LISTEN! I’ve noticed a huge problem in online church tech forums (I’m a member of quite a few); many tech folks don’t know how to help solve problems. Here’s the setup:
Questioner: “I have a problem with (insert problem here). I’ve tried (insert attempt here). Here’s a list of my gear. Any ideas?”
Answer: “You need to upgrade (insert piece of equipment here) or use a (piece of equipment here). That’s what we use at (insert church here) and it takes care of the problem.”
Answer: “Why do you have that (insert piece of gear that has nothing to do with the question)?” At this point, other people chime in on that unrelated gear until someone eventually brings it back around to the original question.
I know everyone is well-intentioned but I wonder why we respond like the above. I worry it’s about a bigger issue in the tech world – not knowing how to properly LISTEN.
The church tech world isn’t the only one that does this. The Apple support community does this a LOT! This is one area that the Windows support community does things better. Someone has a problem and there are 10 accurate responses on how to correct the problem, laser-focused and not meandering all over the place. (Disclaimer: I use a Mac and support both Apple and Windows machines in my job).
Steps to Problem Solving
As a former IT Director of 20 years, I know how to problem solve. I used to drive it home to my team of 35 programmers and analysts. There are functional steps to solving a problem. This is the method we used – and I still use in the tech world today.
- Actively listen to the person describe the problem. Don’t interrupt and don’t make any presumptions based on personal preferences or biases.
- Repeat the problem back to the person.
- Analyze the options available to fix the problem. Replacing a part should be the last option. Fix what you’ve got. Chances are there’s a way to do it without spending $$$ for replacement hardware.
- If it’s a technical problem (and they aren’t techies), explain the reason for the problem and give a proposed solution in ENGLISH (or your preferred language), not TECHEZE! Explain it in ministry or business terms. It’s harder to do this but the person with the problem won’t feel that you’re talking down to them and makes them feel that you understand the problem from their perspective.
- If an upgrade or replacement must occur, let them know why. If it’s just because that’s the way you’re used to fixing something then that’s the wrong solution. If it’s because the upgrade will make life for the user better/faster/easier/cheaper then do so.
- Follow up to see if the solution did what you promised it would do.
Remember, there is always more than one correct solution to a problem. Most solutions do not involve throwing money at the problem.
Stop Talking Tech!
In most churches that call me in, the number one problem mentioned by pastors is, “Tech talks in their own language and they don’t understand what we need. They don’t seem to listen to us and they sound like they know more than we do. They always want a new, expensive piece of equipment but they can’t tell us what that piece of equipment will solve or enhance our worship experience. All I wanted was a fix for this and instead they came up with a complicated plan.”
Don’t be that guy! By listening, interpreting and translating you will gain the ministry leaders trust and that gets to be invaluable!