It's no secret for many of us leading in the local church that we're dealing with taking our folks into uncharted waters. We've waded deep into a world that is almost exclusively digital. The way we get our news, pay our bills, watch movies, book our Disney trips, and more has passed from a person to a smartphone. A lot of us are serving in churches that have been slower to adapt to the changes and the influx of new tech. For every cutting-edge church with a digital campus and an app, there are hundreds who still own an overhead projector or a book of clip art.
The reality is two-fold: 1) We've been here before, and 2) We'll be here again. Slate has an article talking about the attitude shift that happens every time a major advancement happens. Radio was seen as mind-numbing, television was seen as a threat, even newspapers were feared because news would come from them rather than the pulpit. And all of this is before iPhones, Facebook, and cable television.
This is especially for those of us who are younger serving in a church. We fight an internal struggle between being frustrated with the slow pace and a desire to catch our churches up. I'll hear younger ministry leaders expressing frustration at older church members who refuse to adapt or who are slow to embrace a digital newsletter rather than a mailing.
Relax. Here's a few things you can do to lead wisely and lead well.
Don't Throw Too Much At Once - Whenever we want to introduce new tech or adapt emerging platforms in our worship or administration in the church, we can't expect everyone to jump on board immediately to everything. I've learned the hard way that things that happen slower and more intentional are more likely to succeed than things shoved down people's throats. One thing that's been helpful for me has been to list out the number of Presidents, the world history, the new things that have come that some of our senior saints have seen in their lifetime. They watched a man land on the moon. They saw JFK assassinated. They lived through the Cold War.
Don't Ridicule - This is an appeal more to our basic decency than anything else. Just because someone in your church, whether they're old or young, is unwilling to embrace some new tech or adapt a new platform is not reflective of their intelligence or walk with Jesus. Part of pastoring well is shepherding well, and we can't in one breath say we love our people and in the other make fun of them.
Coach and Guide - I'm 36 and I need to be coached often on new things from my 22 year old worship leader or from the teenagers in our church. Things that come naturally to them are different to this Xennial. If your church is building an app, walk people through it. If you're subscribing to something like RightNow Media, host an orientation. Take extra time to train your AV crew so they know how to work the new system. It's worth it. And you never know, you might get emoji texts from people you never expected.
Demonstrate Efficiency - Think about it, if your church has a monthly newsletter and you're sending it by mail to 150 homes, that's an annual cost of $882. What if that could be turned into $0 by doing a digital newsletter produced on Publisher or MailChimp or Constant Contact? That's nearly $1000 that can be reinvested in ministry. How much are you paying each year in checks? Would direct deposit be cheaper? If anything is consistent across churches, denominations, age brackets, and theology: we all like to save money and time. Point that out. Sell the advantage. Key in on the savings of both time and money for a ministry. Our church has started doing a lot of purchases on Amazon instead of tracking down stores. With Prime shipping, we're saving money over the course of the year getting needed supplies for our office.
Walk Slowly - Nothing will be transformed overnight. As a leader, you have to walk slowly on introducing new changes, new technology, and you have to be willing to eat a lot of pie. The people resistant to changes and adapting new tech aren't anti-technology, they've gotten through their entire life without this and they may not see the need for it now. I've seen this when churches talk about online bill payments. It's cheaper and easier to do electronic payments, but for some they lived with written checks and licking stamps. It's not bad, it's what they know.
How have you led to embracing new technology or adapting new platforms?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.