Educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God's changing world.

Thompson Scholars: Screenshare Reflections

Twelve eager lifelong learners gathered in April to participate in the 2014 Thompson Scholars Program. The topic, A Different World: Evangelism for the Screenshare Generation, provided lively discussion and learning opportunities for the participants. Led by Dr. Ralph Watkins and featuring 'Dre Barnes, technology director at Impact Church (a new United Methodist congregation in Atlanta); and Craig Detweiler, associate professor of communication at Pepperdine University and author of iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives, the program participants considered new ways to look at social media in the church.

Valerie Jackson,  Mary Jane Gardner, and A.J. Mealor agreed to share some of their experiences as Thompson Scholars with us. Here are a few excerpts from their reflections:

Gardner: I was concerned about my ability to fully participate in the class, in part because I am a person of words and the Word; one who still reads printed books, writes on legal pads, and who labors weekly to bring the Good News to God’s people. While the truth of the Gospel remains unchanging, the way in which we reach the world with that truth must change. The Thompson Scholars class gave me the opportunity to learn and to experience this new way of being and communicating in a joy-filled and non-threatening environment.

Mealor: I came into the Thompson Scholar Program hoping to find new ways to engage not only with the next generation, but continue to connect with congregation members when instead of calling the church when a family member goes into the hospital they post on Facebook.

Jackson: I hoped to learn about social ministry tools that would help enhance my ministry through technology. I learned more than I hoped to learn. I learned about different platforms/tools like Tumblr, (I also learned about the difference between Tumblr and Facebook) Google+, Google Hangouts, Vimeo, Texting in Church, etc. I hoped to be able to minister through technology with the youth in my church.

Mealor: I believe that technology, specifically social media has the ability to unite the church and share the gospel in new and amazing ways, but we must continue to balance these positives while differentiating our personal self and profession.

Gardner: My church has, in the recent past, started a web page and a Facebook page. Both need a great deal of work but are already reaching people that otherwise would have no connection with our church. The Thompson Scholars Class filled me with so many new ideas about how to better use our existing technology and how to build upon it.

Mealor: In this ever changing digital world it's important that we as preachers are always learning how to best equip ourselves and our congregations to be fully present with the next generation, the "digital natives", who are using digital media to express who they are and what they believe, and connect with one another.

Gardner: The course leaders created a space of hospitality and welcome, and a learning experience that celebrated each participant’s gifts while teaching and guiding us on to new ways of doing the work to which we have been called.

Jackson: What a challenge to write a brief reflection about all of the things that I learned. I learned so much about social media in just 4 brief days. I am very grateful and thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Screen Share Generation seminar.  Further, I am proud to be a Thompson Scholar.

The Rev. Dr. Jackson is the pastor at Bethel Grove C.M.E Church in Griffin, Georgia; the Rev. A.J. Mealor is the Associate Pastor for Youth at Neshaminy-Warwick Presbyterian Church in Warminster, Pennsylvania; and the Rev. Mary Jane Gardner is the pastor at Barnesville Presbyterian Church in Barnesville, Georgia.

Thompson Scholars 2015 will take place April 21-24. Dr. Jeffery Tribble, associate professor of ministry at the seminary, will lead Thompson Scholars in 2015. The focus of the seminar will be on church planting and development. Complete information, including leadership and application deadline, coming soon.