Case Study

Lea Thullbery

St. Timothy's Episcopal Church

Location: Winston Salem, NC



Scheduled Ministries

  • Ushers
  • Lay Eucharistic Ministers
  • Greeters
  • Acolytes
  • Electors
  • Godly Play
  • Coffee hall
  • Formation classes

What led you to look for scheduling software?

We had six different people producing 18 schedules for three services each Sunday. If you were a lay Eucharistic minister and an Usher, frequently you were being scheduled twice on the same day, and then the ownership on you was to find yourself a sub. Families were being misscheduled – the teenagers might be Acolytes at the 9:00 service, and the mom and dad scheduled as Ushers at the 11:00. And what I realized was people were dropping out because they were frustrated. It just occurred to me there must be something out there.

You take something that took hours and was a frustration and let that go. Concentrate on recruiting new families, new people, and on training. Take your emphasis and your time and put it on that."

How did the coordinators put together their schedules before using MSP?

One of our Usher coordinators, who recently moved to South Carolina, used to call 60 people every quarter and schedule them… He was a wonderful faithful man but no one was ever going to take that job over! Scheduling Ushers is something that you should be able to push a button and get the computer to do in five minutes. And so that's what we did!

Are all those six people still doing their own scheduling?

No – we said "Now you're free!" Everyone was relieved – no one liked sitting down for four hours and doing the work of scheduling. We have the Ministry Leaders go and look once the computer has created the schedule because they all have [online] access. That way, they can do any hand fixing they need, and then we make it live.

What has been the biggest change since using MSP?

The largest thing, and I think the other leaders would say this, is you're taking something that took hours and hours and hours off everyone's plates. We told Ministry Leaders, "we know this took a big chunk of your time and it was a frustration. Now, let that go. Concentrate on recruiting new families, new people, and on training. Take your emphasis and your time and put it on that."

At our church, we call it "picking out the napkin color." When you have a meeting and everybody gets bogged down in picking out the color of the napkins. What they need to be focusing on is evangelism, stewardship, adoration, formation, transformation, but they're busy picking out the napkin colors, cause that's the easy thing to do. Scheduling [is like that] – though it is a pain in the neck, it's concrete. Well, let a machine do that, because a machine doesn't have a human, creative mind. Take your mind and put it to use, where God meant for your mind to be.

What feedback have you gotten from others about MSP?

When volunteers [request subs], they love it. Before, if you needed an Usher sub, you used to have to call or email ten people, call the coordinator, call the communications director. Now, all that happens automatically! I've heard, "that's incredible! I didn't realize it would do all that!" They've been very surprised by how easy it is. My priest is all on board, and all the other staff. I think the system covers everything you could possibly want!

Why do you think technology is important for churches?

The bottom line is that we can now buy food for someone who is hungry instead of spending money on postage. That is huge. Our newsletter, to send that out to 450 households a month, or send reminder cards, or send schedules – it really adds up. Every little piece of something represents dollar amounts. If you add all that up, you've got a jar of peanut butter that could feed four kids for a week. I'm telling you – I'm 52 and I swear we were the last household in America to let our kids get a PC. And I am very computer illiterate, and now I'm the person that manages MSP and the website. What I tell people is if I can do it, you can do it. Be not afraid!