Archives For IT

This is good stuff. I especially loved when the dog started barking (that is my life). You just got to laugh!

Yesterday I met with my new friend, Boyd, from ChurchTeams.com (a great resource for your church – I encourage you to check them out).  We were talking about the future of the Church, technology and ministry and we talked about the reality that in the not too distant future, churches may not need internal servers. 

I was sharing my thoughts on the Church IT world and how quickly it’s changing. How most IT departments are not keeping up with the rapidly changing world around them and how I believe that we’re just on the edge of all the change coming to our Church tech and IT worlds. 

I talked about how North Point doesn’t use Microsoft Exchange – they’re all Google. Many churches are following in their footsteps. Think about it: North Point is a huge church with a large staff – if they can do it, you can, too.

I talked about how churches are using resources like Unifyer, 360Hubs, Arena, Fellowship One, Planning Center Online, ChurchTeams.com, etc., etc. – all web-based resources. 

Today I had lunch with the Emerging Media professor at the University of Texas Dallas. He started talking about this very reality without knowing I had already written most of this post. He talked about the new reality of sharing information via the cloud. I already collaborate with many people and writing partners via Google docs. 

Some of you may think I’m crazy and disagree with me strongly, but I’ve always been an early adopter and I believe you’ll look back on this post 3 years from now and think differently. In your own church world, how many programs that you use are web-based? How big of a stretch would it be to think of doing away with servers in your situation?

Several conversations lately have led me to consider the integration and universality of technology in a local church context. To be integrated means “combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole” or “organized or structured so that constituent units function cooperatively.”

Universal means “affecting, concerning, or involving all”, “used or understood by all” or “present everywhere.” As I continue to chew on this concept, other words that come to mind are total, comprehensive and whole.  

I serve as a technology pastor at a church. For years “tech” was considered one person’s role (the techie, tech director or AV coordinator) – whether volunteer, part-time or full-time. Now in most local church situations there is still the need for this AV/tech role that oversees the sound, video and lights for corporate worship services and often oversees and supports campus-wide AV needs. IT is obviously another growing area in the church world and usually requires a dedicated volunteer or paid staff member or the use of outsourced companies.

I’ll be the first to admit that those that serve in “tech” and IT roles in a church have a unique gift mix and personality. In most situations these servants and leaders are seen more as geeks than pastors or ministers. I see my role as a pastor and shepherd, but that’s a topic for another article.

I bring the idea of universal technology up because we’re seeing a shift in the way the Church looks, functions and ministers to the world. The reality that we are missionaries in a digital age is becoming increasingly more apparent and hard to ignore. This brings the whole concept of “technology” to the forefront for regular pastors and church staff members – including the non-techie.

The conversations that I have regularly with pastors are about their desire to learn, understand, apply and fully utilize technology for ministry. The shift is bringing about what I call “universal technology” – meaning every Church leader is engaged in, using and communicating through technology – not just the tech pastor.

Events, gatherings and conferences that I’m regularly apart of look a lot different. The Church 2.0 Local Forums that I host around the country or the churchtechcamp, happening today in Dallas for example, 3 years ago would have been a room full of “geeks” (not my word, I got that from Mark Batterson) and “techies” (that is my word). Now, one walks into a “churchtechcamp” and it’s full of church planters, senior pastors, bloggers and lay leaders/volunteers that are involved in community/small groups and discipleship.

I’m fascinated by it and am enjoying just sitting back and watching this shift. Of course there are still giant conferences like NAB and InfoComm where us techies get together and talk about all things tech-related and the make up of attendees and speakers looks a lot different, but overall I see a change in the use of the word “tech” and the concept and adoption of “technology”.

This new reality that I’m referring to as universal technology is a good thing and a long-awaited one by me, personally. I’ve always viewed technology as a tool and not a toy, so the thought of senior pastors, worship pastors, youth pastors, communication directors, small group leaders, missions and outreach leaders, etc. getting interested, involved with and captivated by technology is a beautiful sight to me.

What about you and your situation? Are you seeing volunteers and staff members that don’t have “tech” in their title or job description talk about technology, Facebook, Twitter, blogging and online ministry?

  1. Communicate
  2. Connect
  3. Contribute
  4. Collaborate
All this can be done through the Church 2.0 Unifyer. There is a quick one-time registration (takes seconds) and then you’re in. You can sign up for the news feeds that interest you. Join and/or create groups that interest you and begin to share the joy of the 4 C’s.

