As I travel around the country talking with IT professionals who work for churches, ministries and non-profits, I’ve noticed that many of us are struggling with similar challenges. While challenges are good and help us grow in our faith and in our profession, I’m concerned that good IT folks are burning out quickly and turnover rates among tech staffs in churches are going to rise. I think there are several issues at play here.
First, many of us are highly dedicated. In the church world, many IT folks grew up in the churches where they are currently serving on staff. Some may even be the second or third generation of their family to have been part of the ministry. Decades of involvement builds loyalty and a sense of pride and ownership. Because of the investment of time, talent, and treasure, you don’t want to see the ministry fail and you desire to see it grow and thrive.
Second, we get the eternal impact. While church IT and technical folks may often be misunderstood, I find that many have the same goal as the pastors and other staff. They work hard to provide an eternal impact on the Kingdom. We understand that those 1’s and 0’s we are working with are much more than just 1’s and 0’s. Their impact is on a much higher calling and our passion is to see the Kingdom impacted every day we dive into our geeky craft.
Third, we know our stuff. We stay up all night reading the latest articles online about the newest features and software releases. We monitor popular culture and trending media so we know how to advise people on what to use. We work hard to not be surprised by the latest security threat and are proactive to keep threats out of our networks and our data secure.
Fourth, we struggle to communicate. Because of our knowledge, we can come across as arrogant and unwilling to compromise. We often don’t do a great job of explaining options and costs. As a result, we create a gap between the decision makers and ourselves. Remember, we both have the same goal, but we are coming at it from opposite, often misunderstood directions.
As a result, frustration can mount. We all have the same spiritual goal but we can’t get the budget we need to accomplish the objective, or we are trying to ensure security but we are told to keep opening things up to more and more folks. Friction builds when IT focuses on security while the ministry focuses on people. What happens when the Executive Pastor says everyone is going to switch to a Mac or that the ministry is going to use a ChMS that you know isn’t secure?
Burnout tends to set in. We don’t believe we are being heard or that our opinion matters. We tend to kill good ideas because we can’t implement them the way we want to. IT and technology isn’t a respected asset but a dreaded necessary evil. So what can we do?
First, we have to humble ourselves (Luke 14:11). As hard as it may be to admit IT and tech folks don’t know everything, technology changes fast and we can’t realistically be experts at everything and we need to communicate that. Reading one article doesn’t make you an expert. We have to be willing to listen to those in authority and, even if we disagree, humble ourselves to do what we are asked (Philippians 2:3-4).
Second, in addition to humility, we need to have a healthy respect for authority (1 Peter 2:18). Often our passion is what gets in our way. We want the objective to succeed and we don’t want anything to be a hindrance. As a result, we struggle with what we believe are inferior options and often want things done our way. Maybe out of pride, but often out of zeal to see the Kingdom affected. It is important for us to remember who is in charge. Who is going to be held accountable (Hebrews 13:17)? What is my responsibility? When we stand before God, who is going to be accountable for the decision? We may not be accountable for the decision but we are accountable for how we respond to it, whether we like it or not.
Third, we have to learn to communicate (James 1:19, Ephesians 4:29). It is okay to disagree and it is okay to provide options, but we have to learn to do that in a way that is respectful and not prideful. We have to understand that it is not our objective to get our way. It is our goal to communicate what we think is best and then to submit and do what we’re told. When we don’t get our way we have to work hard at not saying, “I told you so” or constantly pointing out that this isn’t the way we wanted to do it.
When we stand before God, we want to hear that we did our job well, even if we didn’t agree with what we were doing. I have found that submission makes life easier. Often, the ax is no longer over my neck and I’m good with that. This is difficult when we are doing something we think will fail, but unless we sit at the top of our organizations’ leadership chart then we need to get happy with doing something with which we disagree.
My burden is that IT and tech folks latch on to this. The Kingdom isn’t helped through turnover, but through IT and tech folks who work hard at humbly communicating and then obeying authority with excellence.