Podcast Episode 55 - 2019 and What Lies Ahead
Welcome to the first episode of 2019; thanks for joining us for this episode where we'll talk about what's new, what's fresh, and what's coming up.
Let's start off by talking about our pledges and the new commitment process for 2019.
At our last update, we mentioned that our pledges for the end of 2018 were a little shaky, and we did finish out the year a little shy of receiving everything that was committed to, but we did finish in the upper 90 percentile of churches making good on their pledges by the end.
To simplify the process for you and hopefully help make it easier for churches to make good on their pledges, we're moving to a new system of annual commitments rather than pledges. Commitments can run on any giving cycle, so it doesn't have to be the 2019 calendar year, for instance. All we're asking is that you tell us when the 12 month commitment starts, and what schedule you anticipate contributing on - monthly, quarterly, or whatever works for your church. Hopefully this will be easier to understand. To set your commitment, just log into rockrms.com and go to your account page to see your organization's profile.
Where's Rock at right now, and what's next?
Version 8.6 is under testing already - it's mostly bug fixes but there are a few little gems in there as well. There are some integrations for instance, and there's a new API that lets you export some information out of Rock that we're excited to see used in ways we can't even imagine
What's the Core Team working on?
Well, we just finished 8.6, and of course we've already been working on v9 - people have been coming to us and helped fund some additional features that are neat and will be coming there. Here are some of the more exciting ones:
SMS Conversations - to date if you wanted to have a conversation in Rock, it goes between your actual phone and their phone and Rock proxies that conversation. It's a really great feature, and looks very natural to the person you're texting with, but it doesn't allow for that type of interactions from pages within Rock. So the new SMS Conversations feature looks a lot like an SMS application you might use on your phone and you can add that to a page to converse with a person that way within Rock now.
Additional registration capabilities - Now you can have attributes on the registration itself, not just the registrant. We also have conditional fields on the registrants, so if they answer a question a certain way, you can then show two additional questions below it. It's really neat, and it's going to add a lot of power to registrations. Eventually, that kind of capability will also make its way to other places where attributes are used.
Volunteer Scheduling - of course you know about this one, but we've been making really good progress. We're probably halfway done, but one of the hardest blocks is done and solved now.
Digital Signatures - this is probably the last feature we've committed to for version 9 that we need to finish up.
We're excited that many of the features we're talking about here are going to increase the flexibility of Rock. We always intend that Rock shouldn't force you to do things in whatever structure we'd thought up as were building it- we want it to be flexible for you, and these features are going to increase that flexibility, on a system that already has more integrated into a single platform than maybe any other platform we're aware of.
New things you might not be aware of
The Ideas page that we rolled out before Christmas has been a big hit- we've been looking at those ideas, we're working on some of them and we've even already implemented some of them. Just to make sure everyone knows: the votes count! In general we start at the top of the list and work our way down. We can't go strictly sequentially because some of them require a little more thought and a more careful approach than others, but we do pay attention to that page as an indication of what the community wants. If you're not aware of the feature, check it out at rockrms.com/community/ideas. The idea is that the entire community can see all of the ideas, and everyone can vote on all the ideas. Every organization gets 20 votes every 30 days, so you can "push up" and prioritize ideas.
A great example of these ideas was the suggestion that we make Rock more friendly for churches with a single campus. It wasn't the first time we'd ever thought of that, but the number of votes it's getting tells us that it's an important feature - one that otherwise might not have gotten any attention in the next few major releases. So that has moved up - it's not going to be in version 9, but we're working on it.
As you submit your ideas, we do want to point out that the better you can describe it, the more votes you're likely to get and the better we'll be able to understand what you're looking for and how we could make it happen. Pictures are really useful, for instance. And remember to explain more than just "what" you want: explain "why" this is useful for churches - how it will help ministry.
If you weren't aware of the new Ideas page, you might not be aware of the new Recipes page, either. That's available at rockrms.com/community/recipes - this is a place we have provided for you to share what you're doing and learning. And we're going to continue adding features to this page as well, so that's something to look forward to. It's great as it is right now, but we're not satisfied with it yet.
