Written by: David L. Lantz, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Making progress is like riding a bicycle. As long as you keep peddling, you keep moving forward. A common problem many churches face is the need to keep peddling so as not to crash while using technology. In this article, I’d like to suggest that we need to re-evaluate our view of technology. Rather than becoming slaves to our technology systems, we should view technology as a tool that helps us communicate how God is active in the lives of people in our community that is simple, … not complex.
In this post, I want to introduce a concept using a system that allows you to send opt-in texts to people as a way to invite people to become more involved with your congregation.
Staying Connected on A Cruise
A few years ago, my wife and I went on a cruise over New Year’s Eve. We both agreed that we would go our separate ways during the day and meet up for important things like meals and ship-board events we both wanted to attend. But if we needed to contact each other for some reason, how would we do that? Our cell phones were no good for even texting since there were no cell towers out in the ocean.
Well, it turned out that the cruise line provided an app you could download to your smartphone to stay in contact with your family/group you were cruising with. Not only could we text each other, but we could do the following:
Sign up for alerts to receive reminders about shipboard events.
Figure out where lunch, dinner, and snacks were being served (always important on a cruise!)
Learn about special deals the ship was always wanting to sell us.
Access a shipboard map that told you where you were and how to get where you wanted to go.
So, I got to thinking: In 2015, I did not own a smartphone. If I had gone on the cruise at that time, even if the cruise boat had such an app, I couldn’t have used it. Without a smartphone, you couldn’t download and use the app I just described. But in 2019, I did have a smartphone that I was still learning to use. Once I downloaded the app and played with it, I loved it!
Using Technology to Build Community
This led me to another thought involving my church. Let’s say you’re having an event – like a fish fry – and you want to provide a way for people visiting from the community to learn more about your church, and the ministries you have to offer. Now, imagine an app that your church could provide so that small groups like bible study groups and outreach ministries could be kept informed about upcoming events and ministry opportunities. With such an app, you could:
Chat with one another
Share praises/prayer requests
Engage in a group bible study where they can see each other’s comments as they all read the same book.
Choose to receive alerts/notes about church-wide / denominational items (pastor sermons, classes, etc.)
My church had a sports ministry for a number of years that finally closed down after the ministry director quit to move out of town. To be honest, we never did a very good job of connecting families who enrolled their children in our sports ministry with the life of our congregation. But imagine if we could have done the following:
Provided a way to opt-in to a “text a prayer” service.
Recipients could receive event invitations (VBS, Choir Cantata, etc.)
If they attended another event, offered them the opportunity to receive information about Sunday Worship announcements, Sunday School classes, etc.
For those who have attended worship services, say, at least three times, send them New Member Class information, as well as short video messages from time to time.
By using permission-based texting information services, first-time visitors can choose to become more involved in the life of your church. While Baby Boomers may recoil at such an idea as being too impersonal, Gen Zers already live in what some are calling “digital land” and view such services as a natural application of what they are already experiencing, from going on vacation cruises to responding to projects at work.
Advances in technology make all this possible, but here’s the key: Don’t create a technology tool before you’ve put the ministry process in place. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with a trash heap of unused gizmos and gadgets – and your ministry workers will constantly remind you of your failure. To better envision what such a process might look like, I’ve created a 3-minute video you can watch here. I’ve used some ideas from a book titled Simple Church by Rainer and Geiger to help illustrate the process I’ve suggested above.
Finding Our Bearings in a Time of Dislocation
While there are many applications for which we can put technology to use, our ability to adjust to change and simplify the complex is being overwhelmed. Changes in the global economy, technology, and demographics are happening so fast that we, as a society, are suffering from dislocation: A condition that exists when the whole environment is being altered so quickly that everyone starts to feel they can’t keep up.
Because we live in what Thomas Friedman calls an “age of acceleration,” this sense of dislocation causes us to question our life’s purpose. Our search for meaning and understanding of who we are and what role, if any, God plays in our lives is being severely stressed.
What can we do? We need to learn how to combine familiar activities and practices with new things we are unsure of. This is called synergy: The combining of several ideas to create one new idea. This is the concept Jesus had in mind when he said that to contain the new wine of what he was preaching, new wineskins were needed.God has given each of us a unique Kingdom vision. While our mission from God was given to us long before we were born, the tools and techniques used by God’s people have changed over the centuries. To quote a line spoken by the Jesus character in the streaming series, The Chosen: “Get used to different.”
To learn more, come and see.
David L Lantz, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
David Lantz is a leader in the field of online instruction. He was awarded a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University’s School of Public & Environmental Affairs in 1981 and served as their Alumni President from 1990-1991. In 2005, he was named Faculty of the Year by the first graduating class of the University of Phoenix’s Indianapolis, Indiana campus. Having taught both face-to-face and online classes since 2003, he received the distinction of Advanced Online Instructor/Facilitator from the University of Phoenix in 2012. Since 2011, he has been creating online courses in the fields of entrepreneurship and online instruction. A self-published author, he has authored both fiction and non-fiction books, which can be found on Amazon.com. His mission can be summarized in the proverb: “The wise man makes knowledge acceptable.” To learn more about David, visit his website at www.wisejargon.com.