There has been much ink spilled (digital and literal) in recent years on the church’s use of technology. The vast majority of this has been about using media in the worship center (sound & video, display screens – even film clips from Hollywood blockbusters used as sermon illustrations). But far less has been said about the way a pastoral search committee engages with technology.
Today I want to help you think about what tech you will need as a search committee, as well as whether the church should invest in paid technology or use available freeware.
What Technology Will You Need?
Your basic tech needs will include:
- Committee communications
- An email address
- Document storage
- Conference calling
- Video calling
Now let’s look at each of these more closely.
- Communication within the committee – Email might seem like a good option – after all, your committee members
probably have their own email accounts already. But when you consider that the search process averages 18-24 months, that’s a LOT of emails to track and organize. I recommend something more robust. One option is project management software.
There are many tools available for project management: Basecamp, Asana, Podio, Teamwork, and others. They are designed for teams of people who work on different parts of a project – or several projects. For example, a marketing team might include:
- Director of Marketing or project manager (the team leader)
- graphic artist
- copy writer
- social media guru
- video/audio specialist
- web designer
…all committed to making a large marketing campaign a success. Project management (PM) software helps them all stay on track and communicate throughout the day. It’s especially helpful if any team members work remotely.
The biggest challenge is that most PM software has the option to send updates in the form of emails, so you end up with the same problem: bloated inboxes. And although I had experience using Basecamp and love using it, I didn’t have a personal account, and didn’t feel that the church should invest in it just for the search process.
So instead of using PM software, we started with an old style discussion board or forum, Google Groups. It also sends updates in the form of emails, but I chose to turn that feature off so my inbox didn’t get cluttered. All the other members kept it turned on. Since I didn’t receive the onslaught of emails, I developed a routine of logging into the discussion board two or three times a day to check for updates and post information for the rest of the committee.
- Email – This should be a unique email address that only the committee members have access to. Ours wasn’t hosted with the rest of the church’s email addresses, so it wasn’t “email@example.com.” This decision was driven by the need for confidentiality. If we had hosted our email @ourchurch.org, a few people outside the committee could have had access.
“What? Don’t you trust those few people?”
We do … up to a point. We found that no matter how often we reported to the congregation and no matter how much information we gave them, they always asked for more. That desire for information could quickly turn to curiosity, and then turn to snooping. Curiosity more than once has landed a person in sin; we wanted to avoid the temptation.
All of your candidates should send their information to this email address (unless you have a search consultant as the first point of contact, as we did). Of course, the committee should send all its communication to candidates from this address, not from their personal email accounts.
- Document storage – for resumes, MDFs, minutes of meetings, etc. We used a combination of Dropbox and Google Docs. Dropbox is the preferred tool for our consultant, and he prefers to work with just point of contact on the committee. I was his contact for our search, so anything that we received from him or sent to him went through my personal Dropbox account. Everything else got stored on Google Docs, including candidates’ resumes, MDFs, and everything we generated internally among the committee.
- Conference call – both for audio-only interviews and those times when a committee member can’t make it to the meeting in person. Our church already had an account with FreeConferenceCall.com, so we used that. And yes, it really is free!
If you choose to use this service, you’ll soon find lots of uses for it. Our church uses it for occasional leadership calls between our regular meetings. And because it’s just a phone call, people can “attend” from anywhere. One of our elders is a commercial airline pilot and he’s able to attend meetings no matter where he is in the country (except in the air!) – no more “Sorry, I can’t make it” excuses!
A note of caution – even though FreeConferenceCall.com doesn’t charge a fee, it’s not a toll-free number (1-800, 1-888, etc.). Therefore, if your carrier/provider charges for long-distance calls, you will be charged. Many landline providers still charge for long distance calls, while most cell phone companies don’t. With that in mind, using a mobile phone for your FreeConferenceCall.com calls makes the most sense.
(On a different note, if your church is incorporated, know that states have different laws regarding the use of conference call technology for Board of Directors meetings. In my home state of Arizona, corporations can’t take any official action via telephone; all voting must take place face-to-face. Other states do allow voting to occur by telephone, so check your state’s laws. )
- Video calling – We did the majority of our candidate interviews as video calls, using a combination of Skype and Google Hangouts. In scheduling the interview, we asked the candidate if he had a preference as to which tool to use. There was one Apple/Mac user on the committee, so we could have also used FaceTime, but both Skype and Hangouts are available for both Mac and PC.
I’ll write another post about the benefits – and challenges – of using video rather than having a simple phone interview. For now, I’ll just say that video is the way to go if at all possible.
One big concern with relying so heavily on technology is, “Will the senior member(s) of the committee be able to keep up?” The question assumes two things, which may or may not be true for your committee:
- Your committee has at least one senior member
- Your senior member(s) aren’t very tech savvy.
You’ll have to determine whether these are true for your committee. In our case, the oldest member (yours truly) was 55 when the search began. I consider myself fairly tech-friendly: In my day job, I’ve worked with a computer every day since mid-1999; I know some basic HTML and CSS, and perhaps most importantly, I’m my wife’s personal IT department. 😉
We didn’t have any retirees on the committee, but we made a real effort to keep everyone informed and answer questions when they came up. When our consultant had his initial meeting with the church, he met with a variety of groups: elders, music team, women’s ministry, etc. We made a point to have him spend time with our senior adults, especially since none were on the committee.
By comparison, another PCA church in our area is in a retirement community; they were searching for a pastor at the same time we were. The congregation’s average age is 70+. They relied less on technology than we did, and they met every Saturday at 9:00 AM . (There’s something to be said for retirees’ flexible schedules!) We, on the other hand, met every 2-3 weeks, but accomplished a lot of our work between meetings, with the technology at our fingertips. Plus, I have a certain advantage over the other committee members: I take mass transit to work nearly every day, with a 50-minute commute each way. As the committee chair, I was able to do most of my committee work during my commute, rather than having to work on it after a long day at the office. I’m sure my committee responsibilities would have been more challenging if we hadn’t used the technology available to us.
The key to remember with any technology is that it should make our tasks more efficient, faster, and easier. If it doesn’t, then you may be using the wrong tool, or maybe technology isn’t the best solution for that task.
How have you been able to integrate technology into your search committee’s work – or into the church’s work overall? Let me know in the comments below.