© 2004 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved President, Ministry Business Services, Inc. Reprinted from The Clergy Journal’s Faithful Finances
Many ministries ask our firm to evaluate their use of computer technology and make recommendations. Part of our process includes interviewing team members and asking a wide range of questions. One of the needs they consistently express is the need to learn more about how to use the tools they already have. They want to be efficient and effective, and they’re sure that training would help.
We call training the most neglected component of ministry computer systems. There is a simple strategy we saw in place at one client that costs little, is easy to accomplish, and produces great results. And doing it will help your ministry accomplish more, in less time, and for less!
Simple Software Strategy
The first step is to decide to have a simple software strategy. That is, decide which software your organization will use for each task, and require that every member of your team use that chosen software. For instance, you might decide to use WordPerfect or Microsoft Word as your word processor. Every team member should use that word processor— period.
This simplifies the administration of your system, and reduces the demands placed on your staff. It also facilitates the easy sharing of data files.
Because this will reduce the number of software programs on your system, we call it a “simple” software strategy.
Develop Your Experts
The second step is to identify a member of your team who will be responsible for becoming the in-house expert for each of your chosen software packages. It’s best to match their current abilities and job descriptions with the software on which they will specialize. Find someone who is already very good at word processing, and declare them to be your in-house word processing expert. Do the same for your spreadsheet software, database, graphics, and so on.
Send these in-house experts to classes, user group meetings, and any other opportunities for them to develop their expertise. Let them know that you’ve got a training budget, and ask them to present you with a proposal for training that will help them further develop their software-specific expertise. They should include at least one training class each year in a professional environment (a training company, community college, etc).
Spread the Wealth
Schedule a training session every other week during which one of your in-house experts will help others improve their skills. This could be done during the lunch period on first and third Thursdays, for example. You might even provide a simple and inexpensive meal to help make the time fun and to help get past the otherwise inconvenience associated with the schedule shift.
Rotate the software being focused on and let everyone know that the subject will be. We recommend making these training sessions mandatory for all support staff, and optional for all executive, program, and pastoral staff who may have an interest in the topic.
There’s no doubt this will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your entire team. It will also help reduce your team’s dependence on one person who is considered “the computer expert.” But there is a benefit to this strategy that caught us by surprise.
When you identify someone as a software in-house expert and send them to one or two classes each year to improve their skills further, you’re investing in them. They will recognize this and usually be very appreciative. And when you ask them to share their expertise with other team members they will feel better about themselves and about their role in your ministry. We’ve seen that this strategy ministers to the in-house experts in addition to improving the proficiency of the team.
This strategy will save your ministry time and money. And best of all, more will be done to enhance your team’s ability to further the Kingdom.