Google just celebrated their 10 year anniversary. Many have asked – and so do I: “How has Google changed/impacted your world?”

Most ministries benefit from a ministry fair, where those interested can obtain more information about serving in a ministry. It is often a time for those who don’t know ministry leaders personally to get to know them better and make connections that can last a lifetime.

I was recently asked why an IT ministry didn’t take advantage of a ministry fair to recruit new volunteers for their team. The problem with IT/media ministries is that most people that like technology are quiet people. They see things so clearly that they believe that if someone wanted their help, they’d ask. This isn’t about ego, it is about how they see the world and the church – it just makes logical sense to them. What they don’t realize is that you have to let people know about your passions and interests. They never make this connection and they miss out on the blessings of using their skills for the local church.

So, how does a church reach out to potential IT and media volunteers? Here is a step-by-step guide for recruiting tech-saavy volunteers within your church:

  1. Identify all areas within your church that utilize technology – A/V gear PCs, servers, network closets, or any other technology used to support the church. Examples include: soundboards, projectors, streaming audio/video encoders, switches, cat 5/6 cable, and DSL/Cable/T1/T3 trunks
  2. Plan a technology tour 10 minutes after each weekend church service for one weekend, with the idea of showing a “behind the scenes tour of the technology used to make church service happen”
  3. Announce this tour from the pulpit or in the church bulletin 1-2 weeks prior to the tour, and again on the day of the tour. Ask them to meet you at the first location of the tour, most likely a sound booth or something easy to find
  4. Take the group to each location within the church and speak about how it is used to make church service happen
  5. After the tour, ask them to fill out a simple form with their name, email, home phone, and what area(s) they are most interested in volunteering
  6. Follow-up with an email or phone call the same week to find out their availability and schedule a time to chat further about their skills and placement opportunities
  7. Be prepared to create new opportunities to utilize the skill sets of those that want to get involved, as most technologists prefer to stick with what they know when they first sign up but will be open to trying new things later

Being a tech geek myself, it has only been a few years since God took me out of my position of shyness to developing other leaders within the church. How did I go from being a shy, solo technology guy to leading leaders? Well, it started by attending the very same kind of technology tour 8 years ago by another leader in the church!

Appeal to the technology interests of others by meeting them where they are at whether than making them meet you on your terms. You’ll be amazed at how your IT and media ministries will grow!


James Higginbotham
http://www.churchdirector.com – Volunteer scheduling tool
http://www.agileministry.com – Volunteer recruiting and leadership
http://www.bluejazzconsulting.com – Software consulting

The last couple of posts have been IT-related and I’m intrigued and curious as to what the IT situation is at your church. At Bent Tree we have an IT department. I’ll soon have a special guest blog post about recruiting IT help at your church.

For now, I’d like to know: Is IT at your church done by full-time employees? multiple staff/department? part-time? Out-sourced? A volunteer? A volunteer team? A combination of staff and volunteers? What’s the IT status at your church?

I’d like to find out how many of you use Google Apps at your church. I’ve heard of some churches (including very large ones) that have left Exchange and gone completely “Google”. How many of you have done that? How many are considering? How many would never leave Exchange?

Let the wars begin! Just kidding. Actually, I ask the question because I think the answer (for most churches) is BOTH. I just talked with 2 guys that do video at 2 different larger churches and they use both Avid and FinalCut.

In the world of Church IT (which I’ll blog more about later), there seems to be a either-or mindset and after talking to a few geek friends, plus Tony Steward (who is just too fun to call a geek, but he knows his stuff) – they seem to believe that church networks can have a happy marriage of PCs and Macs.

I wonder: is this your reality? Is your church all PC? all Mac? Are you a hybrid? What’s your situation? My church is predominately PC, but the whole Worship & Arts/production staff is Mac and after talking to several of our pastors, they’d like to be Mac, too. I wonder if you, like me, since we’re at a tipping point.

HERE’S an article that I wrote almost a year ago for Monday Morning Insight. I was shocked at home much attention it got. It was obvious I had hit a nerve/hot button. I asked in the article how many have switched to Vista and how many have switched to Leopard. I ask you the same. We recently switched all our Macs to Leopard and got the Final Cut Studio 2 upgrade.

So, what say you? PC? Mac? Both? Are you near a tipping point? Do you think both can live happily together on a church network? Are Exchange and Entourage incompatible? Are they either-or options or does that even matter? Let me hear ya!