The T-shirt above came to me via my Senior Pastor. He received it from a Church Management System (ChMS) vendor whos system we had recently rolled-out church-wide. He passed it on to me for obvious reasons (that being my key role in the roll-out). For those who cannot make out what it says, it reads: “Changing the world by changing the church world”. The other day while getting the washing off the clothes-line I saw it and pondered what that meant, and thus inspiration struck (and thanks to my ever-present smartphone the picture was taken).
So, being that Church Management Systems generally fall within the realm of church IT, what and how do we change the world by changing the church world? What does that even mean? In my experience churches treat technology with varying levels of maturity, whether that be sound reinforcement, stage lighting, video projection or information technology. Even today in 2014 there would be some churches (perhaps smaller ones, perhaps with an aging congregation) who might still consider sound reinforcement (they probably refer to it as the PA) as a necessary evil. Of course many churches will have matured past that and have multi-channel mixing consoles, fold-back (either wedges or in-ear), and some form of video projection (if only for displaying the song words from a PC). Going beyond that there are churches for whom the use of technology has become integral to how they run services and other ministries. But what about IT? While many churches in the US have incorporated IT into the ministry of the church (eg. GCCWired, LifeChurch.tv), I am yet to hear of any Australian churches that have made that change.
In Luke 10:27 (quoting Deuteronomy 6:5), Jesus says that we should, “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” Or as The Message puts it, “…love him with all you’ve got!” Thinking as a church, rather than an individual, one of the things we have got is IT. As I mentioned above however, for most churches we have not yet reached that level of maturity, and thus IT is relegated to being just an administration resource, with little or no thought ever given to how IT might serve the ministry of the church outside the four wall of the church office. Here are some of my thoughts and ideas, some you might have in place, some might be new to you…
- Develop a good church website (ideally using a responsive design for mobile/tablet users)
- Engage with the community using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr)
- Get your pastor(s) blogging
- Engage with the Church IT Australia and Church IT Network (US) communities
- Engage with and share ideas and resources between other churches in your local area. Run a seminar or round-table
- Roll-out a Church Management System that meets the needs of your congregation (think also about online giving, groups and social)
- Partner with other ministries in your church (NB: all of these can be used for outreach into the community). Eg…
- Partner with your kids ministry to run a seminar for parents on how to use parental controls to protect their kids when using the Internet
- Partner with your seniors ministry for some basic how-to classes
- Partner with your pastoral care ministry to supply “old” PCs to families in need for a nominal cost, provide some free basic training or tech support
- Commission a mobile app
- Setup podcasting and/or on-demand steaming of your services
- Engage with members of your congregation. Many of them are looking for ways to use technology to assist them in ministry
- Go visit some missionaries on the field (or attend a conference/training for workers in the field) and do some IT support for them
- Become a “centre of excellence” for a particular technology. Other churches will use you as a knowledge resource
- Provide a space with PCs for job searchers to come search and apply for jobs online, type/update their résumé and check their email for free
- Take on an IT intern/trainee with the view of investing in them so as to equip them to find a better job
For churches with greater resourcing, you could…
- Offer a service to smaller churches in your area to manage or assist with their IT
- Hire a developer to create your very own custom church management system, or mobile app (WARNING: Deep pockets required)
- Create free resources for other churches to use (like LifeChurch.tv does)
I am sure there are many other ideas out there. If you think of one (or more) please add it (them) to the comments.
So, that is it. We are called to be world changers, but first we must be church changers. How can you begin to change your churches view of IT from being an administration function, to being a service that ministers to the broader community?