infoodle supports a variety of churches around the world and in New Zealand. One of our valued customers is Whangarei Anglican Parish, who celebrated their one year anniversary with infoodle in August.
For today’s post we had a chat with Chris, the administrator for the Anglican Church, Whangarei, who has worked there for nearly two years after many years in the IT industry. As an administrator, Chris is responsible for keeping the books, paying the bills and also maintaining the Parish Role with all of the associated contact details for church members, suppliers, facility users and many other folk associated with the church in different ways.
The church at Whangarei has a roll of around 170 members with many other people associated with the church (suppliers, external users of the facilities, children and so on). Prior to having infoodle, there were many challenges in maintaining “a single version of the truth”. There were multiple conflicting lists of past and present members - old, out of date addresses and phone numbers and no single, definitive place to go for peoples’ contact details. We had no place where our hall users were “captured”, nothing consistent, other than spreadsheets or Google “Contacts” to help us maintain the many interactions we had with people over time.
The rostering of folk for their involvement in church services was also becoming unmanageable. The challenge of needing to notify and remind people that they “were on” was made worse by not having their contact details well managed. When people were unavailable for their rostered duty, they also had no clear way to signal the fact, or to make clear and well understood alternative arrangements.
It wasn’t so much the time to manage the issues, though clearly the way we were working was inefficient and time-consuming. It was the embarrassment of, once having been asked to provide the details, of being unable to provide them in a timely manner or with any level of confidence or certainty. We were actually failing to comply with Anglican Church statutes, in failing to maintain an accurate and an up to date record of our membership (including addresses and contact details).
Due to the lack of a coherent tool, the efforts to maintain the roll really only happened around the time of the Annual General Meeting, when “lots of people” were involved in trying to get it right. It became urgent to be able to present something, even if it wasn’t necessarily that accurate.
There were continuous requests for accurate and up to date information about people’s contact details which the church office was unable to provide. The absence of such information reduced the church’s ability to empower members of the ministry team in following up with the people for whom they were seeking to care – reducing the effectiveness of our ministry.
First and foremost we’re using infoodle to capture and maintain the contact details of our congregation. This is no small thing and we have a volunteer who is regularly “grooming” the data, seeking to maintain and improve its accuracy. We started off by asking the infoodle team to upload the fairly hap-hazard records we had from a “consolidated” spreadsheet, which was a great starting point and got us going, but which highlighted just how inconsistent and patchy our records had been. In focusing on the core data of our congregation we created a “Roll Reset Form” which we asked parishioners to complete in order to confirm and update their existing details.
Once we had that firm base to work from, we started using infoodle to create Groups. These groups are both Church Service related and more widely could be described as “common interest groups”. So, we are now able to clearly identify within the tool our Lay Readers, Servers and Sides People, as well as our Young Adults, Flower Arrangers and Messy Church volunteers. As folk let the office know what they want to be involved in, we can add them to groups and the leaders of the groups become aware of the new participants, even without having to be formally notified by any other means.
We then looked at creating Events within infoodle and almost immediately moved to creating Rosters to “staff” those Events. The tool helps to efficiently manage not only “who’s going to do what” but also, to let the involved party know (by a timely emailed notification) that they have been “rostered on” and in what capacity. The person is invited to respond, either by confirming their attendance or declining – with the option to add an explanatory note. This aspect of our use of infoodle is still a work in progress as more and more of the congregation and serving volunteers come up to speed with the workings of the tool and how to use it appropriately.
Yes, the use of the mobile app is one other aspect of infoodle that is becoming increasingly valuable to us. As mentioned above, the office was regularly receiving requests for individual parishioner’s contact details, which the office would struggle to provide in an accurate and timely manner. We had also received numerous requests for printed copies of the roll (used for the contact information it would contain). With the mobile app, we feel as if we are providing all that is being asked for and more.
The printed roll, we tell folk, is out of date as soon as it is printed. With the regular data grooming that we are doing and the continually shifting landscape of email addresses, land to mobile phone substitution and a generally aging population, some folk moving to rest homes, retirement villages and the like, the ability to provide accurate and timely information in printed form is no longer sustainable. So we’ve been encouraging our parishioners to access the app with the many advantages that online access provides.
Happily, with the deployment of infoodle, there is now no longer any confusion or uncertainty as to where to find the correct contact information about our congregation. If we go to infoodle and find the information is not there, we know that it is there that it needs to be added. If the information is incorrect in infoodle, we know that that is the place where it needs to be corrected – it is now our “one version of the truth” that we did not have previously and that we so clearly needed. As a by-product, we are now also complying with the Anglican Church statutes relating to the requirement to maintain an accurate roll.
Rostering of folk too has become much better managed with the interactive tool able to provide co-ordinated notification and feed-back with intended participants. Communication with groups is now a relatively easy and straightforward affair, without the need to maintain separate “email lists” that so quickly become inaccurate and out of date.
Quantifying time spent is difficult, but it is now much more efficient and timely when it comes to creating and maintaining new groups for example and being able to contact them directly.
Having the infoodle tool available has reduced the number and frequency of requests for information to the office and it is now possible to “point people to the tool” allowing office staff to simply get on with other work.
Being able to devolve the responsibility for the rostering of church service participants to the “team leader” has also meant that the “burden” of managing the roster no longer has to fall on one individual and has brought unexpected benefits in terms of flexibility and consistency.
By having the information available we can better help those with whom we come into contact. The Pastoral Care team are able to create and maintain private and confidential notes that the team are able to share.
We currently have 62 activated users.
The ease and confidence of accessing the “best” information we have available. The sense of certainty and manageability it provides.
Without reservation, yes.