We talk to churches every day who have invested money, time, and effort into implementing new technology as a tool for ministry, but are disappointed in the results. Through the constant bombardment of news and information regarding ever-changing technologies, they try to pick and choose solutions wisely. They employ these technologies to avoid headaches, but oftentimes find them to be a source of irritation.
Have you ever experienced the frustration of incorporating the “new thing” that was supposed to solve your particular ministry problem, but after implementing it you realize that it didn’t work as expected, or perhaps caused even more issues? Maybe the loss of a feature, function, or report that was actually working well in the old solution? Of course it’s probably not all bad, and the changes did produce some victories. But even with those small wins, technology feels harder than it should be.
Misaligned Tires & Rolling Resistance
It’s a lot like driving a car on a highway when the car’s wheels are out of alignment. You can still drive the car and travel fast, but things are not comfortable or smooth. There is too much effort involved. You know the direction that you want to go, but the car seems to have a different destination in mind. If you take your hands off the wheel, the car will veer in a direction other than the one you have chosen. To keep the car going straight down the highway, you have to exert force and hold the steering wheel at an angle that is slightly off-center. After a while, you may grow tired of the extra effort of maintaining that angle. Driving a car that is out of alignment takes a toll on the car and tires as well. According to Google, a wheel misalignment of just 1% can cause a 25% increase in rolling resistance. A 2% misalignment can create a 100% increase in rolling resistance. Rolling resistance, in turn, causes a host of other issues, including decreased fuel efficiency, shortened life and integrity of the tires, and an uncomfortable, shaky ride.
At Enable, we see a concept similar to misalignment and the resulting “rolling resistance” playing out in many of the churches we do consulting work for. We’re often called in to help when the processes and technology tools used by a church (such as church management software, communications systems, or other technology) seem “off” or are “more difficult than they need to be.” Often, we find a misalignment between the technology processes and tools involved and the direction required by the mission and vision of the church.
Churches describe this feeling of being slightly off-course in various ways. Sometimes we hear “the software is ok, but I really cannot get the reports and data I need without doing a bunch of workarounds,” or “the system is so complicated that I have just gone back to doing it the old way,” or “the system does small groups in a way that doesn’t really work for our method of discipleship, etc.” If the mission can be defined loosely as what we are doing and vision as where we are going, it is essential that the processes and tools used to enable the how of ministry are aligned closely with both the what and where.
A very common mistake among churches is that the technology (how) is not fully aligned with their specific mission and vision. Usually, the misalignment does not stem from a lack of effort, but rather from the lack of a critical strategic technology role that is designed to ensure this alignment. Oftentimes this role acts as the missing piece in a church’s technology “puzzle.” This is the role of CIO or Chief Information Officer.
The Role of Virtual Chief Information Officer
The CIO role emerged in the business realm decades ago. The CIO acts as the person responsible for ensuring that an organization’s information technology strategy serves the overall business strategy of the organization. This includes overseeing the full information technology effort, including hardware choices, service and support, technical engineering and design, and critical operating software. As cybersecurity is increasingly vital to organizations of all types and sizes, the CIO is also responsible for assessing risks, evaluating the options to reduce those risks, and creating a protection plan for the organization’s data and systems. The CIO’s job is to ensure that the technology in place enables and is in full alignment with the necessary business objectives demanded by the company’s mission and vision.
While most churches cannot afford to hire a full-time CIO with the broad range of expertise and deep experience required of such a role, they can acquire the benefits of such a CIO through the fractional efforts of a fully-qualified vCIO. This stands for Virtual Chief Information Officer. This role is designed to bring the enormous value of a full-time CIO to a church through the avenue of a someone with deep church experience. The vCIO role can be implemented quickly and easily within a church environment and can bring significant benefits.
In a church, like in other organizations, the vCIO advises leadership on the “big picture” for technology and helps plan for future needs. A properly qualified vCIO has a deep understanding of the church’s ministry objectives and makes recommendations to ensure that the technical support, infrastructure, software, policies, and standards are appropriate for the work of the church. There is also a stewardship focus – the vCIO oversees and recommends yearly budgets and purchasing requests while preparing long term budget projections to help finance committees prepare for expenditures and reduce surprises.
At Enable, we have been delivering this vCIO role for to churches for eighteen years through the work of a group that we call strategy consultants. Each client has a dedicated strategy consultant who works with them to ensure the technical policies and standards line up with the unique expression of the client’s mission and vision. During quarterly partnership review meetings, the strategy consultant reviews the current technology roadmap, listens to understand current and upcoming needs for the client’s ministry, and adjusts the roadmap as needed to address those needs. The strategy consultant works with the rest of the team at Enable, including the primary engineer, service desk staff, and senior engineering team to implement the roadmap and keep our client’s technology standards in alignment with their mission and vision.
A Roadmap in the Midst of Change
As ministry needs change and opportunities arise quickly, it is vital to have someone engaged who is evaluating the new opportunity in light of the larger roadmap and existing plans. It is precisely at this point of significant change and opportunity that churches can implement technology decisions to meet new challenges in ways that inadvertently cause the “car” to go out of alignment and begin working against itself. In times of change, a vCIO is vital to maintaining the smooth and effective functioning of the overall technology effort.
As churches grow, aspects of their mission and vision can change as well. External factors such as a changing security environment require adjustments to policies and standards. New technologies may provide new opportunities for churches to enhance their ministry. Construction projects warrant new technology integrations with building controls, security, and other “internet of things” devices. The Enable strategy consultant collaborates with the church staff to maintain a technology plan that aligns with the church’s overall ministry strategy, as that develops and grows. Our team of strategy consultants, engineers, and technicians handle the technology concerns, so the church staff is freed up to spend their time focusing on ministry.
If your church is struggling with the implementation of technology in changing times, or if your technology efforts seem a little “off” or “harder than it needs to be,” there is good news! If you are suffering from the rolling resistance caused by misalignment of your technology efforts and your mission and vision, consider the installation of a vCIO. Adding this role is easily accomplished and can bring tremendous results. Reach out to us at [email protected] for more information about our vCIO offering, and let us help you re-align your technology to your mission!
Written by: Elliott Wood, Director of Consulting, Enable Ministry Partners