“In ministry, time spent in strategic technology planning and preparation is never time wasted.”
Increasingly, churches are investing in technology to support and enable a wide variety of ministry functions. Certainly, this was true before the imposition of quarantines and shelter orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the meeting restrictions and rules put in place during this challenging time have served to intensify peoples’ awareness of how important technology has become to ministry operations. Nevertheless, without exercising careful strategic planning and management, churches will not experience the potential efficiency, leverage, and ministry outcomes that technology can enable.
To realize the potential ministry benefits that technology can provide, churches must engage in systematic planning and preparation that (1) defines and aligns appropriate technology resources with specific ministry goals and (2) budgets intentionally and accordingly for these resources. Failure to plan well can result in wasted money, time, and effort. A reactive or “scattershot” approach will not lead to responsible stewardship and will often produce frustration and less-than-encouraging outcomes.
Why are Technology Roadmaps and Planning Important?
Between church management software, hardware, wireless connectivity, computers, tablets, phones, servers, Internet access, online giving, mobile applications, worship planning software, audiovisual equipment, child check-in stations, security, media storage, and so much more, technology is embedded deeply into today’s ministry efforts.
Given the importance of technology in ministry today, an essential question for any church is: “How do we go about strategic technology planning in a way that leads to communicating the Gospel and discipling people more effectively while serving people in a more powerful and meaningful way?”
Technology planning is imperative because stewardship is imperative. Developing technology roadmaps in alignment with the church’s strategic plans and budgeting appropriately assists churches in deploying resources faithfully, providing for the highest returns. Faithful stewardship and investment in the right things produces results worthy of reward. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true (Luke 19:11-27).
Faithful stewards, while always open to the prompting of the Spirit, don’t ever “wing it.” Diligence in strategic planning provides direction, focus, capabilities, and results. Additionally, when confronted by the unexpected or “unplanned for,” such prior planning allows for flexibility and the ability to pivot.
What Should a Church Consider in Formulating a Technology Roadmap and Strategic Plan?
Good plans start with good questions. Below, we provide a list of the types of questions you should be considering as you consider your strategic plan for technology enablement of ministry in your church. While by no means exhaustive, it should help get you started:
- How can we most effectively follow up with guests and members throughout the week?
- How do we communicate Biblical content to spread the Gospel? To build up and disciple those in our local body? Outside our local body? Throughout the world?
- How can we most effectively support the formation and management of smaller groups of people within our church for ongoing care, support, teaching, fellowship, and ministry? Especially as we experience rapid growth?
- How can we provide services, Bible studies and access to other gatherings of our church body to those who cannot be present in person?
- How confident are we that our software, hardware, and other technology equipment are sufficient and in good enough shape to assist us in accomplishing our mission?
- How can technology assist us in achieving our community initiatives and foreign missions?
- How can technology assist us in helping the aged, sick, infirm, or wounded to receive necessary care?
- How can technology help us communicate effectively with all of our members and guests in the ways they want to be contacted, e.g., via text, through a mobile app, via email, by phone, or a personal visit? How will we keep track this and manage it so that we can personalize the experience and let people know that we recognize them as individuals?
- How can we provide multiple, easy, and effective ways for people to give, and not just by cash or check?
- We use our worship spaces for a myriad of purposes that can’t be tracked on a paper calendar anymore. How can technology help?
- When should I buy a new server, network gear, or computer? What are the criteria for this decision and analysis?
- Is my Internet fast enough? How much bandwidth is appropriate for my environment? What if I start live streaming the services? How do I know? What will impact the sufficiency of my Internet capacity?
- Do I need Guest Wi-Fi? Why or why not? How should it be set up? Secured? Managed?
- What other equipment is involved in my accessing the Internet at church via a streaming device (e.g., computer, tablet, phone)? How can I size that equipment appropriately? What sort of metrics are relevant?
- Should I keep investing in warranty or upgrade renewals? (Yes!) How do I know when it is time to replace equipment with newer equipment? What are the factors? Suggested best practices and time frames?
- Who handles domain registration for the website and other items (If you let this expire, your email will stop working.)
- Is my phone system still sufficient for my specific ministry strategy? Does it have features that interact well with the rest of my applications, email platform, etc.?
- What are the best ways to communicate with the specific group of believers that exist in our local church body? What tools best facilitate our specific communication strategies? How are people currently being informed of what we are doing? Should there be changes?
- Is our child check-in process working well? Should we be making changes to the process? Can we enhance ease of use, reliability, security, or some other quality? Do we need to? Will these changes require additional equipment, investment, and training?
- What is the condition of my infrastructure? Age of all equipment? Warranty status? Speed? Reliability? Is there a match between all of our resources and the criticality of the task they are expected to enable? Do the right people have the right equipment for the right jobs?
- What are our ministry priorities in terms of specific tasks and operations? Have we recognized this appropriately concerning our technology investments and spending?
How Should a Church Go About Formulating a Technology Roadmap and Strategic Plan?
The church must begin at the beginning and must proceed sequentially and logically. The church’s unique mission (its specific expression of the Great Commission) drives its ministry strategy. Its ministry strategy drives its specific ministry activities and processes. Those ministry activities and processes drive the necessary hardware, software, and infrastructure required to support the accomplishment of its mission. Technology roadmaps then drive faithful stewardship by prioritizing, budgeting, managing, and supporting the necessary technology resources and projects.
Churches must be intentional about designating someone to be in charge of regular technology roadmap planning and strategy. The person or firm leading this effort will not only understand the church’s ministry goals and needs but will also possess deep experience with technology management and budgeting. This leader will be looking into the future and asking the right questions before problems arise. This leader will ensure that the church obtains what it needs to fully accomplish its mission without wasting time, money, or effort. And finally, this leader will further see to it that the church is not surprised, unprepared, stuck, or unnecessarily left behind as technology changes.
Technology Roadmaps and Strategy Planning are a Matter of Faithful Stewardship
In the final analysis, strategic technology planning is really about being a faithful steward. It is about a church figuring out how to multiply the resources granted to it so that it can glorify Christ, and lives can be changed. It is about capitalizing on God-given opportunities by planning well and being guided by wisdom. It is about being faithful to cooperate with the Lord in ministry and relying on Him to help us utilize all the tools available to us to accomplish His work in the world. Effective technology planning, seen this way, is a vital discipline for all churches who desire to be faithful servants in the work of the Great Commission.
Co-Written By: James Grissom, Senior Engineer and Scott Smith, President, Enable Ministry Partners