Welcome to the original ChurchTech!
In 1990, computers were a ministry novelty. There were several competing church management packages – on platforms like CP/M, Apple II, C64, and PC XT. And, there were a few Bible search programs and some specialty databases for sermon filing and the like. Desktop publishing was possible, but Risographs and stencil-cutters were the big newsletter and bulletin technologies. Still, some ministry futurists foresaw a time when exotic tools like laser printers, scanners, and presentation software might have a role in the typical church. In those early days, early adopters relied on Church Bytes, CMUG, CCMag, and Computers in the Church (forerunner of ChurchTech) for guidance. Computers in the Church was an early provider of conferences on technology topics for congregations. With time, the name morphed to Computers and Technology for the Church and, eventually, the simple ChurchTech.
The relevance of technology for ministry is now conceded by all but the Amish. Bible Search software made the leap to Windows 3.0 and to PalmOS and now is ubiquitous on smartphones and via a slew of web providers. What once cost $249 for KJV only is now free in a plethora of translations and languages. Church Administration tools have progressed somewhat less meteorically, but nonetheless substantially. And desktop publishing is now just commonplace printing – even with laser color and poster sizes!
The growing edge today is in analytics and infographics. Church leaders face a quickly changing context for ministry. Facing such challenges reliant on decades-old assumptions or rules-of-thumb are reckless. For decades, leaders have been using opinion gathering as a leadership tool. Pastoral search processes routinely involve congregational questionnaires asking questions like: “What are your top three priorities for our next Senior Pastor?” Unfortunately, it is far easier to distribute a questionnaire that it is to understand the math and linguistics behind statistically valid questions. It also takes decades to study the literature of church growth and evangelism in order to understand the key variables beyond merely stated preferences that are crucial for effective ministry planning.
In our first decade, ChurchTech helped congregations to appreciate how new hardware and software could help them do ministry. Over the past decade, we have shifted to using technology to help congregations better understand themselves and their context so that they can most effectively engage the ministry challenges before them.