As you can see from the above banner, May 27-29 is the date for the annual ACS Convention in Jacksonville, Fl-this year titled Reach09.
All of the images (and a bunch of the text) on this page have been shamelessly stolen from the ACS website without their written consent.
With the exception of the above mentioned disclaimer, everything else here is the result of my personal observations.
I have highlighted two of the pre-convention events. The session on Checkpoint and the IT Roundtable. If you have never been to an IT Roundtable, you should go. This will change your life. Not in a “mission trip to a third world country” sort of way, but definitely in a “it’s 10pm, my server’s dead, I am all alone and there is no one like me” Elijiah sort of way.
Q & A
What happens at a convention anyway?
You will be surrounded by hundreds of other users, managers and support people. There will be training classes, of course, but more important than the training is the interaction that takes place outside the classrooms. I met people whose ministry organization is similar to ours that were able to share real world examples of configuration and data resolution with me. I met people who were where I was-just they were two or three years further along. You just cannot place a value on that. Peer to peer learning is truly the best. Last year I was able to talk to several people on what factors they used in determining when and how to remove someone from the database. Seems like a simple process, but hearing three different scenarios, from three different ministry designs was invaluable. That is what makes this so unique. We all face the same challenges, but we are all very different.
It seems like there are a lot of classes. What if I run out of caffeine?
First off, there is no excuse for running out of caffeine. Ever. And yes, they do have the full gamut and then some of training available. That’s a part of what conventions are for. My recommendation is that before you go, sit in a quiet place and ask yourself “Where does our ministry really need help?” and hit those classes. They also have “tracks” available-preprogammed class groupings. So if your focus is just “People”, they have one custom designed for you.
What if I sign up for one class, but change my mind at the last minute and want to go to another one?
This is America, land of the free. It’s in Jacksonville, home of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Ok, let me just say, the training classes were valuable. Nothing like sitting in a room with 20 other people who live it day in and day out in the real world. The instructors they use are phenomenal at keeping the class on track and not getting lost down rabbit trails. However they do this while at the same time answering questions and not sticking to a predefined plan like some sort of robot. That said, in my opinion, the classes are NOT the most important part. Here’s what you get:
- Face to face interaction with some of the support people as well as product leads and the Development Team. Nothing like being able to put a face and a name together with a voice. This is really changed the way I viewed support calls. It really helped me to see these folks interact in person. You find out they are not “playing a role and reading a script” when on the phone. They are who they are.
- Preview of upcoming products. Last year they previewed the Broadcast feature in Silverlight. This was an app that was created just two days prior. My little church of 700 was the first to publish calendar events onto a cell phone in real time because I happened to be standing in the right place at the right time. That was cool.
- Seeing what is on the horizon is also helpful in making your strategy for software implementation and use. Last year, Facility Scheduler just didn’t do what I wanted it to. It had a lot of very cool features, just none that applied to me and the one I really needed was lacking. I had contemplated switching to a whole new system (we all know how painful that would be). By going to the convention and meeting the people in charge of that, I was assured that what I needed was already in the works and just waiting for some final kinks to be worked out. Having that knowledge and being able to look the person ultimately responsible for it right in the eye when they said it saved me DAYS of work and WEEKS of frustration.
- Food. Lots of it.
- If you are an information junkie, this is like waving candy corn in front of a diabetic.
- I HIGHLY recommend taking some class time and spending it in the booth area instead. Definitely connect with the guys from Implementation. It’s easy to blame the tools, trust me – I have perfected it to an art form. However, most of the time the issue is not the tool, it is the lack of defining the goal. “If you don’t know where you are going, you are likely to end up someplace else.” “For lack of a vision, the data is useless.” Nothing more embarassing than raising a stink only to find out the real cause is PEBKAM. This will help you avoid that.
I talked to a buddy and he didn’t get much out of it when he went years ago.
You get out what you put in. Literally. Sometimes we church people are famous for our sense of entitlement. If you think you can just sit in a lobby chair and the CEO will come up and say “Gee, you look down. Is your data corrupted?” You will be disappointed. But if you see the president of the company walking in the hall and you say “Excuse me, I was wondering. Why doesn’t the company do ‘x’?” You might just get an answer. Plus all the department heads are there. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. (Sorry guys, but it is.)
Let’s Go! Launching Checkpoint Successfully in your Church
- Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
- Getting the ACS software solution in place is just one part of the successful launch of a new program. In this class, we’ll look at all the other elements needed to start up a new check-in system in your church, and help you get started planning for success in your church.
We’ll dig in deep with Jason Lee and Northwoods Community Church to explore how they updated their check-in systems with new hardware, new software, and new processes. You’ll have a chance to examine the fingerprint scanner system now in use at NWCC, and hear first-hand from members of the team who made it happen. Topics covered include IT, Communications, Volunteer Training, and Budgeting. Real-life examples of emails, videos, training sessions and more will bring ideas and inspiration for a successful launch in your church.
Whether your church is starting a check-in ministry for the first time, or you’re looking at updating your current processes, you’ll benefit from this session.
- Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
- Session is free for attendee, but you must register before attending. This is an interactive agenda. The participants set the agenda and interaction among participants takes precedent over presentation by “experts.” In fact, in one-way or another, most of the roundtable participants are already experts.
Purpose of this Roundtable
- To meet other innovators
- Encouragement – “I am not alone.” “Here I am understood.”
- Confidence – “I’m not so crazy after all.”
- Relationship – Develop on-going friendships
- To advance the diffusion of innovation in a given topic area
- Sharing knowledge, lessons learned, and experiences
- Sorting out the big picture. How does it all fit? Where are we going?
- Synergy of new ideas, new perspectives, and new dreams
- To facilitate collaboration
- Explore opportunities for teaming up to accomplish common goals
- “Network” – Learn who knows what and who is doing what
- Rules and Expectations:
If we get to the end of this roundtable and we haven’t talked about what you wanted to talk about then it’s your fault. We are the agenda. We are the program. This is YOUR time. This is not a place to brag or boast – we’re not here to impress. We’re all doing great and unique things.
This is a different style of learning. You may be used to one person giving all the answers. That is not true here. We have several hours of dialogue, not monologue. We’ve been given a gift – a day away to spend with like-minded peers, sharing ideas, resting in the comfort of being understood by peers. Don’t get agenda anxiety. It’s written in chalk, not in stone. What we’ve suggested as a starting range of topics is not inspired. It’s not even clever. We’ll change it as needed. Flexible is the key word here. What is said here is confidential. We hope to build an atmosphere of trust – a safe haven. Your honesty will lead to our honesty. Elders are not here. Deacons are not here. Some of you have had a great year, others may be about to quit ministry. Reach out and make an effort to connect.
One of the things that has always griped me in the church world is when someone has a real, heartfelt need, they open up to someone for help, and that person pops out a verse like some sort of spiritual Pez dispenser and sends them on their way. Not really taking the time to understand where they are coming from or what is truly unique about them and their situation.
You’ll not find that here. If your challenge is great enough, you may find someone who says “I can’t answer that.” and refer you to someone who can (by ‘refer’ I mean “Here, follow me over to so-and so” and make the introduction), or they may give you their card with their corporate email on it and ask you to send it in an email so they can follow-up after the convention. But at least they are honest. There are hundreds of people vying for the attention of a few after all. But there is no sweeping it under the rug, hoping you will go away.