What does tech fluency have to do with Christian formation?
Two years ago, I asked myself this question. Perhaps it was my educational background, coming from a school that equally valued and excelled in the arts, science, humanities, and technology - and emphasized the intersection of these disciplines. Perhaps it was serving as the Director of Children's Ministry, witnessing models and practices that came from a bygone era and were increasingly ill-adapted to the world in which my families and young people dwelt. Perhaps it was my own obsessive use of social media and the fact that my iPhone had somehow become an extension of my arm.
So I wondered: is the integration of faith and technology nothing more than cheap gimmickry that obscures rather than enhances authentic spiritual growth? Does technology inhibit real community and relationship-building or extend it? Can technology help people find God? And how does our obsession with technology, in fact, reveal the very nature of God?
To get some answers, I paired up with an Episcopal priest - Kyle Oliver, who, at the time, was the Digital Missioner for the Center for the Ministry of Teaching's eformation community - and off we went to the Carnegie Mellon CONTEXT Conference to get some answers (and tour Google). At this gathering of techies, scientists, and secular educators, we learned a little about robotics, circuitry, digital imaging, and digital badges, but more importantly we learned how these new technologies have the power to help us
a whole new generation of Christians. And so there we were! Questions answered - and even more questions formed!
Both Kyle and I wrote about our experiences (I invoked Mr. Rogers and he focused on connected learning) and then we both made some major vocational readjustments. Kyle, who was awarded an ECF Fellowship, is currently an EdD student in the Communications, Media, and Learning Technologies Design Program at Teachers College, Columbia University and blogging at www.kyleoliver.net. And I'm the Director of Digital Ministry for Membership Vision.
Perhaps you aren't convinced that technology is necessary or advisable to support faith formation or the creation of spiritual communities. But consider Mr. Rogers (when in doubt, always consider Mr. Rogers). Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister and dedicated his life to serving children. In an interview with CNN in his later years, Rogers stated, "I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there's some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen."
So today, when we have tools that are capable of miracles compared to the television platform Mr. Rogers made into his own living room, why wouldn’t we use them?
This is how people communicate. This is how people form communities. This is how people interpret the world in which we live.
To proclaim the Good News, to teach and nurture believers, we need to meet them where they are. We need to speak their language.
It was with an almost theological orientation that Context Conference keynote speaker, former Carnegie Mellon provost Indira Nair, urged us to teach the next generation to use the marvelous tools available to us. The root of the word “technology,” she explained, was derived from the Greek word tekhne, meaning art, or craftsmanship, and logos, meaning expression.
What tools in our modern world will allow us to cleverly craft and express the foundational stories of our faith? As Nair noted in a quote that has since become my personal motto, “…stories inspire and orient us.”
What tools will allow us to carry our faith into the next century and inspire and orient young believers?
In 2015, Kyle and I may have been the only people at the CONTEXT conference with that goal of helping people find God in the digital space, but maybe this fall, from October 2-4, 2017, there will be more of us! If you are passionate about formation and eager to draw inspiration beyond a traditional church model, come to Pittsburgh!
- Lisa Brown
Our goal at Membership Vision is to help churches and other faith communities to tell their stories in the digital space. Each church, irrespective of size, has a living and active story to tell, and technology provides an opportunity to share that story in a way that is welcoming and engaging. We ease the burden of keeping communications current, by leveraging content, and harnessing the many ways that members of our communities connect with each other, both inside and outside of the church walls. We aim to remove technological hurdles and allow churches to communicate online in an effective and sustainable way. Contact us at email@example.com or call (805) 626-0143 to talk about the ways we can help your church build a digital presence.