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Learning the Hard Way about Information Technology

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You have likely heard an expression like, “Experience is life’s best teacher.” This sentiment has been around for ages, documented back to Julius Caesar. In his commentary on the war with the Roman Senate prior to the establishment of the Roman Empire around 33BC, he is quoted as saying, “Ut est rerum omnium magister usus.” which roughly translates to “Experience is the teacher of all things.” More recently, clinical psychologist and author Jordan Peterson expounded on the well-known expression: “Experience is the best teacher, and the worst experiences teach the best lessons.” You get the idea. Unfortunately, sometimes, we just have to learn the hard way; that can be true for us as individuals or as an organization.

A church that I led once went through one of those worst experiences to learn an important lesson when it came to IT (Information Technology). It was a great church with a wonderful staff who often went above and beyond for the church’s ministries. One staff member primarily worked with administrative matters and was always ready with an “I’ll take care of it” attitude. The staff member was also pretty adept at techie stuff and kept the office organized and running, so it became easy for church leadership to defer to this staff person and let them handle it. Over time, this particular staff person became a gatekeeper of information for the church.

For a number of years, everything went great: ministry was happening, the church was growing, and things were running smoothly. However, little signs of trouble began to appear. Things became a little less organized, and some things weren’t getting done. There were plenty of excuses, but church leadership began to take note of the changes. With the change in the quality of work also came a change in the staff member’s attitude. Suddenly, the church board and I had the realization: What would we do if this staff person suddenly left? Conversations began around how to address the problem, but as a church staff member, you know that things don’t typically move very fast!

Then it happened. The staff member central to all aspects of church operations quit. No notice, no offer to transition things; they just quit. Board members and other staff jumped in to make sure things were still being done, like bills getting paid, payroll being run, inspections being handled, and building schedules being created, but there was a race to find a new administrator. Thankfully, within a few weeks of the previous admin’s departure, a new one was hired, and church leadership and staff jumped in to help get them up to speed. However, the chaos was far from over.

I mentioned that the previous admin was somewhat of a techie. This had been great for the church as they had digitized old records, bought new computers and other devices, helped coordinate a Wi-Fi network for the church, and more. The problem was that no one else really knew the ins and outs, or how to access the systems put in place. Yes, some shared files existed in the cloud, like miscellaneous folders, vendor lists, and passwords, but unfortunately, much of this information was outdated or simply incorrect. Even worse, the paper copies were gone, too. The stark reality of the situation was that there were no backups, and any files that remained had to be piecemealed together. On top of that, there were devices that simply could not be accessed without the right credentials.

As you can imagine, the road to recovery was long and tedious. There were countless phone calls and emails to get access to various accounts and services. Devices were reset and reconfigured. It was a herculean effort by everyone involved, but there was something positive that came from it all.

I began by mentioning the phrase, “Experience is life’s greatest teacher.” Sometimes, you just have to learn things the hard way. The most important aspect of that is that you DO learn the lesson. This particular church didn’t just try to recover all that had been lost but worked to ensure that it didn’t happen again. There were conversations around strategies for the church to address information security and backups. The church had already acknowledged how important technology was to the vitality of the church’s ministries, but now they understood there needed to be a coordinated plan for the technology. Perhaps most importantly, there was a recognition from the church leadership that they needed outside help.

This is where an MSP (Managed Service Provider) like Higher Ground, ACS Technologies’ IT division, comes in. An MSP delivers IT-related services that can cover the entire infrastructure of a church. Higher Ground works with churches of all sizes and has services for any church’s IT needs, from backups to management and security. And perhaps most importantly, Higher Ground has a heart for the church and its ministry. 

After twenty-plus years of leading churches, I now have the privilege of working for ACS Technologies in the Higher Ground division and being a part of the solution I know many churches need. I have seen the struggles firsthand and had to learn some of those lessons through those experiences. But now I also get the experience of seeing what a difference Higher Ground makes for churches, bringing peace of mind and freeing church leadership to focus on the ministry that God has called them to do.

As an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Chris spent over twenty years leading churches in his home state of Missouri. In 2022, he stepped away from pastoral ministry and now serves Higher Ground as the Adoption and Integration Lead for Managed Services. Chris’ educational background includes a Certificate in Electronics, a Bachelor of Psychology, a Master of Divinity, and other professional certifications. He is married to his wife Erica, and they have three adult children. Upon becoming empty nesters, Chris and Erica left their home state of Missouri in the early summer of 2023 and now reside in Florida.

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