“Can you help us out? We have a massive problem. We just found out that our deacon passed away and he was the only one with the password to our website.”
“We would like to build a new website for our church. Will $50 be enough to make that happen? That’s what we spent last time.” – When was that? – “1999.”
“Hey, our sound board is smoking. What should we do? We haven’t budgeted for that at all. Is it an easy fix?”
“Our office staff need new computers. We have two secretaries and three ministers. We have budgeted around $500 for this year. Will that be enough to get them what they need?
“Our minister just asked for a Mac computer. Why in the world would we spend $3000 on a computer when we could get a cheap desktop for $300? I’m not paying for them to play fancy games!”
Welcome to my world.
You would not believe how many emails, Facebook messages, and texts I get with these sentiments. Non-stop. All day. All the time. Ad nauseum. No kidding. And I get it….they are well-meaning people who find themselves in a world they do not understand. In fact, many churches are just now stepping into the digital world and realizing how powerful media can be as a tool for evangelism and outreach.
The church I work alongside has an average of over 500 views a week to our online sermons, over 5000 weekly interactions on our facebook page, and our website has been viewed by over 10,000 people for 37 states and 47 countries in the past 4 months alone. And we are in Wichita Falls, TEXAS – not exactly BIG city church. We get requests each week for more materials, blogs, articles, bible class materials, and more from all over the world. We provide an APP for our members (anyone really – its free on android and iPhones) that provides up to date lessons, sermons, calendar of events, and more – all of which are shareable so that they can invite friends, send a grandchild the most recent sermon link, etc. – all of this to the glory of God!
But far too often I find that there is a lot of misinformation about technology and media when it comes to ministry and almost ALL of it comes from one realm – COST.
Sadly, so much of what we do in ministry comes down to, “How much is it going to cost?” And let me be honest up front – I get it. I truly do. There are some things that are HUGE costs when it comes to technology and media. So, here is my answering what I hear so often….and I do this out of love and also a need to make some things plainly clear.
To the church who just lost their deacon (tragically) – it took over 3 months and a lot of going back and forth with the host and server people to finally get access to the site. At that point, the URL (the website name) had already been sold to a new customer that wanted $10,000 for the name….something that the church used to own for $9 a year. That’s a costly mistake and situation.
To the church who didn’t update their sound board (it was over 30 years old) – The cost of a good sound board isn’t over the top, but its definitely going to be in $1000-$3000 range to buy a new one (or a good used one). That’s a BIG deal for some church families. A good way to deal with technology is to constantly set aside money (every year in your budget) to upgrade your items. You can set aside $1000 a year to upgrade components (and every 5 years maybe $5000 for BIG items – like a sound board) or you can spend $20,000 to $50,000 all at once when it goes out.
To the church wanting a new website – No, $50 for a new website isn’t going to cut it. You get what you pay for – most reputable church websites companies are going to cost you between $50 to $150 a MONTH in hosting, design, security, and updates. And that’s the CHEAP ones. Yes, you can design your own through weebly, wix, or squarespace – but you will still need hosting, URL, and more. Again, you get what you pay for. Don’t be surprised if your site is hacked (hackers like to mess with churches), get viruses because no one updates the site, and malicious malware is introduced. It’s the norm for sites no one takes care of. A website should have a dedicated member constantly updating. In fact, rule of thumb for websites – if someone goes back more than three times and nothing has changed, they won’t be returning a fourth time.
To the church wanting to replace FIVE church computers for $500 – Impossible. Having worked for churches for over 10 years, I know that the budgeting process is a big one. So make this a priority and be realistic. Technology today is expensive – but it can also allow you to do some pretty incredible things if you buy the RIGHT equipment. If I may be so bold, the right question is, “What can we give our staff to allow them to be successful in their ministries?” Now that is a very different question. Save up for a year. Buy them computers and equipment that will allow them to work in peace. I cannot even begin to explain to you how much TIME is wasted by people having to fix faulty and old computers. Their TIME, your staffs time, is worth you caring about them having the best – not the most expensive – but the best for what they do.
To the church not wanting to buy an “expensive computer” – Price is relative. It’s what the machine can do, and its USER, that should really matter. If you have a person who has no real use for a computer except to email, then yes, a cheap computer might be in your best interest. BUT, and this is important, if you have someone who does video editing, travels extensively, uses social media (for both personal and professional use), does presentations on the road, and lives constantly in need of communication, then the BEST use of your money is to buy them what they NEED.
Let’s talk money – For example – a good mac desktop can run you around $1700 vs a good PC around $700. But the lifespan of a MAC desktop is 3 times that of a PC desktop. So, if after 2 years you need a new PC, and the lifespan of a MAC desktop being 3 times more, then over a 6 year period you will spend $2100 compared to $1700 – not to mention the time to research, buy, upgrade programs, etc. The value is in the product – not the cost. The value is also in the user. I know some pretty amazing guys in ministry who can do amazing things because their church leadership bought into allowing them to use their talents and abilities to Gods glory.
Laptops can be even more expensive because they require travel. But let me say this – what you are really investing in is your people. When you get them, buy them, or allow them to have what they need, you are telling the people that work for you that you believe in them. That you trust them and that you have great expectations for them.
So, all in all, what am I really trying to say?
Give your best, church. Don’t skimp in a world that cares about technology. It may just be a BRAND new outreach for you and your church family.
And speaking as one who works in both technology and ministry, set your ministry staff free to do their best – give them the tools they need. Trust them. Believe in them.
Ultimately, don’t let the only conversation you ever have with your staff about technology be all about money.
You may just reach the world yet.
I love you all.