GDPR and the Golden Rule

Written by Jonathan Smith on . Posted in Articles

© 2018 by Jonathan E. Smith, all rights reserved
Director of Technology, Faith Ministries
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine
 

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve received numerous emails over the past few months about GDPR and you are sick of hearing about it. Seeing GDPR one more time makes you want to scream. I’m with you. I’ve gotten emails about GDPR from companies I have no record of ever interacting with, and I’m a geek so I keep track.

While traveling around the past few months since GDPR went into effect on May 25, 2018, I’ve been amazed at the number of questions folks are asking about it and the astonishing lack of information there is about it, especially as GDPR relates to churches and ministries. In an attempt to narrow the knowledge gap here is my best effort to tackle the GDPR issue, specifically how it relates to churches and ministries. Please note, I’m not an attorney, I don’t even play one on TV, so while I’ve done my research it is always good to ask your legal counsel to sign off on any plans or changes you may have or plan to implement in response to GDPR.

What is GDPR?
GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. It was passed by the European Union to provide their citizens with more control over their personal data and to determine what those they’ve given their personal data to can do with it. In many ways, it could stand for Golden Data Protection Rule, one with a biblical worldview could sum up GDPR as the Golden Rule of Data, treating others data the same way you want your data treated.

The law also provides a few specific provisions for EU citizens. First, what is considered personal data is defined. Second, EU citizens can request their data be completely removed or can only be used for certain purposes. For example, you can contact me using my data but you cannot send me ads using my data. Third, organizations operating in the EU have to report any data breaches within 72 hours.

Reading what GDPR does you can understand why it was written. It took Equifax weeks to notify the world they had been hacked, GDPR addresses that. Your data on Facebook makes you the product, not the customer and you have no control over what Facebook does with your data, GDPR addresses that.

How does this affect those not in the European Union?
This is the biggest question surrounding GDPR and one the entire planet is struggling to understand. The European Union has 500 million citizens, so they have the ability to push their agenda a bit. The challenge for organizations operating worldwide is the EU has set the strictest of standards, so do you operate with multiple policies concerning data collection and use based on where the individual lives, or do you work off GDPR since that ensures the most people will be covered by your policies. If you don’t fully understand, you aren’t alone.

Some companies in response have stopped operating in the EU until they can figure this out. The issue is they operate in the EU and are storing data for EU citizens. GDPR states how you should do that if you meet both qualifications.

Enforcement
This is where the world of international law gets complicated. While GDPR tells you how you can/should store and use the information of its citizens, it cannot be enforced on organizations that do not have a physical presence in the EU. Let’s take Facebook for example; they have a large, lucrative presence in the EU. They have data centers, offices, etc in the EU. The EU is able to enforce GDPR because Facebook has a physical presence there. In other words, there is a location that can be seized, personnel that can be arrested, and executives that can be taken to court.

For organizations that do not have a physical presence in the EU, this does not apply. There is no office or data center or person they can hold accountable and the EU is not able to enforce its laws on those outside the EU, for example, in North America. That’s how international borders work.

Blah, blah, blah. How does this Impact Churches?
If you’ve skimmed the first part of this, that’s fine but this is the part in which to pay close attention. At its heart, the GDPR legislation is about being a good steward of data. While data can mean many things from name, address, phone number to t-shirt size and food allergies, it is important for us to remember in the church world: data means people and people mean souls. We did not need GDPR to tell us to be good stewards of the people our ministries serve.

The Bible tells us to be good stewards (1 Corinthians 4:2), the Bible also tells us to obey the authority (Romans 13), including governments, placed over us. In this case, it seems the EU is telling those who operate in the EU to do what the Bible says and be good stewards of data.

GDPR requires a few things I would hope churches around the globe are already doing:

  1. If your data is breached, report it within 72 hours. Even without GDPR, every church should have a data breach plan and procedure in place and want to be open and honest when mistakes happen. The church is the last place that should try to cover it up for weeks or months.
  2. If a user wants you to remove them from your database, remove them. Even without GDPR, every church should have a procedure to remove a record from their database if someone does not want any of their information stored within your organization.
  3. If a user wants you to email them prayer requests but nothing else, honor their request. Even without GDPR, you should be able to send folks what they want and not require them to get everything you send out. There is a difference between sending out prayer requests and fundraising requests. Do you allow folks to determine how you use their data?

