In a church, IT is a bit of a funny thing. In most churches that I know of (mine included) it’s treated as an admin function. It doesn’t have the same glamour *cough cough* as some of the upfront ministries. But just because it doesn’t have direct impact on peoples’ lives as a pastoral ministry, doesn’t make it any less important to the body of Christ.
We all know that IT is a vital part of any organisation, the church included. And in the church context we know it’s not about having the best toys, but ensuring that the church is best equipped to serve the community. But it’s much more than that. Unlike commercial organisations, churches are not in competition with each other, in fact we should be building each other up.
This morning was a good case in point for me. I met with a delegation of three from another church, 10 minutes down the road from us, to share our experiences of implementing a new Church Management System. By sharing this and and other IT stories, we can ensure that we are doing things well and helping the church to perform the function that God intended.
With that in mind, if you have any IT roll within a church but have no contact with other IT peeps in other churches you need to ask yourself if you’re really serving the mission of the church to the very best of your ability and gifting. Take a look one of the following websites, and become part of the church IT community.
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.
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.
Now that you have your PCs (or Macs) and a server or NAS, you’ll want to join all this stuff together and get online, and this is where a network comes in. Once upon a time this would have been a complex task, but today it truly is plug’n’play (or in the case of wireless, just “play”).
When you sign up for Internet access with your ISP, you’ll probably have an option to upgrade from the standard bundled modem to a router at a discounted price. This is a pretty good option as most will have four (wired) network ports plus wireless. If you need something with more ports or more features then have a look at products from Netgear or Linksys.