You may have have seen the recent Pew report that 20% of people share their faith online, but that's not the whole story. Elizabeth Drescher and I discuss this report in The Narthex and reflect on the variety of ways people share and express their faith online.
Sharing one’s faith is much more than just about sharing religious content, like spiritual or Biblical quotes, check-ins at church, or personal testimony. It is interwoven into the relationships and networks of which we are a part in and across the lived reality of both online and offline settings. People share their faith in a variety of ways — as they create and nurture relationships, seek to be a gracious presence, affirm and assist friends, and engage with others in the things they find important and meaningful. The other day, for instance, a Facebook friend posted an offer to share an “inspirational quote and photo” for anyone who needed a “spiritual pick-me-up” during the day. Would Pew have counted that as “religious sharing?” Would the woman herself have thought of it in that way?
This reveals a limitation of trying to quantify religious practice, for demographic studies of religion require that certain behaviors be narrowly defined as “religious” while others are “not religious.”
Put on your hoodies, friends. We’re gonna rewrite that old DOS code that’s been running the Church for too long.
Check out my latest article about church innovation in The Narthex:
The church today is in the midst of its own sort of hackathon—whether or not it wishes to be. Many of the programs and structures that served the church well in the post-World War II period have lost their resonance and impact. The old ministry hymnbook that worked so well in the mid-20th century, seems profoundly dissonant at the outset of the 21st. Ministry leaders are furiously rewriting their ministry scripts, hacking away at roles and responsibilities, liturgies and committees, and the sites and structures of worship. It reminds me of a painting by Paris Bordone of the child Jesus teaching in the Temple. As he holds forth, the elders and scribes around him are tearing up their old scrolls and recording Jesus’ new message, like so many hackers throwing out old code, making room for the new. Except now Jesus is wearing a hoodie and Keds.
Today’s ministry leaders, if they are not already, must view themselves as hackers, iterating, and in some case breaking things, in order to help the church move forward.
You may have seen this photo published by NBC News about the difference in the crowd in St. Peter's Square from when Pope Benedict XVI was elected the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and the announcement of the newly minted Pope Francis just last week.
It is an image that dramatically captures the rapid advance in technology and culture—and the difference in the way we live our lives—over these last eight years.
This change has profound implications for how we live, lead, and minister today.
Remember that in 2005, the iPhone, the advent of the modern smartphone, didn’t exist. It was still two years in the offing. Facebook was available to college and high school students, but would not be open to the public-at-large for another year.
For all the advances in digital communications and social networking, email continues to be the most reliable way for congregations to digitally communicate with members and potential members. Why? In the transition we find ourselves in between print and digital communication, email is the most reliable way of digitally sharing your ministry’s news and information. It’s as close to mailing a letter to everyone’s home as you can get, just without the paper and postage.
Unfortunately, most congregations fail to get the most out of their emails for several reasons:
Incomplete email lists (who gets it)
Inability to measure their success (who reads it)
Too much or too little information
Lack of focus
However, for some that use email well, a weekly email update is becoming the anchor of their communications strategy, lessening the need for a time and paper intensive production of a monthly newsletter.
Here are some ways and a few examples of how to send great emails that people will read:
Technology 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.