Let's review a scenario:
A church is using antiquated computer equipment. Granted, the church is fairly small, but still...it's pretty old. We're talking about early release 2002 or so, still running Windows XP. In fact, it wouldn't be able to run Windows Vista or Windows 7. The pastor and small staff, which is mostly part time, knows that they need to upgrade as they can barely keep up with software that is coming out now. In fact, they aren't keeping up too well with software that came out several years ago.
One of the deacons does some research and finds out that they can get a steal of a computer for $420 from Dell or HP, including Windows 7 and Microsoft Office and church management software will cost another $100. The pastor knows that he needs a computer, the secretary needs one, and the worship/youth leader needs one. Of course, that isn't allowing for one for anyone else who's part time or volunteer, like the missions guy, who keeps having to come in, transfer stuff from home, print out flyers for visiting missionaries, and then take the information back home again.
Suddenly, the church is faced with a cost of $1560, which means cutting some budget item by $130 a month, or at least not take on another missionary. And that isn't including any budget for new monitors (thankfully the old ones are ok), printers, etc. That equipment will just have to keep on truckin'.
Why does technology have to be the limiting factor?
Now a second scenario:
The same small church as mentioned above hears about the possibilities of open source software and Linux. No one in the church has the slightest idea how to use it or what any of that means, but they know stewardship requires them to at least consider it. So the deacon who researched the computer options now does some research on Linux and finds an ad for a small company that will install Linux and office software on the church's older equipment and support the church's tech needs for a few months while they acclimate to the new system, for a fraction of the cost of the new Dell or HP systems. In fact, the company is only going to charge $250 for the entire package.
Everyone at the next board meeting is concerned. No one has ever tried anything other than Windows, although the youth group leader has a nephew with some version of Apple's Macintosh. Everything else seems pretty scary. And is it right to get software so cheap? Nevertheless, the pastor and the staff get together on a chilly Saturday morning at the church where they come in contact with a young man who is the tech representative for the Linux company.
He begins by showing them on a laptop what they could be doing with the Linux system, that it's easy to use, has most of the features they are used to, and can completely manage everything the church needs. Cautiously, and with some anxiety, the church votes to make the switch. And so they do.
Ubuntu Linux OS brings the church's older equipment up to a new level, allowing the pastor and staff to communicate in ways they never could have before, even with the old equipment. OpenOffice provides all word processing, spreadsheets, database, and presentation needs, removing the need for over $100 in purchasing Microsoft Office. Churchinfo, a database manager for churches developed by people for free distribution, covers the church's database needs, although to be fair the church had to input the older information by hand (which allowed them to clear up the rolls). Evolution, the free Microsoft Outlook-type email client, provides email, calendar, and messaging. In a few short weeks, and with very little trouble, the church is not only up and running, but running well. And the money from the budget that they didn't have to spend on new equipment and software is on it's way overseas to help spread the word of God's Gospel.
Is this possible?
Yes. I could do it tomorrow. Most churches don't need powerful systems that cost hundreds (thousands?) of dollars. Linux is a streamlined system that doesn't need the newest equipment to run and tech support, while harder to find, is usually cheap or even free if you are willing to learn a little about it.
Ok, pastors, what is your take? Think this could work? What would it take to convince you?