Churches are typically seen as slow, plodding entities always behind the technology curve. We at the Center for the Ministry of Teaching strive to be out in front of the trends we think matter and to try out innovative technologies. Recently I wanted to check out Slack.
Many tech companies use Slack, HipChat, or other organizational software for seamless internal communications and file-sharing. The applications work the same across devices and desktops. Price is not a barrier for small teams (it’s free).
A couple of us in the CMT started to use Slack to test out its functions and think about how a church might use it during a normal work week. We debated about whether it would be possible or worth the effort.
Our biggest question revolved around email. After reading an article from The Verge, I thought small internal emails could be eliminated through tagged messaging on Slack. It is as easy as sending an email but more open and collaborative.
Kyle brought to my attention that Slack can only function optimally if an organization completely jumps on board. Otherwise, Slack would be one more service to check along with email and social media. Information would end up being spread around email and Slack.
The conversation went even deeper—how are we oriented regarding email?
Our deeply ingrained, natural flow is through email. For better or worse, email is still the be-all and end-all, especially because parishioners use it.
Still, if the church staff constitutes multiple people, I could see some real benefit from using something like Slack internally. But it takes total buy-in from the staff.
When I first thought about using programs like Slack within a church setting, I imagined different sections for different areas of ministry. Need to review the Sunday bulletin? Start a bulletin-production channel where comments can be made. This would also, make it easy to find past bulletins, along with their comments.
Need to talk about the implementation of church programs? Make a program section. General chatter? Done. Communications team? Done. Wedding coordination? Done. Private groups to discuss random important matters? Done.
You can create as many channels as needed and control who can join which channel.
Integration with Dropbox, Google Drive, Mailchimp, etc. is easy and intuitive. A church that already uses cloud-based solutions can easily integrate their files into programs like Slack and HipChat. (And if you’re not using cloud-based solutions, it may be time for you to consider it.)
Something I find useful in our context is getting notifications when someone signs up for Episcopal Teacher. Imagine taking advantage of this kind of information: the chance to follow up with outsiders who have requested more information about your church. You will have an email address ready to contact and built-in methods to ensure someone on the staff reaches out.
Some of us in the CMT have been using Slack for testing purposes. While we can see the power of the platform, we realize it takes a paradigm shift in most existing workflows to use it powerfully. While we could probably pull off a total integration, we are part of a larger institution that relies heavily on email. This means the CMT team would still need to regularly check our email during the workday.
A church might find Slack useful for communications and discussions. People are constantly in and out of an office during the day in the life of a church. Meetings lead to more meetings. If the staff and other leaders can get on board with programs like Slack, a few of those meetings can be eliminated, and perhaps more open and efficient communication can flourish.
Let us know if you think Slack could help, or if you already use it or something similar how. How has it impacted the functioning of your church?
Chris Hamby (@chris_hamby) is the digital producer in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and an M.Div. senior at Virginia Theological Seminary.