By Michael C. Mack
Most of us know the value of using modern technology for both personal and church use, but some of us—especially those of us over a certain age (and I’m uncertain what that certain age is anymore)—simply don’t have the expertise to use it well. Truth is, we’re afraid we’ll bumble the technological language well before we bumble the technology itself.
I’ve experienced this while trying to talk to a 20-something wisenheimer at Best Buy. I stand there with a blank look on my face as he lays down some impressive technobabble. Just tell me which watch to buy! I want to say. He looks equally perplexed when I call him a wisenheimer.
This is a humbling experience for some of us, which, as it turns out, is a good thing.
In 1996 I started a web-based ministry (SmallGroups.com) before most people were actually on the World Wide Web. I used a Dell 386 PC with four megabytes of RAM and a 320-megabyte hard drive loaded with Microsoft Windows 95 and Internet Explorer 1.0. I started out accessing the web through my AOL account on a 14.4k dial-up modem. I didn’t actually know what all those numbers meant, but they got the job done . . . slowly.
I knew little about the Internet, but I was blessed to have a web-savvy friend in my men’s group. He knew of my passion to start a magazine for small group leadership and suggested I start it online rather than in print. He helped me launch it and continued to encourage me and rescue me with technological issues. The ministry grew quickly until it became bigger than I could manage or program. Today it’s owned by Christianity Today and continues to grow.
My story may be valuable for people who have limited knowledge and experience in the tech world. We don’t have to allow our limitations to stop us from moving forward! But we do need to take the right steps to use technology well.
First, it’s valuable to read and study and try to understand as much as you can about the current technology. That’s the purpose of this issue, to acquaint you with some of the innovations being used by pioneering churches and how you might begin. You don’t need to understand everything, but you’ll do well to get started. Ask questions. Be patient with yourself. Move at a pace that’s out of your comfort zone but not so fast that it becomes overbearing for you or the church. (That does not mean to sit still, however!)
Second, partner with some tech-savvy folks in your community. This step is critical for several reasons. Remember that the body of Christ is better together than any of us can be alone, so carefully delegate your church’s tech development to someone or a small group of people whom you trust and with whom you can work well.
How can we effectively reach the next generation and get them involved? One way is to invite them to partner with us in the areas where they have expertise and we don’t. This is about building relationships as much as getting a job done. Talk together about what you want to accomplish together. Ask questions. Develop humility and a spirit of serving one another. Listen well. Watch for opportunities to disciple. This may be a wonderful opportunity for intergenerational growth. Each of you has something of value to add to the other’s life and to the church’s ministry.
Finally, keep doing what you do well—teaching, leading, shepherding—as you entrust your tech-savvy friends to do what they do well. You continue to call the shots on content while allowing your ministry partners to manage how best to deliver that content.
Maybe you can relate to the preacher who was interrupted during his sermon. It seems a 5-year-old was playing on her iPad when something the preacher said triggered SIRI to say, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I do not understand what you are saying.”
Whether you’re a 20-something technogeek or a 70-something technophobe, it’s important that you communicate in a way that everyone can understand what you are saying.
The world is changing at an ever-expanding pace. People don’t look for churches the way they used to, they build relationships differently, and they learn in a different manner than 20 or 30 years ago. You’ll see that as you read this issue. We need to learn how to tell the story about the old rugged cross using new, innovative methodologies. We must adapt to the new normal.
And here’s the good news. We have the biggest opportunities in history to reach our communities for Christ. Let’s use all legitimate possible means to do so.