Crowdsourcing: New Way to Look at Church Volunteers?

Workhome

In WIRED magazine an article by Jeff Howe about a new trend that supercedes "outsourcing":  The Rise of Crowdsourcing.  In the article, we find that professional photographers that once earned premium prices for pictures now compete with amateurs who sell pictures on the net for as little as $1.  (BTW–I love iStockphoto.com where you can get the $1 pics.).  The article also gives two other examples with TV content and R&D.  Really, it seems that people in their spare time can do a "micro-chunks" and do it as well as highly paid professionals.  Of course, as far as video, a lot of bad content is screened.  However, this model appears to be on the rise according to WIRED.

One thing this trend can mean for church leaders is how to treat volunteers.  Already, the church (especially larger ones) crowdsource.  There are members who volunteer a bit of time to help with everything from engineering to music arranging or troubleshooting a network.  Some may not even do these things currently for a living, but the talent is there in the pew.  Here are some thoughts to run with the  "crowdsource" trend in the church.

  1. Realize that "micro-chunks" are needed in order to facilitate the increasingly fragmented time of church members.  What can be done in 30 minutes or less? (Make on org chart, update one web page, call 3 people, etc.)
  2. Be willing to collect content, knowing that you have to screen it to find the best.  What content can benefit our church that people produce?  (Videos, essays, songs, etc.)
  3. How about telecommuting:  What can people do at home?  Do you have VPN? (Access to online DB to leaders, for instance).
  4. Gather the specialists.  Who does what for a hobby or living?  (Cameramen, engineers,etc.)
  5. Build online, interactive communities to find the best answers.  Who in your church is dialoging about solving the next issues? (Building or facilities, for instance).

What other things need to be in place to "crowdsource" the local church?

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

20 comments

  1. “Crowdsourcing”
    Rich Kirkpatrick has a great post, Crowdsourcing: New Way to Look at Church Volunteers. Rich reflects on an article in Wired Magazine and how it may apply to church volunteers. Technology continues to influence our lives in many ways and…

  2. “Crowdsourcing”
    Rich Kirkpatrick has a great post, Crowdsourcing: New Way to Look at Church Volunteers. Rich reflects on an article in Wired Magazine and how it may apply to church volunteers. Technology continues to influence our lives in many ways and…

  3. “Crowdsourcing”
    Rich Kirkpatrick has a great post, Crowdsourcing: New Way to Look at Church Volunteers. Rich reflects on an article in Wired Magazine and how it may apply to church volunteers. Technology continues to influence our lives in many ways and…

  4. “Crowdsourcing”
    Rich Kirkpatrick has a great post, Crowdsourcing: New Way to Look at Church Volunteers. Rich reflects on an article in Wired Magazine and how it may apply to church volunteers. Technology continues to influence our lives in many ways and…

  5. Rich,
    I wish I could say that “crowdsourcing” works, but I’ve been in a couple churches that went this way and it failed spectacularly.

    Nothing can replace fully qualified experts. I know that there are fields I’ve trained in that some believe are replaceable by crowdsourcing, but in every case, the crowdsourcing results were staggeringly poor.

    The biggest problem, as I see it, is that no one winds up seeing the big picture. They only see their tiny chunk of it. Needs can be met, but nothing ever grows. Stuff stagnates at the level of comprehension shared by everyone in the crowd. The problem is that this is always a lowest common denominator understanding. Result? Poor long-term results. Yes, stuff works in the immediate term, but that’s it. Short-term thinking is the bane of every organization and NOTHING good ever comes from it.

    Of the five steps above, only #4 works. But that’s an essential in anything. The rest don’t work. They’re all based on wrong suppositions, trying to fix a system by ignoring the underlying problems. If people have no time, “microchunks” of work are not the answer. Fixing the reason for the lack of time is the answer!

    And trust me, nothing takes the place of face-to-face contact. Doing stuff via the Web is 80% useless. God made us to communicate in person, not remotely. Too much of our communication is lost through distance.

    Count me out of crowdsourcing. It’s disastrous for the Body of Christ.

  6. Rich,
    I wish I could say that “crowdsourcing” works, but I’ve been in a couple churches that went this way and it failed spectacularly.

