Whether through Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, few things are as familiar to effective parish staff as spreadsheets. We use them for everything. We track baptisms and couples preparing marriage. We track first communicants and confirmands. We likely even use them for keeping track of the various groups meeting at the parish. They have been the modus operandi for years, but we believe it’s time to ask: given all of the technological and software advances we’ve seen, isn’t there something better?
The reason that spreadsheets are used is pretty straightforward. They are quick to create, easy to save, and ideally help make life easier. However, real life experience often yields different results. Keeping track of all of the different spreadsheets for all of the different sacraments, ensuring that they are updated, providing access to the right people, and keeping them secure all quickly adds up to a whole lot of frustration. On top of that, there’s a deeply problematic side effect of spreadsheet tracking in that we can easily reduce the people we are supposed to serve to data points on a page.
The primary reason for parishes to exist is to evangelize and provide access to the Sacraments. With so much conversation around evangelization and so many videos and workbooks being offered to support evangelization, we can easily forget that evangelization is not a program, it’s simply about relationship. When we stop seeing the people preparing for sacraments as souls to be accompanied towards Christ, and instead see them as checklists to be completed and data points to be recorded, we have lost sight of that fundamental purpose of the parish. We need to recover an urgent sense of our role in parish life to build relationships with those we serve and implement processes that cultivate those relationships. In short, we need to move beyond the spreadsheet paradigm.
With the currently available web application tech, using spreadsheets to track everything is like driving a horse drawn carriage when there’s a Tesla available. Sure, it may work, but it is going to be arduous and waste a lot of time. Our time in the parish is our most valuable resource, and it should be spent building relationships and accompanying those we serve, not digging around spreadsheets. Easily searchable information, permissions for access, real time updates, and being able to see an instant snapshot of everything happening in your parish are all essential to effectively using our resources. The time saved can be spent being fully present to the people you serve so that you can know them by name instead of by the missing information you need from them.
We believe it’s time for a new paradigm. We believe it’s time to harness available technology and use it to create parishes fully alive in the sacramental life. We believe it’s time to move beyond spreadsheets and data points to accompaniment and personal relationship. We believe in getting back to the roots of the Gospel, spending time with those we serve, and walking together towards Christ.