Archive for March, 2012

Those Mobile Devices We Love & Hate

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles

© 2012 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Houston CO+OP 

The mobile devices we use– smartphones, tablets, and notebook computers– are an integral part of our everyday life.  They make us more efficient and productive, for which we’re grateful, and some of their apps are even fun and entertaining!  Unmanaged, however, they can take over our lives and make us want to escape them.  So, then, how do we manage them so they retain their status as a blessing?

Back in The Day…
There was a day some of us remember when personal computers didn’t exist.  When the concept of the personal computer began to emerge in the early 1980s, I remember asking, “Who would want their own computer!!?  And who could afford that!?”  I had no idea…

Now the personal desktop computer has evolved into the notebook (an updated term for laptop) computer.  The kitchen princess wall phone has evolved into the smartphone.  And my paperback book has evolved into a tablet.  And it is, as they say, all good!  I love all this technology!  On my vacation breaks I still work on and use these techno-wonders, much to my family’s amazement!  I really do love ’em!

Setting Up Boundaries
Okay, true confession time.  I usually sleep with my smartphone at my bedside, and often sleep with my iPad under my pillow.  That way if I wake up with an idea or can’t sleep, they’re right there with me!  My wife thinks I’m weird and wonders if she should be concerned.

Here’s the deal.  I look at using technology two ways, or better said, put using technology into two compartments: work and personal.  I try to limit my work usage to work hours and my personal usage into non-work hours.  The work-related boundaries are very important:

  • When at work, I need to be a good employee.  That means focusing on work rather than on personal matters and being very efficient and productive.  It means not doing Facebook, YouTube, etc at work unless I’m on a break.
  • I also need to confine my work-related usage to work hours so that I get the rest and refreshment I need.  The Lord, knowing how we were made and what our limitations are prescribed a day of rest in the Ten Commandments to help us stay healthy.  Time that is truly off from work is also essential to the relationships I have with my family, friends, and neighbors.

Blurring the Boundaries
When I’m off work I do my best to ignore work-related email.  But they come into my Outlook Inbox, and that’s the same place I go to read my personal email.  It is challenging to not respond to work-related email.  But to help me, here’s a little trick I use:

  • I’ve created a folder in Outlook called Cabinet.  I think of it like a filing cabinet with drawers.  In, or below that folder I’ve created additional folders (filing cabinet drawers) for work, personal, and other types of email.
  • When an email hits my Inbox I quickly do one of three things:
    1. Respond (including the original email) and then delete the original email,
    2. Move it to another folder (drag and drop), like to my work folder, or
    3. Delete it if it’s something I don’t care about and that I will not be responding to.

That means my Inbox is usually empty, which helps me to not feel pressured to respond to work-related email when I’m off of work!  I don’t see them in my Inbox when managing personal email, so they don’t pressure me!  And because I do these in my smartphone and tablet too, I really do get to take time off.

I love technology and all of my techno-toys.  I work in a field that would probably be my hobby if it wasn’t my job, so that means I really enjoy what I do!  And I do it for Christian churches and ministries, so it has even more meaning.  Win-Win-Win!  Maybe that’s why I sleep with my iPad and next to my smartphone…

What Role Does IT Play in Your Ministry?

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles

© 2012 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine

There was a day when computers had little-to-no role in churches and ministries.  But today, they play a very crucial role, helping fulfill nearly every aspect of our ministry calling!  Most church and ministry leadership teams are unaware of how visions cast and implementations planned affect or are affected by their computer systems.  Let’s look at how leadership can improve this process and achieve more successful results.

The Situation
There are very few church and ministry departments that are not completely dependent on their computers today.  From worship to education; preaching to maintenance; environmental systems (HVAC) to parking lots– all depend heavily on computers today.  And while that’s true, it’s also true that churches and ministries often find themselves having to overcome last minute new-initiative challenges due to their computer systems.

The Dilemma
Herein lies the problem: while most for-profit organizations invite their chief technologist (Network Administrator, IT Director, etc) to the leadership table, most not-for-profits still do not.  So in churches and ministries, when vision is cast and plans are formulated that rely on technology, those casting and planning aren’t getting the input they need to ensure a successful launch of their new initiatives.  And their chief technologist is often unaware that a change is coming that will need to be accommodated and whose needs require more than what the current system can deliver.  The result is last minute adjustments that must be made and that compromise the potential high-quality and reasonable-costs that could have been accomplished.

So, why do churches and ministries continue this disconnect that adds so much stress to all involved in their new initiatives?

One of the reasons the chief technologist on their teams is not invited to the vision-casting and implementation-planning leadership table is that the chief technologist role is usually not seen as a “ministry role”.  The person filling it rarely has a ministry credential, and the role itself is a somewhat secular function.

But if asked, the person in that role most likely feels strongly that it is a ministry, and that their function on the team is their ministry to the Lord!  And, if pressed, leadership probably feels the person in that role should be performing their duties as a ministry in service to God.

Possible Solutions
The best solution is to adopt what corporate America has found to work best.  They invite their chief technologist to sit in leadership meetings where vision is cast and implementation plans made; even if only as an observing/ non-voting participant.  This ensures that as vision is cast and implementation plans are made that both can be adjusted as necessary to take full advantage of current computer systems and capabilities.  It also ensures that your computer system, if it needs to be upgraded or enhanced, can be ready when needed.

The second-best solution is to have another member of the leadership team who is very technology savvy and who fully understands your computer systems well fulfill that roll.

  • This is more than someone who knows how to use Word and PowerPoint or Excel well; it is a person who is a technologist of some sort.
  • If there is a member of your board or pastoral/ leadership team that can do that well, this option can work.  The challenge with this second-best solution is communication: details may not always get communicated to the chief technologist in a timely manner.
  • If you find that this option doesn’t deliver the results needed over time, it may need to be adjusted or abandoned in favor of the best solution.

The third-best solution is to have your chief technologist’s supervisor fulfill that role.

  • The same challenge in the second-best solution exists in this solution; that of timely communication.
  • An additional challenge often exists with this option: the supervisor may not be as technically savvy and may not fully understand your computer systems.
  • Again, if you find that this option doesn’t deliver the results needed over time, it may need to be adjusted or abandoned in favor of the best solution.

The worst possible solution is to continue to cast vision and make implementation plans without the input and involvement of your chief technologist.

Involving your IT person– your chief technologist– in your strategic processes early on will help shape your strategies in ways that will facilitate greater success.  Though it may feel a little risky and may need some adjustments along the way, doing so will be good for your church or ministry.