Ministry in the Digital Age
How to communicate your message in a media driven culture.
The nature of church and ministry is now and most likely will always be relational. That is to say, church and ministry is a social activity. Spiritual development may be individual in nature, but ministry is relational. However what we now know as the digital age has disrupted our social activities in profound ways. Therefore the digital age has disrupted how we do church and ministry.
The process that previously began with a visit to the store for shopping or to a Sunday service for community now has a new starting point: an online search for information and an assessment of alternatives. The inquiry that previously led to a private visit with a counselor or with the minister now is framed by information found on the Internet. The sense of community and acceptance that previously was got in the coffee line is now shaped by the chat on social media.
Your message and the message of your ministry is filtered, framed and shaped by digital media. This workshop will help you understand the impact of digital media on your message and it will help you see how your messaging may be limited by the digital medium. The Parable of the Sower is given as a framework for learning four timeless principles for getting your message out in the digital age. The presentation will have plenty of examples and sufficient time for discussion.
The presenter is the founder of TruthUnity.net, an online ministry where over 800 people come each day for the study and practice of classic Unity teachings. He has over 20 years experience bridging ministry, community organizing, technology and publishing. More information about this presentation is at www.truthunity.net/ministry-in-the-digital-age.
Metaphysical Foundation: The Parable of the Sower
4:1And again he began to teach by the sea side. And there is gathered unto him a very great multitude, so that he entered into a boat, and sat in the sea; and all the multitude were by the sea on the land. 4:2And he taught them many things in parables, and said unto them in his teaching, 4:3Hearken: Behold, the sower went forth to sow: 4:4and it came to pass, as he sowed, some seed fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured it. 4:5And other fell on the rocky ground, where it had not much earth; and straightway it sprang up, because it had no deepness of earth: 4:6and when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 4:7And other fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 4:8And others fell into the good ground, and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing; and brought forth, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. 4:9And he said, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Mark 4:1-9)
A successful ministry in the digital age will be:
Authentic. No era in human history has placed more emphasis on trust than the digital era. In a digital world, trust is obtained not by regulation or law, nor by physical inspection, but rather by a perception of authenticity. We have become highly sensitive to any indication of deception. Religion in particular has always depended on trust (or faith), but the distributed nature of digital media is so susceptible to misuse that a ministry's authenticity has become its most important characteristic. And, given the post-modern era in which we live, the perceived authenticity of a ministry is arguably more important than the Truth of the ministry's teaching. Ministries which do not garner trust quickly fall by the wayside, where they are caught-up by fear-based thinking patterns.
Deep and Powerful. Ministries which have established a firm foundation of faith must then show that its spiritual pathway and practices have sufficient depth and power to transform lives. As Huston Smith often asked, "can it get drunks out of ditches?" If the ministry's teachings and practices cannot transform lives and enable deep change in character and behavior then it will not be successful over time. Depth and power garners member commitment and member commitment maintains consistent thinking patterns. Without it, ministries soon wither away because their members are easily discouraged and frustrated with life's challenges.
Simple. Ministries which have achieved high levels of trust and commitment among members may expand their spiritual offerings to satisfy the desires of a more spiritually diverse membership. However successful ministries will expand their offerings in ways that they are easily understood by its membership and clearly related to the ministry's foundational teachings. Expanded offerings may be helpful, but not if they make the spiritual journey of its membership complex or confusing. The clarity and simplicity of a ministry's teachings will foster harmonious thinking patterns among its membership. Without clarity and simplicity, ministries become choked by thorns and thistles of a confusing, complex smorgasbord of spiritualities.
Social. To be sustainable over the long run, successful ministries have one additional task. Their work must be in creative alignment with other ministries who share the same unique vision, mission and values. We live in a post-modern era, where Truth is often evaluated in relationship with other known Truths. This means that spiritual seekers will evaluate Truth by assessing its prevalence among trusted sources. Truth, for the post-modern, is distributed and networked. The vitality of a ministry in the digital age depends on its ability to thrive in the good ground and organic process of providing spiritual benefits in a cooperative and pluralistic manner.