This congregation has never understood the needs of the church office. As a result, it has been a battle anytime we need something in the office. Just getting an office and a computer almost split the church. When that first computer began to have problems 8 years later, they demanded to know what we'd done with it, and assured me that they would not be continuing to sink money into the office. Someone finally donated a rebuilt computer-- complete with a 6 gigabyte hard drive and a corrupted operating system. Even so, it was better than what we'd been working with. A computer tech came out and finally figured out a bit of a network-- if the secretary saved a file to a specific folder, I could then go in and open it from my laptop.
Then there was the internet situation. We were on dial-up, and they thought that was a waste of money. Why did we need it? Oh, I don't know, maybe because members email us announcements for the bulletin and articles for the newsletter. Of course, there were complaints when we were downloading a large file and the phone was busy at the office. The connection was so slow the only thing we did on the internet was download email. If we needed anything else, I'd pack up my computer and come home to get it.
They refused to buy us a new copier for years, even though a volunteer had to stand at the machine for a full day feeding the newsletter through one page at a time to get it to print. What once took 2 full days can now be done in less than half a day. We used to use much of the secretary's time each month on the newsletter. She only works 7 hours a week, so she'd work less the rest of the month so there would be 16 hours to give to the newsletter.
For 2 years I've been telling them the donated computer was dying. I was told repeatedly it wasn't a priority. Too much of the secretary's time was lost to waiting on a very slow computer.
Finally, in December, a member donated their old computer and laser printer. Then a man who lived away from here wanted to do something for the church and donated a new computer. Of course, that didn't solve the problem. Why did we need to network the computers? Why did we need software?
An anonymous donor finally stepped forward and paid for a year of DSL, and to get the new computers up and running. Yesterday was our first day with the new set-up. I can't believe what a difference it made. First of all, instead of waiting for the copy machine to finish copying so we could print something out, we could print it to scrap paper on the donated laser printer. When I saw corrections that needed to be made to a document, I could access the file on the secretary's computer from my computer. I didn't have to ask her to move files to the shared folder so I could see them. When I finished editing them, I could save them directly back to the proper location. We were also finalizing the newsletter, which looks fantastic this month, since we were able to get new graphics off the internet to use in it. I didn't have to take my laptop to the church, but brought the files home I need to use on a flash drive, which I connected to the key chain with the church keys on it.
The really sad thing? The anonymous donor doesn't want the financial board to know that he footed the bill for DSL and to get the donated computers running. They will be mad that we have an updated office, even though it didn't cost them any money. They will be mad, even though it will greatly increase the efficiency of the office and ultimately save them money. They will be mad, because I got what I told them we needed, and they think I'm too demanding and expect too much. It's the same mentality that has kept my salary at our judicatory's minimum level even after I've been here 13 years and in ministry for 24.
But here's the thing, even with all of this frustration, I still love what I do. I still am passionate about ministry. I'm still grateful for the opportunity to serve among these people. It will just be a little easier now to handle the administrative end of things.