I had been involved in church technology since I was fourteen years old. I was given the opportunity to run the worship presentation during church, then moved to sound boards, and now I’m the paid youth worker in a church. Having seen technology used in the church from many different vantage points, one interesting concept always comes up: the Bring Your Own Device policy (BYOD).
In some churches, the BYOD policy is very strict. You are given a company computer, phone, and email system. You have to use these devices to communicate and they will not accept you veering off to the Apple model.
In other places, the church simply cannot offer new technology and so if you want anything new, you are going to have to use your part of the budget to buy an Apple TV or bring in your own devices that you paid with your own salary.
In the conservative model, you are stuck in an inflexible structure and so if a new device comes out that would be great for ministry, you have to turn it down because the technology cannot be supported.
In a flexible model, you will have the freedom to go to any technology, but you are using tithing money so you need to be good stewards of your money that sometimes gets lost in trying out a new tablet that really was not necessary.
What Is The Best Policy?
Remember that this is for the Kingdom.
Regardless on if you are spending your own money or the churches, whether you are under the conservative or flexible model, what you do goes beyond the devices that you are using. If you need something and it actually does something for the Kingdom, then figure out how you can do it. That being said, so much money is wasted so that church pastors can have the newest, greatest, and best devices out there. If we are to be good stewards, lets be discretionary. If you are not doing video editing or Photoshop, you probably do not need a MacBook Pro.
If you have it, use it.
There are issues of integrating Apple products into Windows environments, but that actually is not enough to limit using your iPhone to receive emails. If you have the devices, an Xbox 360 for your youth group, an iPad Mini for your sermons, or your personal laptop for the PowerPoints during sermons. Sometimes we have all of the devices we need for a great presentation. So if most of the church budget is towards salaries, mission trips, and discipleship material, this might be the best policy addition your ministry needs. That money is going to great places.
The church should protect devices.
One of the biggest abuses with technology in the church is that since you are using your device for ministry, it should be allowed to be used by everyone else. In fact, the person bringing in this device is allowing you to use it if they want you to and it should be okay if they say no. Even worse, many churches have seen these personal items break but only offer an apology. If you enact a BYOD policy, great. But have a statement that if ministry breaks it, you will buy it. (Of course, maybe you will change the BYOD policy all-together if you do not feel comfortable)
Software makes it tricky.
If you work in a church with a flexible BYOD policy, but then buy Microsoft Office for the whole church and they install it on their own devices, you are essentially stealing. It does not matter if you like it or not, you need to be clear that software purchased by the church goes on only church equipment. All software on your own personal devices should be purchased personally by the owner. If you authorize the person to buy mobile apps, expect to not get those apps back because they are tied to that Android or iTunes account. Tread carefully here.
Have it in writing.
Whether you are for or against it, have it in writing to protect the church, its staff, and those that may get caught in the middle. If a staff person brings a projector and a volunteer breaks it, your ministry could be liable without written documentation stating your policy. Even worse, bridges could be burnt between you and the person that lost the device, so set the policy and be vigilant about maintaining it.
What is your formal BYOD policy for your ministry?