Before getting into full time ministry, I spent many years running a consulting firm tailored to small and medium sized businesses. It was a really rewarding time for me because I got to help people solve problems, but it also created tension because small and medium sized businesses have big plans on small budgets.
Does that sound familiar?
If you serve or work at a church that doesn’t sit under the “Megachurch” banner then most of your tech projects probably require high dollar functionality with low dollar budgets.
The church where I am on staff is exactly this. In the last 5 years we have implemented online live streaming services, inline appliance based Internet filtering, birthed a second campus, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. There isn’t a month that goes by where we don’t have a project that requires functionality or excellence far beyond our fiscal means. This tension seems the most avoidable for us with the stage design. Our last stage design at both campuses cost $26 total.
It’s flagging tape.
3 Things You Need for Top Tech without Top Dollar
This fiscal creativity is much harder to facilitate in the technology world, but it is possible. Here are the three things you need if you want to stay on the forefront of technology without burning through a ton of cash:
- Trade in your price tags for sweat equity
- Use a System development life cycle
Everything you do will cost one way or another. Many times you can trade in your dollars for time and energy. Open source projects can be built as solid as a tank, but you will have to learn to implement and troubleshoot it since you’ll have no backbone of support. There is no company to call and no vendor to blame when there is a problem. You are the first and only line of support. So while you wont eat up a lot of dollars, you will trade in your time and valuable mental resources. We run a completely open source filtering system on our network. We have incurred no down time at either campus and although I am the only point of contact for the appliance, I never worry because I took the time to understand the system. There is a pretty vast network of other admins who support one another on the platform. This is the case with most open source systems.
4-Steps to Success
Before you dive into a project you should run through a development cycle of some sort. I have found that a full on SDLC is too bloated for what we deal with at my church so I simplified it. I follow a cyclical 4 part pattern that gets me from beginning to end of a project: question, research, assess, implement.
Question: Find out why you’re even considering a project. What will it solve or produce? How will it actually impact your church? What is the bare minimum it needs to accomplish?
Research: Take the time to look at both closed and open source solutions. Find a few solutions and explore them far enough to determine which would most likely solve the problem the most efficiently considering both time and money,
Assess: Create a basic pro’s and con’s list that will help you determine if the effort outweighs the benefit. Sometimes a project can get started with little or no value in the long term because of an article someone read, or because the church down the street is doing something.
Implement: Build the system, deploy it and move back to step one. Do this until the system is rock solid.
This is not for the faint I heart. If you travel this road you’ll have to defend and champion your decisions against not only the church body but the majority of the staff. They are not “techies.” They will need vision from you and sometimes they will need convincing. You have to know for sure your answer is the best answer. It tends to be an uphill battle, but when it comes down to it, hardly anyone will argue with saving 5k for an open source solution.
Would you rather use that money to go to the ends of the earth teaching the gospel or making sure YouTube doesn’t take too long to buffer?
The church has been working very hard to stay in front of the hardest mission field in the world, the 1st world. But we have always found new and inventive ways to solve our disconnects. Let’s continue that mentality in our technological growth. We need to be in the world, not of it. For me, that means sometimes accomplishing big plans on small budgets.