With more technologies available in the information age, the number of choices to sort through can feel overwhelming. For many church leaders, the same likely is true—for instance, one list available online shows 180 different options for church management software alone.
What makes these decisions even more complicated is how the term "technology" now refers to many different kinds of technologies. In the pre-Internet days, "technology" in churches mostly referred to audio/visual and lighting. Now, as the Internet and personal computers have become mainstream, "technology" also refers to social media, websites, mobile applications, and computer hardware and software, all spanning office uses and personal uses.
With so many options available for so many things, here are three critical factors to consider. These can give your church leaders practical principles for evaluating and choosing whether or not your church should buy a new and innovative technology. Context and personnel are important factors, as is a thorough evaluation of the products themselves. Included is a grid you can use for such an evaluation to determine which products hold the best potential for your church.
1. Knowing Your Context
This is the most important factor in a church's decision-making about technologies. Just because other churches use popular technologies doesn't mean your church should. Here are essential aspects of your church context to consider:
- Your church's vision and mission. While every church is about the Great Commission and Great Commandment, each church goes about it in different ways, with different groups of people, and thus, different technologies. A liturgical church probably uses fewer technologies than a church reaching and ministering to the online generation.
- Key question:Does the technology solution align with your church's vision and mission?
- Goals and objectives. Part of organizational planning includes setting goals and objectives. These are useful for deciding what resources to use for reaching specific results. Certain technologies can get you the desired results more efficiently and effectively. And different churches will use the same technology in different ways.
- Key question:How does the technology solution support your church's specific goals and objectives?
- People in your church and community. The audience your church ministers to is a significant consideration regarding whether a particular technology will engage or distract your people. Stereotypically, an older demographic might use personal technology less than a younger demographic, but that may not be the case in your particular church. A church's culture, community, communications, and technologies are all inter-woven and connected. For example, teaching from a tablet computer like an iPad would be engaging to a tech-savvy audience while it would probably offend some traditional people who prefer their pastor to use a leather-bound Bible. The pastor at Calvary of Albuquerque uses a printed Bible during a traditional worship service and then preaches from an iPad during the church's contemporary worship service.
- Key question:How does the technology solution strengthen your church's community relationships and meet people where they're at?