Small Church Technology Realities

Trying to implement technology in a church and staying within a shoe-string budget can be frustrating. When you have more fiscal room, you can spend more time and resources on tweaking things to near perfection. Sure, breakdowns happen no matter the budget. But, low tech budgets have some issues that are more pronounced.

Low Duty Cycle: Lower budgets mean finding cheaper tools. Cheaper often means less refined. It may do a job, but only adequately so. Or it may not be intended to be used in a high-demand environment, and may break under the pressure. For instance, you could by a $200 copier or a $5,000 copier. The more expensive copier will do things faster, and operate under higher demand loads, like 20,000 copies a month. If you try to photocopy 20,000 fliers with a the cheaper machine, it will likely break it.

Low Interoperability: Lower budgets also put enormous constraints on interoperability. What I mean is the ability for things to work together. When we’re trying to make something happen, we are looking at creating a system of parts that accomplish a given task. Smaller budgets cause us to be more creative in finding those parts, often using a part for tasks not actually intended for that part. Sometimes we have to mix manufacturers to get the cheaper parts. When we do these types of things, we introduce potential for things to not work together without some cobbling. When we get it done, it may work amazingly – but the road to get there is often pretty frustrating.

Lack of Redundancy: Lower budgets mean we buy just enough. I’ve worked in organizations with large tech budgets. They often buy hardware and software in bulk, having many spares. When something breaks, they go to the closet and get another one. Lower budgets mean buying just what you need, and relying on those “just enough” quantities to get you through. When something breaks, you can’t just get a team together to fix it before services start. Instead, that particular ministry tool gets shut down for that day.

Humble Pie. Lower budgets mean that you just have to suck it up and realize that things are not going to run perfectly all the time. You have to be ready to say, “shut it down for this service.” You have to write the “I’m sorry, but we won’t be streaming live today” message on your online worship web site. You have to accept, that while awesome and amazing, tech is just a tool – it’s not mission critical – the Holy Spirit doesn’t need it to reach people.

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