The Case for a Rock Retainer: Leadership Buy-In

By Tina D. Stephens

The Rock Conference is right around the corner, and I've been asked to lead a session on staff buy-in for Rock. That's a topic in which I have intimate first-hand knowledge. While working as a database manager at a large church, I had a front row seat to the transition from our old database to our new Rock database. However, one big hurdle to staff buy-in, is to understand not just the 'why', but the 'what.' What exactly are they buying into? Although I will be addressing the 'why' at the conference, this 'what' question will place you in a scenario where you will need to identify the limits of your in-house resources, and the benefits of seeking help elsewhere. And, seeking that outside help, most often requires approval from the top... which brings us to a different type of 'buy-in'... leadership buy-in (the metaphorical rock doesn't roll very far without that).

Okay, so, what? Before you could get any sort of Leadership approval, you need to know what they need to approve. What do you need Rock to do? That's where you start (or where you've already been). Although Rock is a good fit out of the box for many organizations, many others desire it to be a much more customized experience. That customization can require a great amount of knowledge and insight. If you’re like me, you didn’t roll out of the crib writing SQL. And what are workflows, data views, dynamic reports, connections, Org charts, oh my? Or unlike me, you went to school for programming. In either case—you are the help desk, the report builder, the graph builder, the check-in fixer, the page builder, the data integrity keeper, the survey taker, the cheerleader, the staff trainer, and so on. Are you tired yet? The reality is, you can’t be all and do all for your church, in regards to Rock.

Enter stage left... support retainers.

Aside from eventually building a team (another blog), a support retainer is an effective way to address the 'what.' But, again, you're faced with selling the idea to the decision makers. To help with that, let's just first solidify some of your feelings on the matter. You may have already made up your mind that a retainer is a sure thing, and you have your plan in place. Or, this may be the first time you've heard of support retainers as even an option. Before I equip you with some tools to address your leadership, let me just share my own journey into support retainers.

As Database Manager, I had entered into a retainer with the company we used for implementation (Pillars, now 9 Embers). They helped me with staff training, customizations, workflows, reports, additional check-in configurations, system updates, and emergencies. The more our staff ventured into Rock, the more aware we were of the possibilities. Armed with knowledge, we asked for time-saving workflows for our ministries and refined the customizations already in place. Rock became indispensable to our staff and replaced multiple other software programs. As Database Manager I gained an incredible amount of Rock knowledge while working with the support team. Along the way, they taught me how to fix and build things in Rock and exposed me to ideas I didn’t know existed.

So, here we are. You are bought in on Rock. The staff is bought in on Rock. The 'what' of it all has led you to buy-in on teaming up with a Rock Partner with a support retainer. But now, you have to run it up the flagpole, and get leadership buy-in, and convince them it’s a worthy investment, just like I did. For that, I again refer back to my own experience and offer to you what worked for me.

I did my homework by talking to other teams on the Rock RMS chat to find out how they used support and the number of hours they suggested. I gave leadership a 6-month proposal which they agreed to. Here are some things I included:

  • Two types of retainer options: 'Luxury Retainer' and 'Survival Retainer'
  • The price tag: Noting the different prices for the number of hours. You can find that information here. A retainer is per month. They aren’t locked in for life.
  • Types of support available, customized to your needs. You can find a list on our website here
  • Emergency help. With everything running through this system why wouldn’t you protect it? (You bought the protection plan for the toaster you ordered from Amazon, right?) List everything going through Rock to remind them: finance, check-in, data reports, etc.
  • Staff Education: Mention the learning you will gain from working with professionals. They aren’t only investing in the database; they are investing in you.


If you have more questions or want to explore how to implement Rock, please feel free to contact our team.


Check out the list of services that 9 Embers can help you out with. The support retainer is included in there under 'custom development.'