Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If I Were a "Futurist"...

I would prophesy that the award for "most effective church" in the very near future will go to the one that successfully (and intentionally) integrates digital technology and social media into the life of its community.

How many of you stay in better communcation with your Facebook friends than with the people you know (or don't know) from your church? Facebook, MySpace, and blogging are facilitating the establishment and cultivation of "presence" in ways that the modern church simply cannot. As my friend and personal design/technology guru Joe Rueter (who got me thinking about this in the first place) puts it, social media is enabling us to create for ourselves a massive but personal, "digital porch."

In one quick glance at my Facebook page, I can see what my friends (some of whom I haven't seen in person in 15 years) are doing or thinking--or at least what they say they are doing or thinking. I'm notified of birthdays, job searches, baby or wedding announcements, and disappointments or accomplishments of various sorts. Think of it: A church that incorporates technology to facilitate the connection of the lives of its people. I'm not an advocate of "internet church," which runs against the biblical norm of church as a personal meeting in a physical place for worship, prayer, healing and mutual accountability. Rather, digital and social media should be utilized as a complement to what the church is already doing. Pastors could utilize blogs to inform the congregation of what he or she will be preaching or teaching about--and to solicit ideas or suggestions for future topics. Or blogs could serve as forums for discussion of implications and applications from sermons, Bible studies, and the like.

Who knows what all of this would look like, or what shape it would take in your own church community. But I suspect that the more technology and digital media ingratiates itself in the lives of people, the more inevitable the integration into church will become. Why not jump on it now?

How many of you are in churches that are already utilizing such technology? How are they/you doing it? Is it working? Is it changing things (for better or worse)?


Sports Dave said...

I'm in a group trying to get a young adult-type service started in an existing Methodist congregation, and we do the majority of our communication through a Facebook group, which has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Since most people check their Facebook compulsively, and since it's a part of our culture to post a lot on our group page, we tend to get information out quickly. That also has created some problems in that the group which "has Facebook" often knows things that the people who don't have Facebook don't know.

It also can make relationships a bit superficial, as anyone who thinks about the relation of technology to our interpersonal relationships probably already knows. It's clearly no substitute for the hard work of building relationship, working through conflict, etc., but when one accounts for its inherent weaknesses, it's certainly been a big help for our group.

Scott Strand said...


Interesting ideas. These are the questions that I am exploring in my DMin studies. I would love to talk with you sometime about this.

Kyle A. Roberts said...

Dave, so the people who "have facebook" in your church have access to what would otherwise be secret, hidden knowledge? Hmm...reminds me of a sect I read about in church history once. Seriously, though, thanks for the story.

Scott, yes, it would be great to talk to you about this sometime. Makes sense that you would be exploring these questions. I'm interested to hear what you come up with.

Silas said...

A central question emerges: can transformational relationality really exist in digital connections? The comfortabilty (read: distance) of cyber-relations tempts us into beliving that more information is a good substitute for bodily engagement. By checking your status, getting updates about important dates in your life, simply by logging in to Facebook, occudes the sometimes terrifying and dangerous task of seeing your face. The transformational relationality inherent in ecclessial logic demands a certain physicality. Our bodies matter; part of what it means to be the church is to care for each other's bodies. Facebook, while good for so many things, is no substitute for that.

slkastner said...

Kyle, we have a discussion group called "Talks by the Well" where we discuss, among other topics, the issue of Truth/Honesty, as presented in this movie.

At question is whether or not Batman's decision to withhold information from the public is moral or even necessary. Further, we discuss total depravity versus redeemable qualities of humanity.

All this to say that we are working out our theology in community and on Facebook! While no substitute for physical interaction, the meeting of geographically separated minds may, through this medium, offer a unique opportunity for more interdisciplinary and perhaps interfaith dialogue leading to a more culturally aware spiritual growth.

For more in depth discussions, we have also created a private group, called the "Tofte Dialogues." This group is comprised of published theologians and students who are free to engage in open dialogue.

For those of us in the In-Ministry program, where face to face contact is not always possible, we better are able to process our own revelations and challenges with our peers and elders.