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Technology, Evangelism, and Relationships: A Thompson Scholar Reflects.

In Matthew 16:8, Jesus laments that “the children of this age are wiser toward their generation than the children of light are.” How easy it is to continue along with “business as usual” while all around us the ways people build community, communicate, and connect with one another are changing. I think the question for Christians today is not whether to engage technology and social media in their ministries, but how to.

Of course new technology can be misused and overused, but it might actually be better suited to the way mainline Protestants tend to approach ministry than some of the earlier broadcast technologies. It can also be seen as the new public square. As Elizabeth Drescher wrote in her book, Tweet If You Heart Jesus,

“The internet is not merely a thing we use to get a message out to more people, but rather a place we enter to engage others. That’s good news for mainline churches, which tend to carry in our DNA important markers for transparency in communication, collaboration in leadership, and distributed ministry—tools that position us for much greater success with new digital social media than we have had with broadcast media.” (p. 14).

The pace of change and the vast array of constantly evolving apps and social media sites can be overwhelming. One thing I appreciate about the Thompson Scholar program, and particularly about some of the reading we did, is that it encourages us to start where we are—for me this means start with my presence on Facebook and Twitter, and also to begin thinking theologically and pastorally about how we use technology. 

At the church I grew up in, the pastor did something that still amazes me today. He always called me on my birthday. As a pastor myself now, I remember how meaningful it was to me to know I was on his radar like that, yet remembering to phone every member of my congregation on their birthday feels like an impossible task. But wishing them a happy birthday on Facebook—that I can do. In fact, I find that tools like Facebook and Twitter allow me to be present and attentive to a much larger and more diverse group of people than would be possible if I had to rely solely on phone calls and visits. Social media doesn’t replace phone calls and in-person conversations, but it can supplement them in very helpful ways. There is no shame in seeking to be wiser in the ways we engage this generation, as long as we do so in ways that bring light and not darkness into this new public space that is the “interweb.”

Article by Emily Rose Proctor, CTS MDiv ’09, a 2013 Thompson Scholar. Follow her tweets here to see her social media skills in action. Space is still available for the 2014 program. Click here for more information or for a link to the electronic application.