by Brad Hill
The work of ministry depends on a dedicated and passionate group of paid AND unpaid people. God created us all with different skills and gifts, so it’s worth exploring a handful of characteristics that you should strive for in your IT team.
- They have solid skills and experience
From system design to accounting to tech/media to external communications, the work of church IT can be demanding. It’s important that your IT volunteer has an understanding of tools and technologies so that your systems support your ministry goals. While intimate knowledge of obscure networking topics may not be necessary, a good understanding of a wide range of software and hardware will be an invaluable tool in this role. Many times, the effective church IT volunteer is also immersed in technology as part of his or her Monday-Friday vocation.
- They have time
We’re all busy, and that includes your volunteers! Your time requirements should be realistic, but it’s also important to set realistic expectations. What kind of response time do you need from your IT volunteer? When you set deadlines on projects, are those fixed? Perhaps the most common phrase uttered by disheartened executive pastors about their IT volunteers is “we just couldn’t consistently get his help/he was too busy.”
- They are passionate
In today’s digital ministry climate, IT must have a seat at the ministry strategy table. In order for this to work, your IT volunteers need to have full buy-in and passion for your ministry goals. When they do, they’ll use creativity and fresh ideas to execute the goals with the best technology solutions available. When they don’t, they’ll simply be going through the motions, and they may even become an impediment to forward progress.
- They have disciplines and patterns of spiritual growth and maturity in their life
Technology is not evil. However, it can be an idol. It can also be the source of pride, bitterness and self-righteousness. (So basically, the same sins that we all face on a daily basis!) Ensure that your IT volunteer is on a solid path spiritually and takes the time to grow, hold him/herself accountable, and regularly submits to a check-in (just as you would require with any of your other ministry staff).
- They are teachable and open to other ideas
More about pride. It’s easy to develop tunnel vision in IT. After all… my way works and I can hold it all together, so why do I need to consider or listen to someone else’s input? This thinking is dangerous. Just as in life, having a humble and teachable spirit is a critical part of succeeding as an IT volunteer. This doesn’t mean that you are a doormat or that you never have your own ideas. It means that you are open and genuinely interested in considering the input of your users, your leaders and other stakeholders in order to arrive at the best solution.
- They have a proven track record of success
Over time, an IT volunteer should have a great record of “wins”. Sometimes a “win” is simply going six months without a serious outage. (Boring is sometimes good when it comes to IT.) We don’t expect perfection, but we do want to see that our IT volunteer is adding value and moving us forward. Pointing to these successes is helpful in planning future projects and convincing leadership that the IT budget is being spent wisely.
- They show a willingness to delegate
“I want it done right, so I have to do it myself.” Nearly every leader has struggled with this one. In IT, this is all too common because the issues can be complex, training takes a while, and systems are often poorly documented. When all of the key knowledge is stored between the ears of your IT volunteer, it elevates your risk and limits your growth potential. An effective IT volunteer is continually looking for ways to share the load, delegate tasks with others, and transfer knowledge. This ensures continuity, enables growth, and makes your IT infrastructure more scalable.
- They share the spotlight
Generally speaking, the best IT volunteers work in the background. You’ll know they’re doing a great job when things are just working well and you don’t even have to think about your technology. Major technology projects (e.g. switching to a new database, implementing giving kiosks, connecting campuses, etc.,) are run in a collaborative, team-based manner. The needs of users and stakeholders are considered early and often, and key success factors are used to gauge success.
- They compare notes with other church IT folks and glean best practices
What are other churches doing with technology? How have they solved challenges similar to the ones we are facing? These questions (and more) are the reasons that church tech communities exist. You should encourage, or even require, that your IT volunteers participate in one or more of these groups. Pay for their membership, if necessary. Some of these groups meet physically, and nearly all of them have an online community to share ideas and best practices. Check sources like Church IT Roundtable, or your church database vendor for user community groups, regional workshops or other ways to connect with IT minds from other congregations. The ideas and wisdom shared here will benefit your church and the Kingdom.
What other things do you look for in your IT volunteers?