    Nothing can replace fully qualified experts. I know that there are fields I’ve trained in that some believe are replaceable by crowdsourcing, but in every case, the crowdsourcing results were staggeringly poor.

    The biggest problem, as I see it, is that no one winds up seeing the big picture. They only see their tiny chunk of it. Needs can be met, but nothing ever grows. Stuff stagnates at the level of comprehension shared by everyone in the crowd. The problem is that this is always a lowest common denominator understanding. Result? Poor long-term results. Yes, stuff works in the immediate term, but that’s it. Short-term thinking is the bane of every organization and NOTHING good ever comes from it.

    Of the five steps above, only #4 works. But that’s an essential in anything. The rest don’t work. They’re all based on wrong suppositions, trying to fix a system by ignoring the underlying problems. If people have no time, “microchunks” of work are not the answer. Fixing the reason for the lack of time is the answer!

    And trust me, nothing takes the place of face-to-face contact. Doing stuff via the Web is 80% useless. God made us to communicate in person, not remotely. Too much of our communication is lost through distance.

    Count me out of crowdsourcing. It’s disastrous for the Body of Christ.

  7. Rich,
    I wish I could say that “crowdsourcing” works, but I’ve been in a couple churches that went this way and it failed spectacularly.

    Nothing can replace fully qualified experts. I know that there are fields I’ve trained in that some believe are replaceable by crowdsourcing, but in every case, the crowdsourcing results were staggeringly poor.

    The biggest problem, as I see it, is that no one winds up seeing the big picture. They only see their tiny chunk of it. Needs can be met, but nothing ever grows. Stuff stagnates at the level of comprehension shared by everyone in the crowd. The problem is that this is always a lowest common denominator understanding. Result? Poor long-term results. Yes, stuff works in the immediate term, but that’s it. Short-term thinking is the bane of every organization and NOTHING good ever comes from it.

    Of the five steps above, only #4 works. But that’s an essential in anything. The rest don’t work. They’re all based on wrong suppositions, trying to fix a system by ignoring the underlying problems. If people have no time, “microchunks” of work are not the answer. Fixing the reason for the lack of time is the answer!

    And trust me, nothing takes the place of face-to-face contact. Doing stuff via the Web is 80% useless. God made us to communicate in person, not remotely. Too much of our communication is lost through distance.

    Count me out of crowdsourcing. It’s disastrous for the Body of Christ.

  8. Rich,
    I wish I could say that “crowdsourcing” works, but I’ve been in a couple churches that went this way and it failed spectacularly.

    Nothing can replace fully qualified experts. I know that there are fields I’ve trained in that some believe are replaceable by crowdsourcing, but in every case, the crowdsourcing results were staggeringly poor.

    The biggest problem, as I see it, is that no one winds up seeing the big picture. They only see their tiny chunk of it. Needs can be met, but nothing ever grows. Stuff stagnates at the level of comprehension shared by everyone in the crowd. The problem is that this is always a lowest common denominator understanding. Result? Poor long-term results. Yes, stuff works in the immediate term, but that’s it. Short-term thinking is the bane of every organization and NOTHING good ever comes from it.

    Of the five steps above, only #4 works. But that’s an essential in anything. The rest don’t work. They’re all based on wrong suppositions, trying to fix a system by ignoring the underlying problems. If people have no time, “microchunks” of work are not the answer. Fixing the reason for the lack of time is the answer!

    And trust me, nothing takes the place of face-to-face contact. Doing stuff via the Web is 80% useless. God made us to communicate in person, not remotely. Too much of our communication is lost through distance.

    Count me out of crowdsourcing. It’s disastrous for the Body of Christ.

  9. Good points…but I think there are some cases where this might work. Especially, if you view the local church more as a group of smaller groups.
    We have five services and have gone to using volunteers at levels most churches would hire at. Yes, you do not have the “expert” doing, but you can have the expert there to train others. So, if training is actual skills (music lessons, for example) are possible, then you never know. We have high school kids running video equipment that is very expensive, but it works. Someone is there to train.

    The other possible piece is that the lower you allow some decisions to be made, the more ownership you can attain. The face-to-face will be there, but we do not have to micro-manage things, either. It is a very biblical value (2 Tim 2:2) to entrust people with the MOST important things, so when it comes to the business side, why not entrust that, too.

