See if this feels familiar; A small group of people (or maybe just one person) just decided to purchase new technology they believe your church needs. Now, you are being asked to help implement the technology and make it successful. I know this sounds crazy but it happens more often than you think.
If technology buying decisions are made poorly, it can lead to all sorts of dysfunction. This is why churches often get disillusioned by church software companies. Sometimes it is the fault of the provider but more often, the dysfunction is the result of a bad process and wrong assumptions.
The first assumption is cheaper is better.
The cheapest is rarely the right choice. We wouldn’t put the cheapest roof on our homes, would we? No way. Why? Because it offers our possessions and our families protection from the elements of nature, etc.
The right technology will give your church the ability to operate more efficiently and effectively. If you could increase the number of recurring givers, multiply the number of small groups, improve your connections process, and overcome your member retention setbacks, what would that be worth to your church? I bet it's a lot!
The second assumption is that if something works for my buddies, it will work for me too.
Almost all technology is birthed and designed with a specific set of needs and goals in mind. Those needs and goals may or may not align with yours. Just because a software solution works well for the church across town doesn't mean it will do the same for you. Never confuse your needs and preferences with the preferences of others or the needs of another church.
So, before your church is attracted to the latest shiny object or chooses to pass on upgrading to a more robust solution, here are five questions (in no particular order) to ask:
- Does this decision align with the core values of our church?
In other words, will this piece of technology help us accomplish what we’ve said is important to us? Can we increase our ministry potential through this investment?
- How much money can we spend?
Though it’s not glamorous, it’s reality. What’s in the budget? I do want to caution you in this, though. Budgets are a great place to start but shouldn’t be the only factor in the decision-making process. While price is always a factor, I’ve learned that the churches who benefit the most from technology rarely make their decision exclusively on price.
- What functionality is fun, and what functionality is necessary?
Don’t get distracted by cool features and marketing buzz. Take the time to evaluate your church’s unique systems and processes. Look for technology that will support those processes well, not force you to adapt the way you "do church" unless you are at a point where it's time to do things differently.
- What is the potential impact on your staff and lay leaders?
Technology solutions for churches should help distribute workload and empower people to fulfill their role in the church. It should make doing ministry easier, not complicate their lives. If software is complex and unintuitive, few people will use it and your investment will be a total waste.
- What "business" are you in?
The last time I checked, churches are in the "business" of reaching people for Christ. They are not technology companies. However, a few seem to think differently and thus spend vast sums of money on technology infrastructure and staff. The business world recognized the value of outsourcing a long time ago. The truth is, your church is not that different from others and there is probably software out there that can meet 80% or more of your needs very effectively. Don't buy into the assumption that you must build and host it yourself to be successful. This is only true for a very small handful of churches out there.
What experiences have you had when making decisions about technology? What will you do differently the next time?