Deborah Ike on Systems to Help Church Leaders



Deborah_Ike_podcastHello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of unSeminary! Today I’m excited to be speaking with Deborah Ike of Velocity Ministry Management.

What is Velocity Ministry Management? It’s a company that helps church leaders implement systems to manage their churches better. Deborah has a heart for ministry and a head for business. She’s worked with many different churches over the years and gotten to know the challenges pastors and church leaders face. She loves the heart everyone has for ministry, but observed that most churches have a lot of disorganization in the actual execution of tasks. That led to Deborah creating a business to help these church leaders better manage their churches by developing systems.

Systems sound boring, but can be a vital tool. // How can a system help you? Deborah tells us to think about having a new family come to your church. What if your volunteers, who usually greet new guests and welcome them into the church, just aren’t up to par that week? Or what if new visitors are welcomed, but no one follows up with that family later on? A system can keep the process moving efficiently so that new visitors get both a welcome and follow up which you’re hoping will keep them coming back, and ultimately get them connected.

Cultivate an atmosphere of service. // Creating a place where your guests feel welcome right from the start really helps them get plugged into the church. Make your ministry focused on the people to draw them in and develop solid relationships. Do this by training your volunteers on how to serve so they can use that wisdom to reach out to others.

Know what you want from your volunteers. // Most volunteers might not want to read a “job description”, but having one in place really solidifies what is expected from your volunteers. Make a list of the top five things expected from volunteers in each category (ushers, parking lot attendants, nursery, etc.). Make sure your volunteers then know what you want and the heart behind it. You don’t even have to call it a job description if that sounds boring or too “business” for you. You could instead create a “What to Expect” document that tells volunteers how things work at the church, where to go for certain things, and also what they should do in their volunteer role.

Keep track of your families. // The biggest problem many churches face is families who suddenly stop coming back. You can use a system in place to keep track of people. One solution is a software program that checks people in via scanning a card, and then someone can look them up in the system later to see when they last checked in. A more personal way is through the use of small groups. Divide your members and guests up into small groups, with leaders in charge of each group. The leaders then look for the people in their group each Sunday and just note who is there and who isn’t. The leaders can then check in with anyone who hasn’t attended to make sure things are okay or find out if the church can help them in any way.

Bridge the gap between vision and planning. // As Deborah says, we all want to capture the passion in new ideas, but the “ready, aim, fire” mindset doesn’t always work. Take time to step back and plan out your visions before execution. There are a lot of leadership principles in the bible that you can use to strengthen your ministry while still keeping it a church and not a business.

If you’d like to learn more about Velocity Ministry Management, visit their website or connect with Deborah on Twitter at DeborahIkeVMM.

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Episode Highlights

00:37 // Rich introduces Deborah Ike and welcomes her to the show.

01:30 // Deborah talks of her project management background and why she chose to serve the church.

02:31 // Deborah tells how systems work within the church.

04:34 // Deborah explains the importance of structures and processes.

05:52 // Deborah talks about training volunteers.

08:24 // Deborah highlights a couple of options on tracking and managing attendance.

09:27 // Deborah tells how she manages attendance within her own volunteer group.

11:04 // Deborah talks about how she helps churches plan and grow.

13:58 // Deborah stresses that using a few businessy terms doesn’t mean running a church like a business.

Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools // Nozbe

Ministries Following // North Point, Life Church TV

Influential Book // Next: Pastoral Succession That Works by William Vanderbloemen

Inspiring Leader // Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel

What does she do for fun // Trying out new recipes, working out

Contact // velocityministrymanagement.com Twitter: @deborahikeVMM

Episode Transcript

Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast, my name’s Rich. I am so glad that you’ve decided to spend some time with us today, I’m really honored. I know you’ve got a lot going on, gosh you’re busy this week, heading into this weekend at your church and I’m just honored that you would take some time out to spend some time with us here today.

Today we’re privileged to have Deborah Ike with us, from Velocity Ministry Management. I’m just excited for us to dig in and get a bit of a sense of what you’re up to Deborah. Welcome to the show.

