Maximizing Ministry Through Web Technology
By: Mark Kitts
Tight budgets force ministries to make increasingly difficult decisions about priorities. A budget crunch brings clarity about what is most important. In that context, how should ministries think about line items such as software and technology tools?
I went to Bible College in the mid 80s, when PCs were just coming out, and the minute I laid my hands on the first one, I thought, “Wow, this has huge implications for church and the kingdom of God.”
Initially, the church software market was focused on how to run the church office better: how to print labels, how to certify mailings, how to do accounting…all of these back-office business features when I felt like there were huge opportunities to concentrate on ministry-type functions and features.
So, how can software make a difference in a ministry?
I'll give you a real practical example. We had an unusually large number of single women that were attending our church. We had collected data each week and identified all of the single women who were regularly coming to our church who were not yet in a small group. We sent them a targeted email, and, three days later, we launched a small group that had a dozen people show up.
That's just one small example. If you can use technology well, you can send the right message at the right time to the right people and you can do some really powerful things.
As I listen to pastors and ministry leaders, there are several common needs I keep hearing about.
There's a lot of core functionality that is common in a lot of the churches, especially churches that are outreach-oriented and really growing.
In small groups, how do you help people get into the kind of relationship that Jesus talks about in the New Testament, loving one another, serving one another, bearing each other's burdens? There's an art and a science to facilitating that kind of structure and organization in the church, and it’s very administratively intense.
Recruitment to serve is a monumental task. How do we recruit, train, develop, communicate with those who want to serve and volunteer?
Event management/registration is a huge deal. Churches are constantly putting on events. You could think of Sunday morning as an event, but in addition to that you've got concerts and dinners and meetings and children’s ministry and student ministry and high school ministry. They're all about events. There's a lot of work involved in trying to invite people, get them to tell you that they are coming, bring all of the resources you need to pull off that event, and then have a record of it and follow up after the event.
Communication is a huge issue. Churches are volunteer organizations, right? It's not like you have command over people’s time from nine to five every day. You have to be creative in how you communicate with them, so we're always dreaming of all kinds of ways to help them, be it through email, phone, text, or social networking.
As I look ahead, I am most excited about the possibilities for churches to be able to give tools, systems, features, and assistance directly to their people because of the Internet. We have always thought of designing software for staff. But, over the last decade, there's been a huge transition in church software to not just creating an interface for staff but also for everybody in the church.
And, that is great because most churches are under-resourced. They don’t have enough money or staff. If you can, though a website, provide a lot of those resources and connection points and help at an individual level, 24/7 – that's powerful. It really just opens up the church across physical boundaries, time boundaries, and brings it down to a very individual level.
Of course, no technology can make up for a lack of love of people. If you don't love people, I don't care what software you use; it's not going to help.
Aside from that, I would say one of the key traits of successful, growing churches success is that they tend to think in terms of process and system.
The churches that have broken through the growth barriers are those that are always thinking, “How can I develop other leaders? How can I put a system in place that is scalable that can reach more and more people, more and better disciples?”
Once you've done the hard work of putting the system in place, then you can apply technology to it.
I'm talking about basic processes, like if I come to your church and say, “Hey, I'd love to be in a small group. What is the process for getting me connected with the right small group, the right location close to my house, the right day of the week, the right topic according to where I am spiritually?”
You put those systems in place and you make them work well, then your church will grow. That value of just thinking in terms of process and systems…if I could put that in place in every church, you would see some phenomenal results.
Mark Kitts is a church planter, pastor, and founder of People Driven Software. In 2009, his company merged with Elexio, www.elexio.com, where he holds the title of missional software architect and evangelist.