Is your church technologically relevant?
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The members of your congregation (and potential guests) expect you to have technology that's current and relevant. This means you need to have a well-developed and maintained website, be active on social media channels, etc. You also need solid technical systems running in the background, such as an internal network (or cloud account) to store and share files, a church management system, etc.
Consider these tips to protect your church's data and stay technologically current:
1. Store electronic documents on a network or cloud account
Saving church documents onto personal (or even work) computers can lead to significant issues. What happens when an employee who was using a personal laptop for work leaves her job? Would all the documents, records and templates she created be lost to your church? What if a hard drive crashes or a computer is stolen? All of that data is gone forever.
Store important documents on a central, church-owned location to protect your resources.
2. To BYOD or not to BYOD?
Will you require employees to "bring your own device" or does the church provide desktops, laptops or tablets to church staff? Carefully consider the pros/cons of either approach.
3. Church management software
You need a church database and church communication tool (no, a spreadsheet won't cut it for long). This purchase won't be cheap, so take the time upfront to document what you need the software to do and how you'll use it. Don't just consider how you'll use it today — think about what you'll need as your congregation grows, and find software that can scale with you.
Also, ask potential vendors about their company. Who owns the company and are they personally invested in helping churches succeed? Is the company privately owned or has it changed ownership recently? You want a company with great references and a track record of excellent customer service, so do your homework before purchasing.
4. Back up your electronic files regularly
Backups are vital. What if a computer is stolen, the server gets corrupted or destroyed, etc.? Do you have online or offsite backup storage? It's fairly simple to set up online backups, but painful if you lose all that important data. Plan now to have a backup to safeguard your information.
5. Protect yourself against hackers and computer viruses
Take preventative steps such as setting up a protected Wi-Fi network, using anti-virus software and educating your staff about potential malware threats. Between the contact and financial information you have on church members plus other important files, protecting your computer system needs to be a priority for your church.
6. Develop and communicate your church's social media and data privacy policies
People expect their church to be active on social media. Whether it's a Facebook page, Instagram account or Twitter account, they're looking to connect with their church online as well as in person.
Social media is a great tool to connect current members and attract new people to your church. However, it can quickly backfire if you're not intentional about who has access to post on behalf of your church and what they're allowed to post.
Provide clear guidelines on the types of posts, what kinds of pictures they can post, the frequency of posts, whether you'll delete inappropriate comments from others on your social media accounts, etc. Also, you need to help employees understand how what they post on their personal websites or a social media account reflects on the church.
Not sure how to get started? Check out this list of free social media policy examples from JustinWise.net.
7. Keep your website current — both in content and style
When was the last time you updated the design of your website? Does it reflect the culture and values of your church? Who is responsible for updating content on your website? Do you have an event calendar, links to social media channels, a link to recent sermons, etc.? Develop a strategy for maintaining and refreshing your site.
One way to see if you're staying up-to-date is to check out the websites of other churches and get an idea of the latest trends. You don't need to copy what they're doing, but it certainly doesn't hurt to see what's out there.
Also, ask your congregation what they think. Host a focus group with members of the youth group and ask for their opinions and ideas for improvement. Then talk with members of older generations and gather their input as well. You can't make everyone happy, but at least take each group's preferences into consideration.
Technology is a significant tool that can help us spread the Gospel, make disciples and connect our members to each other. However, to leverage this great tool we need to plan ahead and stay up-to-date as technology changes at a rapid pace.
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