October 01 2013

INTEGRATION and COLLABORATION: A pastor’s best friends!

Culture today is rapidly changing. The ways and means by which we communicate and engage with each other dramatically differs compared to a decade ago.

With the continuing development of social media, the smartphone revolution and the new hyper speeds of the Internet we will continue to see technology propel ongoing change in our communication styles.

There is no question that this technological culture, with all its flashy, speedy, new developments, already impacts the way in which we go about our day-to-day lives and connect with each other. Today the average person checks Facebook 14 times a day. There are over a billion smartphone users and every day over one million websites are created to vie for our attention. Visual, rapid and convenient are the words that have become the new rules of engagement with culture.

It only makes sense that all these technology shifts in culture will have an equal or even greater impact on expectations of church attendees and the way they desire the church to engage with them.

Most churches today are having a hard time trying to stay up to date with social media, video, media and presentation software. Due to overloaded staff and limited skills on the volunteer teams, technology tends to fall towards the bottom of the priority list.

This is unfortunate because there has never been so much technology can do for a church.

Mobile apps and presentation software allow the congregation to take notes and follow along with the sermon. Announcements can connect directly to the congregation’s personal calendar in their smartphone. Email, texting and push notifications allow churches to quickly and conveniently communicate information during the week. Podcasting and live streaming allows for everyone to stay connected even with business travel, personal vacations and sickness. Facebook and twitter allows for the church to connect and testify about what God is doing in and through their church with the click of a button.

All these great tools, yet most churches struggle to use them. I have watched over the last decade technology come so far and become so diverse that many pastors feel it is virtually impossible to keep up with the right technologies. I constantly hear stories about how frustrated pastors are with always having to buy new stuff only to find out its outdated in six months. On top of that, trying to get volunteers to run all this technology, can be an even greater frustration.

The question continually comes up: “How can my church keep up with the ongoing rapid and advanced technological shifts?” For the longest time I never really had a good answer, but the good news is that there is now an answer.

Integration and collaboration!

These two words have recently become a pastor’s best friend when it comes to ever-progressing technology. As a pastor at a large multi-campus church and a technology specialist, I’ve quickly learned that you can’t keep up with everything on your own. The key for churches to stay up to date with the latest in technology is to utilize technology providers that do it for them. There is no need to be running several different programs when there are emerging companies that have built themselves around the concept of collaboration and integration.

Thankfully, in the last couple of years technology has shifted and integration has become the buzz word amongst technology companies. Many of them have started integrating with other services and allowing each other to use their features in a collaborative manner. The beauty of this recent shift is that you can find software packages now that connect presentation, worship, social media, mobile apps, sermon notes, church announcements and much more all in one easy to use system. The pressure is on them to keep things up to date and easy for you to use.

This is changing the tone of the technology conversation from frustrated to integrated. It’s allowing churches to learn one system, maximizing their time and minimizing their training hours. I recently talked with one pastor that switched from using four different church presentation tools to one integrated service and saved 15 staff hours weekly and increased the quality of their presentation. Finding the right service is the key to saving multiple staff and volunteer hours of managing and editing multiple platforms.

So where do you start?

If you are a pastor or leader that has found yourself in the middle of all this technology and not knowing where to start I have a few simple steps that have greatly helped many people just like you.

  • First, start by defining your church’s technology goals. There are several things you could do, but what would really help your church better reach and connect with the community you serve? By first identifying your goals you can keep your team from going in five different directions. Goals should include how often you want to communicate, who you want to communicate to, and what you want to communicate to them. Goals can also include the type of image you desire to develop and the type of atmosphere you want to have.
  • Second, you should consider what mediums you desire to communicate information through. Mobile apps, social media, church service presentation software, websites and bulletins are the main means churches use to communicate with their congregations. Which of these do you plan on using? Put them in an order of importance as you see them impacting your goals.
  • Third, identify your annual budget for technology. Many churches budget one project at a time. This leads to many different services and software packages used within the different ministries in the church with no collaborative discount. Many churches run different software programs for their children’s ministry, youth ministry and main services. This maximizes your cost and minimizes your ability to cross train in different ministries. If you don’t have a technology budget yet let me challenge you to start one. Technology is here to stay and has a price tag attached to it. By identifying an annual budget you can get services that integrate multiple features in one source that all departments can use. This will save you time and money.
  • Fourth, search for technology companies that integrate multiple services on your list. This will greatly increase your ability to use the technology you have. One example of a company I really like that is very integrated and collaborative in nature is Proclaim Church Presentation software. They offer all your presentation software coupled with a media package, Song Show, Planning Center, mobile app and much more. A simple Google search will reveal several more.

The big idea for you is to find collaborative technology that stays within budget and helps you meet your goals.

Don’t waste time and money learning multiple systems. The more you can integrate and simplify your technology to one collaborative option the easier it will be to utilize in your weekly services. Regardless of whether you have staff or use volunteers, simplicity will save you time and increases efficiency.