Podcast Episode 50 - Our First Visit to Liberty University
We are publishing this podcast out of our regular schedule (and order) to update you about our trip to Liberty University.
It was a whirlwind of an exciting trip! We were so blown away by so many things about that university- the campus, but especially the students, their professionalism, and their passion to serve the church. It seems like sometimes you meet people that have learned to conduct themselves well and are invested in a great mission, but it was outstanding to see it spread across the entire student body, almost universally.
We got to introduce some students to the concept that they can do tech work in churches - it felt like we ambassadors for churches to introduce this concept to them. And it was intresting that when we talked about sacrifices you might sometimes have to work to be in the nonprofit or church space, their interest level actually seemed to increase, not decrease.
Let's recap what we did:
- We talked at a "TEC Club". This was our first interaction to students outside of the students we are working with on their capstone projects. They got so comfortable when we started talking about the spiritual parts of the job, it was almost like talking at a church. That really changed the conversation- to be able to challenge them to think about "Why WOULDN'T you work with a church and work to draw people closer to Christ" at a computer club and watch them engage and conenct with that, was unexpected and wonderful. Jon drew the parallel for them of the Roman Empire Roads - at the time, that was the height of technology. And God through the Church leveraged that technology to really spread the Gospel in ways not possible to that date. Connect that to today and the availability of the Internet and the ability to spread the Gospel that way, and we really think that churches should be taking advantage of all of the tools at our disposal.
- The first night we met with the executives of the University in a small setting. Many of the other attendees were from secular companies, so there were some interesting aspects of what they were sharing as well. But the contrast was stark- they still had the "take" mentality whereas we were sitting there wondering, "how else can we help you"? Obviously there's a little of each on both sides, but the approach was really different.
- The next day we got to get inside the actual classroom. They invited several different programs (majors) to come and sit in on the session, meaning that other professors were willing to give up their class time for their students to listen to the "Rock Team" for 90 minutes. And that was an experience- the students are so thoughtful and well-intentioned.
- Then we went to a career fair where students could come up to our booth (and other vendors') and engage with us. And that engagement was at a really high level; they were very articulate, prepared with questions, and in most cases had already researched the companies. It was like talking to the cream of the crop at most other universities. We left with a huge list of people who were interested; in tech, but also in HR, in accounting, in project management, in marketing, in social media, in business communications, and the students are already remarkably experienced in "real world" jobs.
- Finally, we were able to connect with some of the students one-on-one in an interview setting.
This trip gave us some unusual experiences as well- usually we have to sell people on why the Rock model (donation-based) works, but they really grasped the intent and found it very logical. And that excited us, because it's very hard to "convert" people from the "take" model and train them on the model that we use, but these students are ready for it, almost native to it.
And this model is one that's hard to build at this point, even though we believe it will be mainstream in the future. The IRS doesn't know how to deal with it. Churches don't even know how to do deal with it. But it's what going to allow Rock and Spark to grow in the future, so we're really glad we're putting in the effort to build it this way from the beginning. It's even better for efficiency: with our consulting work, most of that work gets put into core, which is great. But even if it doesn't, the profit stays in the community. It doesn't walk out the door- it goes right back to funding the nonprofit and core.
This university is committed to integrating their faith, their work, and their skill set in creative ways, and these students are coming out really poised to contribute to something like the Rock community.
So, where do we go from here?
We went with some ideas of what we wanted to do with these relationships, but we're really able to refine those now. We want to connect students and their awesome skill sets with the organizations that need them, in a way that will boost the whole Rock community.
We're getting ready to put out a survey to churches, about what their needs are. So please consider that- do you need a business analyst? A project manager? A web developer? Someone in infrastructure? We were able to make some incredible connections, and we want to help get these students in touch with you!
Also, we're going back to all of the student contacts and getting their information- where they want to be located, what their skills are, etc, and then we can help pair them up in a place that they're looking for.
We also want to make this a sustainable program- our community is growing and so these needed positions is only going to grow. So we are looking at the future of this program as a fee-based program to place these students in the correct positions. We have a heavy investment in the whole process and we want it to be sustainable and ongoing. Think of it like a headhunting service, although we're just trying to meet costs so our fee will be significantly lower. We want the service to be as accessible to our churches as possible. Please do fill this survey out soon- the student interest is peaked right now before they start their last semester and start looking on their own.
Also, please remember that these students are considering options in the corporate world and the church world. And they know that they will have to make some sacrifices in order to work in the church world, but we want to underscore to churches that when you're hiring for a technically skilled position, you need to be offering compensation in the right way. If you're offering a position with a salary more in line with unskilled positions, they're probably just not going to be able to take the position. And honestly, these students are worth it, for what they can bring to your organization. Think about what you would offer an experienced person, not someone new to the field also- their curriculum is really good and they do have a lot of experience - more than you might expect for new college graduates.
...Now, because one idea leads to another:
We have some concepts that we think will be an even better fit for the community in the future, and even more help in raising the level of Rock knowledge inside the community. We are thinking of a training boot camp, kind of a crash course in using Rock. This would be something that new hires with tech experience could go through to understand how Rock is designed and used. This would be a tiered experience, depending on the level of training and understanding that they need - developers versus business analysts, for instance. This is still a concept, but we're working on multi-week plans. Our existing Master Class would probably be a part of that program, but we're looking at what else we can do.
We've heard from a lot of churches that want really deep training on a specific subject, so that would fit in as well. These will probably include assessments, certifications, and other things you'd expect from professional level trainings.
We're looking at Salesforce, Microsoft, and even coding boot camps to figure out what the programs look like, how things are priced, etc. And this is a huge investment- just our existing Master Class program took months to develop. So although this is still very much a concept, it's something we're working on.
How can churches help with these items?
Well, besides telling us about your needs (there's nothing to lose- no cost for interviewing and considering these students for your church), some churches might consider helping us fund these efforts. We have assessments, certifications, and classes to create, so additional funding lets us bring in additional help for creating these items. Right now, we have to do this as a side project in our spare time- kind of like this is getting our scraps. It takes time to onboard people as you know, but if we were able to do that it would let us get this up and running much more quickly. It's a great investment. Our community is on fire, and this is like pouring gasoline on it- this would be a huge infusion of talent, effort and knowledge for the community.
This episode of Rockcast is brought to you by our Gold Level Donors. Spark Development Network depends on the generosity of the churches using Rock. Our Gold Level Rock Church Donors are crucial to the success of the Rock community, contributing above the suggested donation level. By generously giving more than the $1.50 per average attendee per year, these churches are investing in our mission to make innovative technology accessible for ministries of all sizes. See the list of our 70+ Gold Donors on https://www.rockrms.com/organizations, and join this high-impact group yourself by adjusting your investment at https://www.rockrms.com/donate