More improvements ahead
Of course that's not uncommon around here- we're always circling back and improving things we've already done. Another example of that is the Check Scanner. When we first created Rock, we knew that we needed that feature and so we created it and it's served many churches well. But it's not up to the standards of what we dream of for that tool. With the next release, you'll be able to download the newest version of the Windows Check Scanner application (available from the Power Tools > External Applications page) and you'll see a new User Interface overhaul- it looks great. There are some new features in there that will give you a few more options as well; for instance you can set control amounts ahead of time.
In a similar way, we launched Rock with a DISC assessment built in, so you can send out those requests to your people with no costs associated with it. That's been a big hit, but DISC isn't a complete picture of who someone is, of course. If you were at the conference this year, you heard us say that we've partnered with Healthy Growing Leaders to write a series of 5 assessments that you'll be able to send out from Rock. They'll also be free and just as easy to send out and view results from. The idea is that you can use them to make ministry more personal and more effective. We've revamped DISC, there's a Spiritual Gifts assessment, and we've been testing the Conflict Profile Assessment lately. We're getting ready to test the Emotional Quotient (EQ) test we've developed, and we hope that this will actually be a better assessment of your EQ than most other tests out there. The fifth test that we have set as a goal for inclusion in version 9, is a Motivations Assessment. This will be a really unique assessment that we think you'll be able to use in really neat ways with your teams.
Healthy Growing Leaders is a really neat organization - if these types of assessments are something your church is interested in, we really encourage you to contact them - they'll help you go deeper than just the surface level of the tests and the results. They'll show you how to layer all the assessments together to start getting a more complete picture of your team and how you can encourage your team to be more effective. They really have the same heart for the Church and for the Rock Community that we do, which is really rare to find.
There's been high community (and core!) interest in Avalanche - Southeast Christian Church's framework to create mobile apps based on Rock. They're coming out at the end of January to help get that into Core, a little quicker and easier for churches to get up and running, and to pull it into Core.
Rock will always be available for you to download and run anywhere, but some churches are interested in not having to manage their Rock servers. So we've been working on RockCloud, which will be a fully managed Rock hosting environment. It's not just us installing Rock for you and turning it over - we're providing SSL, we're including the Google Maps API lookups, and so on. It sounds like an easy thing to provide, but it's not- we've talked to every major cloud services provider, we're trying to bring integrity and clarity to licensing, which is harder than it sounds, and we're making sure that security is at the forefront of our considerations. We're getting really close - we're piloting some things now and finishing building some automations.
If you follow us on Social Media, you've probably seen that our team has been growing and changing lately. In early January, we added some people to some new roles that we've needed:
- Grace Hansen has joined the Core Team as a Project Manager. We'll interview her in a separate Special Edition podcast, but we do want to mention that she's overseeing our Alpha and Beta processes now - if you're on those teams, you might have heard from her already.
- Jay Martinez has joined the Core Team as a Testing and Dev Ops role. This doesn't take the place of our community testers, but it's a big deal to the core team that we have someone now whose whole perspective is based on this approach. He'll be building the packages from now on, which will free our developers up to keep driving Rock forward.
- We've been looking for a documentation specialist for about 7 months now, and we've really been looking for someone different than a normal documentation specialist. We're excited to announce that we've found someone to fill that position, and they'll be starting February 4th.
We've also added a few developers to Sparkability Group. They're going to allow us to stop pulling core developers off of core to work on a feature that a church has funded for inclusion into Core, so that's really great for Rock.
Hand in hand with the growth of our team, we've launched some new websites. The Spark Development Network site, which had been neglected for awhile, has been revamped and looks great. We've also launched a new site for Sparkability Group itself, for the team handling the consulting work. And of course who could forget realchip.rocks which we launched as part of our Christmas promo? If you're wondering about Chip, or what merchandise he has, that's the site for you. Finally, we're working on a major facelift for rockrms.com itself, so stay tuned for that!
MyWell Ministries - a Rock-integrated giving and event registration payment gateway
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