Pam came up from Birmingham, Ala., for a couple days to teach our staff about the database. The official name of the database is ACS. It's the platform we use to keep track of pertinent information about congregations and people.
Most organizations use a database of some kind. Perhaps you've worked with one in the past. If you have, three cheers to you! Maintaining all those records is important, detail-oriented work and sometimes it's mega-tedious. Thank you!
Pam came to help our team become familiar with all the database can do and all the best ways to get it done. She flew up to Minnesota and brought along a smooth southern accent and a refreshingly straight-forward sensibility. She's spent the last 20 years traveling the country training people on how to use this particular software. Her vast experience radiated from the moment she entered our offices at Assisi Heights.
"The first thing I want you to know," Pam said, "is that there are a lot of right ways to do things. I'll give you advice. I'll tell you what I think would be best. But I'm not going to force you to do anything. You've got to make this program work for you."
She proceeded to spend the next two days explaining procedures and processes, updates and manuals, maintenance and reports. By the end of the time with Pam, our team was encouraged and inspired by what the database can do. It will take more practice. Perhaps a lot more. But we're getting there, and we're more equipped for the task than ever before.
One of the biggest light-bulb moments for our team was learning how to best create reports. A database can create an endless array of reports. In a congregational setting, reports can be used to build Sunday School class lists, track giving patterns, or update the members of the quilting club. Colleges, car dealerships, hospitals, and congregations all utilize databases, and all those databases can create reports.
In the past, our team has run into a glitch whenever it came time to create a report. The reports were perpetually based on old data. Instead of creating a document based on the most up-to-date information, the reports were always based on old, incorrect data. When we asked Pam about this issue, she explained that the problem was caused by an old default setting. She said we'd need to get into the habit of going into the report settings to change the old default date to the current date. Otherwise our reports would always be based on old information.
As I drove home after the two-day training, it occurred to me that humans are a lot like databases. We're all programmed uniquely with brains full of collected data and settings based on individual memories and experiences. No two people are set up exactly the same, and no two databases are set up exactly the same, either.
I realized that a lot of the big challenges of my life have come out of relationships with other people — all of whom experienced reality differently based on their own "default settings." I've unnecessarily taken a lot of things quite personally when it wasn't about me at all (a tendency based on my own default settings).
Update your settings
The truth is, we're all just doing what we can with the databases we've got. We are all walking around this planet "creating reports" and making sense of life based on whatever information has been saved in our inner hard drives.
It's probably safe to say that some of us are using old data. We're making decisions and acting out of inherited patterns and old wounds. The majority of us would do well to go in and change those default settings to reflect today's date, so that all the things we've learned can be incorporated.
It takes time. This inner database work. Our computer database at the office will take time, too. "I encourage you to make a master ACS plan," Pam said. "Give yourself at least a year to clean up the files and get things in order. And know that regular updates will always be required."
Good wisdom. For the database at work and for the adventure of being human.