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"I am Jon Pierce, the crewNeckTech. I am employed full-time at Crossroads Community Church as the Technology Specialist. Fulfilling this title pretty much makes me in charge of anything with current flowing through it... This ranges from our 1 electronic stapler, to our 6 servers, to our 8 Rooftop HVAC units, and to our 64 input video switcher."


    Decisions, decisions... Thursday, August 14, 2008 |

    I've spent some good chunks of the last several months researching church management systems. We were more or less 100% split, in my opinion, atwixt the 2 best church management systems out there: Church Community Builder (v 2.0), and Fellowship One.

    I frankly feel as if I've got to be the most educated person on the planet (approximately for the next two weeks, as each system just keeps evolving...) on the good, the bad, and the beautiful of each of these two systems. They both have strengths and weaknesses...

    They both take what we have now, and make it sooo much better. They both provide an excellent/accessible user interface that just plain doesn't exist in other packages with similar feature sets. They both come with a long list of features (CCB's list and F1's list). To summarize, they both manage people, groups, finances, check-in, web-related API stuff really well.

    They're both extremely secure, well-protected, and well-backed up. They both have an excellent track record of little to no service outages.

    I've had excellent, productive, thought-provoking discussions with both of my primary "sales" contacts at each company. In fact, we've both got each others' cell numbers just to keep conversations going outside the office... Dedication... They both have an incredible passion to see their product revolutionize our church.

    But there are some differences. So much information on the differences in their feature sets was floating around in my head, that I just had to get it down on (virtual) paper and analyze it without anything else popping up. What follows is a dump of my brain on those ups and downs (bold is really good stuff):

    I could stay in research mode forever, literally.. There is so much to each system, it has taken a long time to understand the benefits of one vs. another. And once you go with one, there is great value (both in implementation costs and longevity of data) in sticking with that choice for a long time. But I had to stop researching/talking, and start doing. With some excellent help from my dad (the executive pastor) we finally did make a decision. We ended up going with CCB pretty much because we ranked the online community the top priority amongst the differences, and the calendaring/resource management second. 2 big items currently in CCB's favor.

    I can see that list above having gone either way depending on priorities, but for our church, CCB was the answer. I am really excited about partnering with Church Community Builder, and can't wait to start implementation! I hope our ministries get to work together for quite a long time. Fellowship, I know many great churches using your system, and I have no doubt many more will flock your direction as well!

    *8/15/08 1:16 AM Update* I will try to make changes to the above spreadsheet as more details & features are made aware to me... already the sheet has changed!

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    Whirlwind of a week Saturday, August 9, 2008 |

    So, it's been one crazy week... or has it? Do you ever go home Friday after what seems to have been a busy week, and wonder why you didn't get anything done the last 5 days? That's what I was thinking as I finished my 20 minute drive home today.

