I’ve been a part of and involved in different open sources communities over the years. And, being the son of a pastor, I’ve been in church my entire life. I’ve also served as full-time staff in a local church setting. It is easy to stay in your circle, some go as far as calling it a bubble, during the week when you’re in meetings at church, or fixing this or that, if you’re technical.
Our lives can be cyclical. Home life, family, work, other church activities and Sunday gatherings. There’s also the occasional capital campaign, camp or conference. Like home life, the church can be a whirlwind of activity. There’s always something that needs our attention. One finish line becomes the starting line for the next project or event.
This often leaves us with little time for anything beyond our church walls. By us, I mean church tech teams. Our focus is our local church. I’ve been a part of tech communities in my city, that is, non-church related or organized communities and I’ve found great benefit in church tech teams getting involved outside of their churches.
Different Kinds of Communities
There are different kinds of communities you could be a part of. I guarantee you, that there are as many communities, as there are as many aspects of church tech. By this I mean people who have keen interests in lighting, sound, web and app development– the list goes on.
Contrary to what many people think about these, they are helpful and in the truest sense, communities. There are times I feel they’ve embodied church community in a vivid way.
These people come together because of an interest but end up caring for each other. Genuine friendships develop. This is usually not the goal but ends up happening in an organic way. They share ideas and resources. These people help each other with no strings attached. Relationships are relationships, not transactions. Sound familiar?
These are a few of the benefits:
Sometimes you don’t need to spend a ton of money to upskill or learn something new. Too often, many people pay for things they don’t have to. They make the mistake that tens of thousands of others have made. These mistakes, sometimes even costly ones, shouldn’t happen. Being a part of a community goes a long way in upskilling you and can save you and your church a lot of money.
Open source communities like Linux, WordPress, PHP, etc. can give access to skills you don’t have.
Make the Circle Bigger
“Make the circle bigger” is one of the phrases we love in my city. It means exactly that. It means include others. The context in which I use it here has to do with teams. Involvement in other tech communities can be important if your church is short on manpower.
Not all churches have the resources for volunteers or staff. You can have an outsourced team in the form of people you can ask for help when you get stuck. Who knows? A meetup group could choose to make something in your church a project.
I don’t know about you but part of me feels like the word “missional” is losing its power. It seems once words become the “buzzword” for the Church this happens. But I chose to use it anyway in the hopes making my point clear.
Be “salt and light”. But I also think it is important to “be” among others beyond our church walls. Some who don’t think of themselves as Jesus followers may want to meet someone who is.
While you also contribute to solving others’ challenges, you also serve your community. You contribute to your local economy, keep people working. You are being a blessing to your city. Jesus said our generosity can cause praise from those who might not be followers of Christ.
Being missional is also about being a presence. It would be great if geeks had someone available when they were ready for a conversation about faith. It is also about being a blessing beyond the walls of our churches and the cities we live in.
For example, besides WordCamps in my city, one of my highlights every year is the doaction event; it is a hackathon WordPress devs and other content creators in our city do this every year. We build websites for charities and train them to manage their own content.
I loved being on staff “full time” in the local church. If we’re not careful, though, one can get so lost in it they forget there’s a world out there. We can get so wrapped up in our language and what we do, we forget how to relate to people outside our world.
Being involved in communities out of the church, as a church tech team, can help you create content. Reminders that not everyone thinks like those who are usually around you do, is important.
What Involvement and/or Events Could Look Like
Church buildings are some of the best-equipped places on the planet for events. The resources span from coffee machines, to rooms, to ample space. And every church has that storeroom with old equipment to tinker with, which could be used. The venue would generally cost nothing.
What if you offered your church as a venue for the next WordCamp or sound training workshop for your town?
You could have someone or other teams share about problems they’ve solved and how they did it. Question and Answer sessions often bring good value to attendees.
Online engagement always translates to offline meetings and projects. Slack and Facebook groups are great tools for this. Online engagement can help grow into rich relationships. Take part in or create groups like these.
Where to Start
Our hearts and minds are often the first barriers. Pray that God would give you a tender heart and opportunities. Ask Him to lead you. Sometimes our ego and inferiority are what stops us from reaching out to others. Do you need to deal with that?
Pride is a people repellent and doesn’t please God. Humility is necessary for learning and growth. Do you need God’s help with that? Ask for His help.
Meetup.com has been an invaluable resource for me. Search for groups and meetups in your area there. If you’re like me and use WordPress, you can look for meetups along those lines.
Facebook is another resource you can use. Search for groups and events. There is a lot out there for you. If you can’t find any of the meetups you’re interested in, create one. It might start with coffee with just one person but it will build.
You don’t have to do something every month or add another thing to all the things you have to do and go to. You might only be able to do one or two meetups. Maybe all you can handle is being part of a Slack or Facebook group so start there.
Besides inviting other church tech teams, try to invite the wider tech community. Start somewhere, do something.