Thursday, April 10, 2008

A New Breed: The Church IT Director

Just as technology is always changing, the way churches are managing their data networks is also changing. While many church networks are still being ultimately overseen by the business administrator or CFO, more and more churches are hiring IT Directors from industry, and it’s impacting churches nationwide!

Some Perspective
The discussion topics on computers in churches has changed over the years. In the mid 1980s it was, “Why would a church want a computer?” In the early 1990s it was, “What’s the internet?” Now it’s, “Can server virtualization really save us money and work for us?”

Church networks are growing in complexity as ministerial staffs are realizing the value of a solid system that empowers ministry. Along with the growth in computer system complexity has come the position in larger churches of IT Director. Though many churches and ministries still utilize part-time positions and volunteers to help maintain their systems, the IT Director usually oversees the network administration team and often many other technology areas too.

Some Surprises!
As I spend time with many Church IT Directors, I've observed a few things, some of which caught me by surprise!
  • Budgets. Though there never seems to be enough to do what needs to be done in the local church, those that have grown to see the importance of well-deployed and supported technology are willing to appropriately resource their IT teams. They are hiring vendors and buying hardware more in line with what is done in secular organizations, and their ministerial teams are often able to accomplish more as a result.
  • Independence. Many Church IT Directors, having come from industry, are not aware of some of the resources available to them. For instance, at a recent gathering of Church IT Directors we asked and were surprised to learn:
    • Many were not aware of some of the journals tailored to help them in their ministry.
    • Hardly any had ever been to a user group sponsored by their church management system (CMS) provider.
    • Many were unaware of companies like Consistent Computer Bargains, who sell shrink-wrap software at a significant discount to churches (not just Microsoft software, but most software!)
    • Negotiated discounts by companies like mine (www.mbsinc.com) for Dell Computers.
We found that many were researching solutions on the internet; finding some, and missing others. Some began blogging and are building a neat grassroots network to share information on what they’re learning with others similarly tasked.

Two Challenges
I see two challenges regarding this new breed. One is for providers of services, and one is for Church IT Directors.
  • Providers of Services. Those of us who serve churches and ministries in the technology field need to find ways to communicate with this new breed.
    • Many don’t prefer reading magazines, which means we need to blog more about solutions we offer and use RSS and similar technologies to reach them.
    • We also need to reach out to them in meaningful ways to bring them into our user group meetings and other gatherings. Once there, we need to facilitate their needs and we need to ask for their input. They have funding and a mandate to meet staff’s needs, and they will change solution providers if they don’t perceive that their ministry’s needs are being met.
  • Church IT Directors. There are a bunch of resources you haven’t tapped into yet, and many are driven by their sense of call to help you empower your teams.
    • Recognize that a lot of information is available in journals, like this one, that’s worth reading! Magazines need to generate revenue just like everyone else in our society, and most do it primarily through advertisements. Don’t shun the valuable information these ministry-specific journals have just to avoid ads... read them!
    • Over the last twenty years I've seen many churches and ministries change solutions for the wrong reasons. Whether it’s hardware, software, or a vendor, many changes take place that were unnecessary and cost the churches and ministries a lot in funding and momentum. Get to know your solution providers! Go to CMS user groups and meet with their executive, programming, and support teams. You may be surprised at their vision for The Kingdom and desire to meet your growing needs. You may even find they already have ways to meet your needs you didn't know about!
Yes, church and ministry technology has grown more complex as we've embraced technology’s power and harnessed it. That process, which will only increase in speed, has brought us the Church IT Director, and we’re glad to have him or her aboard! Keeping our eye on the mission, lets work together to go beyond our comfort zone and serve our ministries better. At the end of the race, let’s both endeavor to hear God’s “Well done!”

1 comment:

Tony Dye said...

Hey Nick, what would it take to get you to start including links to citrt.org when you mention "IT Resources?" That is so much a starting point for people, and so many don't know it yet. YOU can be part of the solution1