“Use it up; wear it out; make it do; do without!” That was a saying I was raised with. It works well as a protection to the craziness of our consumer culture. But it doesn’t work when it comes to communication technology for the church. Now’s the time to work on next year’s church tech budget.
From decades of working with churches, I’ve seen the wonders that over-worked staff can do with outdated hardware, software that was written before they were born and being paid for minimal hours that don’t begin to cover the work that needs to be done (so it’s done on their off-time). These efforts are admirable (and great may be their reward in heaven!) but as you approach year-end budgeting and giving requests, consider the following comments before deciding that the technology needs of the church can be put off for another year.
ASK the people doing the work what they need
The most important people to consult with for what is needed in hardware, software, and time is the person doing the work. Almost always they know exactly what they need to do their job more efficiently. Many problems arise when the senior pastor or business administrator talks to a person on the church board who is an expert in unrelated technology or who has a technology job outside the church instead of the person doing the job in the church.
Without discounting what may be considerable professional expertise, the kind of hardware and software needed to do effective communications in the church overall or for the youth ministry is often very different than what is needed to run an IT department at a college or experiments at a research lab.
I’ve heard from many church communicators in situations where an expert outside the church office decided they needed hardware or software of a certain type and then got permission to purchase and install it. The unsuspecting church communicator comes in on a Monday morning and was told, “Look at the great new system we have for you!” (This is a true story that has happened more times than I can count.) Frequently no training or time to learn this new system is provided and the church communicator is expected to get all the weekly communications out on time with the new and improved system he or she was given. Most often with tears, prayers, and staying late many get the work done on time and learn to use the new systems.
But that isn’t nice.
Or efficient because then the staff member doesn’t have the tools they wanted to do what needs to be done. The church has simply spent money on something they could probably “do without.”
Ask the people doing the work what they want and need and here are some areas you might want to consider asking about.
Areas to ask about and budget for
Hardware is an obvious one — but this can vary tremendously depending on the person in what ministry department. Here are suggestions:
Do the people working with youth and young adults have the PHONES they need and the plan that allows them to use them as much as they need to?
Phones are more than simply a piece of technology in ministry today. They are command central for many ministries and ministry connections. Your staff needs a phone that will enable them to do all they want and need to do. In addition, they are an important cultural tool. Just as missionaries need to dress, eat, and live like the people they are ministering to, so too, the staff who minister to youth or young adults need technology that won’t be out of place. This is age and area related and again why you need to ask the staff members using the equipment what they need to interact most effectively with the audience they serve.
Does your communication creation staff have the hardware they need to do their jobs?
In hardware areas, this often means a computer with enough RAM to handle images, multi-media, and video. A new computer without enough RAM is useless for many graphics-intensive tasks. Some of the great deals in new computers today skimp on RAM. They are great for general office work, viewing the web and word-processing, but not for communication creation.
Your church communicator may need dual screens (if they like working with them, some do, some hate them) or tablet input. Certainly, all staff working at a computer for long hours need decent chairs and ergonomic keyboards and making certain your staff is cared for in this area is a pastoral responsibility.
Obviously, your communication staff needs software to create the church communications, but this is an area that has changed drastically in the last few years. No longer is software something you primarily buy in a box and load on to your computer, but some of the most useful software to create church communications today is online, in the cloud and your church communicator accesses it through the web.