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24
Jul

CHOG registration

Today in the mail I received a packet of information regarding my re-registration with the Church of God for its 2009 yearbook. This is something I’ve needed to do for a few months, but haven’t gotten around to it … essentially, the Church of God does its best to keep track of its active and retired ministers, for the sake of congregations seeking pastors and for the sake of pastors seeking contact information for other pastors. And for lots of other reasons, too, I suppose, but those two come to mind first.

Anyway, somehow I magically appeared in the 2008 yearbook. I believe that was due to my ordination process, which began last summer. When the yearbook was published this spring, it was kind of cool to walk into my dad’s office, open up the yearbook with him, and see our names next to each other in the alphabetical listings.

But even then I noticed a problem – they had listed my e-mail address incorrectly in the 2008 yearbook. No big deal, I thought. Who would e-mail me, anyway (who didn’t already have it handy)? I figured I’d correct it when it came time to register for the 2009 yearbook.

So this packet of papers arrives today, and, in a word, I’m flabbergasted. (What a great word, by the way.) There are three pages, printed front and back, with all sorts of different fonts, font sizes, boxes, lines… and I can barely make heads or tails of it at first glance. I begin by reading what looks like the first page – it just had that kind of look to it – but finally at the top of that page I see the subheading “Page 6 of 6.” So I flip the whole packet over and start again.

Page 1 of 6 contains all of my current information, as recorded in the 2008 yearbook. So does page 2 of 6. Page 3 of 6 finally includes some sort of instructions as to what to do with these pieces of paper. Page 4 of 6 lists all possible ministerial codes (two or three letters), in a font that’s almost legible. Page 5 of 6 is the payment sheet, and page 6 of 6 is a “no changes” page which contains a box I can check if everything is correct from last year. Whew … I managed to decipher the packet.

Ok, so I have to review my information and make any changes that are necessary. I’m already looking for the e-mail address … but here’s a list of the changes I had to make:

  • e-mail address: not @hotmail.com, but @gmail.com
  • phone number: change one digit from 2 to 3
  • marital status: change from “Single” to “Married”

This last one is particularly interesting to me, since my wife’s name is clearly listed in the next section, “Spouse Information.” Who entered my information last year, anyway? They were none too careful.

Finally, all the information is correct. But then I see that I can save five dollars if I register online. I’m always happy to save a few bucks (and a stamp), so I wander over to the computer and fire up the old browser. It only takes me a few minutes to finish the registration process, but I’m 28 years old and I know what I’m doing with a computer. At several points along the way, I have to make some intelligent guesses about what the system wants me to do. Lemme ‘splain.

On the data entry webpage, I enter all the corrected information (thankfully, the page looks a lot like Page 1 of 6… which is to say, it looks totally inappropriate and inefficient in print *and* online), and I click the “save information” button. The page reloads … and looks exactly as it did before, with the exception of a new button at the bottom entitled “submit registration.”

So I click that new button. Next comes this frighteningly complicated page giving me a list of five or six instructions I will have to follow – on the five or six following pages – in order to complete my registration payment by credit card. Thankfully, I’m a reasonably intelligent person, so I figure I can feel my way through this process pretty painlessly. (I do check to make sure the following pages are secure, though… I have my doubts.)

On one of the following pages, I see the receipt. Or bill. Or the table that shows how much you owe, whatever that’s called. And here I am confused again. The total price is blank! But, once again, being a reasonably intelligent twenty-something, I do the only reasonable thing: I play with the stuff on the page. And here’s the kicker: the *ONLY* thing I can modify on the page is an unlabeled drop-down menu. It currently displays a zero, and I can change it to display a one. Pretty fancy, huh? There is no hint whatsoever as to what this menu is supposed to do. So quite naturally, I change it to one, and then the receipt/bill/table fills in the appropriate amounts, and I am ready to go. Perfectly obvious solution.

To move on from that page, I have to click the button labeled “process credit card.” This makes me think twice, because that text usually appears after you’ve entered your credit card information. But of course this system hasn’t received that info from me yet. So I reflect briefly on my experiences with this system so far and proceed to click the button, fearless that the train will be derailed at this point.

