card number without me having to re-type it each time.' So a system is purchased and implemented and those few users who complained are happy, but now the administrative side of things is a mess! The staff can't find givers because they didn’t login. The staff can't tell them how much they gave or what card they used or offer them customer service because they didn't have to login.
"If someone had simply explained to those few users why a login is needed, they would have understood, appreciated the care, security and customer service, and moved on." In reality, anytime users make an online purchase, they are required to either set up an account or reenter their information each time. It’s standard everywhere else, and it’s the only way to protect information!
The Long-Term Value of an Api
An important feature for the long-term approach is whether or not a system has an API. This is a back-end feature that other software systems (such as social media manager or background check specialist) can access to enable their software to integrate with your Fellowship One database.
F1 is a large enough system that other companies want to be able to connect to it. 12 companies have already built a connection to F1, with more to follow, stacking Fellowship One’s deck for even more long term success.
The Rock uses SecureGive and CIA, and was the first church to import giving from another system (Mogiv—a mobile giving solution) through the API into their F1 database.
Getting Staff Buy-In
Lindsy explains that "it was a challenge to get everyone on board and we still aren’t completely there." For a time, Lindsy took on the task of entering and following up on everything until she could show results of what F1 could do. "Once I could show proof, the system held more value and my 'claims' held more weight."
Her next task was to train the administrative staff. "They are the life source of tracking and information, and when I started to train, support, and help them, they began using the system more. Once their supervisors saw the value in what they could provide when data was tracked via F1, the supervisors were more likely to “enforce” the use of F1 department-wide." This kind of high-level buy-in is directly related to the consistency of utilization of the software and the quality of data outputs.
Flexibility and Availability
Lindsy also believes that her accessibility—allowing people to walk by her desk and ask for help with anything F1-related—really helped. "Everyone knows they can come to me with any F1 question, frustration or concern at any time, and I’ll stop to listen or walk through whatever it is, step-by-step, right there."
Enthusiasm and Proactive Promotion
One of the most valuable efforts Lindsy made to improve Fellowship One buy-in was being the biggest cheerleader and advocate for the software. "In a meeting, if someone mentioned a youth camp coming up, I'd approach them to find out how I could help, in order to make sure F1 was used. Or if someone was complaining about F1, I'd approach them to find out why. 99% of the time, they hadn't even logged in; they were just repeating something they'd heard. I'd follow that rabbit trail to the source of the complaint and see how I could help that person.""I wish everyone understood, if used to its fullest potential, Fellowship One can truly 'Free You Up to Focus on Ministry.'"
"There are things Fellowship One doesn’t do," says Lindsy, "but that's when we get creative. It's malleable enough to use it the way you want for your church. It’s amazing on the administrative side and if the front end is explained to a user, they get it.
"My dream for F1 at The Rock is that all our staff and leadership would realize that maximum utilization of Fellowship One will give us an accurate pulse on the health, involvement, and activity of our attendees, which is truly priceless.
"I wish everyone understood that, if used to its fullest potential, Fellowship One can truly 'Free You Up to Focus on Ministry'."