10 Things Every Church, Synagogue or Mosque Leader Should Know About Nonprofit Tech

Last Friday our scrappy little team held the first ever ‘Congregations 2.0‘ training in New York City. Its got me thinking about what exactly what the nptech community should saying when we help congregations. Maybe this:

1.  In many nonprofit settings, the person who knows the most about technology is often least able to drive technology related change. The gap between power and expertise can cost your congregation years of miss opportunities and hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased costs.  This problem has a cure: treat your techie like an attorney or accountant, someone who owns specialized knowledge you can’t replicate by ‘paying attention.’

2. The most important task your executive director or spiritual leader needs to learn is how to budget for, select and manage consultants and vendors that support your congregation’s communications. If this isn’t a specialty you want to acquire, then have someone else do it – and grant them the appropriate authority.

3. One of the biggest obstacles congregations face when seeking technological improvements has to do with resistance from staff, lay leaders and congregants. Do NOT treat technical innovations as a purely administrative matter if they involve any sort of communications tools.

4. The online communications tools and other technical improvements to congregational work fall squarely within the field of ‘nptech’ (nonprofit technology.) There are denomination and faith specific vendors, consulting firms and nonprofits as well; but generally speaking they lag behind nptech as a field, because congregations tend to move more slowly.

5. Online communications tools can be transformative. Social media is making the distinction between our private and professional lives less clear and the cost in time and money for each instance of engagement is dropping. All of these trends are upending established power structures, including the ones operating implicitly or explicitly in your congregation. Get in front of this process instead of lagging behind.

6. Congregations were once a place where spiritual and community services were provided to congregants. Today they are becoming containers for the energy and passion of congregants (and other community members). Technology can help enable that transformation.

7. The adoption of new technology and communications systems can be overwhelming and expensive, especially if you aren’t doing it right. The appropriate technology for your congregation will not be overwhelming or unbearably costly – by definition.

8. The cost of technology has been coming down, along with ease of use. But the complexity of using technology for communications in general has been going up. When you spend on software, consider not only training costs but strategy consulting.

9. New York City does not have a strong ‘church-tech’ community.  That’s crazy given the sheer number of churches, synagogues, mosques, seminaries and other religious organizations in our city. Do what you can to help build and participate in this community.

10.  I’m a fan of the United Church of Christ Campaign that stresses: ‘we are listening to a still speaking God.’ Of course, God isn’t a social media strategist, or he’d be told to ramp up the listening. The emphasis on broadcasting is understandable, but listening is a more powerful, if under-employed skill set. Ask your techie: how can we listen better to our community?

What do you think?