I’m sure by now some of you are wondering about financial data. What happens when someone gives you money and then wants to be totally removed? In the US you are required to keep a record of financial transactions for 7 years. Even without GDPR, if someone wants to be removed, but they’ve given you money, do you have a procedure to remove them while still keeping the financial record for 7 years and then removing them completely when the 7 years are up?

Most churches don’t have a physical presence in the EU so there isn’t an issue here but what happens if you do have a presence in the EU and someone from the EU gave you money and then wanted to be removed from your database? The principle is to apply donor intent; they don’t want to be in your database so you treat them as if they weren’t there by removing everything you can until you can remove their record entirely.

While there may be several legal and international law issues at play here, I believe the core concept is not a legal one but one of ministry integrity. We should not have needed GDPR to tell us how to care for the data those we minister to have entrusted to us.

FAQ 

  1. We support missionaries or other ministries that operate in the EU and have a physical presence there; do we fall under GDPR?
    • No, the organization you support in the EU that has a physical presence there does fall under GDPR but you as an individual or organization supporting them do not.
  2. Should churches have data access and user rights policies?
    • Yes, even if in a basic format a policy showing who gets access to your data, for what purposes, and how you handle the data you’ve been given is important. It is also important to note how you handle requests for removal from your databases and/or email lists. With everyone talking about GDPR, you may find a guest or two asking if you have any data policies before they give you their children’s allergies when they check their kids in some Sunday.
  3. Should anyone lose sleep over this?
    • No, what we are talking about here is Golden Rule stuff. If you are losing sleep over GDPR then there are probably bigger issues to address in how you handle user data.
  4. Is this really new?
    • No, in 1995 the EU had a privacy policy called Data Protection Directive. It expired when GDPR was enacted. In many ways, GDPR further refines and enhances privacy and data protection provisions that have been around since 1995.
  5. What counts as data?
    • This is harder to answer because there is admittedly some subjectivity here. The obvious name, address, phone number, email address, SSN, picture, etc are pieces of data that can be used to positively identify a person. Recently an EU court ruled that under certain circumstances an IP address can also be considered personal data and is therefore subject to GDPR.
  6. If we take signups and collect data on our website, do we need to make changes for GDPR?
    • Only if you have a physical presence in the EU.

Next Steps 

  1. If your church or ministries do not have a data access and management policy, then get one. Even a basic policy and procedure for how you handle user data and requests is important and shows you’ve thought about it and care about it.
  2. This is not an IT issue nor should this be dumped on the IT team. While IT clearly has a role in data management, they should not be the decision makers. GDPR requires organizations operating in the EU to have a privacy compliance officer. This can be a new employee or a role added to an existing employee. While churches and ministries may not need a privacy compliance officer the concept of having someone constantly checking to make sure you are being good stewards of data and coordinating data stewardship across ministry and church departments and silos is valid.
  3. Get legal counsel. If you operate in the EU or are concerned you might, it would be wise to consult with a licensed attorney with experience in this area. Don’t try to figure it out on your own. The EU is intent on enforcing GDPR and no church or ministry should want to be on their radar.

The Golden Rule comes from Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This applies to how individuals relate to each other in person and online, and to how organizations treat each other and those they serve. Whether we are talking about money, data, time, or talent the Golden Rule is more than just a rule or ideology from long ago; it is the Word of God.


Jonathan Smith is the Director of Technology at Faith Ministries in Lafayette, IN. You can reach Jonathan at jsmith@faithlafayette.org and follow him on Twitter @JonathanESmith.

Church & Donor Management Software – ChMS

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
Ministry Business Services, Inc. President
Reprinted from inSIGHT

Solutions from church and donor management software providers keep improving in their ability to help churches and ministries fulfill their mission! Their features to track and communicate with people, their web and mobile device interfaces, and their powerful database tools make this category of software a big help and a valuable asset for today’s ministries in reaching many with The Gospel and discipling them.

