Is there a doctor in the house? – A supply and demand problem with IT in the church.

Stethoscope on a computer keyboardIs there a doctor in the house?  Being in church IT for the past 14 years sometime feels like playing doctor.  You see ministries that need help, you know there are things that you could prescribe to them as solutions that would help them.  At the same time, you also know that you only have enough medicine available to help some of them.   Others will have to wait and suffer.  It’s a supply and demand problem.  You want to increase supply, but you can’t.  You might also want to limit demand, but you can’t do that either, and probably don’t want to.  Demand means ministries are happening.  So the sick will go and find other medicines to help them (and it might work for a while), but ultimately might just make them sicker.

I have wrestled with this for years.  Over the last 3 years, I’ve only seen this opportunity increase, especially as more and more people are consumers of IT.  (see this article for a good summary of the consumerization of IT in the church)  As a manager of IT (or a DOER of IT) you probably enjoy dreaming, at least a little bit, about how every ministry at your church could be better.  Many of us are maximizers and futurists.  We dream about what the future could be, and how we can use our training to help others get there.

However, many church leaders don’t understand the value that IT can bring to the organization.  They often like us… mostly because we provided the shiny new laptop they are using, and we can fix their printer every week when they forget to load paper in it.  (kidding…somewhat).  What they don’t understand is that their church is far less effective than they know.  People are leaving and no one knows why.  People want to serve, but have gotten frustrated finding a place of service and have given up.  People want to be in a small group, but don’t know how to find one.  The membership process drops people through the cracks. We want to plant a new campus, but we don’t know where people actually live.   The list goes on.

We want to help.  We have the medicine.  We want to dispense it.  But let’s be honest…. we want to help everyone.  And we can’t.  And it’s hard.  When you help everyone equally, you end up helping no one.  Prioritization becomes very important.

So what are some solutions?  Can we outsource?  Somewhat yes but that’s expensive medicine in many cases.  Can we use volunteers?  Also yes, but you will need a significant season where you are investing in people and getting very few tasks done.  It’s a great model, once you get the balls rolling (and then work to sustain momentum with volunteers).  Add staff?  An option if you can get approval AND find talented people who have a passion for Kingdom work (and often the pay cut that comes with that decision)

How are you doing with the issue of supply and demand in your church?  What is the most effective way you have seen to create organizational change from the bottom up?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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