An idea to simplify UUA administration

An idea came up on a Christian Linux mailing list I read: using computer help desk software for church administration. Admittedly, this would be a large church that fields a lot of questions. And think “insider user” — ministers, church staff members, lay congregational and district leaders; you get the idea — rather than newcomers or inquirers. And since I can’t think of a church in the UUA large enough (except perhaps the CLF, but more for how it is organized) I’m thinking more about the UUA itself, or one of the larger districts.

If you’ve never administered a server or used one, here’s the deal. As a known user — you’d have to be signed in or known in such a way that your name, identity, and contact information would be clear — you would submit a “ticket” for help. The software may then compare your request against a recorded knowledge bank, and the user is presented with answers that match similar questions. Sometimes that’ll do that job and the ticket is closed. If not, the user forwards the ticket to the help desk where it is worked on in the order it was received. A few instant-message-like emails back and forth and that usually resolves the problem.

I mention this as an idea to make the most of staff to triage need and provide quick service to those that can be turned over the easiest. And since mature open-source options exist, it could be done at little cost.

What do you think?

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. A good friend of mine who worked at UUA headquarters spent many hours on the phone answering questions about what was the best book to use for an adult education class. Your idea could have saved her some time.

    But it would require a change in culture. The notion that the UUA headquarters is sort of a reference desk for congregational leaders persists, and the phone rings as a result. That the staff might be working to develop resources instead would be a boon for productivity of that was a value. But congregational leaders would need to adjust the idea that a 1000 congregations with 10 committees, a prez, a treasurer, a minister, a RE director, all calling for info, and 400 theological students needing services might be better served by email and tickets. Actually I think most ministers figure it out, after they get that message “I am on another line, I will call you back as soon as possible.”

  2. Absolutely, but it will take a comfort level with technology that many church administrators and DREs and the like don’t have. I would think that if we started it in a district, to prove the concept, it could easily spread.

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