Church Software Historical Perspective
In the mid-1980s the number of these programs had grown to 262! Then some merged, some consolidated, and some went out of business, reducing the number to only 34. In the 1990s the Internet made it so easy for those writing solutions to share them that the number of solutions more than doubled! Our research this year found 53 solutions focusing on the church and ministry market, of which 35 qualified for this article (requirements include active marketing, minimum growth, and active development of their solution).

We always include new providers (those three years old or less) to give them a chance to build some momentum and compete with ‘the big guys’. It also keeps all of the providers ‘on their toes’ as the up-and-comers sometimes develop new technologies that benefit many churches and ministries in new ways.

Why Church Management Software?
The solution providers on the following pages meet the sophisticated and complex needs of churches and ministries. Tracking more than just simple CRM datasets like names, addresses, and phone numbers, many of these also help build community and track traditional and modern family relationships, spiritual gifts, talents, interests, attendance, nursery security, contributions, fundraising campaigns, volunteerism, small groups, and more.

Church and ministry offices can be stressful workplaces because of the many deadlines that must be met by an administrative staff that is typically smaller in number than what would be found in a similar-sized secular business. Church management software, if well written, can be a soothing balm. If it’s powerful, capable, fast, and stable, the ministry team can rely on it to help them get the most possible work done– efficiently and with minimal stress. And if its abilities are broad enough, every ministry in the church or ministry can focus on just one database, increasing synergy and minimizing cost.

Church Management Software Defined
Decades ago Steve Hewitt, then Editor-in-Chief of Christian Computing Magazine (recently re-branded as MinistryTech Magazine), labeled this software category tailored to meet the needs of churches as Church Management Software, or CMS. To help prevent confusion since there are now so many software categories called ‘CMS’, it is now referred to as ChMS. Parachurch ministries need to track similar data, so we invited those solutions into this article too. Following is a well-researched list of the leading ChMS providers at the time of this writing, with each stating at the top of the feature chart whether their focus is church, parachurch, or both.

Not-for-Profit Accounting
Churches and ministries exist in a unique accounting niche that most software (and even most CPAs!) can’t help with. But many ChMS packages can help in this area.One of a ministry’s most vulnerable areas is finance. All too often we hear about churches and ministries that have suffered embezzlement by a trusted team member. One of the best protections in an accounting system is a good audit trail, tracking the detail of every transaction and whose data cannot be altered in any way. For these reasons, some ChMS providers have written their own fully-integrated accounting system.

Some churches and ministries want a ChMS that has a fully-integrated accounting system, and we list the functions they look for in the chart. Others may not care if the ChMS provider has written its own accounting system, and for them it’s good to know that most ChMSes can interface with ‘third-party’ accounting systems such as those in the chart that only provide nonprofit accounting solutions.

Feature Chart
We’ve tried to give you the most comprehensive and quickest format possible of those ChMS database and accounting functions ministry teams request most. We removed features provided by all ChMS providers to help focus on solutions’ distinct feature sets.

The chart lists solutions by the name their providers use to market them rather than by the company name. We include the company name in the section following the chart in which we give information on each provider such as how to reach them, how long they’ve been making their solutions available, how many organizations they currently serve, their support hours, and how often they update their software. We have trusted the software companies; all of the information in this article was provided by them and has not been audited.

The chart uses two symbols:

  • The ” 1 ” symbol indicates features ChMS companies provide directly, and
  • The ” 2 ” symbol indicates needs they meet through an outside (third party) source.

Happy Hunting!
Shop wisely. We recommend doing your due diligence and checking with current users of the software you’re interested in. Ask questions like:

  • Does the software do what was promised?
  • Is their support team capable and available?
  • If you were faced with the same decision today, what would you do differently?

Feel free to contact any of the providers listed.  They would love to help you in your ministry.  Happy hunting!

