Mistakes are can be costly but are almost always the best teachers. A common mistake that I have seen churches make is not using a good process for making decisions related to technology. Technology has the ability to help our ministries make disciples, engage volunteers and connect with visitors, but it can also be distracting, time-consuming, and a waste of money. How we make decisions about technology can be the difference between it helping to move our ministry forward or wasting our time and money.
Here are 3 common mistakes that I have seen churches make when deciding on technology:
- Jump Before You Look – The decisions about what software and technology you use is an investment of time, and often, substantial money. Taking the necessary time to evaluate your options and establish a clear plan are the first steps. Just because a specific tool or software worked for the church down the road is no guarantee that it will be a good fit for your community.
- Cost Is King – Working in a church, we know that cost is important. But often, if you use cost as the main or only deciding factor, it can end up costing you more in the long run. It is better to spend a bit more on a tool that really meets your needs and will grow with you; otherwise, you might spend a bit now and then have to replace the tool later.
- Who’s In The Room – Leading a church can be one of the most fast-paced and often hectic jobs someone can do. But, not having enough time is not a good excuse for your senior leadership to be absent from technology decisions. For a technology transition to be successful, your senior leaders need to be bought into the decision and model the transformation to the new system. If they are not involved in the process, they can communicate a lack of interest and commitment.
When we have made decisions about technology we have used a few principles that have helped us ensure that we’re investing our time and resources effectively.
Here are a few of the principles we use when making decisions:
- Identify The Wins – As a leader, one of your primary roles is to cast vision. Changing technology is fraught with challenges and only should be done if the gain outweighs the pain. Creating a plan that clearly identifies measurable objectives and benefits can provide you a tool to measure prospective tools against. This list of wins can be broken down into must-haves, nice to have, and things you don’t care about. Additionally, the plan should have measurable outcomes related to how the new technology will make improvements.
- Gather The Stakeholders – Gathering a team for selection and transition can help build the momentum for change. Not everyone has the same tolerance for change, which is why it is important that people directly affected have a chance to speak into the process. This team can also help you assess people’s resistance to change and identify the reasons that they are concerned. In this process, you might identify red flags that would make the selection of a specific tool problematic for some area of ministry.
- Evaluate Against Your Objectives – Now that you have a plan and a team, you can begin to evaluate the various technology options against your criteria. When looking at technologies, it can be easy to become distracted by the different bells and whistles which differ from provider to provider, but if they were not on your list of wins or nice to have, then set them aside. Resist the temptation to add items to your must-have list if at all possible. Using this approach, you should have a clear picture of which solutions most fully meet your needs.
- Build Consensus – Once you have narrowed the options down to a manageable list, it is important to take some time to build consensus. Consensus building is a process. It usually involves discussion, allowing people to voice disagreements and concerns while doing a lot of listening. One way consensus differs from an agreement is that agreement implies seeing things the same way. You may never get all the people on the team there, but it is important that all the team members put their full support behind the decision once it has been made. It is unlikely that everyone will get exactly what they want, but the selection should be one that maximizes the benefit for the church as a whole.
- Clear The Path – As a leader, one of the best things you can do is to eliminate obstacles that may limit people’s success. Based on the decision that was made to select a specific technology, what would your people need to make the transition as painless and quick as possible? Identify the things that may be causing friction, and to the best of your ability, provide the tools needed for your team to see the impact that the new tech is having. This may include training time, or additional resources, or reallocation of people or other resources.
We definitely used a process very successfully when selecting what are now two of the most important applications we use. Our mobile app provider is Aware3. It interfaces seamlessly with our Church Management Software, Church Community Builder. Both are helping us engage more people in the life of our church than ever while giving us the ability to help them progress once connected.
If you’re considering doing something in either area or any other technology area, contact me. Let’s talk!