Deborah – Hey thank you so much Rich, I really appreciate you inviting me on the show. I love unSeminary and all of the stuff that you are putting out there on your site as well, and on the podcast.

As far as Velocity goes, I love helping church leaders. I have a heart for ministry and sort of a head for business, I guess would be a good way to put it.

Rich – Okay very cool. Yeah the thing I love about your site and what you’re doing is there’s a real crossover. I think there’s a really interesting kind of connection, we talk about similar things. I love that you talk a lot about systems and kind of developing approaches that are scalable and help churches scale what they’re doing. Why did you start this site? Give me kind of the back story there a little bit.

Deborah – Sure well I had the privilege of working with a ministry for a while whilst I was in college and then also served at different churches. I’ve moved around the country a little bit with work and so I’ve been able to volunteer at my home church, wherever that may have been at the time and I just got to get to know some really visionary pastors and church leaders. I loved what they were doing, I loved their heart for ministry and their heart for people, yet at the same time I saw this kind of disconnect on how to execute on that vision really well.

So that’s kind of my business background, my project management background comes into play. I love systems, I love organization, like me, a little bit Type A. So that’s where I really want to bring that into play and God gives us all different talents and abilities and so I’m just trying to use what he’s entrusted in me to serve the church.

Rich – Nice okay. So let’s say, where there’s a church leader listening in who’s saying, “Oh systems, oh gosh, that’s just like, we’re just supposed to care for people, why should I be worried about systems?”

Deborah – Well okay, caring for people, prime example. Let’s say somebody brand new, a new family, the Smiths comes to your church this Sunday and they walk in the door and you know, maybe the volunteers were kind of not feeling it that morning and they weren’t as welcoming as they should be, as you want them to be and so they’re not just getting a really great open arm vibe from your church just yet. Or let’s say they do get welcomed really well but they fill out that visitor card and nobody calls them, so they’re kind of wondering, “Okay do they care about me? Do they know that I was even here?” That’s where a system comes into play.

So first off you’re training your volunteers and you’re imparting that vision and that passion that you have for people to them, so that they’re taking really good care of people and they know to be looking out for first-time guests and really taking them on a tour of church facility and helping them get their kids checked in and finding the sanctuary, directing them to a seat, all that sort of thing.

Then also making sure there’s a great process in place for follow-up. So they fill out that card, that next day you get them keyed into your church management system or your database and then somebody is getting on the phone and calling them that Monday afternoon or sending them an email, whatever your process is, so they feel like, “You know what, these guys cared about me, they cared about my kids, they cared about my family, they called, they followed-up. You know what, this might be my new church home.” That’s where systems, which I know sounds so boring and businessy, but that’s where systems are really used to take care of people and just steward and love people as they’re coming through your church.

Rich – Very cool. You know, we’re going through a season right now where we’re interviewing and we have been interviewing some of the top senior leaders of some of the fastest growing churches in the country and time and time again, if you’re listening into the podcast you’ll be hearing them talk about repeatable processes, that they’re doing these things over and over and that’s all that really a system is. So I appreciate that you’re pushing on that.

What would you say would be areas that you run into that kind of aren’t robust enough for churches or they haven’t really developed a clean enough system or a clear enough system, a repeatable enough system on a regular basis?

Deborah – You know, volunteers. Everyone is always looking for more volunteers. They’re trying to figure out, “Okay why aren’t people sticking around? Why aren’t they showing up on a Sunday when they said they would?” All of that sort of thing. So really making sure that you are cultivating an atmosphere of service within your church, from the time that somebody, depending on if you have a full-blown new membership or however you do that, really helping people see that that’s a process that gets them plugged into the church and helps them develop solid relationships.

So yes, that’s a very people centered, maybe more ministry feeling, but you’ve got to put that structure and those processes in place to make sure that you really train your volunteers well, that they understand the vision, that you’ve got strong volunteer leaders in place to nurture them and to set the bar high with what kind of level of excellence you’re looking for them to do, so they know what’s expected of them. So that’s definitely a key thing for all churches.

