I think it is fair to acknowledge that I’ve always been enamoured with technology, perhaps even to the extent that I should confess I’m a technophile. I love the potential of innovation, not so much what it does, but what it might allow me to do. Perhaps this sounds like a too nuanced distinction, but I do think it is important for faith communities and any institution that is transitioning during this time of change. Whether you’re working with an NGO, non-profit, charitable or faith-based organisation, eventually you (we) are going to have to have a discussion about technology.
The interesting thing about things that blip, bleep, flash, go seen or unseen, is that they too often become perceived as a solution to an answer in which no time has been invested in discerning the question. Rather than being a tool or an opportunity to do something new that is connected with your WHY (your mission or vision) technology can often become imbued with an air of salvation. And – for the church in particular – this become dangerous.
Two of the oft named laments in faith communities are how things seem less or about where the youth and young adults are. The way through such loss can seem to be a (simple) technological solution: if only we do/get/install this, then they will come. If only we use this social media platform, then we can get those who are out there to come through our doors. And – it’s important to realise – this isn’t a likely scenario.
I don’t want to dismiss the intent that may underlie the lament, but without knowing the question, the answer is assumed. And if churches and communities of faith are not digging to find the question, then habits, assumptions and judgement place unrealistic expectations on technology (and the people who introduce/implement/use it). Without finding the question, it’s possible we might miss new possibilities that portend energy and passion that is waiting to be explored and tapped.
I had the pleasure this last week to sit in on a few conversations about technology. One opportunity was with a congregation’s Communication Team and another was in relationship to a denominational project (which is nearing completion) geared at helping congregations get online with a website that is both customisable and also brand specific to the United Church of Canada (I am so tempted to geek out with more about this … but blogs should be pithy!).
In both of these (interconnected) conversations, the question of the Good News too often goes unspoken. These conversations can (on the surface) seem to be about simply getting more wallets in the coffers, bums in the pews, and people to do the work. And (unfortunately) that can feed stereotypes that the church must acknowledge and confront. And … I truly believe … that below that superficial critique there is a longing to share our message, our ‘t’ruth with people whom we know long to hear it, but may not know we might be able to offer it: you are loved, I am loved, we are loved, Creation is loved and our inter-connexion binds us intimately to one another – there is no me without you and there is no us without them!
Technology is great – but it’s a tool, not the solution. Technology is great because it should free us to do more, not become tethered (though my smartphone does that really well!). Technology always changes and creates opportunities to share a message that is age old. Technology is never the message, though it can communicate it in ways (which previously) seemed distinguishable. The challenge for us, is what’s the question we are asking? Because the way to share the answer is what technology might provide …