    Indeed, people need help setting priorities. So, time management is a life-skill that is needed along side any other stewardship training. However, good project management skills can really answer breaking things up and if people can experience the accomplishment with a little, then asking them for more is more of a possibility.

    Anyway, I see some possibilities and some ways to address the concerns you have. Big picture is important. Empowering people is important. I think that we need to be more and more open to realizing that we cannot change our culture completely and that it is no more or less evil than the one we used to know. It is just different, for the most part. So, with that as an assumption, who knows!

  10. Good points…but I think there are some cases where this might work. Especially, if you view the local church more as a group of smaller groups.
    We have five services and have gone to using volunteers at levels most churches would hire at. Yes, you do not have the “expert” doing, but you can have the expert there to train others. So, if training is actual skills (music lessons, for example) are possible, then you never know. We have high school kids running video equipment that is very expensive, but it works. Someone is there to train.

    The other possible piece is that the lower you allow some decisions to be made, the more ownership you can attain. The face-to-face will be there, but we do not have to micro-manage things, either. It is a very biblical value (2 Tim 2:2) to entrust people with the MOST important things, so when it comes to the business side, why not entrust that, too.

    Indeed, people need help setting priorities. So, time management is a life-skill that is needed along side any other stewardship training. However, good project management skills can really answer breaking things up and if people can experience the accomplishment with a little, then asking them for more is more of a possibility.

    Anyway, I see some possibilities and some ways to address the concerns you have. Big picture is important. Empowering people is important. I think that we need to be more and more open to realizing that we cannot change our culture completely and that it is no more or less evil than the one we used to know. It is just different, for the most part. So, with that as an assumption, who knows!

  11. Good points…but I think there are some cases where this might work. Especially, if you view the local church more as a group of smaller groups.
    We have five services and have gone to using volunteers at levels most churches would hire at. Yes, you do not have the “expert” doing, but you can have the expert there to train others. So, if training is actual skills (music lessons, for example) are possible, then you never know. We have high school kids running video equipment that is very expensive, but it works. Someone is there to train.

    The other possible piece is that the lower you allow some decisions to be made, the more ownership you can attain. The face-to-face will be there, but we do not have to micro-manage things, either. It is a very biblical value (2 Tim 2:2) to entrust people with the MOST important things, so when it comes to the business side, why not entrust that, too.

    Indeed, people need help setting priorities. So, time management is a life-skill that is needed along side any other stewardship training. However, good project management skills can really answer breaking things up and if people can experience the accomplishment with a little, then asking them for more is more of a possibility.

    Anyway, I see some possibilities and some ways to address the concerns you have. Big picture is important. Empowering people is important. I think that we need to be more and more open to realizing that we cannot change our culture completely and that it is no more or less evil than the one we used to know. It is just different, for the most part. So, with that as an assumption, who knows!

  12. Good points…but I think there are some cases where this might work. Especially, if you view the local church more as a group of smaller groups.
    We have five services and have gone to using volunteers at levels most churches would hire at. Yes, you do not have the “expert” doing, but you can have the expert there to train others. So, if training is actual skills (music lessons, for example) are possible, then you never know. We have high school kids running video equipment that is very expensive, but it works. Someone is there to train.

    The other possible piece is that the lower you allow some decisions to be made, the more ownership you can attain. The face-to-face will be there, but we do not have to micro-manage things, either. It is a very biblical value (2 Tim 2:2) to entrust people with the MOST important things, so when it comes to the business side, why not entrust that, too.

    Indeed, people need help setting priorities. So, time management is a life-skill that is needed along side any other stewardship training. However, good project management skills can really answer breaking things up and if people can experience the accomplishment with a little, then asking them for more is more of a possibility.

    Anyway, I see some possibilities and some ways to address the concerns you have. Big picture is important. Empowering people is important. I think that we need to be more and more open to realizing that we cannot change our culture completely and that it is no more or less evil than the one we used to know. It is just different, for the most part. So, with that as an assumption, who knows!

  13. Rich,
    I was one of those people who trained for Christian ministry but found my calling dissed by churches moving to volunteers.