CLICK CHART IMAGE TO MAGNIFY

chms-chart

 

List of ChMS Providers in Chart

ACS
By ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acst.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  40
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  400
Support:  9 – 8 M-Th Eastern; 9 – 6 Fri; 24∙7 option
Last Major Release:  11/2017
Updates per Year:  8

FastFund Online
By Araize
Phone:  866.840.7449
Email:  sales@araize.com
Web:  www.araize.com
Company Founded in 1997
Years Marketing ChMS:  21
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1200
Number on Team:  10
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  6/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Aplos
By Aplos
Phone:  888.274.1316
Email:  sales@aplos.com
Web:  www.aplos.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  5400
Number on Team:  44
Support:  8 – 4 Pacific
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

FellowshipOne
By Ministry Brands, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  844.459.8525
Email:  Sales@fellowshipone.com
Web:  www.fellowshipone.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  14
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2000
Number on Team:  43
Support:  7 – 7 Central; Critical 24∙7
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Blackbaud Church Management
By Blackbaud
Phone:  800.468.8996
Email:  solutions@blackbaud.com
Web:  www.blackbaud.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing ChMS:  1
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  10
Number on Team:  500
Support:  8:30 – 8 Eastern; Critical 24∙7
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

FlockBase
By FlockBase Software
Phone:  877.883.5625
Email:  kevin@flockbase.com
Web:  www.flockbase.com
Company Founded in 2007
Years Marketing ChMS:  11
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:
2500
Number on Team:  4
Support:  9 – 5:30 Central
Last Major Release:  1/2018
Updates per Year:  1

Breeze ChMS
By Breeze LLC
Phone:  888.320.6030
Email:  support@breezechms.com
Web:  www.breezechms.com
Company Founded in 2013
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  5441
Number on Team:  33
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Fresh Vine
By Fresh Vine
Phone:  888.708.1905
Email:  contact@freshvine.co
Web:  freshvine.co
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  380
Number on Team:  3
Support:  10 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  3/2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

CahabaWorks Church Software
By CahabaCreek Software, a division of 2AB
Phone:  205.621.9649
Email:  sales@cahabacreek.com
Web:  www.cahabacreek.com
Company Founded in 1997
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1489
Number on Team:  10
Support:  9 – 4 Central M-Th; Email 24∙7
Last Major Release:  12/2017
Updates per Year:  4

IconCMO
By Icon Systems
Phone:  800.596.4266
Email:  sales@iconcmo.com
Web:  www.iconcmo.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  26
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:
3000
Number on Team:  9
Support:  8 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

CCIS Shield CMS
By CCIS Church Management Software
Phone:  800.295.7551
Email:  Sales@ccissoftware.com
Web:  www.ccissoftware.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing ChMS:  38
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6740
Number on Team:  60
Support:  8 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  3/2018
Updates per Year:  3

Iglesia HOY
By JRSoftware
Phone:  52.1.664.2515478
Email:  informacion@iglesiahoy.com
Web:  www.iglesiahoy.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3260
Number on Team:  6
Support:  8 – 6 Pacific
Last Major Release:  8/2018
Updates per Year:  4

CDM+
By Suran Systems
Phone:  800.891.4236
Email:  sales@cdmplus.com
Web:  www.cdmplus.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  32
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6500
Number on Team:  24
Support:  8:30 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  9/2018
Updates per Year:  3

MinistryPlatform
By Think Ministry
Phone:  678.404-2467
Email:  sales@thinkministry.com
Web:  www.ministryplatform.com
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  541
Number on Team:  14
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  6

Church Community Builder
By Church Community Builder
Phone:  719.266.2888
Email:  marketing@churchcommunitybuilder.com
Web:  www.churchcommunitybuilder.com
Company Founded in 1998
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4400
Number on Team:  110
Support:  6 – 6 Mountain
Last Major Release:  8/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Parish Data System (PDS)
By ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  40
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  9 – 8 M-Th Eastern; 9 – 6 Fri
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  8

Church Windows
By Computer Helper Publishing
Phone:  800.533.5227
Email:  sales@churchwindows.com
Web:  www.churchwindows.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  31
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  12000
Number on Team:  25
Support:  9 – 6 M-Th Eastern; 9 – 5 Fri
Last Major Release:  8/2018
Updates per Year:  1