Rich – Yeah, so let’s dig into that a little bit. So how would you go about training volunteers? What are some training pieces that churches should be thinking through be?

Deborah – I would start with one, you’ve got to know what you want from them. So as a church leader you’ve got to sit down and create, and I know this sounds totally businessy, but you’ve got to sit down and create a job description and this doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but what’s the top five bullet point items that you expect from your greeters, or from the people out in the parking lot, or your ushers or whatever? For each role, set up those expectations, what does the win look like?

Rich – Right.

Deborah – In football, when someone scores a touchdown, that’s a win right? Well same thing for your volunteers, you’ve got to define the win. So that’s step number one. Once you and your entire leadership team know exactly what you expect from volunteers, then you write it down and you make the vision plain right?

Rich – Absolutely.

Deborah – Then you start talking to people and as you’re pulling people in and you’re recruiting them to start serving, it’s really talking about, “You know what, you’re not just smiling and saying hello if you’re greeting someone at the front door, you are taking care of people, you’re welcoming them into your church home. If you have a dinner party at your home, you really take care of people, you show them where things are in the house, you make sure that you get them a glass of water, usually Sunday morning it’s coffee right? Stuff like that, you’re really just taking care of people and you’re nurturing them.”

So you’ve got to tell them kind of the specifics of what you want and then also the heart behind it, so that they can make decisions on the fly when they need to and they can do that in a way that’s consistent with your church’s culture and your vision.

Rich – Nice, yeah we’ve hidden job descriptions in something we’ve called a ‘What To Expect’ document.

Deborah – Yeah.

Rich – I think sometimes people think, “Oh I don’t really want to read a job description,” but what they do want to know is what to expect.

Deborah – Exactly.

Rich – So we go out of our way to communicate it like, “Hey you’re going to arrive here, this is where you go to drop your coat, if you’re looking for a free meal this is how you can get a free coffee or whatever from us, and oh by the way, people are going to arrive and this is how you’re going to serve them. This is how to expect what it’s going to be like.” So we have kind of wrapped up a job description in really a document that tries to articulate what they can expect when they come, because people are obviously a little bit anxious when they first start volunteering.

Deborah – Yeah.

Rich – A common problem that churches have all the time is that families may stop attending, because simply people don’t notice. What are you kind of noticing that churches that are able to kind of close that back door, what have they been able to do from that point of view on a system?

Deborah – I think there’s a couple of different options. One is if you have a really robust church management software, ChMS system and you’re doing some sort of attendance taking or checking, a lot of them now you can kind of scan a little barcode or type in a last name real quick and it will look you up or a phone number or something like that and you can check people in that way. So that’s one easy way to do it.

Another way that might be a little bit more personal is through small groups. So if you’ve got most of your congregation, they are signed up and active in a small group, then your small group leader should be kind of taking attendance so to speak, it’s not like giving a role call during a small group, but they just know who’s there from week to week and if somebody doesn’t show up, hey just give them a phone call, “Hey is everything okay? How are you doing?” “Oh the kid’s soccer game went over, we couldn’t make it this week,” or whatever, you know, stuff like that.

Rich – So how are churches, are there churches that are taking attendance in the main service, the kind of main deal? How are you able to get a sense of whether people are attending or not?

Deborah – Yeah, some churches I’ve seen they actually still have that kind of binder that they pass down the aisles and everyone signs.

Rich – The Friendship Pad.

Deborah – Yeah.

Rich – Yes.

Deborah – Yeah I’m still seeing that.

Rich – Yeah.

Deborah – Which hey, you know, whatever works. Then I’ve also talked with the folks over a Church Community Builder quite a bit and they’ve got at least a couple of churches that are doing some attendance through that as well. So I don’t know that it’s really that widespread, to take attendance in the main service.

Rich – Yes.

Deborah – It’s probably a lot easier to do it in maybe a Sunday school type classroom or small groups. The other thing too is, with your volunteers, I’ve led a volunteer team for our early service for several years and if somebody wasn’t able to make it for a couple of Sundays in a row, I was just checking in on them saying, “Hey, is everything okay? What can we do to help you?” You know, if they got injured or if somebody was in the hospital we follow-up on that.

