The 5 W’s Of A Parish Tech Plan

For those who has gotten involved in integrating tech within your parish, you probably know all too well that it can be easy to get overwhelmed and get distracted.  I know for one that I can tend to want to do it all . . . right away.  And my plans at times have been along the lines of ready, fire, aim.

If you’ve found yourself in this scenario I can tell you it’s probably because you forgot to plan.  Planning is key.  And we should plan every tech initiative we undertake whether it be equipment, the web, software, etc.  A well laid plan is always the best path to success and will be much more effective and beneficial for your parish.

So what’s a tech plan look like in a parish?  Many of you may remember back to grade school and the “5 W’s of every good story – Who, What, Where, When, & Why.  These are the same elements that I use to create tech plans myself, but in a slightly different order.  Here’s what that looks like . . .

  1. Why? – You should never venture into doing anything without knowing why you are doing it in the first place.  It’s very easy to say, “We should be on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, . . .”  Then you spend all this time setting these things up and they don’t seem to be effective at all which leads to frustration.  Before using any of these services, know why you are.  For example, you’ve noticed that you’ve come across several instances where it would be great to get a message out to as many parishioners as possible on demand would be really beneficial.  You know that a lot of your parishioners use Facebook and have told you how they keep up to date with a lot of things on there.  In addition, this indicates that mass emailing might serve the parish well also.  So now you have a reason why to look at some tech solutions that might be beneficial and a place to start.
  2. What? – Tech are tools to providing a part of a solution to a problem, overcoming barriers, or doing things more efficiently and/or effectively.  But there are often times many tech products that can do the same or similar things.  So it becomes important to identify what one (or ones) to implement.  For example, we are looking at mass emailing systems for our parish.  There are several services to doing that and we’ve looked at each one considering a number of factors such as cost, reliability, ease of use, and support.  We know why we want to do it and we now had to determine what one would be the best choice for us.  This is also an area where you really have to be aware of your parish and the people.  Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of doing just what you are comfortable with or like personally.  Be open and aware of what will best serve your particular community.
  3. Who? – There is a very big falsehood when it comes to tech and that is thinking that if someone can do one thing with tech then they can do it all.  Just because someone can build a website does not mean they know how to effectively use social media.  But this misconception with tech people is why we often place all of the tech stuff on one person in our parishes.  The truth is that it should be a ministry with multiple people involved.  Identifying those tech talents (i.e. websites, social networking, photography, videography, etc.) and getting those people together to work as a team will produce far more effective tech integration than leaving one person to do it all and try and figure it all out.
  4. When? – It’s real easy to “just do it” with a lot of tech things.  Set up can often times be very quick but this is where one often ends up with the situation of ready, fire, aim.  Set a target date and decide on when maintenance or tasks will take place.  For example, I get updates via email for our parish website but I’ve also designated time with the parish manager to be at the office for an hour or three for him and I to go over some things.  This way we get some real “face time” to discuss updates, issues, ideas, and set some target dates.  Knowing when you want to have things “live” allows you to prioritize projects as well as provides a cushion to test things and put things out right the first time.
  5. Where? – I can do almost everything from home for my parish tech stuff, but I don’t.  When we started I was asked where I wanted to work on things and I thought it would be best to spend a few hours each week at the parish as well as work from home.  Being there keeps me more in touch with what’s going on and allows me to better focus, and I also get the flexibility to make updates quicker by also working at home a little bit each week.  So take time in your plan and identify the where things happen whether it be updates to the website, gathering media from others (i.e. photos), and meeting with your ministry team.

Plan the work and work the plan is always the best approach to accomplishing anything, and we should use the same mindset when venturing into tech initiatives for our parishes.  Identifying the specifics of the elements above will help you create a better and more effective tech plan for your parish.

What methods do you use to plan tech?

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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).
  • Meredith Gould

    I always recommend parishes start with an audit of *all* communications — digital and print– to discover gaps, redundancies, disconnects in style/content/tone/design. I view this as an essential first step before creating any kind of plan, tech or otherwise. Yes, it’s a lot of work but it really does provide great information about what’s working, what isn’t, and what’s need to make everything work better. Glad you asked? Pax max.

    • Brad West

      I really like the idea of an audit, and can see real benefits in making sound decisions. Great point.

  • Angela Sealana

    I’d like to see these 5 w’s fleshed out more, Brad. Thanks for the article.
    I don’t work for a parish, but for an evangelization ministry. I’ve planned sometimes and experimented other times. I’d admit that my bosses and situation give me more freedom than I’d probably have with a parish web presence, though.

    The “Who” aspect is probably the most important to consider. If someone has a strong grasp of communication, evangelization and tech, and they’re humble enough to realize they can’t ‘do it all’ they should be a strong candidate for the job.