Ministry: iPhones vs. Newspapers

Over at the Catalyst blog, Brad Russell just wrote a very interesting piece on the shape of ministry in this technologically-inundated era of iPhones and the like. Here’s the full piece, called “A Bible in One Hand, an iPhone in the Other.”

Smartphones vs Newspapers — this is just one example of the changing nature of cultures and generational disconnect around us.
I am an associate minister with a very traditional, fairly conservative church of Christ. As an associate minister, I do a little (sometimes a lot) of everything, but I primarily work on a day-to-day basis with our senior minister, and work with the part-time youth minister and youth a good bit. This makes for an interesting dynamic for me, as I’m learning ministry. It’s almost as if I’m in two different worlds. There’s the world of traditional congregation ministry for those folks 45 and over. Then there’s the ministry to the teens and 20s that is almost always done involving a smartphone or facebook. There’s also the ministry to the parents of the teens who have a foot in both camps. It’s especially challenging as I look down the road into a world where most of the folks I’ll minster with will be the iPod generation, yet my “Paul” (day-to-day ministry mentor) has been doing minsitry (and doing it incredibly well!) in the world of tape recorders for significantly more years than I’ve been alive.
Here’s a paragraph from Mr. Russell that captures well the ministry conundrum I find myself in right now:
The world of face-to-face visits, notes of encouragement, and pastoral phone calls has been seriously challenged by increasing walls of privacy, the rapid pace of communication via social media, the broadening geographical territory of members that diminishes casual contact, the sheer scale of our operations, and decreased accessibility to people at certain times of the day and week. That’s not to say the methods of former years still serve us well in some settings, and may even be superior in some ways, but if we aren’t connecting, caring and staying in people’s life loop, we are in danger of becoming at best uninformed and at worst ineffective and irrelevant.

Coincidentally, this is one reason why I love the Missional Church Leadership graduate program at Rochester College so much. It’s equipping us to do ministry in a world where iPhones are more prevalent than newspapers, but also where religious skepticism is more prevalent than Christian devotion and where the church is on the margins of acceptability and not right in the middle of it.

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