Technology has changed us. Or at least most of us. In his book Grace and Gigabytes, Ryan Panzer points out that technology has changed not just the way we learn and connect, but how we collaborate and create as well. We used to learn by consulting an expert who gave us the answer. Now we learn by asking Google who responds by providing 85,000 answers (plus or minus). We used to build our relationships with one another by meeting face to face or with a phone call or maybe an email. Now we nurture our friendships through social media as well as in person get-togethers and written communications. Collaboration used to be difficult because it involved coordinating schedules to be in the same place at the same time. Platforms like Zoom, Google Drive, Slack, Teams and others make the restraints of time and place disappear!
When I think about how important technology has been to our continuing as the church through the pandemic, I don’t know if we would have survived without it! As we slowly find our way in this almost post-pandemic reality, it is wise to consider incorporating some new ways of being the Church in the tech-shaped world we now live. I wrote about Dave Daubert’s book Becoming a Hybrid Church in the last blog. Daubert addresses the questions committees and teams inside our congregations might consider. Panzer explores a few external factors we need to consider about life within and beyond our congregations.
Getting 85,000 responses to every query has changed the way we think. We know there is more than one answer to every question, and that more responses expand the conversation, while a single answer shuts it down. Still, most of us preach or hear sermons that are mini-lectures. The congregation sits facing forward and listening to the pastor explain what a certain passage of the Bible means. Adult education classes are often just a longer version of this format.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Panzer offers ways to think about preaching and teaching using technology in interactive ways. I know that some pastors think that giving congregants a hand-out to fill in the blanks makes a sermon interactive. It doesn’t.
Interactive is a way to learn together. It means the pastor starts the conversation, and then guides it along, but it can go wherever the Holy Spirit and the responses of the congregation take it. The beauty of technology is that people don’t have to be extroverted to be heard, they can text or tweet their response in real time. The era of clergy as unquestioned experts is gone – if it ever really existed. A tech shaped culture values learning from more than one person and discovering more than one possible answer.
In this liminal time when the world is opening back up, it’s worth taking a moment to consider not just the technology needed to move forward with both an online and onsite presence, but the ways that technology has changed the cultures outside our congregation’s physical doors. If we don’t, we might spend a lot of time and money investing in cameras, microphones, and better Wi-Fi etc., only to discover that the people on the other end of the world wide web just aren’t that interested in what we are offering. Understanding the way technology has shaped culture is the beginning of understanding the people we are trying to reach. Thankfully, Panzer ends each chapter with examples of High, Low and No tech ways to apply what we are discovering about how to learn, create, collaborate and connect in this digital age.
Let’s not do this alone, let’s collaborate! I’ve put the links to some interesting resources below, but I’m sure that you could add to that list. Please use the comment section here or on Facebook to add resources. Or add a question. Or a response to this question: Where should this conversation go next? You decide!
Grace and Gigabytes by Ryan Panzer is published by Fortress Press and available wherever you buy books! www.ryanpanzer.com
Becoming a Hybrid Church by Dave Daubert is available on Amazon or through Dave’s website https://www.day8strategies.com/
The Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California has a great resource page at Resources for Thriving Congregation | Center for Religion and Civic Culture (usc.edu)