There is a stereotype of the age 50+ pastor who has his nose stuck in his own seminary books 40 hours a week until he preaches his Sunday sermon.
This could be true for many 50+ pastors, but more and more of these pastors are taking seriously the need to stay tech competent.
If you’re a pastor over 50, here is the definitive guide to staying tech competent that doesn’t require the kind of enormous learning curve that steals your time and energy.
Let’s dig into these plug-and-play tools that will keep you up-to-date on the best practices and tools to serve your church’s mission excellently in our digital- and mobile-dominated age.
Let’s dive right into some of these tools.
1. Read these tech blogs
Building a basic competence with technology comes down to diving into the authorities on technology. But you’ll never read technology blogs if you don’t set the time for it. All it takes is devoting 15 minutes of each morning to reading the latest blogs. Personally, I’m a blog skimmer. But in my tech reading practice, out of 5-6 blogs that I skim, I’ll find one that’s genuinely interesting enough to motivate me to dive into the content deeply. I’m always rewarded with one new nugget of knowledge, which is what it’s all about.
Reading tech blogs can be intimidating, because if you read the wrong tech blog, it could go way over your head and further discourage you from learning technology.
You want to regularly consume a beginner-level technology blog that is challenging enough to push you to learn. Here are a few that I would recommend adding to your daily reading practice:
- Wired — Known as “The New York Times of Tech,” Wired covers the latest tech news from every angle—new developments, how it’s shaping our lives, and practical applications of the latest tools.
- MIT Technology Review — Focused more on education and inspiration, the MIT Technology Review is understandably high-level, but their articles tend to be shorter, which could make them more digestible for fast learners.
- TechCrunch — A news-centered publication that follows top trends and brands in the technology space. Invest in reading this outlet if you want to follow tech long-term and get your mind around the bigger story of tech.
- The Verge — A publication that explores the effects of media on our lives, tailored to a mainstream audience.
- Gizmodo — Known for predicting “the next hot thing” in technology. If you want to make tech predictions that will wow your friends, get the Gizmodo newsletter.
- Futurism — A hot NYC-based media company that gives the latest scoop on all things technology. Very worth subscribing to their newsletter.
The easiest way to consume all this content daily is simply to subscribe to the newsletters of each of these outlets. Then, skim through the titles and find something that interests you in particular. Read that article and, if it ends up being a dud, close your tab and go on to the next article!
Sustainable reading tech blogs for your personal education is all about agility. Find a way to cut the dead weight fast in your search for what’s truly valuable. Plug your email into the right outlets, keep an agile mindset as you skim their emails, and you’ll be on the cutting edge of tech in no time.
2. Listen to these tech podcasts
Podcasts are a growing educational medium because they facilitate learning while multitasking. Podcasts are less than ideal for tech, because tech is better shown than talked about, but this can be a very powerful medium to boost your understanding of technology.
Here are a few of my favorite tech podcasts for a general audience trying to stay sharp on tech:
- Analog(ue) — A show about how our digital devices make us feel as human beings, for better and for worse.
- Clockwise — A rapid, back-and-forth discussion (my favorite podcast format) of the latest issues in tech. No episode is longer than 30 minutes, so all the hosts are aiming to be as concise and accurate as possible.
- Back to Work — A great podcast on how to use tech tools in the modern workplace. Specifically not for techies, but rather tech-interested working people who are aiming to use technology better in their daily lives.
- Tech Talker’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Navigate the Digital World — The shortest, most helpful podcast that explains all tech from the ground up. Imagine a “Technology for Dummies” book made into a short-form podcast. Simply brilliant.
3. Give yourself a personal tech-play budget
Learning technology can never come down to consumption. You will only really “get” technology when you start using it. This is where you have an opportunity to put into practice all of the wonderful insights you’re getting from blogs and podcasts.
Set aside a separate budget for yourself to spend on technology. Don’t buy random tech, but rather invest in technology that serves your personal goals as you seek to grow in your own tech competence.
If you haven’t purchased a smartphone yet, that’s the place to start. If you’re really behind on tech, the iPhone is probably the best smartphone to get.
If you’re an intermediate-beginner tech user, you might invest in some software that better integrates your devices—such as an advanced calendar app, a note app such as Evernote, or a task tracker that syncs to your calendar such as Things 3.
4. Assign yourself tech-devoted time-blocks
Whatever you choose, make it a tool that you will have the opportunity to use every day so that you learn to handle it better. You’ll be tempted to play with it for a few minutes and forget about it. This is where the discipline of becoming tech competent comes in.
Force yourself to use your app for at least 5 minutes every day. You’ll find that before long, tech itself will become second-nature to you as you learn to troubleshoot the tech itself, and as you slowly embed yourself into our emerging culture of digital natives.
5. Tap into the secret weapon of your youth group
If you’re a church leader, you have a ready-made tech-education group at your fingertips: Your youth group. Show up to youth group events and ask the youth pastor to chat about new tech.
If you’re visiting with a family from church, ask their kids to explain some new piece of tech you’re working through. Ask them to share what they’ve been using. Ask them why. The more you understand the motivations of tech users, the more you will find implementing tech into your life a freedom, and not a burden.
6. Attend professional conferences
There are many conferences that focus on using technology to empower yourself personally and professionally. They are too many to name, but your best bet will be to perform a local search on Google for tech-related events near you. This is another opportunity to use technology.
Better yet, download the “Meetup” app and search for established groups of people over 50 who get together to stay up to date on tech. If you live anywhere near a larger city, the chances that a group like this exists 10 miles from you are extremely high. Try it out. If it’s too advanced for you, give it 6 months and try again. If it’s not advanced enough, perhaps try out a different group that focuses on higher-level tech and isn’t age-specific.
7. Adopt church-specific technology
As a church leader, there’s no better opportunity to learn tech than by getting your hands on the best church management technology. Digital tools are now adopted by over 60% of U.S. churches, and the degree to which that technology interfaces with the life of the church—and the percentage of churches who use that technology—will rapidly increase over the next decade.
The very best tool you can use is Tithe.ly ChMS. It enables you to manage your church by getting key data about attendance, engagement, and giving all through a single sign-on. More than that, you can look at the data of each church member at an individual level.
Using Tithe.ly ChMS will be a great opportunity for you to get better at using tech for a purpose that significantly improves you capacity to provide pastoral care to your congregants.
Becoming tech competent is extremely simple. It does require discipline—it isn’t the easiest thing in the world. However, you can do it quickly and simply by being disciplined about consuming tech content and using your chosen tech tool for 5 minutes every single day. Just remember these 7 strategies and try to implement as many of them as you can. If you do, you’ll impress all those younger digital natives who would never believe you’ve mastered the tools of the digital age—even though you did:
- Read tech blogs
- Listen to tech podcasts
- Give yourself personal tech-play budget
- Assign yourself tech-devoted time-blocks
- Tap into the secret weapon of your youth group
- Attend professional conferences
- Adopt church-specific technology like Tithe.ly ChMS