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Overcoming Communication Challenges

© 2020 by Nick B. Nicholaou & Jonathan E. Smith, all rights reserved
Reprinted from CO+OP Magazine>

The world has changed. That may be the understatement of the year, but it’s undeniable. While our planet may still be spinning on its axis in orbit around the sun, it certainly does not feel like it. Normal is now subjective. Things we used to take for granted are no more. The challenges presented on all fronts require us to adapt, and to do so quickly. How we communicate has drastically changed, and communication is a vital component of ministry.

Work-At-Home Challenges
The wave of shelter in place orders created tremendous demand for work-at-home services– especially video calls for continued communication. Video call technology has been around for a long time, but it was always just one of the options. It trended for a while, but then retreated into the background. If you wanted to call a meeting, it was easier to walk down the hall, or even to jump on a plane for a face-to-face. Covid-19 took those options off the table for many, so video calling is once again a trend.

The rush by so many to begin using video calling solutions or ramp up their usage led many to unwise decisions when it came to security and privacy. The constant internet  challenge is balancing convenience with security. Due to the current demand, convenience is winning, but when convenience triumphs over security, the bad guys also win.

Video Call Privacy — What’s the Big Deal?
All software has bugs. The key is to watch how solution providers respond when bugs are reported in their systems. For video calling, consider what call content you are comfortable with becoming public knowledge.  A teacher doing a video call with a class of high school students teaching algebra probably doesn’t care if someone can spy on their video session. A CEO sharing a financial spreadsheet with board members probably does care if someone can spy on their meeting, discussion, and the data being shown. Both would probably prefer that no one else can join their meetings and display inappropriate content on the screen. Consider small group members sharing prayer requests that should be private– including those for missionaries in closed countries.

It’s important to select a solution or two the ministry believes will serve its needs conveniently while also protecting the video calls, and then requiring the team to use that/those solution(s). That may seem obvious, but most are not doing that strategically. And left to choose whatever they want; many users are choosing video platforms that fall significantly short.

Oops! We Already Had That Option?
Often overlooked are the tools and solutions you may already have. The last thing needed when this pandemic is over is having to balance between 5-10 video calling apps running on our computers. Evaluate what tools you already have and decide to standardize. If you use Microsoft 365 or G-Suite you already have good video calling tools. If you are connecting with others who use other programs like GoToMeeting or WebEx, ensure the security settings are appropriate and if you won’t need to use the program again be sure to uninstall it. Regardless of what security flaws are discovered and patched, everyone in your organization will benefit from cross-platform standardization.

Video calling is a powerful tool but as with most tech, it is important to do your research before charging ahead. Who knows when and if the days of water cooler discussion and walking down the hall will return?

What About Zoom?
Excellent question. You can hardly have a discussion about video calling without bringing up the 100-pound gorilla in the room — Zoom.

Zoom has had a number of security vulnerabilities come to light in the last year. From password breaches to the takeover of webcams, from data mining to multiple security flaws– and uninvited people joining meetings and doing unwelcome things on camera, Zoom has worked hard to not earn our loyalty. Even federal law enforcement has recommended not using it. Zoom actively works on their security issues as they are exposed. But every time, more are found. The jury is still out on how they will fix them.

But many don’t care! Zoom is fun and easy! So much so, that those responsible for running churches and ministries are having a hard time reigning in its use.

What to Use Instead of Zoom
There are better solutions than Zoom. Solutions that don’t come with federal law enforcement security warnings! Here are some options:

  1. Face Time. It is secure, easy, and fun, but it only works on Apple devices (which is why it is secure–Apple strongly controls their ecosystem). The downside is that everyone must have an Apple device to participate, and that’s often not the case. It is free.
  2. Microsoft Teams. Anyone with a Microsoft 365 account already has free access to Teams. It is secure, and easy to use– you can create a meeting in Outlook and send it to everyone you want in the meeting, and they’ll be able to join easily. It is free, even to those without Microsoft 365 accounts.
  3. GoToMeeting. Secure and pretty easy to use. It is free for 30 days.

The Human Side
Technology aside, people are wired to connect, in person. While it is important to spend time making sure the tools we use to connect and communicate are safe and secure, it is also important to use those tools to connect, at a personal level, with the other people using these tools. It requires intentionality to build a team and ensure their well-being. Don’t mistake having a video call about business as building a team.

Only God knows what the future may bring, and wise is the steward who evaluates their communication needs now and plans for God honoring communication whether in person or via technology.

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