Why the Pastor Must Be Tech-Savvy
Among the ways small and large churches differ most is in the areas of technology in ministry. Larger churches simply have more resources for computers and gadgets, and often have a staff person to make sure all of them work together. Then there are the websites, blogs, social media feeds, online registration, sermon downloads and podcasts and the myriad of other opportunities for connection to the congregation and others electronically. The sheer number of technology options is daunting.
But it’s the culture that we live in. And today, even in a small church environment, to connect with our people we must have some level of technical savvy. It’s no longer acceptable for any leader to be “off the grid” in terms of electronic communication. But if you’re the pastor of a small church—maybe even the only employee—how do you balance technology needs with the other demands on your time?
Understand the culture. First you have to understand the world you live in if you have any hope of impacting it. Email, social media, smart phones—these have moved beyond tools for the technical elite to become mainstream nationwide. Your congregation and the community you want to reach will expect you to connect with these tools at some level if they are going to interact with you. To avoid them is to significantly diminish your opportunity to connect with them in order to influence them toward Christ.
Educate yourself on the options. You could Google your way through this, but you likely don’t have time. So get a tech-savvy member of your congregation to buy you lunch and talk to you about the various technologies. Ask about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, email blasts, blogging, electronic giving, websites and mobile websites, SMS texting, Foresquare and Yelp!, and software tools that help you manage various online media. Poll your congregation to see who uses what and how they receive their information. The answers will surprise you.
Choose technologies wisely. Once you have the Cliff Notes version of what’s out there, choose one or two mainstream technologies you want to use to connect. It might be a smart phone and using Facebook. Or it could be sending an email weekly and posting on Twitter once a day. Don’t try to tackle it all at once—enter the tech fray with some widely used options and try it out for a while. Especially think about a social media management tool that will help you keep up and schedule your posts. I use hootsuite.com, which is free, but there are a host of similar options available.
Be yourself. You’ve gone all these years without sharing pictures of your food or telling people you’re going to Wal-Mart for Diet Dr. Pepper, so don’t start now. Let your involvement in technology simply be an extension of who you are; don’t create a new tech-savvy persona to go with it. Post something on social media when you have something to say. Write a blog entry that comes from the heart. When you devote time to these activities, concentrate on sharing something meaningful.
Be intentional with technology. Technologies have the ability to radically complicate your life. Often people say that technology makes life easier, or saves you time, but that is seldom the case. Technology most often takes time, and thought, to get it to do something worthwhile. It’s better, and more honest, to say that technology make life different and has both benefits and drawbacks. This is why you must view new technologies with an eye toward what tangible ministry benefit will you see when you embrace it.
Some social media tools are easy to diagnose—your people are on Facebook, so if you are too, you are more likely to connect with them on a regular basis. Other tools like Foresquare are not so clear cut. Do people really need to know what restaurant you ate at last night? Before your dive in to any technology, ask around, ask those who use it how it works for them, and determine if there is merit in a trial. Then determine to put a little time and thought into it.
By all means, don’t completely avoid it. It’s a foregone conclusion that within the next few years, nearly all cell phones will be smart phones. Today more people have internet access than cable television. So technologies are here to stay, and we must view them as potential blessings and connection points from which to extend our ministries into the culture more fully.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.