MPUG 2018 - What's in Store?


Meet Esther Thompson

Esther has been with the company for over four years and is the brains behind MPUG as we know it today.

When you can take a Church Management System Conference and turn it into the party of the year, you have a real gift!

Esther is a powerhouse, and everything she touches transforms into something unforgettably fun and exciting for everyone involved. MPUG 2018 will be no exception, and with a few new tricks up her sleeve, this year promises to be our best conference yet!


We got the chance to sit down with Esther Thompson from MinistryPlatform to talk about the upcoming MinistryPlatform User Group (MPUG) conference.

MP: Hi Esther! You've been planning MPUG for a few years now. What was your first MPUG like? 

Esther: Tavie was handling MPUG before I came on board, and it really has been a team effort each year. The first MPUG I ever did was in April of 2015. It was a good first event for me because it was a smaller group (about 80 attendees) and it was in my hometown of Atlanta! It just made everything so much easier for this newbie. We held a great event and everyone had a ton of fun, each year has really built on the year before. 

MP: We recently did an interview with Heather Haremski of Midland Evangelical Free Church, who said MPUG felt like a family reunion. What do you think contributes to that experience?

Esther: It’s all about the community. I love what Heather said, and we hope that it feels like a family reunion where you get to see all of your friends that you don’t get to see but once a year and make new friends. Because of the Google Group, a lot of people are familiar with each other and they know each other on a first name basis, but then they get to meet in person! They get an opportunity to put faces with names and share their experiences and learn and grow together. 

"Oh, I loved [MPUG]. It felt like a family reunion with family members I had never even met! It was awesome!"
Heather Haremski, Database Administrator at Midland Evangelical Free Church

MP: Every year, it seems like MPUG gets better and better. What are we going to see this year? 

Esther: I am so excited about the Guru Bar we set up this year. We modeled the idea after the Apple Genius Bar. We’ve got an amazing crew of experts working there. These are twenty-minute session with our gurus, who can help create customizations, views, reports, message templates, or whatever else our churches can dream up. 

We were shocked at how quickly our attendees signed up for a spot at the Guru Bar! The slots were filled in a matter of days, and there are still some hopefuls on the waiting list. So next year, we’re thinking of expanding the Guru Bar so we can accommodate more of our churches, and we will certainly make sure everyone knows to sign up for MPUG early so they get a chance to grab one of these coveted time slots. Based on all the interest, it is definitely something we will offer next year.

MP: What else do you have planned? 

Esther: We have so many fun events planned that will give everyone time to kick back and relax. We realized that we needed to create even more opportunities for our community to connect. MPUG is all about bringing the community together, and that has really been our key focus this year.  

We decided to give people more time between sessions this year. That may seem like a small thing, but we really wanted to create as many opportunities as possible to cultivate relationships. Everyone gets so much value out of the Sessions at MPUG – getting to hear what other churches have accomplished, learning what our partners provide, and getting to ask questions in person is invaluable, but what really makes MinistryPlatform special is the community that has formed around this technology.

I think we’ve come up with some creative ways to cultivate relationships within our community this year. Wednesday night, I’m so excited about the dinner we have planned on Huntington Beach. In-N-Out Burger is showing up with a food truck, we’re roasting s’mores, and we’ve scheduled a DJ, so that should be a blast! Really, there’s no better way to connect with someone than chatting over a great meal, so we have really incredible food being brought in all week long. 

We also have a few new awards this year! Just for fun, we recognize churches who have gone the extra mile, and this year will be no different. But we have a few new awards for 2018, so churches will compete for the title of:

  • Implementation of the Year
  • SPoC (Single Point of Contact) of the Year
  • SPoC Team of the Year
  • Ambassador of the Year, and 
  • The Guinea Pig Award

We love all of our churches, but the awards ceremony is just the exclamation point at the end of a really great week!

MP: MPUG 2018 is being held at Harvest, why were they chosen to host the event?

Esther: We like to mix it up and hold MPUG in different regions each year. Last year, we were in Texas at Bent Tree Bible, so we wanted to shoot for the west coast this time around. Harvest has gorgeous facilities and we are so looking forward to being in sunny California next week!

MP: Who is coming to MPUG 2018? 

Esther: I think we’ll end up with about 300 people this year between our churches, our partners, and we have some churches coming who are not on MinistryPlatform right now, but they want to learn more about the software’s capabilities from real users. I love that new churches are able to ask real users real questions about MinistryPlatform. We don’t have anything to hide, and our current customers can share their experiences freely. It’s such a great place to learn from people who have been there, done that, and (literally) have the MinistryPlatform T-shirt!

MP: Who are all the MinistryPlatform sponsors that will be attending? 

Esther: At MPUG 2018, we’re going to have everyone play Bingo. All of the attendees get a Bingo card at the beginning of the week, and when they visit one of our sponsors, they get a stamp on their Bingo card. At the end of the week, everyone will submit their Bingo cards for a chance to win Amazon gift cards.

We have thirteen Partners attending MPUG:

MP: Esther, you’ve attended a lot of MPUG’s now. What is your favorite part of the conference? 

Esther: I love that people who have been around for a long time, come back and can now lead the sessions. Like Matt Patterson from Rocky Mountain Calvary, who is simply willing to come and pour into the event this year. You can find Matt working in the Guru Bar and teaching new sessions. People like Matt are the experts now, building up the next generation.

I love that real users, who are in the system all day long, are excited to share all they have learned. It is such a unique community of like-minded people who have a single heart to serve the Kingdom. There is a sense that everyone is working together to do ministry even better. I feel so blessed to be a part of it all and I absolutely love getting to plan it. MPUG 2018 is going to be a blast!


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Tags: MPUG