Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Kevin Miller, who is joining us from Christ Fellowship Church in McKinney, Texas. Really happy to have you, Kevin.
Hey, it’s great to be here on your podcast.
Kevin is a technology director at Christ Fellowship Church. Kevin, would you describe the path you took to get to your current position?
Sure, my background is actually electrical engineering and software development. So, I worked mostly in the semiconductor industry building custom equipment for say, PI, IBM, Raytheon Hotel, and then they would take that and maybe design something, and then when they’re ready to put into production, they would go find another company to do the process for production equipment. And then since then, I’ve started a consulting company doing the same type of renovations for say, NASA, MIT, Cornell, things like that. So, my background is not IT at all. So, what happened was I’ve been involved in the church. The church is 20 years old. I’ve been here for 20 years. I’ve been on staff for 15 of those 20, and I was in a men’s ministry, bible study, working in our children’s ministry as a volunteer, because I have little kids, and one of the guys that I was in a relationship with for accountability and small groups, he came to me and he worked for the church and he said, “Hey, we need an IT guy. Would you consider taking job?” And I laughed and I’m like, “I’m not an IT guy. I don’t have that background. I’m a software developer, a electrical engineer.” And he said, “Well, you know what, that means you’ll have a really good volunteer team. “Now, I laugh too, but that’s exactly what happened. I eventually joined the church as a full-time staff member, and I had a great volunteer team. The first, I wanna say five to seven years going. And these guys, the nice part was we were just going into our second building things. So, we’re standing, I had a good budget. We were building a whole new network in infrastructure, had the funds, and good guys now to teach me, so, I learned with these guys how to build an IT infrastructure. So, it was basically on the job training.
Wow, and that’s after a career in a completely different field.
Yes, but the nice thing is, I’ll just tell you bout a quick thing we did. Back when our pastor had… everybody had flip phones, nobody had iPhones yet, stuff like that, he wanted blackberry. So, we thought, “Okay, we gotta put in this whole infrastructures so we can get blackberries for our staff.” And having these volunteers, I had one guy that worked at TI, another guy worked at AT&T. So, they were like network engineers and IT people. And another guy on that owned a backup company. And these guys, we went to TI’s messaging group, the guy that put in their exchange servers and their blackberry service, stuff like that. He went to his friends and he said, “Hey, can I buy you lunch?” So, I got AT&T with another company and TI designing our infrastructure for us, basically at lunch one day. In the corporate world, you would never get three companies to come together and design something for you, because they wouldn’t wanna share each others trade secrets. But it was nice for a church. They were willing to design the whole infrastructure. So, we took their design and we implemented it. So, that was very, very unique.
Wow. Yeah, I would say so. If you would dive a little deeper into your role, describe how your church is structured and what kinds of things fall under your responsibility today?
Okay, we have a senior team and our senior team has members of it that are basically, you would call department heads of the corporate world. There’s a Spanish ministry, the student ministries. We have the worship and media pastor, and I work with the operations team, so the operations pastor. And in the operations team, we have finance, HR, facilities, outside event rentals, and, of course, IT. And just to separate it from AVL, because some churches put that together. AVL is audio, visual, and lighting. Those would be, in our church, those are people that will run the worship rooms, the projection systems video, and how we define it is anything that has a microphone belongs to AVL, but all the rest of building, say, the database, the wireless stuff, printer, security cameras, access control, digital signage, and classroom technology, all belongs to IT.
You’re describing your church and that’s quite a lot of different ministries for you to work with.
Yeah, it can be fun and a challenge sometimes, yeah.
Yeah, with all of those different ministries to connect technology stacks as your church run, what new things are you looking for?
We have a saying here, basically that we want anybody to be able to come in and take over. Meaning, I’m not gonna build some funky thing in some wacky way that nobody we really understand. So, we are very much… we’re all Windows server based, the whole infrastructure. And everything we do, we build on that. It’s a virtual infrastructure all built on Windows. And the idea would be that anybody could come in here and replace me if we had to, stuff like that. So, we try not to be too complicated. We do automated check in and everything on the weekend with a database we use called Ministry Platform. That is our core management system. And our goal was to have everybody use that for everything. And we will go out of the way and spend the money it takes to modify it or a higher programmer to make things work the way we want it to with the system, because we really want people using one tool, not five different tools.
Yeah, that makes sense. That kind of automation and streamlining makes the ministry run a lot smoother.
What are some of the IT challenges that you face?
