Many vital churches across the nation implement unique ways of utilizing technology in their ministries. Live tweeting, blogging, Facebook groups, forums, etc. These tools are incredibly useful for a generation that has grown up consuming bleeding edge technology in their every day lives. But that presents a problem of exclusionary practices. The problem becomes the generations that are disconnected from the utilization of modern technology. Whether due to unfamiliarity or inability to understand they regularly push back when we attempt to implement these changes.
We push forward regardless. We implement these changes with much fanfare and are incredibly excited about how it can truthfully impact our culture. But we are leaving behind a large group of people.
Much has been written about how Churches lag behind in technology usage and consumption. Most of the writers who examine this subject focus on two areas that are of concern as to why this lack of utilization. Money and know how.
There are a plethora of tools out there that are absolutely free of charge that will help you to connect and grow your ministry virtually. Facebook pages, groups, Twitter, WordPress, Blogspot, and YouTube to mention a few. With all of these tools out there that are free of charge what then is the real barrier to technology use?
The real problem with churches and their usage of technology is simple. The lack of knowledge to properly use them. Not just in the ministry staff, but amongst the members as well. What is the purpose of having a website if your members never use it? Why have an online community if the congregation doesn’t understand it?
Most churches have at least one technologically literate member. Any time someone in a church discovers you might have some level of ability in regards to the internet or other technology tools you automatically become the keeper of the realm. This one person is usually tasked with the responsibility of managing all of these tools and much more. The job can be arduous and often garner no respect.
But just putting it out there isn’t enough.
Just launching it isn’t enough.
Announcing it and building hype around it isn’t enough.
You have to educate the congregation on the need for the project. The how of it as well as the why.
How do we fix it?
We adopt a culture of education.
What is a church, if not a place to learn and expand. The solution is simple. Open forum technology education. I propose that we make a priority that at least bi-annually we host tech education days. Limit the sessions to 45 minutes and invite people to come with any questions regarding existing tech projects. Take the time to explain the why. Take the time to explain the how. Invite them to be a part of it.
You may not see an immediate payoff on this. People don’t want just another thing that they have to attend at church.
Don’t over-hype it.
You can create a real buzz around the event without instilling a sense that if you don’t attend you are doomed to be lagging behind in knowledge.
Set reasonable expectations.
After a three-hour session people will only be familiar with the tools you present to them. We aren’t expecting them to go out tomorrow and start creating podcasts and blogs. The goal should be reasonable. They should come away with a familiarity that helps them to understand why the church is utilizing resources to pursue these things.
Rinse and repeat.
If you add new members on a regular basis, they will not have had the opportunity to attend the prior tech day. Repeat regularly. Doing this also enables a church that isn’t going regularly to offer more advanced training. You can take the people who attended the first training a more in-depth look at some of the tools you already introduced.
If done properly, people will have tons of questions. Create a volunteer tech team that is prepared to help people as they develop questions while using some of the strategies you taught them. We can’t just give them the information and bail on them. We have to be prepared to be a support staff.
As a church, we can’t expect to keep launching these technology initiatives and expect 100% of our church to get behind it. We can’t even expect 100% to even understand what it is that we are doing. But we can make an effort to bring them along with us. Educate them. Give them the opportunity to see the value in the project. If they can’t see the value, they can’t be expected to support it. If they don’t support it, it will die.
[Image via Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter]