"The best strategy in our model is showing how the new piece of gear or software will relate to our mission of changed lives," Hunter adds. "For instance, it's hard to justify 150 terabytes of Apple XSAN storage, plus fibre-to-the-desktop for our video crew. But, the fact is that, with this equipment we can churn video very quickly, and with that video, we are doing church online over 30 times a week and reaching tens of thousands all over the world. We 'sell' the gear by tying it directly into the vision of the church."
Building IT into Budgets
Once IT is mapped to ministry needs effectively, the final step in budgeting is to apply what you have learned and to follow through on the budget plans. This is where most IT experts see a failure in the budgeting process for churches: not following the plan, and then spending because of knee-jerk reactions.
Part of the solution here is to build some emergency maintenance into the budget. This can be a "slush fund" to cover unexpected issues, such as the need to replace a server or upgrade to productivity software that is now required because of a new operating system.
However, according to Joe Skorupa, a research vice president at Gartner Group who wrote a report on IT budgeting, the hardest part of budgeting is determining (and anticipating) the needs of the organization. This involves intense research and ministry scrutiny, but also a thorough understanding of the IT industry (such as which new operating systems are on the horizon and their advantages). The more church leaders understand their technological needs and how they match the organization, Skorupa says, the better the budget.
After understanding the IT needs, church leaders need to show exactly how the money spent on technology will meet those needs. It's one thing to list a server and a few laptops for the staff as budget items; it's another to show how those specific items will impact the ministry.
Hunter says another tip for IT volunteers and staff in a church is to avoid the trap of thinking you are alone in your work. Websites, such as the Church IT RoundTable (citrt.org), provide good forums for connecting with other ministry leaders and also offer helpful tips and podcasts for church leaders.