ParishSOFT Family Suite
By ParishSOFT, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  866.930.4774
Email:  parishsoftsales@parishsoft.com
Web:  www.parishsoft.com
Company Founded in 1998
Years Marketing ChMS:  20
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  11400
Number on Team:  65
Support:  8:30 – 7 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Church360°
By Concordia Technology Solutions, a division of Concordia Publishing House
Phone:  800.325.2399
Email:  softwaresales@cts.cph.org
Web:  www.church360.org
Company Founded in 1869
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1250
Number on Team:  25
Support:  7:30 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

PowerChurch
By PowerChurch Software
Phone:  800.486.1800
Email:  info@powerchurch.com
Web:  www.powerchurch.com
Company Founded in 1984
Years Marketing ChMS:  34
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  38000
Number on Team:  17
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Churchteams
By Churchteams.com
Phone:  817.405.9750
Email:  support@churchteams.com
Web:  churchteams.com
Company Founded in 2001
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  850
Number on Team:  8
Support:  8:30 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  9/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Realm
By ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  salesteam@acst.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6646
Number on Team:  370
Support:  8 – 8 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  26

ChurchTrac Online
By ChurchTrac Software
Phone:  877.704.0222
Email:  support@churchtrac.com
Web:  www.churchtrac.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  14
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  10200
Number on Team:  7
Support:  8 – 7 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  4

Servant Keeper
By Servant PC Resources
Phone:  800.773.7570
Email:  sales@servantpc.com
Web:  www.servantpc.com
Company Founded in 1994
Years Marketing ChMS:  24
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  35000
Number on Team:  30
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  2/2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

COMS and EFA for Windows
By Specialty Software
Phone:  800.568.6350
Email:  sales@SpecialtySoftware.com
Web:  www.specialtysoftware.com
Company Founded in 1984
Years Marketing ChMS:  35
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6400
Number on Team:  5
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  4

Shelby Arena
By Shelby Systems, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  11
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  650
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7 – 6 Central
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  4

Cool Life Ministries
By Cool Life CRM
Phone:  800.988.8850
Email:  sales@coollifecrm.com
Web:  www.coollifecrm.com
Company Founded in 2005
Years Marketing ChMS:  2
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  7
Number on Team:  6
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern; Email 24∙7
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

ShelbyNext
By Shelby Systems, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  42
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1600
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7 – 6 Central
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Monthly

Donarius ChMS
By Nuverb Systems
Phone:  888.479.4636
Email:  question@nuverb.com
Web:  www.donarius.com
Company Founded in 1993
Years Marketing ChMS:  20
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2360
Number on Team:  1
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  6/2018
Updates per Year:  20

Software4Nonprofits
By Cooperstock Software
Phone:  416.423.7722
Email:  info@software4nonprofits.com
Web:  www.software4nonprofits.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9 – 9 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  6

ELEXIO Community
By ELEXIO, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  888.997.9947, x1
Email:  sales@elexio.com
Web:  www.elexio.com
Company Founded in 2000
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1200
Number on Team:  50
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  24

Software4Nonprofits
By Cooperstock Software
Phone:  416.423.7722
Email:  info@software4nonprofits.com
Web:  www.software4nonprofits.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9 – 9 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  6

Faithful Steward
By Diakonia
Phone:  800.325.6642
Email:  info@faithfulsteward.com
Web:  www.church-software.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  24
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1086
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  4/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

TouchPoint
By TouchPoint Software, a division of Pursuant
Phone:  901.654.7179
Email:  sales@touchpointsoftware.com
Web:  touchpointsoftware.com
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  554
Number on Team:  15
Support:  8 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  12

 

Communication— IT’s Key to Success

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

How we communicate dramatically affects our success in every aspect of life! We often forget how important that is, and forgetting limits us.

This is especially true in Information Technology (IT). The question becomes, then, How successful do you want to be? And along with that, Do you want to maximize how The Lord can use you?

Biblical Perspective
Paul says in Ephesians 5:15, “Be very careful, then, how you live– not as unwise but as wise.”[1] The phrase to be very careful is translated in some versions as “walking circumspectly”. The word circumspect means to have full awareness of your entire surroundings, like an animal cautiously walking through an open field. That is a good way to communicate, but it’s not easy. It leaves no room for laziness; in fact, it requires a high level of focus! But the wise pay attention!

