The Church has used technology throughout history: papyrus, printing press, piano, organ, lighting, microphones, guitars, drums, and video projectors. And with the advent of the Internet, we have newer technologies like websites, social networking via Facebook, and texting on cell phones.
How do we steward technology well? We start by dispelling four common myths about using online technologies in the church.
"If you build it, they will come." Not necessarily. The "it" could be a website, a blog, a discussion board, a podcast, a Twitter feed, or a Facebook fan page. Your digital presence will not automatically be viewed by lots of people just by its mere existence. People choose what they will pay attention to based on relevance (to their situation), value (that enhances their life), and trust (derived from the reputation of the content provider or a trusted friend who points them that way). Your online presence will need to be mentioned often using traditional media as well as word of mouth.
"It doesn't cost anything." True, some online tools don't cost anything to use, but using technology can cost you is more than money. There's the recurring cost of energy to produce fresh and relevant content. There's also the time involved in connecting with your online community, engaging in conversations and responding to questions. There's the potential cost of even free online tools and Web apps that don't fit the orientation of your church and confuse your audience.
"Only the younger generation uses social networking." One study reported that 64 percent of Twitter's and 61 percent of Facebook's users are age 35 or older. The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found that 38 percent of adults 65 and older are online. To better steward technology, you will want to meet people where they already connect online, and you will want to provide training for using online tools that best serve your existing community.
- "Technology could replace real-life relationships." Technology does not have to replace real-life relationships. You can use technology in a way that enriches real-life relationships, to stay connected between the church's face-to-face gatherings. Online tools do two things: expose and enable. Technology can expose a person's tendencies, whether that's isolation or addictiveness; technology can also enable a person to communicate with more people in more ways without being constrained by time and space.
By dispelling these myths, we can learn to better steward technology together, to share what's working, what didn't work, and discuss what we're thinking so we can make informed technology decisions in the future.
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