Church tech can be a minefield. There’s lighting, sound, Church Management Software, IT, websites, streaming, cyber-security and much more. And, with limited staff and expertise, it can be overwhelming. In small to medium size churches, resources are often stretched. And, the pastor, with a small staff compliment and volunteers must be experts of sort in everything. While having knowledgeable volunteers can be helpful, it’s not always the case.
This is why we must do our best to make sure that tech investments are worthwhile. We want to make sure we not only get the possible solutions and also get the most out of them. Disclaimer: the ideas you’re about to read will not guarantee you get the most out of solutions you choose. But, they will increase the likelihood of making the most of your tech.
I debated on including this one here because, well, it feels like this is something I/we say often here. This is because it is important. Undermining the gravity of this step is akin to bad stewardship. Make sure you understand the problem you’d like to solve before you get any ‘new’ tech. In the case of tech, you already have, make sure you’re clear on the problem it solves.
- Write down a problem statement. That is The current problem we have is __________.
- The solutions we get need to do ______.
- This means our solution(s) must have the following features______.
- We will know that this solution works or is effective by / when_______.
Your problem statement can be that simple. And, that simplicity can be the difference between being good or irresponsible stewards.
How clear are you about why you have what you have? As much as gadgets and other tech can be fun to play with, they’re tools. At least in the context of church and non-profits. This is why we can’t be flippant about how we use the resources we’re entrusted with.
Sometimes, there’s that one person or small group advocating a particular solution. And, in such instances, they have leadership’s blessing but not their commitment. Leaders’ commitment or buy-in is one of the biggest reasons some solutions don’t work. Church Management software, for example, can only be effective with leaders’ buy-in. This means they give the go-ahead beyond the budget spend. They must be advocates and also use the tech if it also affects them in their role.
Sometimes some solutions have implications for all staff and volunteers. These organization-wide solutions often need everyone to play a part. Leaders, leading by example often makes a great difference in adoption and use. As with many things in church life, leaders have to, well, lead. Leaders can never have the luxury of indifference or aloofness.
Introduction of new solutions can impact ways of working. It helps to anticipate some of the impacts. For example, a changeover from macOS to Windows could create compatibility challenges. Another example: changing church management software for the giving feature, can’t be in isolation. You should keep in mind the implications for children’s check-in needs.
One of the ways to make sure adoption and effective use of tech is not working in silos. The left hand should always know what the right is doing. Sometimes a team-wide huddle is a good idea. Working in silos can be costly. This is why asking, “Who else or what else could be adopting this solution affect?”
Have scheduled audits. Audit sounds like a big word but it needn’t scare you. By this I mean, set regular times to create and / update your inventory register. This includes gear and subscriptions or licenses for software and other services. Subscriptions, in particular, can be a bad leak in the bucket of your church’s resources. Hence the need for regular checks on expenditure.
Simple questions to ask on a regular basis:
- What do you have and why?
- Does it still meet a need?
- What kind of changes do we need to make, if any?
These are basic questions to get you started.
To Recap / TL;DR
Make sure you’re clear on the problem you’re trying to solve. Why do you need what you think you need? Write a problem statement to make sure you don’t waste money and other resources. Leadership buy-in, besides expenditure or budget approval, can determine the extent of tech impact. Remember that whatever you do may affect more than one part of the church or organizational life. Be clear about how changes will affect church life and prepare for new ways of working. Always evaluate the effectiveness of what you put in place.