How important is technology in your church? Can you do church well without it? Consider the computers you use daily, the printers that make your Sunday bulletin, the audio system you preach the Gospel through, the video system that shows the words to your worship, the lighting that allows people to see in your otherwise dark room, the websites that communicate events and “Who we are,” and the email you use to communicate with your members. How important is all that? When that technology fails, how well can you do your job?
We all have a love/hate relationship with technology. We love it when it works right. We hate it when it doesn’t. We love to buy more techie things but hate when it’s costly. We love how it makes us more effective and efficient but hate when it seems like just one more thing to maintain or update.
This is true for technology in our personal lives, our businesses, and within the church. But in the church, it’s much more complicated and always seems to be more difficult to manage. For decades, churches have viewed audio, video and lighting technologies as the necessary, but evil, stepchild. It was often an after-thought, an “adder” onto the budget for the youth department, and last to be updated or maintained. But in the last decade, churches have started embracing the value of these technologies and implementing their usefulness to their full potential.
In the past, churches often funneled audio, video, and lighting under the leadership of the worship pastor. This gave the worship pastor control over the technology budget, tech staff and volunteers, and often left out other departments or ministries. As youth and children’s programs increased their use of technology, a power struggle ensued over who is responsible for the tech budget, who decides which gear to buy, who gets to use it, who pays for the repair and maintenance of equipment, and who does the technical director really report to? For some churches that depend heavily on on-stage technology, this has created many heated, angry, and not-so-Christ-like conversations.
Have you ever had departmental staff complain over the use of technology? Do you have someone on staff who is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of computers, the network, the website, and everything in between? Even if you have a computer tech or IT person, the question frequently comes up as to who is responsible for the computer that is used for the pastor’s PowerPoint presentation on Sundays? Is the computer tech responsible or the worship tech? Have you ever had a meeting, decided a direction with your team, only to be told later by your technical director it’s physically impossible . . . or you don’t have that equipment . . . or you don’t have the budget? So now you must reconvene the team to figure out another ministry direction. I bet you have experienced some, if not all, of these problems.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, a paradigm shift occurred in churches that altered how ministry and churches operated. With a growing need to reach America’s youth, high school pastors were hired with the sole responsibility of discipling and teaching the youth about Christ. It altered church dynamics substantially, helping staff and resources to be used more effectively. Adding a single position greatly enhanced the church’s ability to increase ministry capacity. A similar shift happened in the corporate world. With the increased importance of computers, networks, and internet dependence, the CTO, or Chief Technology Officer, has been added to the list of necessary executives and vice presidents. This position often reports directly to the CEO or president of the company. The CTO is usually a VP and sits at the table in the highest of company discussions. In both examples, the new position created had a seat at the big table, altering the dynamics and effectiveness of the organization in a positive way.
I see the same type of paradigm shift occurring now when it comes to technical directors in the Church. Rather than have technology be a small component of individual ministries, or led solely by the worship ministry, many churches are making a whole new department and putting the technical director at the big table, reporting only to the Lead or Executive Pastor. The business or administration department is often viewed this way, operating as a service to the other departments. As the accountant and custodians provide a service to every department and ministry, the technical department also provides a service to everyone.
My friend Chris was hired by a very large church as the technical director. Chris sits at the table every week and rubs shoulders on an equal plane as the other pastors and executives of the staff. He oversees anything tech-oriented in the church. His staff and volunteers provide tech services to the other departments, balancing their given budget with the stated needs of each department. He schedules appropriate volunteers to work church services and events, organizes the movement of equipment from one room to another, and brainstorms with other high-level staff how to accomplish their ministry goals in a respectable and economical fashion. Chris views his peers as clients and does his best to serve all the clients well, recognizing they all have giant dreams and limited resources.
Chris reports to the Senior Pastor, having a seat at the big table. When the senior staff is exploring the future and dreaming big dreams, Chris has the opportunity to pour into that same dream as it relates to Sunday technologies as well as office technologies, like computers and networking. Given our dependence on technology in our modern churches and offices, this must become more customary in churches of all sizes.
Certainly, a full-time paid technical director costs a lot of money. That person also needs a budget as well, but when you consider the increase in effectiveness those funds bring to every other department, you may find this to be a worthwhile expense. The dependence on technology in the church is not going away and it will only become greater over time. Be wise and start planning to put your technical director on the payroll and put him/her at the big table. They just might help you make bigger and better decisions.
Nathan Freeland is author of CHURCH BUSINESS: Making the Business of Church Easier, Simpler, and Much Less Painful. President of Reach Consulting, a firm dedicated to helping pastors and church leaders with their church business, Nathan lives in Central California with his wife and six children. CHURCH BUSINESS can be purchased here: https://amazon.com/dp/0692198296