How I Use Technology for Church
I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in the US. I currently serve on my Stake High Council (a lay leadership role).
Here's how I use technology to help fulfill my calling (responsibilities) as a High Councilor on an average Sunday, and other ways I use technology for church-related things outside of my calling.
For My Calling
I wake up to a 5am alarm on my iPhone SE 2016.
I quickly use my phone to check my personal email (iCloud), SMS text messages, and GroupMe for any communications that may have come in after I went to bed last night. Sometimes there are last minute meeting agenda changes or other things I need to know about before the day's activities.
Email, texts, and phone calls are the primary methods of communication I use for church-related communication. The GroupMe groups I participate in are maintained by members of the ward (church congregation) to which I am assigned as a High Councilor. These groups help facilitate communication amongst the various ward organizations. Each ward is different and might use different IM apps or just stick to regular texts to accomplish the same thing.
I go to my first meeting at 6am. Today it's Stake Council. For a while we were having these meetings via Zoom instead of in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Church
I bring both my iPhone and ThinkPad T460 (currently running Windows 10) to my meetings. In general, I lean towards using my laptop instead of my phone when I can. Bigger screen, physical keyboard, etc. are always preferable. But a phone can always come in handy in a pinch.
I pull up the PDF copy of the meeting agenda that was emailed to me beforehand. I prefer taking notes by hand these days with a notebook and pen, but I have taken digital notes in the past using either the Apple Notes app or Microsoft OneNote.
The Church maintains several mobile apps (all proprietary and closed source, as far as I can tell). I may use the Gospel Library app (mobile) or the church website (laptop) to look up hymns, scriptures, handbooks, manuals, etc. I use the Member Tools app or the church website to look up organizational and contact info and send texts or emails to specific members or groups of members.
7am rolls around and I have another meeting – our monthly Stake Welfare and Self-Reliance committee meeting. I use my phone and laptop for the same sorts things in this meeting as the last one, just different kinds of materials, topics, and info being referenced.
I come home after those two meetings. After eating breakfast, I sit down with my laptop to follow up on some action items from the last meeting. I open Firefox to access my Google Drive and update the Google Docs draft for the flyer I created for an upcoming event I'm helping to organize. Next, I update the Google Form draft I created to track registrations for some free self-reliance classes my stake will be providing in February. I create a linked Google Sheet to track the form results and share it with a few people on the committee so they can see the registration information.
We have an orientation meeting every time we start the next round of self-reliance classes. The past couple orientation meetings have been done exclusively online via Google Meet. This next time we plan on doing the meeting in-person and broadcasting it via YouTube for those who are more comfortable participating online.
Other Church-Related Tech Uses
Outside of the responsibilities specific to my calling, I use technology in other ways related to church.
The Church website – churchofjesuschrist.org – is a phenomenal resource and repository of information. I use it for personal scripture and gospel study, paying tithing, keeping up on church news, and many other things.
The Church also produces a lot of excellent media and uses social media to share its message. There are general church accounts as well as individual church leader accounts. I currently follow the church's Facebook and YouTube accounts. Individual wards may also have their own unofficial Facebook groups to share information amongst the members.
Family history is very important to us. I use the church's FamilySearch website (familysearch.org) and mobile app, along with Ancestry, MyHeritage, and other services to find and learn about my ancestors.
I watch and listen to church-produced and sanctioned content via the Latter-day Saints Channel app.
There are other ways in which I use technology for church-related purposes, but I think these examples paint a pretty clear picture.
Doing Church Work with Proprietary vs Free Software
I understand, believe in, and support the principle of free software. I like to use and promote free software whenever I can.
I am also a member of and believe in the doctrines of a church that uses proprietary software to fulfill its purpose and carry out its mission, which is to help its members to:
- Live the gospel of Jesus Christ
- Care for those in need
- Invite all to receive the gospel
- Unite families for eternity
How do I reconcile these two beliefs? Simply put, the ends justify the means. We're talking about the work of salvation, here. Saving souls. Healing temporal and spiritual wounds. Building strong families. Developing disciples of Jesus Christ. These are all things of deep and eternal importance. In the grand scheme of eternity, it's not going to matter whether we used Zoom or Jitsi to have an administrative church meeting. It's not going to matter whether we used YouTube or PeerTube to publish a video with a message of healing and hope.
I will personally continue to try to use and advocate for free software alternatives as opportunities arise, but I'm not going to shut myself off from my church, my community, if those alternatives aren't adopted.
I believe the results of the work we are doing are more important and impactful for the good of humankind than the specific tools being used to do that work.