Opinion: The gift that keeps on giving
Written by Edith Guffey
April 26, 2010
Sometimes it's hard to remember that there was a world that existed without the internet, email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We now keep track of cell phones, smart phones, iPods, iPads and Kindles and the list goes on.
While I understand that we can go crazy about technology and there's some concern that we are always "wired," few will argue that our lives have been impacted for the better by the use of technology. I never really doubted that, but for those who have doubts or even regrets and yearn for "the good old days" without this kind of technology, let's take a close look the incredible gifts and opportunities that technology offers us.
There are so many examples, one aspect of our shared life together is the Stillspeaking ministry. Years ago, when we began this work, our primary strategy was using commercials and we were focused on getting them on television.
Yes, we worked at preparing our churches to welcome visitors and we had our t-shirts and commas and we hoped and waited for people to see the commercials then go to our website and find a church. It was exciting and thanks to the TV networks refusing to air the commercial, we got quite a bit of coverage out of that experience and people did come.
Fast forward to just last week, April 16, 2010. This effort has been totally different. A viral campaign, done totally on the internet, and what happened? In the first day, 35,000 people saw the ad, people in 98 countries have seen it and within the first week, 120,000 people have viewed the Language of God ad sharing the distinctive message of the United Church of Christ.
We didn't need a television station executive to approve or disprove of the message, we could just put it out there and let it spread. Our members used Facebook, YouTube (after some initial challenges) and myUCC to spread the message.
Each day 14,000 people receive the Stillspeaking devotional. Each week 60,000 people receive the Keeping You ePosted newsletter. Visitors come to our website at all times of the day or night to find resources that help support their ministry or perhaps even find a new place to worship and a new perspective on the gospel. This is possible because of technology ... so much for the good old days - all of this is possible because of technology.
I know that many of our churches struggle financially to keep the doors open on Sunday mornings and struggle pay a pastor so they may feel that I am out of touch when I say that technology is a key tool of ministry for the church.
I know the financial challenges are real, but how we communicate is not changing, it has already changed and I encourage local churches to make technology one of the essential tools of ministry. All churches may not be able to afford the "technology Cadillac," but a computer and internet access is now a basic tool of ministry and so much can be done with that alone.
One of the constant refrains I hear is that young people don't come to church and the question "how do we get youth involved in he church?" If churches don't get on board with technology, our chances of engaging youth and young adults are gone as this is the world they know and live in.
So, let's all go viral, let's all look for ways that we can make technology work for us in spreading the good news of the Stillspeaking God. It's easy to set up a Facebook account, if you don't know how, ask your child or grandchild or young person in your church. Engage them in learning how technology can be used in your local setting. My guess is they have great ideas and suggestions.
There is no limit to what can be done if we just think in new ways, look for new possibilities and don't be afraid to let go some of what is for what might be! Technology really is the gift that keeps on giving ... let's use it.
Edith Guffey is the UCC's Associate General Minister and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.