Technology is a beautiful thing, and there is evidence of that beauty all around you. Everywhere you look there are solutions to problems because someone somewhere said, “Let’s make this better.” Look at the evolution of the pen. Grab your internet-connected device and Google it. We went from writing with a piece of reed, to a quill feather (yes, I’m counting a bird as technology), then to a fountain pen, to a ballpoint pen, and then to a roller-ball pen. We are always improving ourselves to be the most efficient and most effective that we can be. We are always trying to make things better.
“Making things better” is what lies at the heart of technology. And so the question right now is: Who doesn’t want to make things better? I believe that everyone reading this article wants to be the most efficient and most effective in what they do for the Kingdom of God, and that means connecting with technology.
Before we can incorporate technology into our churches, there are a few things we need to address and examine. First of all, we don’t have to have a lot of money to use modern technology in our church services, ministries, or church operations. Second, sometimes we have to simply step out by faith into the unknown. Wanting to just stand on the edge of the familiar keeps us from adopting ideas and solutions that could help us become more effective and efficient than ever before. The third thing we need to do, and arguably the most crucial point, is critically examine our current situation. Take stock of where we are and be honest with ourselves about how we are doing. Self-awareness is the hardest part.
So, starting with the last point and working back to the first, let’s talk about it.
If we want to incorporate modern technology, we have to look at what we have done in the past, what we are doing now, and be honest with ourselves in identifying places that we can be better. Just going out and getting the latest and greatest device isn’t always the solution. Simply having an iMac in every office or a 50-inch display in the welcome center with rotating announcements, just for the sake of being relevant to church trends, doesn’t mean we are properly connected with technology. It’s nice to have those things, without a doubt, but proper use of technology isn’t just blanketing ourselves with the newest and greatest. Proper use of technology is in first having a purpose in why we want to implement a new process or a new piece of hardware.
This is where self-awareness comes in. We have to identify where we need to be better. One simple reason for doing this is to help stretch a church budget wisely and maximize what we are able to incorporate.
Let’s start with a few simple questions to help us begin examining our current use of technology:
How well do our ministry teams communicate with each other? Do projects fall through the cracks because of a lack of communication? How can we fix it?
How are files shared between our teams? Is the process convoluted? Is it hard to get information to each other? How can we improve?
Is there a better way to do announcements? If they hurt the flow of service, how can we be better?
How can we be more united as a worship team for each service? How can we be more prepared?
Could our outreach/in-reach programs be more effective than they are right now? What can we do to be better?
Are our graphics, promotional material, and first-time visitor gifts truly reflecting who we are? How can we improve the message we are sharing in these areas?
Let’s identify the places in which we need to be better and give our focus to the areas that are begging for our attention.
overcoming the unknown
It can be intimidating to look at all the available technology systems, programs, and devices when trying to decide where to begin or how to become better. This is where we sometimes need to just take a step of faith. Overcome the unknown. Walk forward in boldness.
In Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus comes walking to the disciples on the sea, in the midst of a crazy storm. Everyone is scared of what looks like a ghost coming their way, but Jesus says, “Have courage. It is I” (NCV). Peter says, “Lord, if it is really You, then command me to come” (NCV), and so Jesus did. Now, Peter is standing at this moment where he has to make a decision. Do I let fear win and play it safe surrounded by the familiar, or do I move into the unknown and do something I’ve never done before? And then Peter walked on water.
I encourage you pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, ministry team leader—don’t be afraid to walk into the unknown. You may have already thought of something you can incorporate into your ministry that could greatly impact your work for the Kingdom of God. Do it. Step out. Try it. Don’t let the unknown stop you from utilizing new tools to improve the way you change the world.
Uncertainty can also hit hard in the question of, “Do we have what it takes to maintain this change?” You may think, “We want to live stream our services, but do we have enough workers? Do we have enough money? We want better graphics, but we don’t have a graphic designer in our church.” Or, “We want to be better, but we don’t have any one who is ‘tech savvy’ in our church.”
