About 12 years ago, I left my old church. The church where I had grown up. There church where I had served as a Sunday School teacher (briefly). The church where I served as the audio guy (for close to an eternity). The church where I had edited our weekly new bulletin. There church where I had been a youth leader. The church where I had been a deacon. I left. I needed a change. So I left.
I had good intentions of finding a new church. I had even worked out a methodology as to how I would go about it. Visiting and revisiting a number of churches and ranking them according to a number of factors. Well that was the intention anyway. Sundays came and went, and week after week I didn’t go anywhere. My problem is that I hadn’t researched the start times so I had no idea what time to go (these were before the day of every church having a website).
One Sunday I woke up with a cold. A proper cold, not a bit of runny nose. I felt terrible. Truly truly terrible. Every cell in my body was under siege and, as any man with a man-cold will tell you, I just wanted my body to quickly succumb to the virus so that I could eternally rest-in-peace. It was that Sunday, when I woke, that I said to myself “today is the day, I must go to church”. There was one church who’s starting time I knew, they were about 15mins drive away and I had about 15mins to get there. I didn’t receive miraculous healing from my man-cold that day, but something deep inside me felt right. That was 12 years ago, and aside from holidays (and other special circumstances), I’ve been there pretty much every Sunday since.
This week I have the flu, along with my wife. So today (Sunday) with various body parts aching and sore, I was there at church. As we sung our worship songs, something happened. No, not miraculous healing, but as I focused on God, I no longer felt the effects of my disease. It was very appropriate that one of todays songs was Healer (Hillsong)
Earlier in March Saddleback Church hosted the National (US) Church IT RoundTable. As some of you may know I’ve been trying to get a local Victorian/Australian chapter of the CITRT up’n’running and I would have loved to be there. Anyway, for those who don’t know Saddleback is one of the largest churches in the US and it’s Pastor, Rick Warren one of the most influential church leaders in that country (he lead the prayer at President Obama’s inauguration and is the author of the best selling The Purpose Driven Life).
The delegates at the CITRT had a nice surprise when Pastor Rick Warren made an unscheduled visit to speak about technology and the mission of the church. Now we can all benefit from from his drop-in visit, as the CITRT guys have put the video online.
Check it out here: www.citrt.org
Oh, and if you want to know what Bad Girls In Heat have to do with all this, watch all the way through to the Q&A at the end.
For a great deconstruction of the Pastor Rick’s talk (with no mention of the Bad Girls In Heat… c’mon Steve, what’s with that?) head over to Steve Fogg’s Clear & Simple blog.
Whether your church has 50 or 5000 people, you need to store information about them. At the very least that information is their address and phone number, in a larger scenario it would extend to group involvement, rosters, donations, attendance etc. In the olden days (BC – before computers) this was done on index cards and the like. Today a small church may maintain a list of people in an Excel spreadsheet. These are all tools, and as the church becomes more and more tech savvy the range of tools on offer is ever expanding.
This post is not meant to be a review as I haven’t seen all of these products firsthand, but it’s merely a pointer to some of the tools that are out there and are suitable to Aussie churches.
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One the greatest problems doing IT in a church office is that it’s very easy to feel that you’re operating in a vacuum. Even in a larger church like Crossway where I have over 150 users on our system, I’m still the Lone Ranger (although I do have a casual Tonto who does come in about 1.5 days a week). So it’s very easy to get lost in the forest and see only trees.
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So, what are the other questions that you may have? I had a think about a few of them, but I’m sure there are more. If you have a question you’d like to ask post it in the comments
What about Macs?
Sure, if you want Macs go for it. I personally don’t have a lot of experience with them, but there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t use them. The price differential is getting smaller every day and Apple make a seriously machine.
Can my pastor (minister/priest) get his email on his/her iPhone?
Yes. Just about everyone seems to have a iPhone these days and it seems to me that clergy love technology. If you’re using Google Apps, then setting the iPhone up to access Gmail is a walk in the park. Similarly if you using MS Exchange with Outlook Web Access you should be able to set it up with your eyes closed.
Can you recommend any other free software?
I sure can. For CD/DVD burning have a look at ImgBurn, and for image editing you can’t go past Paint.NET.
The great stalwart of office apps is MS Office and with Office 2010 just around the corner I would always recommend it. However there are alternatives. If you’ve already signed up with Google Apps as your email solution then you’ve already got full access to Google Docs. But if you want to run things down on your PC and like the warm-fuzzy feeling of having your files on your harddisk (or NAS), but you don’t have a single red-cent left then you could always have a look at OpenOffice.
If you’ve decided to you run your own server and you have sufficient resources and know-how you could run your own email server. Alternatively you could make it somebody else’s problem buy using a “cloud” service such as Office Live (limited locations, not AU) or Google Apps. A nearby church with about a dozen people in the office recently switched from using MS Exchange to using Google, and they love it. The great thing about these services is that you can use your own domain, so you can be email@example.com rather than firstname.lastname@example.org.