Avoid Willow Envy

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

I’d like to share one of the many insights I received from attending the recent WFX conference in Charlotte.

The insight arose from what appears to be a growing problem for smaller churches: a problem which I will refer to as Willow Envy.

In speaking with Daryl Cripe, Senior Director of Production of Grace Community Church in Noblesville Indiana after his panel discussion on Tech Strategies for Small Churches, it became clear that the comparison of a small church to a large church can be damaging if certain things aren’t kept in perspective.

Daryl mentioned a number of instances where he has been asked questions by leaders of smaller churches (500 seats and under) about the technology that Grace uses. Grace Community is a mega-church. They use the appropriate technical equipment to fit their size. Consistently, church leadership of these smaller churches ask him not how Grace grew from a small church to a large church, they ask to know the model numbers of the gear Grace is using. Daryl also relayed stories of some church leaders going as far as making entire equipment lists based on a mega-church’s product arsenal in order to bring it back to their modest, 200 – 300 seat facility to start making purchases.

The reality is: technology does not directly equal more congregants, nor does technology make your church any more relevant. To paraphrase Daryl’s words, your church is not less important if you are not using the latest and biggest technology. You are not ‘less of’ a good Technical Director if you cannot afford or get approval for what you see in a magazine or at a different church.

It was brought up during Daryl’s panel discussion that publications like TFWM offer information on products that may not fit every church’s scenario. Admittedly, some of the gear featured in the new products section have a certain “drool” factor: as in a resounding appeal to tech-heads who drool over the prospect of having new toys to play with. However, it is not to say that all of these products are appropriate to where every house of worship is right now in their tech upgrade.

Another lesson to come out of the insight was: play to your strengths. What does your church do extremely well? The purchases you make should reinforce the strengths you have. One size does not fit all when it comes to technology purchases. There is no magical solution that can be reached through simply buying gear. Technology, as we all know, is meant to enhance and facilitate, not overshadow and distract.

That being said, every mega-church started out small. They played to their strengths. The technology reinforced their services and the successful ministries that were in place, and the expansion happened gradually, not immediately.

Perhaps a critical process to undergo for your leadership teams and volunteers is to determine where you are in your technical upgrade process. What infrastructure needs immediate attention? What is your congregation asking for? What technology will best reinforce your strengths?

Essentially, what works for a mega-church may not work for you. It is easy to get distracted by paying too much attention to what the big facilities are using. Perhaps this energy could be better spent focusing on what best defines the needs of your own facility. At the same time, keep your sights set on realistic goals. If your church wants to be as big a church as Willow Creek someday, be confident that it is possible, but don’t expect that it will happen by simply buying the same gear they have. Your church can still aspire to reach as many people as Willow Creek without having to undergo variations of “Willow Envy”.

Kevin Rogers Cobus loves your feedback, so please email him at krc@tfwm.com or link up with Technologies For Worship Magazine on Facebook and/or Twitter.