“Then David gave to his son Solomon the pattern of the portico and of the building itself, with its storerooms, its upper rooms and inner chambers, and the room with the propitiatory.” (1 Chronicles 28:11)
Technology and it’s uses within our parishes can be confusing. It is often approached from what we should do, but it makes better sense when we begin to understand why. It is from there that we can begin to bring the pieces together to formulate a plan that provides real benefits.
The first thing to realize is what technology is. Plain and simple, technologies are tools whether it be computers, mobiles devices, websites, blogs, social media, or whatever. Like any tools they exist to allow us to do things more efficiently, effectively, and provide better results. And all of those technology tools serve different purposes. Just as the mason and his chisel would have been nothing without the architect and his plans when constructing the Temple, technologies on their own rarely result in anything beneficial. Businesses get this wrong everyday. They rush to do what they think will provide the biggest payoff and get frustrated over the lack of results. We see the same thing in our parishes at times when it comes to technology. It all starts with knowing what you want to accomplish, putting the right people in place, and investing in the appropriate technology that will get you the result you want. Without a good plan that has real purpose, you could end up with waste.
Technology as tools are primarily used within an organization to improve/enhance one, several, or all of the following:
- Administrative tasks
- Provide services
- Reduce costs
Putting a technology plan together within your parish should look something like this:
- Know what it is you wish to accomplish. This could be a problem or barriers you keep encountering. Maybe it’s lack of money for certain programs. We never encounter that, right? Whatever it is. Look for something you want to improve.
- Match up the tech tool that would provide you with a solution to that issue.
- Identify who in your parish can put this tech solution in place. You shouldn’t have to pay someone for this either. Make it a ministry and use volunteers. We’re all a community and many are often looking for ways to use their talents for the Church.
- Meet and identify what it is you wish to accomplish. Set some goals. And get to work.
- Set a time to follow up to see if you accomplish what you set out to, and identify any barriers which held you back. Then correct those.
Let’s look at a very simple example. Your office person is spending a lot of time each week constructing Liturgical Ministry schedules, printing them, and mailing them out. You’ve noticed toner/ink costs are getting high and postage is going up. You tried just hanging the schedules on a bulletin board, but noticed people were complaining it was an inconvenience or they forgot to write the schedule down. It’s a problem. You don’t want to spend the money on printing and mailing anymore, but you don’t want to inconvenience anyone either. What do you do?
Well, you have a website. You got it because they told you that your parish should have a website. So you got one. Bill built it, and basically it sits there like a colorful yellow pages ad on the internet. So you go to Bill and ask him if there is a way to put those schedules easily online on the website. Bill knows a little about websites and knows Phil in the parish who has more experience online scheduling. Bill, Phil, and the Pastor meet to discuss the issue. Phil sees the problem and knows of a free system to easily create multiple online calendars that can be easily embedded on the website. Phil also says the other great benefit is that the office person can easily enter the information online in the calendars for each ministry schedule and that would automatically update the website. Ministry participants can then simply visit the website each week to get their schedule. Likewise, the office person could simply print the calendar and get the schedule to anyone who doesn’t have internet access. They agree to have it up and running in a week. The office person trained within two weeks, and everyone notified within three as to the new place to get their schedule online. Everyone is happy. Administrative tasks have been made easier. Communication has been improved. You have provided better services to your parishioners. And costs of printing and mailing have gone down.
You can follow this format for a lot of things. What’s the primary source of getting information out to parishioners in our parishes? The bulletin, right? Now I am not advocating doing away with the bulletin. There are many sacred things to us Catholics, and the bulletin is one of them. But the paper bulletin is expensive, time consuming, and really inefficient today. That’s why we have things like email and social networking (i.e. Facebook pages). These tech tools alleviate the barriers to getting information out to our parishioners in much more efficient, effective, and far less costly ways. That’s their purpose and benefits. Volunteers from your new ministry could be assigned to handle the social networking and social media items (i.e. video and photos).
So what would you like to do better at your parish? What tech tools could do that for you and your parishioners?