In an earlier post on what we should all know about church tech, we explored complexity. We touched on how broad “church tech” is. We also spoke about the importance of understanding of drawings line between disciplines. And, that it was critical for church leaders to understand this. Check out that post here. We now look at structure and systems in church tech. “Structure and systems” is not a phrase loved in every organisation.
Of course we all say we understand the importance. In some cases we even claim to have structure and claim to be systematic. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how much we say that. It is about how much we also live that.
Ecosystems – More Than Tech Alone
One of the big mistakes we make is thinking the latest software or hardware on its own will not solve all problems. Churches–organisations in general– are ecosystems. Whatever is in the environment doesn’t exist on its own. There is a dependence to be aware of.
Everything has some effect on something. The effect might not always the same intensity, but it exists. The same principle applies to technology. We use different kinds of technologies, but they need to work with the rest of the “elements” in the system.
Churches have this operating system they call, “Church Life”. This OS has different apps and functions in it.
The (Bad) Cycle
I’ve heard some church leaders say they did not want many little churches within their church. That is silo-ministries where activities don’t align with the mission of their church. Again, this is something we say a lot, but don’t do a good job of practicing.
For some reason when we think about being systematic we somehow leave that to church admin. By the way, church admin is also not as straightforward as we sometimes think.
What Does All This Mean?
I’m only learning about Conway’s Law now. I haven’t grasped everything it’s about. But, there’s something about that has my attention. The idea is that organisations build systems according to how they communicate. This is actually speaks into the culture of your organisations.
When it comes to structure and systems in church tech this is a big one. How well do understand the culture of your church? Not what’s written on your about page on the website but how you work. Are you a student of how each team functions and relates? What about the congregation as a whole?
Organising Church Tech
Has someone asked for a new workflow in your church management system? How does it affect the big picture? Not as a saying, but I mean really take time to think about it.
If we’re going ‘succeed’ structure and systems in church tech are critical. The user experience on your website cannot be independent of church life. You need an intimate understanding of how each ministry works and what it needs. Who are all the stakeholders?
Before introducing a new child check-in system what else does it affect? How does it impact data going into your church database? What will it mean for how people enter the church building on Sunday? Have you planned clear communications plan well in advance? Will it affect rostering?
Before spending on and installing new lighting how does it affect video or streaming? Are there people in the congregation affected by particular lighting? Have you checked with pastoral care?
Church techies and church leaders alike should be careful not to get tunnel-vision. Whatever tech solution you’re introducing, or changes you’re making, there’s more to it than what’s right in front of you.
I said all that to say church tech needs to work with systems and structures in the church. A lot of the times it is not the technology that fails but the way we not only adopt it but also (not) work it. Before implementing anything new, making, even improving changes, think wider. Structure and systems in church tech is as much about church life as it is about how church tech teams work.