Sure enough, I get to enter my credit card info on the next page. This page contains one very prominent warning: that I must enter the credit card’s expiration date as mm/yyyy, not mm/yy. I think to myself that if the receipt/bill/table page could update itself, I bet this page could have a snazzy line of javascript to insert “20” into the middle of a string of text. But whatever… I finalize the deal, pay thirteen dollars, and hopefully will have a correct ministerial listing in next year’s yearbook.

I should have taken screenshots to show you all what this looked like. The technology that Church of God Ministries is using for this registration process looks like it was produced in 2000 or 2001, not 2008. User-friendliness is definitely not one of the strengths of this process, and that bugs me. This system should be much, much better. I suppose I should be thankful that it works at all …

… but no, that’s not enough. There is no reason that any organization should have to function with such a low level of technological sophistication. The tools are out there, people. Make it easier for us commoners!

6 Responses to “CHOG registration”

  1. Spaugh Says:

    New source of income! Offer to fix it for loads and loads of money….churches are always rich like that!

  2. Dad A. Says:

    Sounds very strange indeed. I did my 2009 Yearbook registration online and didn’t encounter any of the clunkiness that you described. I wonder what the problem is……?

  3. Jonathan Dailey Says:

    Ha! I have been reading your blog for sometime, lurking I think they call it but had to comment on this.

    “This system should be much, much better. I suppose I should be thankful that it works at all…but no, thats not enough. There is no reason that any organization should have to function with such a low level of technological sophistication. The tools are out there, people. Make it easier for us commoners!”

    This is the way I feel about half of everything I deal with in ChoG. (and Xianity period but another time). The websites are hard to use. Information disappears. Somethings are impossible to find and others easy to get when they shouldn’t be. I should probably write a letter to them but previous correspondence has been badly received. I think the problem is a theological-practical disconnect.

  4. Dave Says:

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for popping your head up. 🙂 Sorry it took me so long to see your comment!

    You said, “I think the problem is a theological-practical disconnect” – and I think you’re right on the money. Theologically speaking, the Church of God wants to function as a denomination in as few ways as possible. Thus, we’d like to offer online registrations for ministers and have them be seamless and smooth. But practially speaking, we don’t really care about fixing up these technical details, and so they slip through the cracks. We’re interested in being the church, but we’re not interested in getting our hands dirty. (…perhaps?)

  5. Mom A. Says:

    Whew! I’m glad you put that “perhaps” in there. Otherwise it would be quite an indictment! Maybe the church’s internet difficulties are caused by something less sinister, like not having persons properly qualified to take care of the technical details (or not having qualified persons who have time available to work on them)? It could be as simple as a staffing issue or a financial issue.

    Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about fact and feeling in regard to various facets of Christian life, especially with an eye to keeping fact & feeling in proper balance. What I think I see in your comments is a feeling of frustration. That’s a reasonable emotion in this situation. However, the frustration may have caused you to generalize more broadly than you might have if you were friends with the people responsible for CHOG internet issues. If you knew and liked them, you might look at the situation more sympathetically. They would still be the same people with the same internet shortcomings, but you’d be viewing the problem through a different lens.
    This principle becomes even trickier when you have two (or more – yikes!) people trying to solve a problem, with each seeing through their own particular lens. First you have to understand and get past the lenses before you can really address the problem.
    Ah, I’ve rambled long enough. You get the idea. Thanks for writing. Love you, bud!
    Ma

  6. Joe Allison Says:

    Dave, just found your blog tonight and was VERY interested to see your comments on the Yearbook registration process, since I work over there at Church of God Ministries.

    I’m not sure why you had so much grief with the online registration process. I don’t work directly with the online registration utility, but do with the end result of this process: the printed Yearbook (which I sent to the printer yesterday, by the way).

    Suggest you drop a line to Dreama Lamb, the geek-in-chief behind the electronic Yearbook registration: dlamb@chog.org

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