Customer Spotlight: Granger - Part 1
Customer Spotlight: Granger - Part 1
Meet Jason Powell
Jason is the Director of Information Technology at Granger. He and his team manage a network of over 200 computers and over 40 servers.
Jason is on the Executive Team for the Church IT Round Table, and is a self-professed “Geek for Jesus.”
Plus, he’s the most genuinely cheerful person you will ever encounter.
This week, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Jason. Granger Community Church has been heavily involved in our MinistryPlatform community, contributing to in-person events, and helping answer questions from other churches.
MP: You were with your last Church Management System for over ten years. That’s a long time! What made Granger switch to MinistryPlatform?
Jason: It was so curious to me that the people using MinistryPlatform said almost nothing but good things about it, which was really surprising. When you’re talking about a large complex Church Management System (ChMS), usually the criteria is ‘find what stinks the least.’ In the ChMS world, that was the running joke. They all stink. So, we wanted to find the one that stunk the least for our organization. I kept hearing everyone using MinistryPlatform saying only good things, so I thought:
- Either they’re all drinking some sort of Kool-aid perhaps
- Or MinistryPlatform is really that good.
He and his team visited an MPUG (Ministry Platform User Group) Conference to get a feel for the software and the community of users. He said they walked away from the event going, “Alright, this seems like a no-brainer, what are we missing?” They signed on with MP later that year.
MP: What did you like about MinistryPlatform, compared to your past ChMS System?
Jason: The ability to customize MinistryPlatform to the way we do ministry was huge! With our old system, we felt very restricted and boxed in.
So, the idea that we could change things and customize them to how we do church, even just naming things that were applicable to how we as a ministry would name them – there’s a real sense of flexibility.
As an example, our Discipleship Director who oversees Small Groups, wanted our website to have a new Small Group Finder. He wanted an easy to use map feature and he wanted to be able to filter based on location or life stage. MinistryPlatform claimed they could fully customize that. It was like, “dream the impossible dream.” So, I told our Discipleship Director to go out and find other Small Group Finder webpages that he liked. And you wouldn’t believe it, but most of them were MinistryPlatform Churches.
MP: Did you think it was easy to create the customizations you had in mind?
Jason: Sure. I don’t need a developer in-house to really tweak things. I can go to Professional Services, or Blackpulp, or another Third Party and have them do the custom coding for us if we wanted to do something outside the box.
With that Small Group Finder, we realized that Blackpulp did most of the Group Finders we liked, so I reached out to Tyndall Wakeham (of Blackpulp) and he was like “We can absolutely do that and turn it around super-fast.” Blackpulp is reasonably priced, and they partner with many other churches. So, we could look at what they had already done and go, “I want that, but I want it tweaked with these things in mind.”
Everyone thought it was awesome!"
MP: What else appealed to Granger?
Jason: You don’t always have to run reports to see your data. The data is just in front of you all the time.
MP: It wasn’t in your old system?
Not exactly. If you wanted to really get at the data in our old system you had to run a report.
You would select the report you wanted to run, or you customized a report, which was so complicated that most of our staff didn’t even try, then you would submit your report to be ran, and you’d wait because this is happening on servers that live somewhere else. They’re not there with you. So, it could take a minute, five minutes, sometimes it would take thirty minutes for your report to run; or your report would come back as failed and you’d have to rerun it.
Being able to sit down in front of the data grid and click on things, and the data is like “Whoop! There it is!” Let’s see who is registered for the Baptism class- BAM!
MP: Did that really make a difference at your church?
Jason: That was huge for us. No one is waiting for reports to be run. There were several ministries that, when we switched to MP and we customized the data views for them, golly, the amount of time it saved them!
Our Student’s Admin Assistant, she was dumping data out of the old system into these crazy spreadsheets, and trying to mash it together and filter it in certain ways. She had all these different Middle School Groups, and she was trying to keep track of attendance, print tags for them, assign Group Leaders, etc. It was taking her anywhere between 4-6 hours a week to do this insanity.
We sat down with her, figured out what she was doing, and then we went to Professional Services and said “What can we do to take all this craziness that she’s doing, and generate data views inside of MinistryPlatform?”
It cost us three hours of Professional Services' time, and now she goes in, clicks a couple buttons and she’s done!
We did a MinistryPlatform Show & Tell last Spring, and she got up and spoke about all the time saving features that she found. It used to take her a huge amount of time.
With MinistryPlatform, we can instantly touch our data. So, any kind of data analytics we wanted to do was possible. That was a big selling point for us because we really wanted to be able to easily analyze our data. We could host the servers ourselves, the database was onsite, we could reach out and touch it and massage it, create data views, and do all sorts of things with no roadblocks involved. That was huge.
MP: So, it’s certainly making your church staff happier. Do you think your congregation notices a difference?
Jason: After MPUG, we saw some of the presentations on engagement tracking and I really REALLY wanted to do the same. Kevin, from MinistryPlatform, came on-site to help us define the criteria and create the custom coding. We wanted to measure attendee engagement, their level of participation, track that over time, view trends, then use those findings to impact ministry decisions.
So, we created some criteria to group people: New Visitors, Observers, and people who were Lapsing, among others.
The Observer is the person who has a family member who is heavily involved in the church, but they haven’t personally engaged in any of our ministries. We can track that person over time, determine how many people are just “kicking the tires” at Granger, and find ways to make the church a more meaningful place for them.
With our old system, it was difficult to track people who were “walking out the back door." New Visitors show up in the database easily, but we also wanted to see people who were involved at one time, but are no longer engaged. Because we’re the big church in town, we hear that it is easy to get lost in the crowd.
'You know what, we do miss you. We noticed that you aren’t around. We aren’t this big impersonal church.'"
So the ability to track that and trend it over time has been really helpful.
MP: Was making the switch to MinistryPlatform difficult? Leaving another system after ten years has to seem pretty overwhelming.
Jason: It only took nine weeks to go through implementation. Our Go Live date went without a hitch. Everyone was naturally a little nervous that weekend - you know Child Check-In is obviously such a huge thing. What was awesome about our Go Live weekend was, although we had volunteers stationed in all the check-in areas to assist and answer any questions, I saw numerous people going up to the kiosks, who had never interacted with the interface before - they’d come up, they’d pause for a moment, look at the screen, put their phone number in, select their kids, print their tags, and walk away without missing a beat having never seen it before. It was the smoothest cutover ever. It was crazy good. It was almost unreal. I think that made a big impression on our staff- it helped prove that this system is robust and easy to use.
This is part one of a two-part Customer Spotlight. Next week, we’ll be talking about Jason’s thoughts on the Ministry Platform User Group (MPUG) Event, which helped the Executive Team at Granger understand MinistryPlatform in more depth.