Rich – Absolutely.

Deborah – So just getting people plugged in.

Rich – I think even just tracking, in the kids’ ministry that obviously gives you a wide swathe of people, like you’re saying, within small groups or life groups, encouraging your leaders to take attendance. CCB, Church Community Builder has a really slick kind of attendance system for that that’s very easy to use as a leader.

Deborah – Yes.

Rich – That data can be really powerful to help move people along and keep them connected.

What are churches doing, from your perspective, from a kind of organizationally planning or kind of implementation of the vision of the senior pastor, what are you seeing is working these days for churches?

Deborah – Well typically, when a church comes to me it’s not working, so that’s kind of the fun part.

Rich – So how do you help them?

Deborah – Usually the first step is trying to bridge that gap between, what I would call kind of faith and vision and planning, because there’s this misconception that planning equals business and we’re trying to run the church like a business and that’s really, at least from my perspective, that’s not my heart behind it at all. I think there’s a lot of leadership and organizational principles that are straight out of the Bible that the business world gets to use all the time, so why aren’t we using it?

Rich – Yes.

Deborah – You know, Jethro telling Moses, “Hey you need to delegate more, you’re wearing yourself out here.” Even Jesus had 12 apostles, one didn’t work out so well, but the rest of them were spreading the gospel right?

Rich – Yes.

Deborah – So we need to be leveraging those core principles.

Rich – Right.

Deborah – So one thing is, first off you’ve got to convince the senior leader that ‘fire, ready, aim’ just isn’t working. I get excited about a vision, we get excited about starting a new service or launching a campus, whatever it might be and we all just want to go for it and reach more people and that’s great, you want to capture that passion and that vision. But then you’ve got to step back a little bit and go, “Okay, how are we going to make that happen?”

Rich – Right.

Deborah – It’s not all about saying, “It’s all our mess,” God is obviously providing that vision, he’s going to help provide the resources and the ability to get it done, but he’s also entrusted us with talents and abilities to go out there and make it happen and plan. So kind of getting that across to everybody first.

Rich – Yeah definitely.

Deborah – Then just starting to kind of show people how it works. So God helped a church here locally plan a really large event, it was about 10 thousand people that were attending and a lot of what I did was, I led some of the initial team meetings and got an agenda put together, sat down, led the meeting, kind of made assignments, put a wall chart together of who on the teams were responsible for what aspect of the event. I got a to do list, got a project plan together and then started gradually having somebody else run the meeting, you know, the staff member that was more of the project manager and I was in there as a supporting role. This was her first time running that big of a project and so just needed someone there to kind of help.

Rich – Yes.

Deborah – Sometimes just that modelling aspect of it, and then too, I write about this quite a bit on my website, just, “Okay, here’s how you put together some planning, some organization, some structure and how to go and implement and make it happen.” But meetings get a bad rap because a lot of times they’re not affective but it is possible to have an effective meeting.

Rich – Yes definitely. Well very cool. Is there anything else you want to share before we jump into the lightning round?

Deborah – You know, just again, hammering home that just because we use a few businessy terms it doesn’t mean we’re trying to run a church like a business.

Rich – Right.

Deborah – It’s really, I have a huge heart for the vision that pastors have. I love just that passion, that drive, that vision that they have to go out there and get stuff done and to serve people, to honor God, to love people. I don’t come up with those kinds of ideas, that’s just not how I’m wired but I love coming alongside someone who is wired that way and helping them achieve that goal. So I really see myself as someone who’s serving the church and helping support them.


1 Comment

  1. 1) We are faith-filled, big thinking, bet-the-farm risk teakrs. We’ll never insult God with small thinking and safe living.2) We are all about the “capital C” Church! The local church is the hope of the world and we know we can accomplish infinitely more together than apart.3) We are spiritual contributors not spiritual consumers. The church does not exist for us. We are the church and we exist for the world. It’s one thing to say it. It’s another to do it. Great job doing !

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.