What’s a Pastor to do?
If you are on church staff or volunteer at a church, you probably know that change can be difficult, and changes dealing with technology can be even harder.
Consider the following:
Scenario 1 – A committee knew their church needed some specific task software and spent considerable time and effort reviewing the church needs and available software programs. After a lot of hard work, they made their choice.
This was many years ago when there was no cloud and you had to load software from CD’s. A month passed and their software hadn’t arrived, so the pastor called the vendor, who tracked the package. The representative was able to tell the pastor that the software shipped less than a week after the order was placed and gave the pastor the name of the person who signed for the package.
It turned out that person was the pastor’s secretary, who knew what was in the package and hid it in a closet because neither she nor several other church staff wanted to change how they did this task.
Scenario 2 – A trainer with an on-site training appointment found the staff he was to train had locked themselves in a room and refused to open the door no matter how much the pastor pleaded with them. They were happy with how they tracked contributions and didn’t want to learn a new way.
Both of these scenarios are true…yes, really. While they are extreme examples of church staff not wanting to embrace new technology, push back to some degree probably happens more often than we’d like to admit.
You may be thinking to yourself that there’s no way those scenarios would ever happen at your church, and you’re probably correct, but think back to the last time you started using new software or some new technology. Was the roll-out smooth? Did you get buy in from all staff and volunteers? Are people using the technology to its fullest extent?
If you said no to any of those questions, this article is for you.
While change is not always easy, leadership can make adopting a new technology as smooth as possible. Here are some tips:
1. Make Sure you Really Need the Technology
Church leadership runs the gamut from wanting every new piece of technology available to seeing technology as something from the devil. While it’s important to keep up with new apps, software, and gadgets, you should honestly review each to see if it benefits your ministry.
During the review process, keep your ministry goals and the specific needs of your church in mind. Don’t buy technology just because it’s cool, new, or looks fun. Be intentional. Technology is NOT your ministry. It is not the gospel, but it can help you further the gospel and your ministry – your purpose – to reach the world.
Besides the technology needing to mesh with your ministry goals, you should consider other things. Price is always a factor for a church, but keep in mind the technology’s abilities and usage. Buy based on what the technology can do for you, not the price. I know that’s easy to say, but sometimes buying a cheaper product version means more work for staff and, in the long run, costs more than the expensive version. Should you wait until you have additional funds to buy the more expensive but less labor intensive version? Think long-term and decide what’s best.
Remember to consider training (depending on the difficulty of the technology), upgrade costs, and any other additional or continuing fees. Also look at the long-term usage outlook. Is the technology changing so fast that it will be obsolete within a couple of years? If so, is it still worth using?
Because of your specific needs and situation, you may need to ask yourself other questions before you proceed. Take the time to identify and answer them.
2. Make Sure you Have the Right Person for the Right Job
Before you bring in new technology, evaluate your staff, their skills, and best placement. You probably feel that everyone is already in the place best suited for them based on their competencies and previous work, but a second look is always good. You may have staff who excel with the technology they use or they may struggle with technology.
Make sure you have people serving in the right place (and it’s not always where they or you originally thought they should be), that work loads are distributed appropriately, and that each person has had appropriate training. You may need to have private conversations about changes before introducing new technology to the staff and possibly the church.
3. Demonstrate the Need
Once you settle on the new technology, it’s important to share news of the upcoming changes with your staff. If you have stats that you gathered during your evaluation process, share those with the group. Show them the time savings or how this technology will enhance the ministry.
4. Have a Plan
Share projected time-frames for roll-out, training, and usage. Make sure the time-frame is reasonable and include extra time for possible bumps along the way. Will the technology be rolled out to the congregation? If so, make sure you carefully plan how this will happen.
5. Remind People Who They Serve
While you’re sharing the technology need and implementation and training details, remind people why they work at the church. Yes, they are doing a job and they get paid for their work, but at the heart of it all is the recognition that everyone on staff is involved in ministry. Sometimes we need to be reminded that ministry is not about us, it is all about serving Him…about furthering His kingdom…about bringing people to Him. Our discomfort with change will only be for a short time, while the new technology benefits being used for His Kingdom will continue for a long time.
6. Train Smart
When figuring the cost of the technology, make sure you include adequate training. By the way, a lecture about what the new technology can do is not training, it’s just a talk. Training results in a change or modification in behavior. The goal is for staff to learn the new technology and apply what they’ve learned to their work tasks.
Schedule training for optimum retention and set up mileposts for when to check in with users. Find out what is working and what isn’t. Are there any roadblocks? If there are, what can you do to help?
And don’t forget to consider others who may need training. Do you have volunteers and/or lay leaders who will use the technology? Make sure they get the appropriate amount of training as well.
Each church is a steward of what God has given them – this includes people, their abilities, facilities and other resources, and money. As a good steward, it’s important to use each to their fullest extent. Do your research, plan carefully, share information, and train. Hopefully your next technology roll-out will go smoothly and your hard work will reap heavenly rewards.
Carol Brown is a long-time ACS Technologies employee and loves seeing the many ways churches use technology in ministry.