I know it seems like I've been writing quite a bit about our new church management system software from Church Community Builder. (Want to get caught up? Click here to read all the posts about our conversion.) But the reason I've written so much is because it has been my biggest priority these last several weeks. After investing a half day with the management team setting up CCB last Friday, we were ready for our first virtual training session on Wednesday.
What is a virtual training session? We gathered our 20 staff members and our CLASS volunteer ministry leader (thanks Rachael!) into our elementary room at 10 AM. We set up tables and chairs. We hooked up two different computers to the Internet and hooked them up to two large screens. Then we used Skype to connect to one of the trainers back in Colorado Springs. Skype is an Internet long distance telephone service that allowed us to have a 4 1/2 hour conversation for free! Great deal!
The computer that was hooked up to the screens was controlled by the trainer at CCB. So we could hear him speak to us over the sound system. (Because we used Skype, we could hook up the Skype connected computer directly to our sound system - so much better than a speakerphone! Great idea Jonathan!) The end result was that we had a virtual training session. Everything was in our room EXCEPT for the trainer. We heard his voice. We could see what he was doing on his computer on OUR screens.
Speaking of the trainer, the fellow who worked with us was Free. (The session wasn't free. His name is Free. In other words, Free wasn't free but he was worth it.) (... I bet he hears that a lot.) Free did a GREAT job for us. It takes a special talent to be a good teacher. It is especially difficult to communicate well when one is not physically present. Free did a remarkable job staying on track with the sessions.
About the only criticism I would have of the training was the very beginning when we spent about 10 minutes talking about the setup of CCB. We had already invested a lot of time setting up our system so we'd be ready to go. Also, the people at this training session needed to know how to use the system; they were not the same people (at least in our case) who actually set up the system for others to use. Other than this one thing, all the rest of the training was incredibly valuable.
Having said that, it was incredibly long. We began at 10 AM and ended shortly before 3 PM. I brought in a lunch for the 40-minute lunch break, because I didn't want our staff going off site and not getting back in time. Our staff did their very best to pay attention, but 4 hours of training on a computer software product can be a mind-numbing experience. The training was not interactive in the sense that we were not at our computers doing the same thing that he was doing up front. That could have helped keep people focused and could have provided for a more effective learning environment. But the downside to that would have been that we would have spend a lot of the training time fixing computer problems and helping people one at a time get caught up. The way we did it allowed us to cover the most amount of material, exposing our staff to the CCB way of data management of people, groups, and task management (processes and queues, to use CCB parlance).
The only important topic we didn't cover during this virtual training was how we would use the CCB calendar. I realized last week that this wasn't going to be covered. I also know that this is one of the most important reasons why we have invested in CCB. We have huge calendar issues at Crossroads. I don't want to add yet another calendar. I want to replace all the other calendars with CCB. So last week I asked Jonathan to do another training on how to use CCB Calendar function. We scheduled this one-hour training yesterday (Wednesday) at noon. Everybody brown bagged it back to the Elementary Room and Jonathan walked us through our process of booking events and reserving resources.
I can tell just in the time since these two training sessions that our staff is really beginning to think through the power of this tool for the benefit our our ministry. Yesterday afternoon back in the office was fun as everyone was thinking through the many groups and the many events they needed to input into CCB. Now we begin putting our training to work and we start to see the fruits of our training labor.
One other question someone may have about the training. Is the only training available the vitual training option? Will CCB actually send trainers on site? The answer is virtual training is only one option and yes, CCB will provide on site training as well (of course, for a price). In our case, we are scheduling our on site training in November. I know that CCB is really sensitive to trying to get trainers out on site as quickly as possible. I also know that their sales of the software this summer have been through the roof. They are feeling are a little pressure to get training to all their new sites.
However, I was not upset at all that we are waiting until November for our on site training. In my opinion this will be perfect for us. We have just enough training right now to get us started, to get us into the program and using it for our ministry. Over the next two months our staff will struggle with everything they will want to accomplish. By the time the CCB trainer comes to us, I have a feeling our staff and key volunteers will be a ready and willing audience with lots of "hands on" questions.
Bottom line, I'm very satisfied with the training and support we have received thus far from CCB. I am looking forward to a great partnership with them for the benefit of the kingdom of God in Mansfield, Ohio.