Technology is an excellent ministry tool. We can communicate with our members via email, text message, push notification, social media and more. We're able to help people find a small group using the church database, and we can offer services online.

However, as our reliance on technology grows, we need to increase our awareness of potential risks involved. Data breaches, computer viruses and network crashes can be costly events that also impact the trust people place in our churches.

If a place where you shop announces a data breach and warns that your credit card information may be compromised, you may think twice about shopping there again. Those in your congregation could have a similar reaction about giving if their card or bank information is stolen from the church.

Thankfully, we have options available to reduce the risk of losing electronic files or having personal or financial data stolen. Here are three tips:

Tip 1: Back up electronic files

What would happen if someone steals an employee's computer, the building floods or a server crashes? Would you lose all of that data or would you have a backup ready to use right away?

Maintain a backup of all electronic files offsite that you can use to restore data should the worst happen.

Tip 2: Secure personally identifiable information

Personally identifiable information (PII) includes data that could be used to identify an individual. This may include data such as credit/debit card numbers and bank account numbers. If you collect information for the church database such as name, address, phone number, email address and birthdays, that information could be used for fraudulent purposes.

If you accept credit or debit cards, that's information you need to protect. Most churches use a third-party vendor to process credit card, debit card and ACH transactions. Make sure whichever vendor you choose is payment card industry (PCI) compliant.

Require strong passwords for access to the church database or ChMS, restrict who can access various types of information within the database, and train your team on data security.

Tip 3: Guard against viruses

Malware and ransomware are often delivered via email attachments. Educate your team to not open attachments from someone they don't know or from companies when they weren't expecting an email. Consider installing a firewall to protect your network along with antivirus software.

Technology is an incredible tool, but like most tools, it's one we need to use and protect wisely. Make sure your church has the appropriate safeguards in place so you can continue to use technology effectively.