While you’re on Tony Dye’s blog, also check out his post on Choices for the CMS we want and the comments that follow. This post sparked a lengthy conversation between myself and Brian Slezak, my fellow Appian Way blogger who works with me in the IT Department at Resurrection. Particularly, we discussed the comment by Carl Wilhelm. I guessed that Carl’s comment was referencing Barna’s new book Revolution that I posted about previously. (I haven’t read it yet because our bookstore hasn’t been able to get a copy – apparently there have been some delays in printing and distribution – but I know enough about the subject matter of the book to surmise that Carl was referring to it.)
Our conversation was around the differences between tactical IT execution and strategic IT leadership. This is a subject that deserves a long post of its own, or perhaps several posts. In very brief summary, we have found smooth sailing when we’re responding effectively to an IT need identified by a ministry leader. These are generally situations where there’s an opportunity to improve efficiency (and thereby reduce costs) by automating an existing process that has gotten to a large enough scale that automation is appropriate. On the other hand, when we begin to think bigger, more strategically, about social and technical trends and how that may impact ministry in the future, then we are sailing on much more difficult and choppy waters. The risks are much higher because our role as servants of the other ministries of the church puts us in a great position to respond to their needs, but a bad position to lead technical change.
Speaking only for myself, I have been an IT executive for a number of years. As such I have been accustomed to being on the executive team in the secular, for-profit world and sitting in all of the executive meetings where strategy is being discussed and the technical implications of each strategic option are thoroughly explored. At Resurrection, I’m not on the executive team. My boss is, but he’s the CFO and is not a technical person. So I’m not able to influence church strategy from a technical standpoint. I know from talking with a number of my peers at very large churches that this is the case in most of their churches as well. Few churches have an IT expert on their executive team, unless the senior pastor happens to be a person who thinks strategically about IT and drives it.
This becomes very important when you start considering questions like those raised by Carl Wilhelm. Even though I have the background and skills to determine technology strategy and to make a plan that directly responds to Carl’s questions, I’m not in a position to influence the decision-makers to make it happen. Is it just a simple as me learning how to “lead up”?