Church members must be led through a successful roll out of new technology, whether a church website or a church management system. Learn how I got it wrong and how you can avoid my mistakes.
Whether you’ve invested in a church website or you’re thinking about doing so, the problem that many church communicators encounter is the problem of buy in. Many communicators can tell horror stories of technology launches gone wrong. I’m no exception.
How I bombed my first technology launch.
When I first became the executive pastor of The Gathering Church in Ashe County, NC, I was faced with a communication problem. Our church was a small but growing church plant, and communications needs started growing beyond the typical “reply all to the email” method of sharing news and planning events.
As I looked into options, I decided that Realm from ACS Technologies would be a good match for a church of our size. It was inexpensive, enabled communication between members and groups, and added functionality like tracking contributions and enabling online giving.
We signed up for the platform, imported our church database, set up our groups, created a training document, and planned to launch the platform at our next congregational meeting.
The day of the meeting arrived and I confidently took the stage to walk people through the features of the platform and show them how to get started with interacting with one another on Realm.
As I gave our people the tour, I started to hear comments from people in the congregation.
“How is this better than email?” “I need to sign up for something else? I already have ten things to sign into. I don’t need another.” “I’m not using that.”
Our Realm rollout was an epic fail. I walked away from that meeting frustrated and discouraged and decided that I would never try to roll out an idea like that again.
Where did our roll out go wrong?
Reflecting on the roll out over the following months, I identified several areas where I could have done a better job rolling out the tool.
- As a new leader, did I have the leadership influence to successfully launch a new initiative?
- Had I properly cast vision for why using Realm would be important, and how it would make our members’ lives better?
- Did we even need it? Was there a compelling need for using the tool at that stage of our congregation?
Here are some ways that we have gotten through some of the push back and have since gotten our congregation active in using Realm.
1. Make sure that you have the influence to launch a digital initiative.
If you are a new leader in your church, you may not have the clout to lead people through such a transition. You may need to rely on a leader who has been serving the congregation longer than you have and who has built the trust that you need, but you’re still building.
2. Clearly demonstrate how the new tool will make your members’ lives better.
I didn’t demonstrate how Realm would make our people’s lives better. Their comments demonstrated that they didn’t see the tool as a great enough improvement over their existing communication tools to warrant the change. Why switch to Realm when they can continue using email or Facebook to communicate and coordinate events?
As the leader, you may see the need coming in the future as your church grows, but your people aren’t thinking six months down the road; they’re more concerned with today. Help your congregation navigate the need and emphasize how the tool will be genuinely better than the way that they are doing it now.
Will it save time? Eliminate confusion? Streamline processes?
3. Give your members a good reason to use the new tool.
People generally don’t like to make change until it is absolutely necessary. Take advantage of that tendency and make it necessary for them to use your new tool.
The way that we handled this in our congregation was to train our leaders to make resources available exclusively through Realm. Need a study guide for your current small group lesson? Find it on our Realm group. Looking for your annual giving statements? Find them on Realm.
By making it necessary for people to use the platform to find what they need and being consistent in doing so, you train your people to use the tool and encourage engagement.
How have you navigated a challenging technology roll out?
What challenges have you encountered? How did you overcome them? Weigh in using the comments below.