Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Excerpt from Pastors & Technology

As I mentioned a couple of entries ago, I have been working on material for a technology seminar for pastors. The first seminar was last week, and I'm eager to hear how it went. The seminar teaches pastors about the power that modern communication and media has ovr young people's minds, and warns them that they cannot simply condemn it because it can harm: once technology is here, it is here to stay. So, we teach them to use the tool with (as Tony Evans likes to call it) a Kingdom agenda. We teach them to use Bible software, do responsible Internet research, compose and share documents and slide presentations. We give them the Families & Media seminar, which looks at the different technologies that affect families, especially children and youth, and discusses ways to implement godly use of technology in the home. Finally, we give them ways they can use texting and social media to connect their members outside of the church's walls. Here's an excerpt:

We've shown you some tools that you can use to do what you do already in church with some extra resources and conveniences, and advised you how to use it to engage your congregants' attention rather than lose it. But one of the main reasons this seminar was developed was to discuss technology as a way of reaching out to young people. They may be mildly gratified if your church can use a computer to put lyrics or sermon notes on a screen, and it may reach them better because they are better able to follow along. But that makes little difference in keeping their interest in the church overall compared to social media.
The technology that has changed society the most since 20001 is the communication technology. We relate to each other and the world in different ways now than ever before. That is probably the most important reason for you to take this seminar. The minds of the young people in your congregation now are driven by texts and social posts, and so if you want to stay connected with them, you need to know how to communicate with them with their media.

We discussed in the story in the beginning of this seminar how powerful texting has become. Even older people who at first are averse to the idea, once they try it, find it a surprisingly desirable communication venue. It is fast and convenient, easy to store messages that might be forgotten over voice, easier to send out without interrupting other activities. ...
Emphasize that certain kinds of communication should only be done in person: apologies, condolences to a close friend who is going through tragedy, confrontations. A quick text is not sufficient for such complex matters. I (JennyBeth) recently offended a trusted teacher because I decided to express a delicate concern in a text rather than by voice. Without the extra sentences to explain myself, and the tone of voice and facial expressions to make it clear how I meant it, I did not realize until it was too late that it sounded disrespectful. Praise God, with some further communication later it was cleared up and forgiven, but learn from my mistake.
On the other hand, your church can make great use of texting. It is more useful than anything else for announcements that cannot wait until Sunday, for reminders, and for emergency prayer requests. People also make great use of texting all the time for just staying in touch when it's hard to catch other for a phone call. ...

Social media
Social media offers a great opportunity for discussing weighty issues that may not come up in regular conversation. For instance, in open discussion forums or pages, people invited into the discussion groups can post questions to which others can respond. This can lead to some very enjoyable and enlightening dialog, which is accessible to everyone in the group because they can read it one day, think about it overnight, and respond the next day; they don't have to be all in the same room at the same time, so the conversation can go on for days.
A constructive platform for social media would be a page or forum in which people could ask questions that the teachers of the church can answer. If people have questions about the Bible or theology or social issues or how to live, they could offer them there with the teachers then able to take time to compose a good answer from the Scriptures. This could be used to carry on conversations that members can ponder for days, rather than the shorter conversations in Sunday School that may be sooner forgotten. There would need to be good rules enforced, however, about who can contribute what, because while it's good to discuss opinions, there must be a clear line between who has authority to give answers and who can only give supplemental thoughts. Kay Arthur, a renowned Bible teacher, has said that the most destructive phrase in a church is, "What do you think?" when we should be asking, "What does God say?" If everyone is allowed to answer, then it could become a platform for ignorance rather than good instruction.

There's much more to it, obviously. We discuss much more opportunities to explore, and pitfalls to avoid. But I hope this served as a good peek into what we do. Don't forget, if you have a church, Christian school, or any other group in which you'd like to offer one of our seminars, we'd love to connect with you to make that happen!

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