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An Interview With… Barb & Bonnie

Kerrie Kleppin-Winn
October 28 2020

Long time finance guru, Lou Lamberty recently stepped down from keeping the books at First Central.  He left it all in the very capable hands of Barb Switzer and Bonnie Austin.  Here’s a look into their background and the job that lies ahead for them!

Kerrie: How long have you been a member at First Central?

Barb: Bill and I came to First Central in 1984, so that makes 36 years we’ve been members. During that time I’ve been active in the church, as Moderator, Clerk, Cabinet member at large, chair of various Boards/Ministries, sang in the choir, ran the plant sale with Cherie, and participated in any number of church events.  I’ve served on Search committees (both for Winston Baldwin and Scott Jones), worked on capital campaigns and followed Grant through Youth Group.  You know, just your regular church member…

Bonnie: John and I have been members since March 2015, and in that time I have served on the Outreach committee for 3 years and chair the last two. The last few years I have prepared the Chancel on Sundays (pre Covid).  On Thursdays I work in the Thrift shop.

Kerrie: Gosh, Bonnie – it seems longer!  You two have become such integral parts of our church body. What life-experiences / work-history do you bring to this new position with the church?

Bonnie: I was a software developer who wrote, installed and supported financial software for over thirty years.

Barb: I was recruited to help count the offering a couple of years ago, when I went to part-time status from my career at UNMC.  Since I’ve served on Cabinet and Ministries, I know how to read the church budget and have a general understanding of how the finances work.  In my professional life, I was responsible for a laboratory budget and doing cost accounting, and I know how to pay attention to details.  The idea of learning new software was interesting to me, although it’s a little challenging.  I believe in the idea that learning new things keeps your brain “young” so this should be good for me, right?

Kerrie: Can you please explain each of your separate roles moving forward with the finance team?  And why you chose to tag-team the responsibilities?

Barb: When I was first asked to do this, it was to do the entire Financial Secretary job – which was surprising, because  I have NO accounting background, and even the best software in the world couldn’t make me feel secure in doing something like this. So, although my usual default when someone asks me to do something at church is “yes”, this time I said “no, but…”.   I really felt they needed someone with experience and familiarity in procedures for things like payroll, taxes, bill paying, etc.  I was SO happy when Lou told me that Bonnie Austin would be taking over his job!  Bonnie has excellent skills and experience, and I think we make a good team.

Kerrie: That seems pretty familiar!  I recall that Lou didn’t have a great deal of experience either when he started this job.  Baptism by fire around here I guess!

Barb: Oh, that’s true!  So my part of the work is to record the money given to the First Central each week.  I use the Fellowship One software to enter each person’s gift, so we can track how much they’ve given the church.  I also enter gifts for memorials, the Food Bank, and other categories.  I understand that giving is something that requires a certain level of confidentiality, and I expect to honor that responsibility. As the Stewardship campaign started, I learned how to enter the amount each person pledges, and to keep track of who might need a follow-up contact.  Lou used to do a lot of personal outreach to church members, to encourage people to give; this year more of that will be the responsibility of the entire Stewardship committee.

Bonnie: And I’m responsible for payroll and paying any bills and then producing the monthly/yearly financial statements.

Kerrie: So it’s essentially an “Accounts Receivable” and “Accounts Payable” situation?

Bonnie: Yes, exactly.

Barb: We all became very dependent on Lou to just handle all of these different tasks. Although Bonnie and I are just getting used to doing this work, I think it would be a good idea to eventually train folks to “back us up” in case we were unavailable. Written protocols are critical, but I am learning that experience is invaluable.

Kerrie: Do you have any goals or expectations for this new role?  or for the church as you accept this new role?

Bonnie: My goal right now is to determine all the ins and outs of the software and determine the best way to do everything.

Barb: Yes, agreed.  The software is the most challenging piece of the puzzle right now. I’m trusting that eventually, I’ll be more comfortable with the software and those routine tasks won’t take so long, or seem so mysterious.

Kerrie: Have you discovered any fun surprises since you took the roles?

Barb: I’m starting to learn all those little jobs that Lou took on over the last 10-15 years, like doing all the calls for reminding people to send in pledges.  I think we’ve gotten a little spoiled, and it’s a good that we are starting to share some of those responsibilities.

Kerrie: So it is good that Lou is still just a quick phone call away?

Bonnie: Oh, most definitely!

Kerrie: Ladies, thank you for taking on this very important role in our church!

Bonnie: It’s my pleasure!

Barb: Mine too! And I’m hoping that once the pandemic is under control, we might be able to re-constitute the offering-counting team, just to be good and responsible stewards for the church, and because I also think those folks miss being part of the process.