08 March 2012

Life is a Highway: Making the Case for Digital Ministry in Congregations

Posted in Digital Ministry, Social Media, Church, Tagged with church congregations digital ministry mission interpretation social media

128 headline

In a couple weeks I'll be leading an adult forum at Redeemer on the phenomenon of social media and how we, as a congregation, are using it in our ministry. This may seem obvious to readers of this blog, but its not something we talk about all the time at Redeemer.

As I thought about what social media means specificially to Redeemer's ministry context something occurred to me, which helped me contextualize what we are doing with our website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and so on.

You may find it a helpful way in making the case for digital ministry in your own setting.

Route 128

Back in the 1960's Redeemer moved from its first church building in Woburn Center to its current location right next to Route 128. (Non-Bostonians know this road as I-95, but if you say I-95 around here no one will know what you are talking about.)

128 in readingRoute 128 was built in the 1950's as the Beltway around Boston. It's construction led to an explosion of business development and the migration of people moving from Boston to what were then still fairly sleepy communities to the north. Many of our older members were part of that migration.

Seeing this trend and faced with limited space in their current building, Redeemer secured a piece of land adjoining the highway, which had been part of a larger park and town forest, which the highway cut in two. They built the parsonage and the church on this property in the middle and late 1960's.

The instinct to move and build an entirely new building in a more accessible location is, I see now, the same instinct that has brought us to a robust digital ministry. It is the instinct to be available, accessible, and where people are. It is the instinct to leverage the latest technological innovations - the modern highway in the 1960's and the so-called "information super-highway" in the 2000's - to expand our community and create a broader platform from which to share the Gospel.

beyond the printing press

When we look for analogies for the development of the internet and social media, we typically look at historical communication technologies: the invention of paper, the book, the printing press, the television. It occurs to me now that other technologies can make as good or better metaphors for how we understand what's happening and how our churches can respond.

The modern highway wasn't directly about communication, but it was about transforming and connecting communities, and facilitating the flow of people and thereby ideas. Redeemer boldly chose to be a part of that movement and now we draw from around 14 different communities along the Route 128 corridor. Today's social media platforms serve much the same function as the highway: creating new digital avenues for people to connect, for the sharing of grace and inspiration, expanding and extending mission, and for the building of community.

What's your highway?

As we make the case for doing digital ministry in our particular ministry settings, its important that we find these kind of analogies, metaphors, and stories that can connect to our congregation's history, identity, and narrative. This is just one example.

What technologies has your congregation used in the past to advance its mission? Can you find a corollary to the missional impulse to adopt social media somewhere in your congregational history?

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