Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ministry and Internet

Another question from the UUA Staff's Strategic Plan for Ministry

What are the implications of social networking for the future of our bricks and mortar ministries? As Philip Clayton put it in his article Theology and the Church after Google, “Do we really inhabit two different worlds: those who text, Twitter and blog, and get 80% of our information from the Internet, and those who are “not comfortable” with the new social media and technologies?

In the article mentioned, Clayton follows this question with another question:  Could we today be facing a change in how human society is organized that is as revolutionary in its implications as was the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg over 500 years ago?

I answer the second question,  "Yes!"  although, we are not "facing" that change, we are "living" that change.  How it will all play out in changed lives and societies is a big question.  Clearly it has changed leisure among the wealthy and revolutions among the poor.   No doubt there is more to come.  Those of us who care about liberal values will have to be light on our feet and deeply thoughtful to work on the right causes in such a climate.

But because I answer the second question,  "yes!",   I am impatient with the tone of the first question.  Those who are "not comfortable" with new technologies will get more and more out of the mainstream and it will be harder and harder to work with them.  Frankly I think that one of the great favors that a church can do for it's elderly or otherwise challenged members is to entice them into the digital world.  

I am not ready to think that the digital world will be the end of the bricks and mortar world, however.  I could be wrong, but I believe that there will still be church buildings in 2061.  I believe that people will still enjoy worshiping. learning,  and eating together, that staffs will still work together in offices, and that much will be as it is now.  What will have changed is how we attract people to church; that will be almost 100% digital (It is nearly that already.), and the fact that we will have the option to have  on-line groups, trainings, and meetings, and that the resources we provide for spiritual development of our members (which will be the only reason people join churches in the future), will be available on our website as well as in sermons and classes.  A church doing its web ministry well will reach many more people, dispersed all over the globe, than any one church ever could before.  Helping those folks contribute to the upkeep of those resources will be a challenge, as we have all come to expect that the best things on the internet will be free.  

As always I welcome your comments!   And just as an example of how quickly things have changed,   most of the comments from the blog post, will be left on my Facebook page, where this post shows up automatically.  So if you want to see the discussion,  friend me on Facebook! 

1 comment:

RevNaomi said...

I agree we're already living in this age. There's more to digital ministry than outreach & congregational communication: justice-organizing, pastoral care, spiritual encouragement, resource provision, theological and ethical conversation, community connecting and creating, devotional practices, faith development, interfaith connecting and sharing, followership development, and leadership development.

Encouraging others to shape and share faith is one of the great liberating practices that digital ministry can offer, because social media itself is built on the ethics of creating and sharing. It is more than resourcing - digital ministry is lived spiritual life 24/7 by the people where the people are gathering.