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I am on the upper age of being a digital native. Technology is essential in my life. What’s a digital native? Glad you a asked. Let’s turn to Wiki, “A digital native is a person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater comfort level using it. Alternatively, this term can describe people born during or after the 1985, but in most cases, the term focuses on people who grew up with the technology that became prevalent in the latter part of the 20th century and continues to evolve today.” What this means is that as a digital native minister, church is not just what happens on Sunday morning, but church is what happens in the digital world. So let me offer some thoughts that may be helpful for us as we consider what the gathering of God’s people looks like in a digital age.
This past week I was interviewed by two people who were interested in the ways I use technology for ministry. One of the people who interviewed me is the ELCA pastor, Keith Anderson, who is writing a book “The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World.” He wanted me to share my story of how I started the hashtag #MySixWordStoryOfFaith. In the early summer I invited all of my Twitter followers to help me write my sermon. I was preaching on Luke 24 and was fascinated by verse 48 when the resurrected Jesus tells the disciples “You are witnesses of these things.” Essentially, Jesus was telling the disciples “Yo! You are storytellers of the faith. Each of you has a story about your encounter with me and the resurrection. Go and tell people your story!” Smith Magazine has made the Six-Word Memoir popular so I wanted to do a faith twist on this. I asked my followers “If you had to tell your faith story in six words what would you say #MySixWordStoryOfFaith?” My followers loved this and within a couple hours it went viral. Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and all sorts of people began sharing their six word story of faith. You can still go onto twitter and search the hashtag to see the celebration of stories. In my sermon I mentioned this which lead some of the people in my congregation to go onto Twitter after the sermon to add their voice. It was pretty cool!
Techonology is woven into my understanding of how I practice my faith. The church, the body of Christ, is vibrantly alive and I see the people of God everytime I’m on Twitter wrestling with difficult topics with my fellow pilgrims.
So let me offer a few thoughts for us to consider as we do church in a digital world.
- Online is just as much real life as meeting someone in person at a bar. Twitter is real life. Facebook is real life. Snapchat is real life. Instagram is real life. Sitting together in pews is real life.
- You have to stop saying “You use ____ too much” Nope, you don’t get it. Being a digital native means these are our hangouts. These are the spaces we live in.
- Your front door to your church is not the the wood, or metal, in the building. Your front door to your church is your website, your Facebook page, and your Twitter. Just as you have greeters at the door on Sunday morning to welcome people, make sure you have people who are attending to your social media presence.
- Don’t just PR events. Relationally show up in your social media spaces. Theologically speaking, incarnationally inhabit your social media spaces. Get to know who else is your “neighborhood” online.
- Pastoral care doesn’t happen just in your office with two wooden chairs and the coffee table, pastoral care can happen in 140 characters and it can also happen in a 10 second snap.
- Watch this video “Christ Has No Online Presence But Yours” written by Meredith Gould.
- Consider how the gathering of God’s people on Sunday can be interwoven into the daily digital lives. Create a tumblr for your church. Invite people to post pictures or quotes of the ways people see Jesus Christ in the world. Obviously you will need someone to curate this.
- If you don’t have a YouTube channel perhaps you may want to consider it. You can post video segments of worship so that people who are not able to worship can have access to worship. Perhaps you want to invite people in your congregation to make videos to share their stories of faith and post them on your channel. Think of the possibilities for community!
- My best friend, Rev. John Russell Stanger, and I have created a new YouTube channel called The Real Reverends of NYC. We are both ministers and we wanted to create a show that is as much silly as serious, where we can talk about our engagement with Scripture as much as our love of pop culture. It’s new and we are are in the process of dreaming what this could possibly be as we try out different ideas. Check it out!
- What about you? What would you add to this list? Digital natives, I’m looking to you to help guide this conversation. What would you want the church to know about your connection to faith and technology?