When I first started here, the hard part was I came out of a very technical world with technical people, and I came to church where people were volunteering, or they were first time working in an office, or they’re a mom that stayed home and came in to work. And it was hard for me at first to realize, “Oh, I gotta really spend a lot of time training people and working with them.” That was originally, now it’s got to a point… because 20 years ago or 15 years ago, not everybody had a compute home. If people had email, they checked it maybe once a week and it might even be dial-up. So, it wasn’t the world we live in today. Today’s world, it’s great, people already have an idea of what they wanna do, stuff like that. My big thing is I am also responsible for not only the IT projects, but also for support, and those two are conflicting with each other. With the project, you wanna spend all this time working on it, versus your constantly getting interrupted with things that people need help with. So, that has been the biggest fight or battle I have to work on.
Yeah, that makes sense. So, I’m curious, you being the director of technology there at Christ Fellowship Church, what kind of advice would you give executive pastors when it comes to… when is the point that they know that it’s appropriate to hire a technology director?
That’s a good question. Probably when you either wanna do a whole bunch of stuff that your current competencies can’t handle. You could also hire it out for another company to come in and do different things for you, if you wanted to have certain projects done, things like that. But at the point where… we have to happen to host everything internally, we have our own database and our own servers for a lot of stuff. Nowadays, you can host things off site. So, there are other ways to handle things, they may not need to bring in an IT person depending on the size of the church, and what their goals are, what they wanna do.
So, for you personally as a technology director, where do you go to learn more about your profession and how to do it to the best of your ability?
Well, that was something I had to learn here because one of the things in the corporate world, I was working with a bunch of guys that I can just turn around a go, “Hey, what’d you do for this?” And no kind of like iron sharpening iron. The nice thing about this, my first few years, I had that team of guys that were really good at teaching me, but now I have some friends that are in the industry that I call. But there’s also the Church IT network and they have regional meetings, and then they have an annual conference every year. And this year it just happens to be in October in Dallas, and there’ll be hundreds of IT people from all over the country come to Dallas. And the nice thing is we can learn from each other like, “Hey, what did you guys do for wireless in that place? Hey what’d you do for back up? How did you handle the virus that took over your network” Or something like that. It just opened up a nice little communication pathway for all of us to talk to each other and meet with each other once a year.
Yeah, so is this one of those things where you get together just every once in a while or through this conference, or there’s continual contact throughout the year?
Sometimes with certain people, there’s continual contact throughout the year, or there’s different groups that you send email on and people can ask a question.
That’s a great resource.
But when I really get stuck, I do call a friend of mine like, “Hey, what do we here?” And he’s also the back up guy. If I ever got stuck somewhere on vacation, he can come in here and do things for the church if I’m gone.
That’s a nice person to have. Just to close out, I’m curious, what kind of encouragement would you give to churches and how they blend technology and ministry?
Well, this is something our department, the operations team, has been dealing with this last year because people can look at operations, whether it’s finance, HR, technology as, “We’re there and we’re making ministry do stuff for us.” So, think about like, “Okay, you have to fill out an expense report,” or, “You have to fill out this web form so you can get a new employee added on.” And so, what our department has come up with is a saying that basically says, “We wanna help ministries win.” And so, the goal is to establish a partnership reputation between the operations team and all the people we’re serving in all the other ministries, so that they see us as a partner wanting to help them in ministry and not as, “Hey, you guys dictated this to us, you’re making us so things we don’t really wanna do.” So, that has been the big shift we’re trying to do in our culture. So, the encouragement would be that, “Hey, we want the staff that’s actually doing the on the ground ministry to see the operations, the IT and stuff, as a partner.”
And what are some of the ways that you’ve been working that out at your church, showing that partnership?
One thing we’re doing is people from the operations team are joining, they’re taking turns going to different staff meetings during the month. So, I’ll take a turn and I’ll go to the student ministries meeting one week, and then one week I’ll go to the adult team meeting. And then the idea is we wanna be there, we wanna let them know, “Hey, we’re here for you.” We’re beefing up training so that they don’t feel like they’re left out there like, “What do we do?” That kind of stuff. We help them do events. If you wanna put on an event, there’s a financial cost, there’s a technology cost, all these things that they need that support with. We just wanna have that partnership mentality.
I love that. Kevin, thanks so much for sharing your expertise, your experience, and especially just your vision for the partnership between ministry and technology, which I think is a really, really great point.
Good. Great to be on your podcast.