What to Consider When Implementing AI Within Your Ministry

The rise of generative AI has brought a significant opportunity for ministries to get more efficient and expand their impact. Like any new technology, it also comes with notable risks and concerns. This a rapidly changing field to the point that by the time I am finished writing this article, more things will have changed than I can count. For this reason, we will cover the broad categories to consider so you can have a framework to think about AI as the landscape changes.

Potential Upsides

There are numerous upsides for ministries, which only increase the deeper you dive in. As a starting point, some of these upsides include:

Content Ideation - Generative AI can help you generate content ideas and topics to help you get past the “staring at a blank page” part of the writing process.

Content Outlines - You can use tools like ChatGPT to uncover the key points surrounding a topic, which will help you lay out your content or even give you the starting point of a content calendar.

First Draft - Creating a first draft of content that needs to be revised and edited.

Unique Images - Particularly for ministries that work in areas where security is an issue, Having AI-generated images to show the work you are doing without risking sharing the identity of your workers is a big plus.

Research - AI is great at pulling information from many sources and collating it into a single easy-to-read chart or table. 

Rephrasing or Clarifying - We often write content but it’s too wordy or not clearly stated. AI can help you rephrase, simplify, or clarify your content.

Headlines, Subject lines, Social Posts - Writing headline or email subject line variations to test out can be an exercise in mental gymnastics. But I can help you brainstorm several ideas within seconds. 

This list barely scratches the surface of ways you can incorporate AI into your ministry processes to get things done faster and improve the quality of your content. While this may seem too good to be true, it comes with risks and concerns. Some of the most common concerns are:

Potential Downsides

Lower Quality or Biased Content - AI has been improving rapidly in capabilities and quality. However, it still should never be published without human review and editing. Since it is algorithmically driven and cannot understand the content it is creating, there is the potential for the content to perpetuate biases found in the training data.

Misinformation - With how easily AI pulls data and other information together, there is the temptation to trust the response it gives blindly. However, the sources it finds are not always reliable, and in some cases, when it can not find the answer to the question you ask, it makes one up (this is called a hallucination).

Privacy Concerns - For AI to work, it needs to consume a lot of data. Much of this data is generated by people chatting with it. Sending sensitive information into an AI chat can accidentally make your data publicly accessible.

Ethical Considerations - The data used to create the AI models is content that other people have created. Particularly when it comes to generating graphics, you’ll see that AI makes it easy to create art in the style of a specific artist. There are many concerns regarding how this data was collected and the impact that it could have on writers and artists.

Legal Considerations - This is a rapidly evolving field, and our legal system can not keep pace with all of the possible implications. This means that changes can and will come to our laws and regulations.

Deep Fakes and Other Nefarious Uses - AI has made it possible to clone voices, make videos from images, and more. This opens us up to deep fakes, impersonation, and other infringements out of our control.

So, How Should Ministries Think About AI?

Each individual ministry will need to wrestle with the potential risks and rewards presented by generative AI. While there are many unknowns, one certain thing is that AI is here to stay and will only become more ubiquitous over the next few years. We recommend that ministries:

Write an AI policy - to help your team know how they are and are not allowed to use AI in your ministry. 

Start small - test with low-risk/low-concern options, such as summarizing and clarifying your own content or rewriting headlines. 

Find a champion on your team who understands your mission and vision well and is willing to keep up to date on the latest changes and challenges in AI to keep your policies and practices up to date.

Don’t ignore it. AI has the potential to completely disrupt our entire way of doing business; ignoring it will only set you up for bigger challenges down the road.

Hopefully, you can walk away from this article with a framework to think about using AI within your ministry and some tough questions to work through with your team. It is an exciting, if not a little scary, time for ministry leaders; we are all learning together, so if you have ideas or questions, we’d love to hear from you.