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Pastoral Care Tracking: Empowering Your Low-tech Volunteers

In this article we propose a thoughtful new approach to accounting for volunteer tech literacy differences.

Pastoral care teams are now fully embracing the digital age and using various technologies to walk out their visions of care. They feel empowered to drive their missions forward and care for their people in innovative, deep and meaningful ways, with coverage and continuity they’ve never achieved previously. However, there is one aspect of this shift that we often hear about – a lack of team-wide adoption. This issue is commonly cited as a huge roadblock for care teams. Integrating technology into care team workflows can be difficult when those teams are supported heavily by volunteers who aren’t necessarily as tech-savvy. This can create tension within the team – leaders can feel frustrated at the lack of adoption, and volunteers feel left behind, underappreciated and unfulfilled. 

We’ve created a comprehensive guide that aims to bridge the gap by tackling common pain points. We acknowledge the experience of the no-tech/low-tech volunteer, examine whether your current tech is serving your team, explore how to assess a volunteer's tech level, and how to bring them along and integrate them through thoughtfully-designed training. The ultimate goal is to build a holistic system that guarantees every volunteer, regardless of their technical proficiency, can contribute effectively to the care team’s mission.

1. Gaining Perspective

Why aren’t they getting it? It’s easy to become frustrated when you have a tool you know can transform your team, if you could just get everyone on board. It is really important to let patience and compassion guide you here – you’ve got stop to think about the experience of your low-tech volunteers. Understanding their perspective is the first step to identifying workable solutions.

So why do some volunteers find this digital leap daunting? The reasons are as varied as their life stories. Some have had very limited exposure to technology over the course of their lifetimes; this could be because their work didn’t involve technology, they didn’t have much access to technology, or some other reason. Perhaps they were tech literate at one point in their lives, but have fallen behind in the constantly-changing tech landscape. Perhaps they simply have a preference for interpersonal connections unmediated by screens. You’ve likely got a mix of this and other reasons for low tech literacy on your volunteer roster, and having this background knowledge for your team will be extremely valuable as you move through the next steps.

2. Assessing Tech Literacy

Now that you know a bit more about their tech histories, how do you find out what your volunteers are actually capable of? There are a few techniques that can help you assess where your team is at:

Start with a conversation.

Begin by having an open dialogue about the volunteer's comfort and experience with technology. Questions can range from their daily tech use to any previous experiences with specific tools or software. It's very important to approach this conversation with sensitivity and without assumptions. 

Use a hands-on approach.

Engage in a hands-on demonstration of the tools they'll be using. This could involve showing them the basic functionalities of church management software or a dedicated tool like Notebird. Observing their interaction with the tech will give you insights into their proficiency level.

Use a simple questionnaire.

A brief questionnaire can help gauge their comfort level with technology; this can be particularly useful if you’ve got a pretty large volunteer pool and need to assess everyone in a more streamlined fashion. Include questions about what technology they use in their personal and/or work lives, and ask about their comfort levels using email, smartphones, and any other relevant technology that will be part of their volunteer role.

3. Check Your Tech

You can have the best software the church tech industry has to offer, but if your team isn’t all on the same page it just won’t matter. That is why you need to keep your team’s tech literacy in mind when assessing existing tech and when shopping for new tools. We explore this more extensively in our Religious Product News article A Simple Framework for Finding the Right Technology. While you may only be thinking about leadership and staff when selecting tech, it’s important to consider whether it also aligns with your volunteer’s capabilities if you’re expecting them to join in. A few questions you might ask:

  • Is it easy to use? 
  • Is the interface clear and understandable, or cluttered and busy? 
  • Is it accessible – can it be easily seen and understood by someone with poor vision? 
  • Are there a lot of clicks required to do simple or common actions? 
  • Does using the tool require a complex understanding of its structure, or extensive training? Or, is it intuitive?
  • Does it integrate with other applications we use so volunteers can enter information in one place?

A piece of tech you’ll probably assess first is your church management software (ChMS) – for comparison, we think Breeze sets a great example. Their user interface is simple, straightforward and uncluttered. This makes it less likely that your volunteers will be overwhelmed, will have a more pleasant learning experience and will be more likely to adopt the workflows you’re looking to establish amongst your whole team. We’ve made ease-of-use a cornerstone of Notebird, so we feel strongly that this is absolutely key to getting your whole team on board.

Did you know Breeze integrates seamlessly with Notebird? Check it out on our integration page.

4. Train and Integrate Thoughtfully in 3 Steps

Once you know your tech is serving you, the journey towards comprehensive adoption begins. This path requires patience, understanding, and strategic training to ensure your volunteers are in step with the whole team. Check out some of the strategies provided below and find the methods that will work best for your team:

Step 1: Plan your onboarding and training strategies

Tailor your training sessions: Design training sessions that accommodate different learning paces. For low-tech volunteers, consider more hands-on, step-by-step training that allows them to become familiar with the software or tools at their own pace.

Provide written guides and videos: Create a library of easy-to-follow written guides or tutorial videos – even better, select tech tools that have great support documentation and great customer service. Either way, ensure your volunteers have resources if they prefer learning outside of formal training sessions or need to revisit specific instructions.

Assign a tech buddy: Pair each low-tech volunteer with a more tech-savvy peer. This buddy system can foster a supportive learning environment, encouraging questions and providing personalized assistance. This can also take some of the burden off of staff. Communicate clearly to ensure sure your tech-literate volunteers understand their role in this.

Step 2: Anticipate and address pain points

Identify common challenges: Anticipate potential challenges based on your assessment and initial training sessions. Common issues might include difficulty navigating software interfaces or remembering login procedures.

Simplify processes: Work with your tech team or software provider to simplify the user experience for less tech-savvy volunteers wherever possible. This might involve customizing dashboards to show only the essential features or automating certain tasks to reduce the number of steps involved.

Have regular check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins with your volunteers to discuss any challenges they're facing and gather feedback on the tools and processes. This ongoing dialogue can help you make necessary adjustments in real-time.

Step 3: Structure the integration and define new workflows

Define clear roles: Clearly outline the roles and responsibilities for your low-tech volunteers, ensuring they understand how their work fits into the larger pastoral care strategy. This clarity can help mitigate any confusion about how to use technology in their day-to-day tasks.

Ease into new tech: Gradually integrate technology into their workflow, starting with the simplest tasks and progressively introducing more complex functionalities as their confidence grows.

Celebrate milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate milestones and successes. Recognizing their progress with technology can boost confidence and reinforce their valuable contribution to the team.

Incorporating technology into pastoral care doesn't have to leave anyone behind. By getting to know your volunteers, assessing their comfort levels with tech, ensuring your technology caters to your team’s abilities and providing tailored training and support you can give your pastoral care team the best chance of succeeding with new technologies. By acknowledging and understanding the capabilities of your volunteers and building solutions that align with these pragmatically, you can  get everyone on the same page and grow a team of volunteers who are capable, fulfilled and deeply invested in your vision of care.

Notebird is easy-to-use, dedicated pastoral care software that helps teams make sure no one falls through the cracks. Learn more.

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