Are you managing your church's technology? Or is it managing you?
In the first article we introduced you to the need to manage your church's technical systems. In this article we will familiarize you with your technical systems. Regardless of church size-small, medium or large-all have the same three kinds of technical system.
Office Systems: Comprised of personal computers (networked or not), with printers, internet connections, email, office software for document processing, databases for giving records, corporate/denominational paperwork, PowerPoint for Sunday worship, Bible research software, financial spreadsheets and budget software, copy machines, and everything else it takes to run a modern human organization.
Phone Systems: Comprised of an on-site PBX unit (the main box that runs a multiple extension phone system) or an off-site system (run from a central phone company site), fax machines, and voicemail system (part of PBX phone system or a box or PC card attached to phone lines).
Presentation Systems: Comprised of overhead projectors (digital or older analog), VCR/DVD players, televisions (portable or cart-mounted), digital big-screen monitors, and portable or permanent sound systems. It may include computers using digital sound manipulation software, and keyboards or other electronic instruments attached to the sound system.
Obviously, some of these systems may overlap one another. A computer the Minister of Music uses in his office may be his primary office PC yet also be a significant portion of the presentation system. Don't worry about being too precise. Slot them in a category where the majority of their use is and let it go at that.
Each one of these three types of systems has its own particular issues which can bite you at the most inopportune moment. Given the church's main role as a spiritual organization in which life-and-death as well as eternal issues hang in the balance daily, where people's innermost secrets and financial dealings are vulnerable, and where volunteers and parishioners are moving in and out of the facilities on an hourly basis, technical disasters of a most personal nature can and do occur.
This means a primary consideration for a church is security and confidentiality. Personal giving records should be restricted to a very few trusted individuals. Counseling appointment records, confidential letters and paperwork need to be securely filed. Appropriate limited access to the internet, preventing porn or hate site surfing is a must. Protection against viruses and email spam is vital. Eavesdropping on private phone calls should not be possible. Confidential printouts or faxes about personal and legal issues should not drop into a tray in a public area.
Then there is the embarrassing story (true-I was there!) of a church where the presentation system PC was infected. In the middle of the Sunday morning worship, a pornography-based infection message popped onto the screen-graphic nudity and all! Since the sound booth was normally unlocked and unsupervised, someone succumbed to Satan's temptations to surf for porn infecting the PC with an autodialer that popped up at the worst possible time. I am sure you can provide your own technical disaster story!
The point is: If it can happen, it will happen. In the church as in Las Vegas, the odds are against you. Your only defense is to be prepared by managing your systems by having a technical plan--and a fall-back plan in case something does go wrong.
Checklist: Detailed Survey of your Technical Systems.
The first step to implementing your technical plan is to do a complete survey of your systems. You may need to ask for help. As the senior pastor (and a good manager) you will be tempted to delegate the survey to another person. That is okay, as long as you actually study the product of the survey and discuss it with your delegate. You need to know what your systems are!
You don't need to understand all the detail, just get an accurate overview of what your church actually contains. Compare this survey with the checklist you did from the previous article! Most churches accrue technology and the pastor often has little idea what is actually present within the buildings (especially the presentation systems which are most often handled by the Minister of Music or sound crew).
You may use a spreadsheet or other digital means of recording your survey, but make sure it is printed out on paper and placed in your system notebook. This information will be invaluable to you later on.
Office Systems: Make sure you find all of the PCs. Especially if you have a local area network connecting them together be sure every PC is identified. Don't forget to survey the volunteer's private laptops that may connect to the network at any hour of the day or night.
Phone Systems: Call the phone company if necessary to have them give you the make model and serial number of your system. Count the number of extension phones with their extension numbers. Check with the Elder (or Trustee) Board members for their remembrance. Don't forget the voicemail system. Have somebody call into your voicemail and try all the possible choices. Have them write down any dead message boxes or invalid choices.
Presentation Systems: Likewise, survey the sound system and the related equipment. Don't be too concerned with the details of how it is all hooked together. Just get the major pieces recorded. Pay attention if the sound system PC is hooked to the office network. Don't forget equipment in the Sunday school rooms.
Review your survey. Pray over it (with your delegate!). Ask God to help you understand your systems and think about how all these system work together toward the purpose of your church!
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.
* Taken from: A Three-Ring Circus: Taming the Lions, Tigers and Bears of Church Technology.