How do leaders in your ministry collaborate with each other? With their teams? With their directors? phone – text – e-mail – face-toface meetings?
I recently did a consulting gig for a church and was very surprised to find that they used Basecamp.com as a collaboration tool. I found that for the team that was working, it was a useful tool – both notifications of change and status, but also maintenance of a plan and schedule for the project. All collaboration was captured and posted in meeting notes, and commentary by participants.
When I ran a tech ministry (office pc’s, networks, servers, and web – not worship tech) a few years ago, we used open source web based tools for collaboration – we hosted them on our domain, and had some simple security around them. As the leader of this ministry team, I loved it. We used a CMS with an articles repository for knowledgebase, forums for different threads of communication, and a calendar to post events and updates.
Now there are so many open source, or freely available tools to help with collaboration; here are some off the wall ideas to ponder:
- create your own leadership forums site to host elder or deacon discussions – make the forums private, so that only board members can see – but commentary is captured as a conversation thread.
- Use mailing lists or groups for the same purpose yahoo and google groups are open, free and useful: Many webhosts provide Mailman – a free mailing list tool that lets you define mailing lists and lets you control subscribers to the lists. Mailing lists often also can produce a digest of a conversation over time, so you can summarize.
- Basecamp.com – is really a site for software teams to collaborate by 37Signals.com – it is useful for simple project planning. It is not free, but there is a trial. allows e-mail updates, and web updates. hosts file sharing. can assign tasks and projects to people. secure.
- Bug-tracking – there are many sites and free products for software bug tracking – that could easily be used for church issue management. I like Mantis Bug Tracker for the following reasons:
- user defined categories –
- user defined “projects” – each ministry can be a project – with separate security
- simple queries to find different types of issues.
- Issues can be assigned to people
- captures chronological sequence of notes.
- can send updates via e-mail when notes are added
- will export to spreadsheet or word doc for sharing data without giving people access
- Blog as knowledgbase – use any blog or articles management software that allows tagging, comments and moderation as a simple knowledgebase for church leaders.
The best part of these collaboration tools is that they allow people to work asynchronously, on their own schedule. The hardest part about ministry when the scarcest commodity is time for meeting together. The more we leverage tools that reduce our need for face-to-face meetings, and to capture information for review … the more productive our meetings can become. We spend our meeting time making decisions, rather than receiving information.
I am sure that there are some who will say this depersonalizes the ministry; that face-to-face meetings are necessary and are the best forum or vehicle to have these types of collaborations. I think that face to face conversations are important for decision making – to look people in the eye and understand their heart. But for collaboration leading up to decisions, and for non-decisive collaboration; meetings are difficult.
Getting people together in one place is hard. as churches appear to draw from further distances, and as ministries leadership becomes distributed across plants and campuses – the time we spend face to face is more and more costly. Anything we can do to make decisions faster and share information faster is a benefit.
Consider how you can use information technology to improve the speed of information sharing, and to reduce the time spent meeting on non-decision topics.