To all the pastors who feel like you don’t have the resources that the giant church across town has, know that you have all the tools you need to change the world already in your hands. It’s not about how big and flamboyant someone else may be able to do it. It’s about how you learn to use the technology you have access to right now in effort to reach your city.
Money is another worry that sometimes hinders a church when they are considering adopting new technologies. But can I testify, you don’t need a lot of money to get started with some really cool tools for your ministry. While new technology can be an investment at times, we live in a day and age when there are many free-to-low-cost resources we can utilize to better improve our efforts. If you have the extra finances, that’s awesome! Thank the Lord for that! But, for those working with some tight budgets there are numerous resources able to be used. Here are some answers to questions I sometimes receive:
Q: How can I live stream? I don’t have $5,000-$10,000 for cameras and equipment, nor do I have the ability to have multiple cameramen to run a live stream.
A: Do you have a smartphone or tablet? Do you have a wi-fi connection? That’s all you need to get started. Find a place to prop your device up to your liking, plug it into a wall outlet, open Facebook, and you’re all set. Start streaming on Facebook Live for free!
Q: How can I have good graphics if I don’t have an incredible graphic designer in my church?
A: Check out creationswap.com. They offer many free and affordable graphics, videos, countdowns, stock photos, and audio samples for churches and ministries that you can download or purchase individually. You can also sign up for an “unlimited plan” ($19/month) that provides access to absolutely everything they have to offer. While it is very helpful here to have a graphic editing program to make small adjustments and add custom details, it isn’t required. There’s a lot of material on CreationSwap made in such a way that you can start using them without any editing at all.
Q: How can we improve communication in our ministry teams?
A: There are a few really great free apps that offer some amazing ways to stay connected to your ministry teams. Check out GroupMe and Slack from the app store on your smartphone/tablet. Both of these apps allow you to stay in constant contact with your groups.
In my home church, Medora Pentecostal Church (MPC), having weekly meetings is difficult to do. Most of our ministry team leaders live 20-30 minutes away from our church in every possible direction, so we needed a way to keep a level of team engagement and accountability throughout our ministries. We wanted our teams to think ministry throughout the week and not just on the evenings that we have service. So connecting our teams to apps like these offer higher engagement, more effective productivity, deeper accountability, and a much stronger system than sending standard group texts that get buried beneath every other text message sent throughout the day.
GroupMe offers a very clean, easy-to-use interface; while Slack goes a little deeper and can integrate with apps like Dropbox, allowing you to share and comment on different files and projects.
Q: How can we increase the effectiveness of our announcements?
A: One way to do this is through video. Whether you use a DSLR camera or the camera from your smartphone, video announcements can greatly improve engagement with your congregation during service. It will also give you something you can upload to YouTube and share on your social media outlets. This increases the effectiveness of your announcements not only for your church members, but for potential visitors as well.
I do recommend if you do video announcements that you invest in an affordable external mic for improved audio quality.
Q: What is a good system for organizing our attendance and other types of data?
A: Let me introduce you to churchmetrics.com, an amazing free resource made available for churches that offers a great system for organizing all your data. Keep track of how many people have received the Holy Ghost this year and compare it to years past, see full reports of attendance on certain days of the year, or find out what is your most consistently attended services or special services throughout the year. You can track giving trends in your church, and even add your own custom fields. Churchmetrics.com offers free applications for iOS and Android and is also accessible on your computer by visiting the website directly. All reports are exportable to Excel, as well.
Are you ready?
The Barna Group tells us that the average church in America has 89 members and that less than 2% of all American churches run over 1,000 people in their congregation. Medora Pentecostal Church isn’t part of that 2%, and we don’t have a rotation of cameramen or an unlimited budget to invest in the biggest, newest technologies. What we do have, however, is a desire to find the areas in which we aren’t doing our best and try to find ways to do them better. What we have found is that doing the same things the same way usually leads to the same results. So, I encourage you today, take a step out in faith. Find ways to incorporate technology to better your communication, outreach, and ministries. God has equipped you, and you have all the tools in your hand you need. Now, let’s go change the world.