    I know a lot of people like me who trained in Christian Education at the same time that churches decided they didn’t need trained Christian Education professionals. The results of that decision are clear. Any read of Barna’s polls will show the progressive disaster that is Christian Education in this country. And the fall can be traced directly to the elimination of paid, professional Christian Education departments within churches. You can fit a graph showing the demise of paid Christian Ed leaders over the top of the steep drop in biblical knowledge for a scary 1:1 correlation.

    One of the reasons we have paid pastors is that we think they can’t effectively pastor if they’re working an outside job, yet we have no problem violating that same standard with the very folks charged with educating the next generation of leaders within our churches. The fact that so many churches are unable to hire staff from within is largely because their Christian Education programs failed. We wouldn’t think of hiring an electrician with no previous electrical skills, but when it comes to vitally important job of raising up the next generation of Christian leaders, we have no problems entrusting their care to people with zero training.

    I dunno. I don’t get that at all. We’ve got our priorities all messed up.

  14. Rich,
    I was one of those people who trained for Christian ministry but found my calling dissed by churches moving to volunteers.

    I know a lot of people like me who trained in Christian Education at the same time that churches decided they didn’t need trained Christian Education professionals. The results of that decision are clear. Any read of Barna’s polls will show the progressive disaster that is Christian Education in this country. And the fall can be traced directly to the elimination of paid, professional Christian Education departments within churches. You can fit a graph showing the demise of paid Christian Ed leaders over the top of the steep drop in biblical knowledge for a scary 1:1 correlation.

    One of the reasons we have paid pastors is that we think they can’t effectively pastor if they’re working an outside job, yet we have no problem violating that same standard with the very folks charged with educating the next generation of leaders within our churches. The fact that so many churches are unable to hire staff from within is largely because their Christian Education programs failed. We wouldn’t think of hiring an electrician with no previous electrical skills, but when it comes to vitally important job of raising up the next generation of Christian leaders, we have no problems entrusting their care to people with zero training.

    I dunno. I don’t get that at all. We’ve got our priorities all messed up.

  15. Rich,
    I was one of those people who trained for Christian ministry but found my calling dissed by churches moving to volunteers.

    I know a lot of people like me who trained in Christian Education at the same time that churches decided they didn’t need trained Christian Education professionals. The results of that decision are clear. Any read of Barna’s polls will show the progressive disaster that is Christian Education in this country. And the fall can be traced directly to the elimination of paid, professional Christian Education departments within churches. You can fit a graph showing the demise of paid Christian Ed leaders over the top of the steep drop in biblical knowledge for a scary 1:1 correlation.

    One of the reasons we have paid pastors is that we think they can’t effectively pastor if they’re working an outside job, yet we have no problem violating that same standard with the very folks charged with educating the next generation of leaders within our churches. The fact that so many churches are unable to hire staff from within is largely because their Christian Education programs failed. We wouldn’t think of hiring an electrician with no previous electrical skills, but when it comes to vitally important job of raising up the next generation of Christian leaders, we have no problems entrusting their care to people with zero training.

    I dunno. I don’t get that at all. We’ve got our priorities all messed up.

  16. Rich,
    I was one of those people who trained for Christian ministry but found my calling dissed by churches moving to volunteers.

    I know a lot of people like me who trained in Christian Education at the same time that churches decided they didn’t need trained Christian Education professionals. The results of that decision are clear. Any read of Barna’s polls will show the progressive disaster that is Christian Education in this country. And the fall can be traced directly to the elimination of paid, professional Christian Education departments within churches. You can fit a graph showing the demise of paid Christian Ed leaders over the top of the steep drop in biblical knowledge for a scary 1:1 correlation.

    One of the reasons we have paid pastors is that we think they can’t effectively pastor if they’re working an outside job, yet we have no problem violating that same standard with the very folks charged with educating the next generation of leaders within our churches. The fact that so many churches are unable to hire staff from within is largely because their Christian Education programs failed. We wouldn’t think of hiring an electrician with no previous electrical skills, but when it comes to vitally important job of raising up the next generation of Christian leaders, we have no problems entrusting their care to people with zero training.

    I dunno. I don’t get that at all. We’ve got our priorities all messed up.

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