Wired might open imagination for ministry

20140329-213248.jpg So I’ve often found myself sneezing a peek at Wired magazine. Most of it is over my head, or outside of my know-how. But every once and a while there are ideas which cause me to pause and … Perhaps get glimpses of ministry in the years ahead. Today I was wandering around Wired’s website and came across these two videos. Watch them and see what you think these might mean for ministry in the 21st century.

Access to Information


It was a Sunday afternoon and my daughter and I were running errands. We were halfway between home and a store I wanted to stop by. In a “senior” moment, I asked my daughter if we could stop by home to check on how late the store was open. Before I even realized what I had said, (I wanted to go home and call the store or look up their information on their website) she had taken out her phone, searched for the store and told me we had an hour before they closed.

I grew up in an era with phone books – yellow pages for businesses and white pages for home residents. My mom loved phone books, and she taught her kids well. As the saying goes,”She let your fingers do the walking” and made use of this valuable tool located right in our kitchen cupboard. In the 1980s, phone books were a source of information.

My kids don’t know the difference between white pages and yellow pages, and laugh at the idea that a book, updated once year, could we valuable for getting people’s numbers, findings specialty stores or even discovering a shop’s hours. This information, as witnessed with my daughter, is all at their finger tips. All the time, everyday.

So what, you might ask. What does it matter how one finds phone numbers or store hours?

It matters because the world has shifted. My daughter doesn’t only have access to the yellow pages in her phone, she’s got “the world” in her hands. Think I’m over exaggerating? Think again.

This fall, while said daughter was in a class on Martin Luther, mom became a great resource. For about five Tuesdays or Wednesdays in a row, I’d get a text, email or even a call, asking for help. My daughter was struggling with the assigned reading in her religion class, usually a reading I had in print in my office. She’d written a 2 page reflection, but wanted me to “look it over” and offer critical feedback. (A theologian’s dream – quite possibly!) To offer good feedback, I needed to “refresh” my own reading of these texts. And guess what I did? I Googled it.  And, lo and behold, I found the texts I needed. All of them. Imagine that.

Today, all kinds of information is available at our fingertips – in our Smartphones, in our iPads and in our laptops. Getting essays by Martin Luther, for example, is not a problem. The issue at hand is, like it was for my daughter, finding a good conversation partner. What does this mean for faith formation? What does this mean for Christian education?

This experience with my daughter has helped me rethink what it means to be a teacher of the church. Yes, I’m teaching church leaders, but I don’t think it matters if it is a “soon-to-be” pastor or a 13-year old or an educated lay person. Studies show, we can get access to information. But who will be a guide? Who will help people make their way through the maze of information? Who will ask good questions? Who will be there for conversation?

The world has shifted. As one “teaching” about the Bible, theology and what our church believes, I have to remember, I am not the dispenser of information – my role has changed. These days, what’s needed is a guide. one to accompany learners in their journey of faith. I don’t know exactly what that means yet, but I’m trying. And I’m making mistakes along the way.

Two easy things to do to get started:

As you ponder what this means for you, think about an area you don’t know anything about, but want to. (I recently needed help with some aspect of knitting, for example.) Maybe  you have a particular “situation” or problem you want to address. Maybe it’s a really big issue, and you want to know how to get started. What did you do? Where did you turn? What would you need? What kinds of questions would you have? Maybe the exploration is a place to begin.

Next, listen. In the “normal” places and in the “abnormal” places. Listen to what people talk about in the coffee hour between services or before or after confirmation. What insights do these comments have for you as you think about being a guide. But also listen at coffee shops, at the basketball game or when you are out to eat. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a clue as not only the questions, but what tools these folks need to access the information they are looking for.


Digital Storytelling

Watch this…

Got your attention? 

We, God’s people, are invited to be sharing the good news of  the gospel – to all people, all of the time. Yet so often many of us aren’t sure how. What if we – adults, kids and young people – once again became active storytellers? Not only in “telling” the story, but also in crafting how we are telling the story. In a participatory culture, with access to lots of digital tools, and a little imagination…I think we, just like Caitlin Jensen did above, can do it.

One of the things my Faith Formation in a Digital Culture class explored was digital storytelling. If you are not familiar with it, it’s simply a digital version of telling a story and it uses images, sounds and words. What if in this digital age, we, ministry leaders, recommitted ourselves to telling God’s story…and helping others do the same? Think about it.

(For more see: Center for Digital Storytelling or 


Faith Formation in a Digital Age


According to the Kaiser Family Foundation Study – Generation M2,

Over the past to five years, there has been a huge increase in media use among young people ages 8 to 18.

That doesn’t surprise anyone, especially parents and youthworkers.

According to the study…in 2005, the average media use (computer, TV, music, video, etc.) was 6 1/2 hours per day (with a content level of 8 1/2 hours because of multi-tasking). In 2010, the average media use was 7 1/2 hours per day (with a content level of 10 3/4 hours). That means young people are engaged with media more than 53 hours a week.

How are they spending their time?

  • listening to music – 43%
  • using the computer – 40%
  • watching TV – 39% (although not in real time, but recorded)
  • reading – 27%
  • playing video games – 22%

And 20% of media consumption (2:07) occurs on mobile devices!

And, according to a 2013 Pew Research Study,

  • 78% of teens have cell phone (47% own smartphones)
  • 23% of teens have a tablet computer (similar to the adult population)
  • 95% of teens use the internet
  • 93% of teens have a computer (or access to one at home)
(For the full Kaiser Report and the Pew Study go to the research section http://wp.me/P3aRO2-10 .)
On the one hand, that’s just a bunch of numbers. On the other hand, those numbers paint a picture of the digital shift taking place in our midst.
The world is changing, it’s fluid and hard to get our head around the impact of all these changes. But those of us involved in faith formation need to take note. These changes are shifting the ground so much of ministry rests on. As church leaders, and parents and grandparents, try to stay connected with children, youth, young adults and their families, it is important to take a step back and take account of the impact these media devices are having on our culture.
As I work with leaders, I note five key aspects of culture which haven been impacted by the digital age.
  1. Access to information has shifted, and this means learning has changed.
  2. Communication patterns have shifted, not only digitally but also face-to-face.
  3. Socialization is changing, and not just for young people.
  4. Multi-tasking is changing the ability to focus, and our sense of time.
  5. Technology is integrated in a way of life, it is not separate from our daily living.
Over the next few posts I am going to say more about each of these shifts and ponder how they might relate to a bigger question: What impact does the Digital Age have on Faith Formation?
Stay Tuned!

Social Media and You

I don’t think social media is dangerous. I think we are dangerous.

Social media is here to stay, just like telephones and computers. Yes, there are unhealthy ways to interact with social media. But there are also healthy ways to engage social media. For those of us seeking to be public about our faith, social media is one place to engage public conversation – be it about social issues or our personal lives. I, for one, have appreciated having social media tools available to me as I stay connected in meaningful ways with various people within my social sphere. Sometimes it’s with people down the street, other times it’s with people halfway around the world. Sometimes it’s sharing information, other times it’s lamenting the loss of my favorite sports team. Regardless, I want us, everyday people, to wonder how faith and social media might intersect in a constructive way. Check out this great, simple article on ways social media can be a healthy way for humans to live within community.

How Social Media Made me a Better Person

April 2013 report says…

78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
23% of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
95% of teens use the internet.
93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home. Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.
For more see the Teens and Technology Report Pew Report 2013