A ‘tech stack’ is ‘the collection of tools, platforms, apps, and pieces of software a company uses to build its products, carry out its business operations, and monitor its performance metrics,’ according to Hubspot.
It’s the intentional use and integration of technology into the work a business does, in order to make it easier, more flexible, and more effective.
For instance, Uber has a tech stack of 59 products, including Google Workspace for collaboration and productivity, Asana, an online task and project organization manager, and Zendesk, a customer service and relationship management software.
Congregations and other ministries can also think about ministry in terms of our ‘tech stack.’ Instead of thinking about tools like Zoom, and Slack, and Mailchimp as ‘add-ons’ to your ministry, you can consider how the platforms you use work together to make your ministry the easiest and most efficient (and most affordable!) it can be.
1. Think beyond church software
Church management software platforms are popular, and they are becoming more powerful, with more features than ever.
Realm, Subsplash, Tithe.ly, and many others are making online ministry easier and more efficient all the time. They have messaging, giving, live streaming, website and communication capabilities. They often come with excellent customer service and onboarding services.
AND – tools created for businesses can also be used in ministry contexts. When you consider what you actually do every day, the tasks that need to be done, it may be easier, cheaper, and more flexible to use popular business platforms. Zoom is a big one, so is Google docs (or Microsoft Office or Pages).
Church management software is all-encompassing, but the downside is less customization. It can also be more cost-effective to use several business platforms together – especially when some business platforms are free (Google websites and Mailchimp email, for example).
2. Think systematically
Before you start choosing which platforms you’ll use, it’s good to think about the systems you have in place now for the work that needs to be done. Think about things like producing and sharing online documents; bulletins, newsletters, email and phone, and other communications; purchasing, billing, supplies and finances; online meetings and video production; website and social media; music production and sharing; scheduling and calendars.
Who does all these things now, and how do they get done? What do you need to get them done? Do they need to be more centralized (for instance, do people use their personal accounts to purchase things? Do you need a centralized ministry-related account?).
Figuring out what you need overall – digital or not – helps you make the best choices for online platforms that will help you.
3. Think about all the features
One big trend right now is for platforms to add additional services. Calendly, a calendar and scheduling software that I don’t know how I ever lived without, integrates with your website and allows you to send personalized email automations. Zoom integrates with your calendar. Slack lets you make video calls, Realm church software will host your website.
You may not have to start using new platforms – it’s possible the platforms you use now have features you’re not using. You may be paying for features you don’t need, or paying for two different platforms that do the same thing. Taking a deep dive into what’s available will help you streamline and organize.
4. All the free trials
I am the queen of free trials! New (or new to you!) technology platforms usually offer free trials so you can get a sense of how they work. Take advantage of them! Using something new will be a learning curve (more on this below), and some technology is more intuitive than others. Some platforms integrate more easily with others – and seamless use will matter a lot in the long run. Some technology works better with Macs or PCs.
You’ll only know these things if you try them!
The exploration stage can be really fun – finding what works the best for you without the commitment. Bonus: many platforms come with great how-to and onboarding videos and other resources. You can use your ‘free trial’ time to evaluate customer service, too.
5. Be willing to start from scratch
Many ministries have what I like to call ‘add-on’ technology – just adding new platforms and systems to the ones you’re already using. They might be using Quickbooks but also still be doing accounting on ledgers, or using old versions of word processing software along with Google docs.
This can cause a lot of confusion and expensive overlap, taking far more time, energy and money to get things done.
It’s sometimes worth it to decide on a tech stack and take the time to start all your organization from the ground up. You may need to pick a time and migrate all your data/users over to your new system at one time, taking the time to make sure it works smoothly and everyone knows how to use it.
Having a ‘tech stack’ – essential platforms and tools to use throughout your organization – is the kind of digital ministry that can help your congregation or other ministry spend more time and energy on actual ministry and less on administration, organization, and communication.
In case you’re wondering, here’s our Tech Stack at Free Range Priest:
- Google Workspace: collaboration and productivity apps, organization and communication
- Calendly: online scheduling and calendar
- Stripe: payment processing
- Wave: accounting, invoicing, and taxes
- Zoom: video conferencing and production
- Ecamm Live: live streaming and video production studio for Macs
- iMovie: video editor native to Macs
- Circle: all-in-one community platform
- Active Campaign: Email marketing and client management software
- WordPress: website builder and blog
- WordSwag: the $5 phone app that creates images with text
- Anytime mailbox: online business address
- Smart Mockups: put your photo inside a stock background
- Forward Movement: prayers, liturgies, and Scripture