Getting Practical
Every profession has its acronyms, and in IT we have a lot of them. When IT professionals talk to each other we use those acronyms; when we’re talking with non-professionals, however, using them limits our ability to be understood. It is always the responsibility of the one communicating to do so in a way that their message can be understood by their audience. Is it easy to switch our communication style to match our audience? No! But the wise do so because it is essential.

When I’m talking with a fellow engineer, it’s okay to say something like, “You could speed up that system by swapping the HD with SSD and bumping the RAM.” Simple. But if I’m talking to someone who is not technical, it would be better to say, “You could speed up that computer by replacing the old hard drive with a newer technology, like a solid state storage device and increasing the memory available for processing the amount of data you’re working with.”

Those who can quickly adjust their communication style to match the needs of those they’re communicating with have the greatest chance for success. Who can do that? Anyone who chooses to put out the effort to walk circumspectly. It requires more brain processing power, but that additional power consumption is worth it!

Some who know my story know that before becoming a Christian I was a major drug user. That’s not something I’m proud of, but it is part of my story. One of the drugs I used a lot was LSD. So much so, in fact, that I was losing my ability to communicate! How could I tell? By being observant and interpreting the facial expressions of people I was talking to. Their facial expressions told me they were struggling to understand what I was trying to say. So I started listening to myself while I was talking, and realized that the subject of my sentences was changing so often that I didn’t make sense! No wonder they were struggling to understand me! I concluded that I had work to do if I wanted to be successful.

Humility & Dedication
A good communicator interprets the facial expressions and body language of those they’re talking to and makes real-time adjustments to improve the success of their message. Some are too lazy or don’t care enough to communicate well. Realizing you’re not communicating successfully and making adjustments takes focus, effort, and humility. Good communicators do not insist that their audience rise to meet their communication level, but instead humbly adjust their style as needed.

Knowing Your Audience
When I talk, speak, or write, I try to identify my audience to increase my success. My professional topics are usually related to technology, so I often ask questions after using a term that might be unfamiliar like, “Is that a term you’re comfortable with?” Their response to that non-judgmental question helps me modify my content to increase my communication success.

Often there are multiple audiences we’re communicating to all at once. Writing a response to a support ticket is like that! I usually try to meet the communication needs of the user who opened the ticket, their supervisor, my supervisor, and sometimes (depending on the issue) our legal system. All at one time! Can I do that effortlessly or quickly? No, especially since it’s in writing. I have to re-read the content with each audience in mind and make terminology adjustments before it’s ready for the SEND button.

The Bottom Line
Don’t limit how The Lord can use you or your professional success by not communicating circumspectly. Slow down and make the effort to communicate well to your audiences, whether in a one-on-one conversation, in a group setting, or in writing. Watch for visual cues when possible and make adjustments! Those you’re communicating with will be blessed, and so will you.

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Eph 5:15). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

July – Improve System Security Month!

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

While speaking at a conference recently, a cybersecurity expert whose company offers email user testing and training stated that KnowBe4.com‘s solution was the best they’d ever seen. Little did they know I was in negotiations on The Church’s behalf with KnowBe4!

What Is It?
KnowBe4 is a subscription-based solution that allows an organization to send what looks like SPAM emails to users that include links, etc. The solution tracks who clicks on the links, and when they do, adds them to a group whose members must watch a short training video online to learn what to avoid. Watching the video removes them from the group.

I’m aware of organizations whose users started at an 80% or higher click-rate. They saw the solution to educate their team and get the percentage to under 10%. The results are a more secure user community, and improved security and safety for the organization.

What’s The Deal?
KnowBe4 offers a 10% discount to not-for-profit organizations, with an additional discount of 25% for a three-year subscription. So, they normally offer up to 35% in savings to charities.

