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What Role Does IT Play in Your Ministry?

March 12, 2012

© 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.

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