My father was never much of a fix-it guy. We didn't have many tools lying around the house. Not much tinkering with cars or small engines or household appliances in my boyhood home. No spare bolts, wires or springs. I've used enough hand and power tools in shop class and through experimentation to get by. I don't necessarily enjoy using tools, but I appreciate the ability to use them.
My stocked tool box relates to congregational ministry, and I love to find tools to help me navigate, learn, and connect relationally. I've been picking up as many tools as I am able since 1998. Some tools I use more than others. My favorite tools recently relate to social media--blogging, Twitter and Facebook. I'm encouraged about what is possible through these tools. What is different about these tools is the open access--so many of the other tools I've used over the years require significant amounts of hours and resources of training and other start-up costs. Then the materials sit on a shelf, to be used rarely again, if ever at all.
I've been frustrated to see that the use of social media to connect is in limited use--at least in comparison with some of our Full Communion partners in the ELCA. I especially find PCUSA folk all over social media: Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, while serving as Moderator of the 218th General Assembly, offered important leadership concerning the use of technology for the church. I am in full agreement with him about blogging as a spiritual practice, appreciate his presence on Twitter, and his thought-provoking work with Carol Howard Merritt on their podcast God Complex Radio. I'm looking forward to gathering with many of these folks who take seriously their communication methodology of many different backgrounds (and hoping for a few more ELCA people) at Unconference 2011 in May.
My contention is not that the church will be "saved" by technology (I'll stick with Jesus), but these tools are as important to connecting people with God and one another as much as the telephone, sound amplification, and the printing press. Communication tools provide access and make the priesthood of all believers a more tangible reality than mere words. Social media encompasses several useful communication tools. Social media also happens to be where the Digital Natives communicate and congregate. Jesus went where the people were; he made few references to going to the house of worship. So I'm going to go where the people are.
I'm not making any revolutionary statements here, but it's what I've been thinking about, sometimes keeping me up at night. I'm reaching out to my colleagues and sisters and brothers in Christ (especially in the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast) in 20th Century-Brand Protestant churches (formerly known as Mainline Protestants) to gather our congregations out here to help teach the tools of communication. A conference, a webinar, a podcast, a traveling road show, a workshop--I don't care. I want to partner with some of my colleagues in the Pacific Northwest and serve others and use the tools available to all of us. I look forward to your ideas and feedback.
Not only are these tools for communication building the new front door to being church, but in many ways, they already are church.