Through our negotiations, KnowBe4 offered to add an additional 20% discount to any who say they were referred by MBS, and who contact a specific employee of theirs to sign up! That means you can get a 35% – 55% discount just by telling Tiffany Yeager (727.877.8226 or ​tiffanyy@knowbe4.com) you were referred by MBS! (As always, MBS makes nothing on your referral business, as per our by-laws.)

MBS Recommends Their Platinum Package
KnowBe4 offers a few packages; we believe the best for churches and ministries is their Platinum Package.

It’s July– a good month to improve your system security. This is a great way to do so!

Identifying, Shaping, & Meeting Team IT Needs

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

A church IT forum discussion came up recently that is worth thinking through. The original post asked for input on how to keep team members from connecting their personal devices to the password-protected staff WiFi. The discussion that followed was a little like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride! Lots of ideas being tossed around, most of which uncomfortably avoided the most important questions.

Underlying Risk
The vast majority tried to help by explaining various ways the team could be controlled or prohibited from attaching their personal devices to the staff WiFi. There were a couple voices of reason that participated, suggesting positive ways forward.

Those not in IT may not understand the underlying risk. Why shouldn’t team members connect their personal devices to the staff WiFi? There are legitimate dangers associated with letting personal devices attach to the staff WiFi.

  • The staff WiFi, usually password protected, is typically configured to give devices full access to the organization’s network as though they were connected and logged in via an Ethernet cable. That is in contrast to the public guest WiFi, which is typically configured to give devices access only to the internet, and hopefully access that is filtered.
  • The organization’s data needs to be protected. Churches and ministries maintain a lot of sensitive data that could hurt congregants and team members if not adequately protected. Data like contributions records, HR records, social security numbers of staff and some vendors, church member disciplinary notes, board minutes, and more. That data needs to be kept private, but it also needs to be kept available for team members to use in the operations of the organization. Malware like ransomware exists because hooligans understand the value associated with appropriate data access, and endeavors to block access to the data unless a ransom is paid.
  • The organization’s systems need to be protected. There are some who would like to disrupt the flow of church and ministry operations by crashing the system or participating in activities that could cause authorities to remove all computers and servers for forensic investigation and, possibly, evidence in a prosecution.

When team members use the staff WiFi on their personal devices, the organization’s data and systems are put at risk.

The Next Question
So, does that mean team members should not use the staff WiFi for their personal devices? Maybe; it depends on why they need it.

One of the forum participants, Jason Powell at Granger Community Church, contributed “Figure out what need they’re trying to solve. It took a while for our staff to be coached that there is no speed difference between our staff and public WiFi. After asking why they wanted a personal device on the staff WiFi, in almost every case, it was because they assumed it gave them something that the public WiFi didn’t. A simple conversation assured them that the public WiFi would do everything they were asking for.”

What if the need is legitimate, though? Jason continued, ‘For legit needs like interns, volunteers, etc needing a personal device to have more access, build a simple BYOD network.” A BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) network is not difficult or costly to do. The cost factors involved are more to create systems that can enforce protections and recover from breaches in case they occur.

Who Decides What IT Needs are Legitimate?
This is the part often overlooked. IT is not responsible for determining what access needs are legitimate or not; that is leadership’s responsibility. IT should communicate the benefits, risks, and any mitigation costs to leadership and ask for direction. Only leadership is responsible for determining who should and who should not have access to systems and data. IT’s role is to engineer and configure, train, monitor, and enforce the decisions made by leadership.

Effects of IT Setting Policy
When IT makes decisions without leadership’s direction, those decisions usually take the form of policies and system settings that frustrate team members. In organizations where that is the case, IT often becomes the “No” people. Some church and ministry teams get dysfunctional in the wake of those policies. Team members– who feel called by God to fulfill their ministry call– often take the posture of doing whatever it takes to fulfill their call even if it means going around IT’s policies and system settings.

Effects of Leadership Setting Policy
Policies set by leadership are ultimately enforced or modified by leadership. IT has the potential of having a ministry-facilitating impact by letting leadership set policy. And leadership should fully fund whatever is required by the policy decisions it makes, which means that IT doesn’t have to try to string together inadequate strategies. If leadership doesn’t fund IT with what is needed, IT should let leadership know and ask for either a change in policy or a change in the budget.