Your church is awash in technology and it is here to stay. Whether you like it or not, as the pastor of a small, medium or large church, you are the manager of your technology systems. Even if you have other people doing the work, you are the manager ... or are you?
Are you in control of your office computers, networks, printers and software? Is your phone system adequate or your voice-mail user-friendly? Does your presentation system work reliably on Sunday mornings? Is your technology budget (if you have one) spiraling out of control?
Are you managing your church’s technology or is it managing you?
This series of articles will help you understand how to manage your technology and be certain it functions to support your church’s strategic purpose. Each article will introduce you to a part of your technical systems and give you guidelines for managing. At the end of each article there will be a checklist to help you evaluate your own systems.
Though you will continue to face technical issues, in the end you will have everything you need to stay on-top of your systems. With some simple management skills and attention to some detail, technical management can be reduced to bearable levels. Remember, the goal of technology is to support and enhance your church’s primary purpose to serve God, not pad the wallet of your local tech vendor.
Managing your church’s technology may seem to be the last thing you want to do. Like most pastors your training has probably been in Biblical studies and counseling. You’re a high-touch kind of person, yet you are increasingly surrounded by high-tech. How is a high-touch pastor going to manage high-technology?
As a pastor you already know how to manage. Management skills as applied to technology are no different than management in any other endeavor at church. Mostly you manage the people that actually do the work. Be they church volunteers or outside vendors, you only need to help them remain on task and aware of the end results of their work. The only difference is for you to be familiar with the how technology issues apply to a church setting.
The first step in understanding your technology is to look at how your church actually processes information. Most churches generally follow the 80/20 rule; 20 percent is attributable to spiritual contact time (preaching, teaching, counseling), and 80 percent to human organizational aspects (office work, committee meetings, facilities, events…ad nauseam).
Most pastors would consider the 20 percent spiritual contact time as the most important time where the primary purpose of the church is achieved. So Sunday morning worship services as the keynote meeting of the week would dictate the music/presentation system as the most important technical system in the church.
On the other hand the 80 percent time comprised of office work is where the supporting information is processed. If people don’t have adequate communications as to Who, What, When, Where, Why and How (hereinafter called W5H 1), then the spiritual contact time becomes less effective. As others such as Barna and Warren have noted, appropriate quality and delivery of information to your constituency should reflect the level of their technological lifestyle. Efficient and effective generation of that material is based upon your information systems which include computer and phone systems.
Your church’s technical systems are your primary information processing tools. Yet in many churches--small, medium or large--technical systems remain a back-burner issue until they break. Forethought and planning to keep the systems running reliably takes second (or fifth) place to the 20 percent spiritual contact time. Contact time does suffer in the end because managing a disaster always takes more time, money and effort than preventative measures.
One key to help you change your technical management style is to remember how you felt when one of your systems broke down and how desperate you were to get it fixed! If you were counseling a parishioner on how they keep avoiding an important issue, you might tell them to “suck it up” and “get with it.” Well? Take heart! It is not as hard as it sounds. Like most management you can take it one step at a time and build as you go!
Checklist 1: Keeping records on paper.
The following articles will include a checklist you can use to help you with your management. I encourage you to keep these checklists on paper! A major tenet of this series is what to do if there is a problem. Keeping your checklists in an offline notebook means you will have access to it at the very time you need it; when your systems are down.
1) Get a standard 8x10 ring-binder notebook. I like one with a red cover and a clear slip sheet front for a title page. I titled mine “Tech-System Bible.” Put 12 divider pages in it, one for each article in this series. Keep it someplace where others in your office can gain access, yet be secure from casual eyes.
2) Take a few moments to think of your church’s technical systems. Write them down on a page. Divide them up into three sections, computer systems (computers, networks, printers, backup devices), phone systems (phone key-system, extensions, fax machines, voice-mail system), and presentation systems (sound system, overheads, video players, TVs). Don’t worry about details, just write down what you know off the top of your head (you’ll compare your list with an actual survey later).
Pray for your systems! I know…but given the critical role these system play in your church’s life, they deserve some time. Let God help you understand your systems and bring things to mind. If he does, write them in your notebook for future reference.
Next Article: Recognizing your Church’s Technology.
1 The symbol of “W5H” ©1997 by Ray L. Bailey.
Ray L. Bailey (Ray@RayBailey.net) is currently the senior network administrator for Bergquist Company, a global electronic-component manufacturer based in Minnesota, and resides in Prescott, Wisconsin, with his wife Mary. He has worked in the technology field for over 20 years.
Ray ministered for 13 years as a volunteer staff pastor at Alta Loma Brethren in Christ Church (Alta Loma, CA) serving variously as assistant pastor, youth pastor, and deacon board chair. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Azusa Pacific University where he specialized in Church & Technology.
Ray consults with churches and non-profit organizations on technology issues.
* Article taken from: A Three-Ring Circus: Taming the Lions, Tigers and Bears of Church Technology.