19 February 2013

Helping Our Youth Become Digital Disciples

Posted in How To, Resources, Social Media

textingTechnology pervades nearly every aspect of our daily lives—especially those of our teenagers—and yet we rarely talk about it in our churches.

People carry powerful smartphones, wonderous tablets, and they work daily on desktop and laptop computers. They are continually plugged into the internet and social networks—technologies which have completely saturated our daily lives and work.

And yet, as pervasive as these technologies and digital media are, we don't really talk about them in church. Why?

Perhaps there is an unspoken presumption that these devices and networks don't have anything to do with our faith. In fact, they powerfully shape our faith in ways we are often unaware of—both by the information we receive through them (how we are formed), and how we live out of faith in digital spaces (how we enact our faith). It may also be our own relative discomfort with understanding and operating these technologies ourselves. We can feel less than knowledgable and outpaced (read: intimidated) by our teenagers.

In this digitally-integrated time, churches need to take seriously and engage in conversation at the intersection of faith and technology for all ages, but especially youth. As our youth live more of their lives online, they will also live out their faith there too. If we don't engage it, we will miss out on a huge part of their lives...and leave them without spiritual guidance.

12 February 2013

Give Up Your Telephone for Lent

Posted in Social Media

phoneGive up your telephone for Lent.

It sounds crazy, doesn't it? I mean, how will people reach you if they need help, want to share good news, or need pastoral care?

It would be crazy to give up your phone for Lent.

And yet, we quite easily, and in some cases flippantly, talk about giving Facebook and other social networks for Lent like its no big deal. 

This reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role social networking now plays our lives and ministry.

When we talk about giving up Facebook for Lent we usually mean that social media are simply a form of entertainment, that they are ancillary to our "real lives." When we place them in the category of giving up meat, coffee, chocolate, we insinuate that Facebook is a guilty pleasure that we are probably be better off without, but usually don't have the willpower to give up.

However, digital social networks have become an integrated and, for many, an essential, part of life, relationships, ministry, and, yes, faith. Just as much as any phone.

07 January 2013

The Church's Generational Log Jam is Making Everybody Cranky

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Church

logjamMinistry leaders can be so busy lamenting the fact there are fewer people in our churches these days that we often miss how the people who do attend are crammed together generationally.

We are unwittingly cramming six distinct generations into three traditional roles, and it causes all kinds of congregational tensions, which present persistent challenges to ministry leaders.

That’s the important point that Carroll Sheppard and Nancy Burton Dilliplane make in their helpful book Congregational Connections: Uniting Six Generations in the Church. I had the pleasure of co-leading a conversation on generations in the church with Carroll at a recent gathering of the Philadelphia Area Ecumenical Resource Network, and I appreciated this point:

“This is the first time in the world’s history when significant numbers of six demographic cohorts have all occupied the stage at the same time.”

“What is intensifying the problem is that these six generational cohorts are trying to squeeze themselves into an outdated three-generation model of elders, households raising children/career singles, and children.”

“In the six-generational cohort society, it is often unclear who is in charge, who will do the work, and who is raising the children.”

28 December 2012

Best of the Blog 2012: Digital Ministry, Pastoral Transition, and Church Leadership

Posted in Culture, Social Media, Church

20122012 was the most challenging and gratifying in my professional career. I published my first book, left one call and accepted another, and relocated our family of six from Boston to Philadelphia. It was a great year to be blogging to document it all.

What I've learned about blogging is that one does not only write a blog to process the present moment, but also to observe how one's own perspective, style, and interests evolve over time.

I blog, in part, to discover what I'm interested in, what seems worth writing about, and to chip away at larger ideas and challenges in 1000 words or less. In short, in blogging, like all writing, I suppose, the thing you learn the most about is yourself.

So, in a new a new tradition (drum roll) here's the best of my blog, 2102 edition:

Here's the 2012 edition of the blog in raw numbers: 

  • 48 posts
  • 36,134 visits, of which 25,670 were new
  • from 25,727 unique visitors
  • who viewed 57,583 pages on the blog

Top five posts:

Here are more highlights organized thematically:

22 December 2012

Feast of the Digitally-Integrated Incarnation

Posted in Digital Ministry, Social Media

modern-pastry“And the word became flesh and lived among us....” (John 1:14)

Last summer, one of my Facebook friends I’ve never met, Tracy Pasche-Johannes, a fellow Lutheran pastor from Muncie, Indiana, and her husband, Jeff, were in my hometown of Boston on vacation. “We’re in Boston! Would you like to meet in person?” they asked in a Facebook message.

We had never met before and we had a pretty thin connection to start with: we shared one common friend, who, at one point thought it would be a good idea for us to know each other and introduced us on Facebook. We had observed one another’s status updates, messaged back and forth a few times, but that was pretty much it.

We agreed to meet up for an Italian dinner in Boston’s North End. Over pasta and Chianti, canolli and cappuccino, we fleshed out one another’s status updates and blog posts, putting a voice with our writing, describing our families, locating one another within our ministry and community contexts.

Over the course of the meal, all the words, links, and video we had shared back and forth on Facebook became embodied and enfleshed, and our digital connection grew into a deeper personal relationship. Our dinner was, in the Johannine spirit of “the Word made flesh,” a feast of the incarnation.

19 December 2012

Social Media Strategies for Synods and Dioceses

Posted in ELCA, Resources, Social Media

iphone-iconsChurch judicatories, such as synods and dioceses, have a unique set of challenges and opportunties when it comes to employing digital social media to further their mission and ministry.

In this webinar I led for ELCA synod communicators, I suggest some crucial and often overlooked steps in developing a judicatorial social media strategy by applying the approach to social media for ministry that Elizabeth Drescher and I put forward in our book, Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible.

In the course of the webinar I quote Elizabeth, who once noted that, "Institutions don't do social. People do social." One of the dangers of judicatories and larger church institutions is that with the understandable need to disseminate news and information, we lose sight of the point of social media—actually developing relationships, not only with the judicatory or its staff, but congregation to congregation, person to person. It can be more difficult for larger instutions to make the shift from broadcast to social media, marketing to ministry, from the instituitional to the personal—but this is what will ultimately prove most effective.

Much of the advice here also applies to congregations and individuals.

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