Fri, July 26, 2002

Does technology make the church?

Notes from the Cave (via The Shifted Librarian) suggests that Gen-Xers are evaluating churches based on their use of technology:

Today I had a good conversation with Matt and his wife, Kim, about the unique perspective that Gen-Xers have on church. In particular, Gen-Xers expect far more use of computers and electronic communications such as e-mail, instant messaging, and yes, even PowerPoint.

One of the things that Matt said that really stood out is that he and his wife checked to see whether our church had a web site, and if it didn’t that would have told them a lot about our church. The lack of a web site might have caused them to not come to our church.

The conversation inspired many thoughts. One would be, wouldn’t it be cool if churches provided mail servers, message forums, online chats, and web server space for weblogs–tools to extend their community into cyberspace? When a person joined the church they would be given an email address. They would be provided the webloging tools to contribute to the community by providing their own content….

Another thought I had would be to set up the entire church with a wireless LAN. When I say entire church I mean even the sanctuary. Then I would set up an internal web server (effectively building an intranet within the church) and put as much information on that server as I could.

All of this is pretty easy to put together, but these ideas also raise an issue. What is needed here is the coordination of this technology in a manner that supports the mission and vision of the church. Corporations encountered this problem ten years ago, and the solution was the Chief Information Officer. I think that real insightful churches looking to meet the needs of Gen-Xers and just plain grow would create their own Chief Information Officer position….

The label doesn’t matter, but the spirit does. The point is that churches today have got to start using technology as a means to reach out to their membership and communicate with them in ways that make sense to the membership.

Um, yeah. The church I attend, St. Athanasius Orthodox Church (OCA), might be looked at as backwards technologically. We still burn oil lamps and beeswax candles and celebrate liturgies that date from the earliest years of Christianity. My priest is fond of pointing out how “earthy” and real Christianity is and how our modern technologies have gotten us so far away from that. This is particularly evident in how distanced we are from death.

On the other hand, my journey to the holy Orthodox church was greatly helped by technology, particularly the many orthodox resources available online. We are blessed with a number of technologically adept members in our parish and could easily set up some of the systems suggested. But I’d have to ask why. It’s missing the point if you’re going to be surfing the web (or intranet) during prayers. I mean, would’t it make more sense to cut down on the distractions? I agree that it makes sense to use modern communications tools (the printing press, phone, email, irc, instant messaging, web sites) to be able to communicate to church members about church events. But that just seems obvious and natural.

Some church websites are downright evil     Freedom of the press and open source