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When Bill Davis proposed giving his church a computer, everyone was ecstatic. The trustees, the financial secretary, the treasurer, the Sunday school superintendent, and the office secretary-not to mention the pastor-looked forward to entering the computer age. The computer would help them save time and energy, and make their ministries more effective.
A few months later, the computer sits to one side in the church office, largely unused.
This story, though hypothetical, fairly represents many situations I've seen as a consultant offering computer services to churches and other nonprofit organizations. In their eagerness to become computerized, some churches have not examined closely the obstacles they'll need to overcome before a computer will genuinely help them.
Here are four "bugs" that I've found need to be worked out of the system.
Determining what the computer will do
Acquiring a computer is a simple, three-step process:
1. determine what you want a computer to accomplish;
2. find the software programs that do those jobs;
3. buy the computer that runs that software
Problems arise, however, whenever a church doesn't spend enough time on step one. Determining what specific jobs the church computer will do is most important; it's the starting point.
I recommend establishing a committee of three or four members familiar with church activities to delve into what specifically the church needs a computer to do. It's important to remember a computer is nothing more than a machine-one of many office tools to organize the administrative functions of a church.
Here are some tasks churches have chosen to handle with a computer:
-updating membership and mailing lists (In addition to name, address, and home phone number, such a list could indicate who in the family is a member, dates they joined, dates they were baptized, birth dates, wedding anniversary, occupations and office phone numbers, children's names and birthdays, and so on.)
-storing standard letters and documents such as the ...