    As I was pondering what to put up on my blog tonight (as opposed to actually going to bed and sleeping), I was trying to remember the projects I worked on this week. Well, I started to list those projects, and went back through the ole' e-mail system to remind me of a few more, and here's the list all compiled and numbered for your pleasure.
    1. hung out at the Magnification Picnic/Party
    2. setup & trained 3 new staff member on computer network stuff (profiles, drive structure, email system, phone system...)
    3. configured 1 new dell desktop for above
    4. troubleshot HVAC with mechanicals genius, Chris from standard plumbing and heating
    5. called Johnson Controls for issues with the controls system from above troubleshooting
    6. researched Fellowship Technologies roadmap video on their experience site
    7. began talks with Michael Garrison Associates regarding a survey of our existing sound system/acoustics in our main auditorium
    8. setup loribiddle.com and did a brief overview of blogger for Lori to start blogging about our programming meetings
    9. setup crewnecktech.com so I could join the crossroads blogging craze
    10. setup a camera aggregator to pull the 3 ustream feeds we will be (and did!) send out for our live programming meeting
    11. Troubleshot webcammax issues on our mediashout computer, gave up and ended up running the cuesheet feed from a secondary laptop
    12. attended a webinar on digital audio transport technologies hosted by sound and video contractor
    13. attended our monthly staff meeting - free food!
    14. created a seperate "midweek" only podcast feed for audio and video - really excited, this took all of like 5 minutes - I love the power of a simple WHERE statement in a mysql query on a well structure database!
    15. with help from an awesome volunteer, Tom Doclovic, added a hanging mic to our control room
    16. put together my visa statement, where I track all my church-related expenses
    17. helped Lori with her blog and added some valuable sidebar content, including an all important link back to my own blog!
    18. unpackaged some gear I ordered from full-compass to hang some lighting with in the next week or two (Dave Cradler is the best sales guy there, if you can get him, he'll treat you right!)
    19. Called Johnson Controls again..
    20. hooked our uber-pulpit back up (1 pulpit, 3 flat screens, up to 3 different video feeds to one pulpit... woot!)
    21. troubleshooting an issue with our whirlwind e-snake (ended up swapping out an MLI card that apparently has a few burnt out channels, a trip to UPS anyone?)
    22. had a couple of great IT-related conversations with Mark (my dad)
    23. some training on blogger/youtube integration with Tim on his blogger account
    24. attended a management team meeting to review status of website/church management system - free food!
    25. some conversations with Errol Coner at Fellowship One and Steve Caton at Church Community Builder to further our decision in the great church management system debate of 08... (move aside McCain and Obama, this debate is much more important!)
    26. ...which led to a final decision after months of research... we're all yours Church Community Builder!
    27. fought with RTU-1 to try to get it running during wed. night services (no luck, sorry Charlene!)
    28. Called Johnson controls again...
    29. a wee bit of research on Element Fusion (and their Sky management system) for a possible site designer for the new crossroadswired.com - nice portfolio!
    30. a wee bit of research on bludomain web design services for another, secret project ;)
    31. a small, but way overdue update to the front page of crossroads' home page
    32. and then of course, the regulars: the server backups, the website (media) updates, 7 helpdesk tickets
    33. then I called Johnson Controls
    34. going to be running saturday-related weekend services (as far as tech goes) since my cohort Steve Browning is going to be running camera at a micky dolenz concert...
    35. oh, and then I will probably call Johnson Controls again...
    for the Live programming feed... Ok, so, maybe it was more for my pleasure, but the whole point of continuing to type this post is the value of reflection. I was thinking how much I wish I were more organized/productive/task-oriented and less chatterboxy/cluttered/scatter-brained (if you take a look at my office, you'd probably think the same thing)... But after a little bit of thought, I'm really remembering the accomplishments me and the team here at crossroads have finished this week. And it feels good, and I feel that we honored God through the work, and that feels really good.

    Also, it seems to me that just about every item represented above could be a nice juicy slab of prime rib for my next blog posts...

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    Shelby "Contributions Inquiry" Wednesday, August 6, 2008 |

    Wow, Found a real problem today. I was poking around Shelby EZ-View trying to find a nice easy way to export a vCard or something to jump into my Outlook contacts. So I was right-clicking here and there, and what did I find? Something called "Contributions Inquiry." Hmm... I thought, that's odd, I don't have rights to contributions. (I should know, I set the rights...) So looked up myself, and went for it. Bam! There it was, my contributions history. I dash into Shelby and log in as the system supervisor, check my "security group", and sure enough no rights at all to anything in the contributions module. Wanting to rectify this immediately, I give Shelby a call, and they quickly let me know about an option under membership and prospects entitled, "Contributions Inquiry"... So I zap those Inquiry rights from those two modules from that "group" and lo and behold the option for the inquiry is removed from my EZ-View.

    I hate to think how easily that could've turned into a big mess, but I am left with these 3 thoughts.
    1. I need to read more documentation.
    2. I need to try and "break" into the system more.
    3. Why would Shelby put contributions permission stuff in the other modules security sections? OR if it makes sense to them, maybe a link to it from the contributions module's security sections?
    Please note that these are in order, I have no doubt that if I was more careful in my setup I would've caught it before it had the ability to become an issue.

    By the way, the reference to security groups is really a little, fun poke because security groups don't exist, but there is an option called, "Set security equal to", and that's what I use for my "security groups." I create an "individual" with the name group combined with a name for the group, and set permissions for that "group" on those security settings. Then on actual individuals, I set their security permissions equal to that "group." Not beautiful, but it's certainly a lot easier to manage than 30 users permissions individually.

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