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IT and the Church

By kj7gs ·
I've had a chance to get several opinions on the value of information technology and systems analysis & design in the church, and it seems that the pastoral side of the fence seems to be (for the most part) negative and almost fearful about "technology creep" and marketing principles. This seems to bump up against outreach ministries and providing for "felt needs" in the community. And when I hear the altar call, I hear an appeal to the folks that came in for curiosity's sake, and that by definition means that marketing and the entire IT world around it, must be of some value to the church!

I also read an article in the September 2003 issue of Forbes magazine that seemed to support a merger of clergy and computer, looking at pastors and how they run their not-for-profit organizations in the same way that CEOs look at their goals of profits. To me they just aren't that much different from each other. I think that pastors would do well to check out the world of information technology as a tool, and only a tool, and not even a scary one at that, to vastly improve what they have to offer for the world.

Without getting into individual religious views, I'd like to get some of your opinions (and hopefully a validation) of the value of corporate IT practices as applied to ministry as a whole. Thanks! -- Don

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Marketing God

by gralfus In reply to IT and the Church

Your last paragraph speaks volumes about the reason for the division you are sensing. It is the difference between a packaged product and personal conviction.

Many people feel that Christianity has been replaced with a slick presentation based on marketing concepts, rather than a personal confrontation with the Creator of the universe. Marketing Jesus is a *huge* business that many get rich from. But frankly it makes me angry to the point of reaching for the "whip of cords" to drive out the marketing teams. Personal experience with God has become replaced with special effects and emotional manipulation.

Basic IT in the form of PA systems and videos are definitely useful. But when we sanitize and package the cross as something to make you "skinny, rich, and good looking", we rob it of its scandal, power, and truth. It is inherently bloody, divisive, and offensive (and intentionally so).

In this era of megachurches, some of us are leaving the hype and manipulation, and meeting with just a few others in homes so we can try again to touch God. Then we take from that experience and give it to others. That is how the faith spread over the known world before the days of IT. That is how the underground persecuted church still works today.

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IT can still help with that!

by kj7gs In reply to Marketing God

To me, "slick presentations" and getting rich off of Jesus is simply misuse of tools that still have enormous potential in attracting people who might not otherwise attend a believing fellowship. Even home meetings can be a result of careful analysis of improvement opportunities within a church setting. And once again you have IT to help with that -- surveys of what the "customers" want, web sites to increase communication between members, prospective members, laity, and clergy, databases to track attendance figures, etc. all of which has nothing to do with profit and everything to do with hearts and minds and needs.

Marketing doesn't have to be a system of "indulgences" to attract the unregenerate, who won't be showing up for worship anyway. It can, however, attract the curious to a place that can provide for the missing spaces in their lives, yes?

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Use and misuse

by gralfus In reply to IT can still help with th ...

Dispersal and gathering of information is the primary purpose of IT, and as such has value. For example, I run a website for a missionary to distribute recordings and information. A church website can be useful for providing information about a gathering, beliefs, and driving directions. Email is useful for basic communications. IT is just a tool.

Home churches don't generally advertise, since they are based on individuals actually talking with other folks, instead of marketing to people's desires. Keeping databases of attendance aren't really important in this regard, since they aren't looking for non-profit status and budgeting with the aim of getting property and putting up a building.

I guess my objection is to the marketed concept that the church is here to be the daycare / support group / entertainment center for people, instead of a spiritual body. You can definitely get more bodies in the building by making things more comfortable and providing services, but that isn't necessarily a good idea spiritually. I think that is why some pastors are resistant to using certain forms of IT.

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More use than misuse?

by kj7gs In reply to Use and misuse

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe pastors are generally held accountable to "parent" church governing bodies and professional circles that require attendance and perhaps counseling and visitation figures, which is again why I'm thinking that the world of ministry needs to "lighten up" a little bit. Marketing doesn't have to be ads like "drop your kids off and go get breakfast -- we'll watch 'em for ya for free" but even that is a leadership decision that a pastor has a right to make. Even if ecclesiastical reporting officials demand a "WWJD" focus on daycare/support group/entertainment centers for a community, it's not IT's fault. It's called outreach, human decisions supported by IT which becomes one cog in an entire system (there's that word again) that computers and technology can support. So what if there is a parallel to the corporate world?

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Did you see the simpsons episode?

by Dr Dij In reply to Marketing God

where homer burns down the local church accidently with a toy rocket, and burns comes to the rescue, as a 'for profit' remaking the church with ad agencies putting ads everywhere (and reclining individual pews).

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I should have...

by kj7gs In reply to Did you see the simpsons ...

Know I haven't seen that episode, but it would have been entertaining to say the least.

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Name of episode?

by ciacob In reply to Did you see the simpsons ...

You don't know what the name of that episode was do you? I'd love to share that with a few friends....

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