I began ChurchLead in 2002 to provide consulting and information to church leaders to help them become more effective in achieving their mission. Most church leaders know what they want to accomplish, but they often need some help to successfully navigate the waters with so many competing technology tools and systems.
The methods have changed over the past few years, but the essence of the original mission remains the same. To help leaders use the right technology, at the right time, in the right way, to accomplish their mission.
Having helped hundreds of churches implement various technology solutions, I have come to appreciate the difference between potential and real improvement in church processes. Simply put, purchase decisions are made on the potential of becoming more effective, while the reality is that most will never achieve success. The reason for this phenomenon is different in every church but I have seen several factors that are common.
Technology implementation is viewed as an issue of minor importance. This is a misguided perception, but all too common. If proper use and application of tools were not important, I would be able to build a house with the tools in my garage! After all, they are the right tools. The truth is that I could build something using my tools, but it would not be a house you would want to live in! The correlation is that the implementation process will be the determining factor between success and failure. Since technology is just a tool for a church to use, it is incumbent on the leaders to make sure that the tools are used properly and for the right purpose.
Technology implementation is viewed as a lower priority than all other ministry activities. On the surface, this seems like a reasonable statement. After all, it is the ministry that matters, right? Well, yes, but if the implementation is never temporarily elevated to a high place of priority it will never be used effectively. Leaders must properly position the project as a temporary high priority so that there can be an actual improvement in ministry performance. Afterward, technology can go back to it's appropriate supporting role.
Technology implementation is not put in proper perspective. Let's face it, change = pain! People don't like change and they resist the hard work unless they see the value in the outcome. The staff needs to know that the change is being made for the improvement of ministry efforts and not just to have the latest technology. The senior leadership of the staff will either sanction the project by properly framing the intent of the changes or they will allow it to languish in obscurity. Typically, all I want from a senior pastor on a technology project is for him to share his perspective of why the changes are needed with the staff. The project requires his unwavering support of the implementation process and the intent to see it to the finish. I like to think of it as similar to early settlers burning the ships on the shore so that everyone knew that going back was not an option.
Technology implementation is led by someone with too little authority. A good implementation plan will include tasks that need to be performed and accountability for those who have been given those tasks. Many times, an administrative person of the staff has been given the unenviable task of managing the project. How can they possibly hold a pastor accountable for their tasks? The most successful implementations of technology always have a senior staff leader who owns the project to completion.
It all comes down to this. If the benefit of the technology is never achieved, then all of the planning and effort was a complete and utter waste of time and money. The worst part is that the staff had to go through the pain of change even though the benefit was not attained. Most times, we just blame the technology and look for a new solution rather than admit that the implementation was a failure. It is always humorous to hear people get excited about a cool feature in a new software program that existed in their old system!
There are many reasons to implement new technology. I encourage churches to use as much care in the implementation as they did in the tool selection. Technology can provide great benefits if it is used the right way, at the right time, by the right people, with the right training, for the right purpose.
I recently spoke to a group of parents about some practical ways to keep their families safe online. The information below is from my handout. I have also created a parent reference page on my site with links to some good information.
Immigrants & Natives
In his book, Carpe Mañana, Leonard Sweet compares the challenge of adults born before 1962 sharing Christ with people born after that year to immigrants trying to communicate with natives. He calls people born after 1962, "A.C." (after computers) and natives to today's culture. Those born before 1962 are "B.C." (before computers) and immigrants.
This culture uses a different language than ours. We will either use our kids as interpreters, or we will learn the language ourselves. I think that this is a deliberate decision that we have to make as parents.
A Targeted Generation
Teenagers subjected to hundreds of discrete forms of advertisement each day. Why? Because they have the most discretionary money. Not only that, they are relatively easy to influence.
View “Merchants of Cool” which is a documentary from a few years ago. It really opened my eyes.
No Absolute Truth
In a recent study, the Barna Research Group revealed a stunning statistic that continues to reverberate throughout the evangelical world. Only 9 percent of professing Christians have a biblical worldview.
Why is this important? This is important because most people don't really believe that God is the author and arbiter of truth. Once we put ourselves into the equation of determining right from wrong, then we have opened the door wide open to relative truth. If this happens, the collective society gets to redefine truth as they see fit.
I have been intrigued by the advertising campaign of Microsoft's new search engine called "Bing!". It is billed as a cure for the confusing task of searching the internet and it's amazingly varied pieces of information. They claim to be the "world's first decision engine". I agree that the internet can be dizzying at times and it has a way of putting together different content items that have no business together. It is a stream of consciousness to be sure and it makes perfect sense that we need a way to help us make decisions. Check out a recent add.
Now, here is my point. I think that real life is more complicated than the internet and there is no doubt that we need a decision engine to help us along the way. But I really doubt that Microsoft has the best engine for me to use to make decisions. What is needed is a Biblical worldview where God is the arbiter of absolute truth. In 2003 the Barna Research Group released a study that indicated that less than 10% of people in America process decisions with a Biblical world view. This is a staggering statistic! This did not happen overnight, but gradually over the past few decades society has shifted toward a relative truth decision engine where everyone is supposed to make decisions that are right for them.
As a parent, I am impressed that I need to teach my kids that God needs to be the filter by which all decisions should be made. It is a matter of helping them to see that the world routinely lies to them when it says that there is no absolute truth. I don't know how parents can possibly make consistent decisions when the standard of truth is a shifting line. I have to admit that it is very easy to fall into a pattern of making decisions based on worldly standards. It is always a relief to remember that I don't have to determine what is right in a certain situation. All I have to do is apply God's truth to the situation and remain consistent in my response.
So perhaps Microsoft is onto something after all. We definitely need a decision engine. We just need to use the right one. I kind of doubt that this angle will appear in any of their ads!