Fear Not: Objections To Tech In Parishes

Life can move quicklyIf you have felt lately like the world is turning into the “Jetsons” and moving at blazing speeds, you’re not alone.  Many feel that way.  And it can be kind of scary because we are doing things today in huge contrasts to what we are used to.  We take a picture somewhere and share it with hundreds of our friends in seconds.  We’re visiting an area and tap an app on our phone that provides us with the surrounding restaurants and links to a satellite map with directions.  Someone tells us about a great new book and we find it on our ereader, download it, and are reading within minutes.  Or we watch as a disaster unfolds half way around the globe and are responding within minutes with donations and action.  The list goes on.

People naturally get hesitant to these amazing advances.  But as you look at each, there are huge benefits.  When it comes to the church environment, let’s face it . . . as Catholics we’re about tradition.  And we should be firm about that for many things that are sacred to us.  But we also need to face the fact that as Catholics, we hold some things “sacred” that hold us back today.  Some may find this funny (as  I do), you try and mess with the bulletin or bingo in any Catholic parish and see what happens.  When you talk of fundraisers, what’s the first thing that comes up?  The “bazaar” or something to that effect when we should be looking at new avenues available.  We talk about money problems, and what solution do we come up with?  Turn the lights out or turn the air conditioning down when we should be talking tech solutions for really reducing expenses.  Actually, we’re not alone in this either.  I am a manager for a living and plenty of business people go to the same things and hold firm on them as solutions.  Again, technologies are tools that provide solutions and we need to be more serious about looking to those tech options as solutions in our parishes rather then just viewing them as “toys” (which is often the case).  Presenting this is not an easy task, believe me.  So what are some common objections and how do you overcome them?

  1. I don’t understand. I had a great literature professor in college that said, “You may read things in here that you don’t like.  That’s ok.  Your reason can not be ‘I don’t understand it’.  You’ll have to tell me what you don’t understand, and then we’ll help you understand.”  Tech proposals can be confusing for many people.  The best approach is to relate to things others understand in common everyday life, and avoid the techie types of words.  Isn’t this exactly what Jesus did when teaching about faith?  Father and son are relationship terms we understand.  Attaching a file to an email is exactly the same as paperclipping it to a letter and putting it in the mailbox.  Hence the reason that the attachment icon is often a paperclip.
  2. Show the real benefit in terms of numbers. The biggest question to any tech proposal is “why”?  If the answer is “because”, I guarantee you will get no where.  Let’s take online donations for example.  Why do this?  Well, if you are spending a full week each year preparing tax recaps for parishioners and spending $x to mail them out . . . how about the means to reduce that down to maybe a day since people can access their own statements and slashing that mailing fee by 90%?  Or the fact that people tend to donate more when they can do it electronically and are better able to budget which can result in weekly donations increasing by 10%?  Now it’s about benefits and results rather than the scary tech stuff.
  3. We’ve always done it this way. I personally love this one.  This is about change, and change is not something always easily accepted.  Here’s the lesson I learned a while ago and accepted when it comes to change . . . it’s the only constant in life.  St. Paul obviously loved to write.  His letters are in our New Testament.  What do you think St. Paul would have thought about having email at his disposal?  I personally think he would have loved it and many people would have gotten a ton of emails from him everyday.  Or if someone would have introduced a word processor to St. Jerome who spent 35 years in the desert translating all of those texts into the Vulgate?
  4. I don’t have time to learn that stuff. Now what’s the biggest thing people complain about not having?  Time!  What do tech tools provide?  Solutions that keep you better organized and get you . . . more time!  If you spend 2 hours learning something that frees up 5 hours every week for you, you have just gained 260 hours a year from 2 hours invested in learning.  For example, people love those paper planners.  First, they cost money.  Second, they take more time planning using one.  Third, they are messy especially when someone’s contact information or a date changes.  Online calendars and contact managers are quick and often times free.  Planning becomes far less time consuming, and when used properly today you can enter once and the information is updated where ever else you access it (i.e. smart phone, PC, etc.).
  5. We don’t have the money for that. Granted, I agree that if you spend money on any technology tool that does not reduce costs and pay for itself . . . you’ve made the wrong choice.  Many of the tech solutions you can implement would probably cost you nothing upfront because you already have them but are just not using them effectively (i.e. computers, internet access, etc.).  Email and attachments rather than faxing and mailing.  Online calendars rather than printing.  So forth and so on.  If you do purchase new equipment or software, it should always pay for itself within the first year through savings elsewhere or it’s not worth it.  Investment compared to expense.  See what the realistic savings is, the long term benefits, and then make the purchase that is the best investment.  A scanner that allows you to create digital PDF copies of documents and forms to email or place on the website reduces printing and mailing costs considerably over time and is a great investment.  For example, if your are spending $100/month on mailing and/or printing and faxing supplies . . . that is $1200/year.  If you reduce that by 90%, you’ve just reduced that cost down to $120 and saved $1080 for the year through use of email and scanned documents.  Multiply that times 5 years going forward and that’s $5400.  You can’t afford NOT to look at tech solutions.

The thing to truly keep in mind is that technology are tools to provide solutions for a parish.  At the local parish level they do not have to be all that complex to have real payoffs.  Email and online document storage is so common place that you can provide it for free through solutions like Google Apps.  Websites do not have to be expensive and many website solutions will only cost you the price of a domain name per year which is around $10.  Training and education is not difficult when you put the right small group of volunteers in place (which I’ll talk about in an upcoming post).  That are too many important things our parishes need to do, and we can’t afford to waste valuable resources on frivolous expenses especially when the solutions for eliminating them are right in front of us.

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Author:Brad West

I live in Palm Coast, FL with my family and have assisted my local parish with our website and communications. Our parishes today can benefit a great deal from technology. Whether it's improving communications, community building, evangelizing, business operations, and much more; we have the tools today. To help provide some direction and advice to parishes and parishioners, I wrote and published an eBook titled "The Connected Church" which is available through Barnes and Noble (Nooks and Nook apps) as well as Amazon (Kindle and Kindle apps).