In the beginning…

 A 3-part series examining the relationship between the Church and technology

By Joel Guthrie

We’ve all heard that the church is “10 years behind” when it comes to technology — a little nervous to adopt industry best practices and unsure how that might align to stewardship and the vision of the Church.

It’s totally fair: seminary didn’t teach us about data health best practices, or how to build an efficient and integrated tech stack. Plus, most pastors don’t have time to learn all about API integrations, automation, or list targeting.

But they’re not alone: church tech providers have been behind the curve, as well.  Some even seem like they have a “that’ll do” mentality when it comes to innovation. 

It’s a really a chicken-and-egg situation.

As church leaders, we’re well aware of the current relationship between the Church and technology.

Has it always been this way?

What got us here?

Where is it going, and what could it look like?

What if the church was on the cutting edge of technological advancement?

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The Church has seen the greatest technological shift in the past 20 years — and for better or worse, it’s not slowing down. There’s so much available; but for many church leaders, tech is not our native language. We got into ministry to further the Kingdom and build relationships with our communities. Pastors study the Word, other pastors, and theologians; suddenly, they need to understand enterprise technology business practices, data privacy laws, and the plethora of social media platforms, too.

Deep breath…

I know you didn’t pick up this magazine to get overwhelmed, but stick with me.

For the Church, technology has become a burden. It could be a catalyst. Most of us automatically think of technology as software, but it’s not just that.

Surely, the printing press was the greatest-ever technological advancement for the Church. We were able to put the word of God into the hands of the people like never before. For the first time in history, they could personally study the Bible. It forever changed the missions world.

How did we go from leveraging technology like never before to being hesitant to adopt technological best practices?

The printing press ignited a whole new era of the church; radio, TV and the internet have furthered the advancement. Technology has continued to remove the barriers between people and the message of Jesus, and it’s not stopping.

 

“Technology is the key to take the Church to the ends of the earth. We just need to be intentional about how we use it.”  — Joel Guthrie

 

There’s another arch that needs to discussed: the way people attend, engage and give to the church. All these things have changed as dramatically as technology. Today, the average church member attends three out of every eight Sundays. This threatens the Church’s traditional approach for communicating and interacting with our congregations. It has created a scramble: How on earth do we get our own members to come to church on Sunday, let alone new visitors?

It’s a situation impacting every church in America and something the Church has never really faced. Pastors are losing sleep. How do we reinvent church, or adapt in a way that aligns with these changes in congregant behavior?

We can’t be afraid to fail

The combination of overwhelming voices, the lack of understanding, and the pressure to make a decision can leave church leaders feeling stuck, scared to make a decision. Thankfully, when it comes to technology, there’s so much you can test-run before fully committing. The Church can’t innovate without being willing to fail — and fail again.

Do one platform well instead of all of them poorly. It’s easy to read an article like this and want to go out and buy everything, but it’s better to be intentional. Otherwise, you risk adding a burden.

Now you’re thinking: But, Joel, you said it’s not a burden?

I know — but you first need to evaluate where your church is at, and where you want to go. Then, look at the available tech that aligns with your goals and budget. After that, start with the technology that makes the biggest impact. Use that one piece of tech to the fullest before adding another.

Build a team: you can’t do this alone. Anyone in your church would burn out if he or she had to make these decisions, manage the platforms, and serve — all at once. So, put together a tech team of volunteers and staff who are eager about using tech to grow the church. Let them take ownership. As the leader of the team, your job is to drive collaboration.

In the next article, we’ll dive into the current state of church tech and where it’s headed!


Joel Guthrie is Senior Content Marketing Manager, Faith Solutions, at Blackbaud, and host of The Church Engagement Podcast.

He has been on staff as a worship leader and youth leader at a church in Bellevue, Wash., and is currently one of the worship leaders and 10th-grade-guys leaders at his church in Austin, Texas.

Guthrie has studied audio engineering and has a career working in marketing in the tech space, servicing large tech companies, including Microsoft and Amazon.

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