Like any branch of information technology, church IT comes with a unique set of challenges and stakeholders. You still might resolve computer issues and maintain the website, but the PC belongs to your minister, and the leadership team dictates the content for your site. Not to mention, your Sunday morning audiovisual needs are a bit more complicated than the standard conference room.
To add to the complexity, COVID-19 has accelerated digitization for organizations worldwide, and churches are no exception. IT leaders in this environment have had to find ways to move their communities online, while still maintaining day to day operations.
While the AV issues of the past seem distant compared to the Zoom challenges of the present, some aspects remain the same. Let's dive into common church IT challenges and how to overcome them.
Many churches are led by a committee; a leadership team that meets regularly to go over the organization of the church, outstanding issues, and where to spend the budget. While representative, this leadership style can often be tricky for IT professionals attempting to get buy-in on initiatives.
The solution? Clear communication. Before you bring an issue or a solution to church leadership, clarify your requirements and reasoning. For example, why do you need to set up another wireless access point? About how much will it cost? Who will benefit from this change, and how? With the specifics in order, you'll have much better luck receiving support from the leadership team.
If we have learned anything from this pandemic, it's the necessity of digital connection. Not a website for the sake of a website, but a platform on which potential members can learn about the church and existing members can easily interact and connect. Furthermore, having a single point of visibility for congregation organization. Many organizations fall prey to siloed systems: Childcare contact information is managed in one spreadsheet, young adult groups are on GroupMe, and giving is handled on a third-party platform. This leads to ineffective management.
Explore options for an effective church management software. This technology is tailored to the church experience to help you get organized and accomplish your goals. The best software solutions on the market create a single point of visibility. Users can check-in on their way to church, easily update contact information for childcare, and create groups for fellowship, volunteering, and more. Congregants can even give online or set up automatic tithing. With all the data at your fingertips, church IT leaders can see patterns in attendance, anticipate funding needs, and reach out to individuals for that personal touch.
To take this to the next level, have you evaluated ways your congregation can connect with you, beyond Sunday? An app is a great way to stay engaged with your community, any day of the week. From push notifications, sermons, access to calendars and events—investing in an app is a great step forward to help improve your digital footprint and connect with your congregation.
The Check-In Process
Are you continually troubleshooting the childcare check-in process? If we could do away with printing labels, we'd solve the church world. But since we're not quite at that level, let's talk about solutions.
First, check that you have up-to-date equipment and ensure that everything is working correctly. If you need help, reach out to a technology consultant for a device assessment and maintenance.
Second, zero in on your network. Do you use the same Wi-Fi for the childcare check-in and church-wide Internet access? With so many Bluetooth and Internet-enabled devices these days, using just one network for the church's needs might not be enough.
We recommend installing additional wireless access point(s) (WLAN) in your building. Use one network for general church use, one for administrative use (depending on your church's size,) and a third as a dedicated check-in network. This switch will solve many of the connectivity issues you experience and reduce stress for everyone involved.
Shared Meeting Space
Network issues can also abound when your church community meets in a space that is not your own. Many faith groups meet in schools, which, while convenient, are notorious for poor network quality. Even if your meeting place has good Wi-Fi, some organizations don't share the password.
A mobile hotspot is a great way to overcome these issues but be sure to test it out before your first Sunday service. Try multiple locations around your meeting room, including right by the door, to better pick up cell tower signals. You can also try different carriers (Sprint, Verizon, etc.) to find the optimal network quality.
Not Having an Equipment Specialist
Who do you currently call when computers, AV, or check-in equipment goes down? Is it up to you and your team? Sometimes, repairs aren't straightforward, and you have other items on your to-do list.
Onsite or mail-in repair services are a great way to reduce downtime, maintain your devices' longevity, and allow your team to focus on their daily tasks. Discuss your needs with a repair provider and receive service according to your Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Similarly, where do you look for new equipment purchases? Big box retailers don't always give you the best price, and when you go straight to the manufacturer, you only get to look at technology from that brand.
We recommend a vendor-neutral hardware consultant who can walk you through the pros of cons of a variety of devices. Ideally, find a reseller from which you can purchase check-in equipment, computers, monitors, projectors, and other technology on your list. By having one vendor on speed dial, you have less to manage and everything to gain.
Can you relate to any of these common church IT issues? While information technology has its nuances depending on the application, many of the same challenges pervade. Reach out with any comments or topics that you particularly identify with—we'd love to hear from you!
Jamie Morrison works with Community Church Builder (CCB), a software platform that helps churches engage and interact with their people. This robust system empowers churches to organize their communities, gain insights, and foster discipleship.