People in the church are incredibly brave. Week after week as I travel around the country teaching seminars I meet people who are attempting complex computer projects in the church office with little or no training. Though I admire their bravery, doing computer work without training is not always the wisest thing to do.
That technology training is necessary should be obvious, but in teaching seminars to hundreds of churches each year, very few of them have a plan to train their office staff.
If you are struggling with a complex job (and even word processing is complex to many people) without training, you don’t need to be convinced how hard it is. This article is written to encourage you to get training, and help your pastors and board members understand the need for training. It’s also for those of you who are the tech gurus at the church and grew up learning all of this — stop and remember — most people working in the church office today didn’t. They need to be trained.
Why church office staff need training:
Lack of training wastes valuable resources.
Because every dollar used in the church for computer work is a dollar that cannot be used elsewhere in ministry, we must make certain we are getting the most from our computer investments. Using equipment improperly or inefficiently because the church doesn’t want to spend the money to make certain the staff knows how to use it properly is bad stewardship.
Technology can save hours of time and lots of money that was spent on routine office tasks — but it doesn’t do it automatically.
Lack of training wastes people.
Typically in the church, someone on staff or a key layperson (who is very comfortable with technology) decides the church needs a particular computer system and software. The needed item is then purchased and then usually without any training at all, the church secretary (who may know nothing about technology or who has completely different computer equipment at home) attempts to get the job done. Through many tears and prayers, publications are created, databases constructed, and financials produced, but the emotional and mental stress of accomplishing an incredibly difficult task without training is seldom worth the hours wasted.
Not only is expecting someone to do computer work without training a waste of people hours, it isn’t a very kind thing to do.
It is a foolish way to fight a war.
Ephesians 6 tells us we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Every day your church and your people are involved in spiritual warfare. In those spiritual battles for the eternal destinies of people, the staff doing the computer work are your front-line troops. We’d consider a general irresponsible who sent soldiers into battle without teaching them how to fire a rifle and it’s just as irresponsible to ask staff to produce publications, maintain databases, or coordinate financial records without training.
How to get the training
Once you agree that training is needed, what do you need and where do you get it? Again, you need a variety of training resources for the church office to operate as efficiently and productively as possible.
You don’t need to sign up for the $150 a day seminars to get training for people in the church office. Most churches don’t have that kind of training budget and even if they did, so often that kind of training doesn’t work for a person who isn’t technology-savvy already. Books, online training, CDs — these are the sorts of training materials that work well for the church, can often times be used legally by a variety of users, and don’t cost a fortune.
If you get a selection of some of the books and CDs, you might think about setting up a computer training center or lending library in your church. Many of the people who volunteer for the church would do a much better job if they had a little bit of additional training.
Below are some suggestions that are all easy to get and cost-effective. Please note, the order they are given in does not imply any order of importance or effectiveness — they are all useful.
Visual Learning series of books:
If you are a visual learner, this is a great set of books. Everything is illustrated with full-color pictures and a minimum of text making it very easy for non-technical people to understand. At the same time, the books don’t talk down to users. Their web site also contains online learning courses from a variety of national universities and lots of other instructional resources including very advanced programming training.
Theses are classics in computer learning, but you can’t go wrong using them and having them on hand for your church staff. You can also purchase the Dummies books through www.amazon.com and sometimes you can find them used on that site. The Dummies site itself however has all of the titles in one place, making it easier to find what you need if you don’t have the exact title.
Smart Computing Magazine: www.smartcomputing.com
This is a great site for training even if you don’t order the printed publication. Hundreds of helpful articles are accessible on the site. Check out the articles on Windows XP to find out how to best use this new operating system.
CD’s and printed materials
DDC Publishing: www.ddcpub.com
Their stuff is fantastic! They have a huge inventory of very basic computing courses, keyboarding, and all of the Office applications and Word Perfect. In addition they have numerous courses in desktop and web publishing. One thing I really like about their stuff is they have training for Office and the PC going back to DOS and Windows 3.1. This is useful because some church offices still use these products and it is almost impossible to find training on them. In addition, their stuff is quite inexpensive. An average price for a HUGE workbook and a CD is around $32.
Bill McKenna’s Resources:
If you want advice from an expert on Photoshop, the production end of desktop publishing and all things having to do with getting the best results out of using a Risograph, Bill is the person to get it from. Bill also has a fantastic training CD for MS Publisher (only $49) and has in the works training CDs on scanning and digital photography.
On-line training courses
Consistent Computer Bargains: www.ccbministries.com
Consistent Computer Bargains has partnered with Horizons Computer Training to provide training solutions for folks in churches, they aren’t the cheapest, but they are highly rated.
CCB also has an arrangement with Isoph firstname.lastname@example.org. Isoph has lots of online training for nonprofits at VERY LOW prices ($15 each etc).
In addition to checking out this the on-line classes, be sure to contact Consistent Computer Bargains for all sorts of software at fantastic prices for churches and nonprofit ministries. Their prices for site licenses for Microsoft products (for several people using software in a church office setting) are unbelievably low. They are great folks and if you don’t check with them first for all your computer software needs, you’re missing out on the great pricing.
Though you can go to their centers and spend lots of money for training (no matter what kind of computer you have, you can take their training) or you can go on-line and for only $99 a year you can take a huge assortment of software training as many times as you like.
One last suggestion: if you buy a specialized type of software, for example the Shelby System of Church Management software, be sure to take advantage of the training offered by the manufacturer. No software runs itself; you need a trained user to get the most out of it. The manufacturers want you to get the most from their products, and provide excellent training. For example Shelby holds a training conference every year that will help any user get the most out of their products. For more information check out: www.shelbyinc.com.
Keep in mind that all of the training described above has nothing to do with the ministry or marketing aspects of using technology in the church office. Basic computer training in hardware and software simply assures that the person using the computer knows how to use the tools they have.
It’s sort of like learning how to use a food processor. Just knowing how to turn it on or what blade to use for shredding cabbage won’t make you a great chef, but if you don’t know the basics of how to make it function, you can’t even begin to hone your skills. It’s the same with learning the basics of hardware and software. You’ve got to know how to use your tools before you can even begin to use them effectively for ministry.
How to do that is what I’ll be covering in upcoming articles in this magazine.