This is a guest post by Billy Gager. To check out his blog and learn more about him click here.
My wife, Nathalia, works part time at a scrapbooking store. Recently, when checking out a new customer at the register, she asked for their e-mail address so the store could send e-coupons and updates about the store’s upcoming events. The customer amazingly replied, “Oh! I don’t use a computer.”
Yes, you heard me right! She didn’t say, “I don’t use a smartphone … I don’t follow blogs … I don’t e-mail.” She doesn’t even use a computer. Immediately, that person is cut off from the major form of communication with the store. That may be a good thing when it comes to buying material possessions, but for my wife and I who had a laugh about it, it would be like not having the telephone 20 years ago.
This raises the question for leaders of the church in an increasingly technologically complex culture, “How do we engage people for Christ who are not ‘up with’ our preferred, or even standard, uses of technology?”
In one of my previous churches, I was startled to learn that the “phone-tree” was really the only method of communication for the majority of members because most did not use e-mail. Or if they did have an e-mail account, they checked it like once every week or two. In my current church, where I work a lot with youth, e-mail is retro and likewise unreliable because most of them simply text or facebook.
Here’s a couple things I’ve concluded about communication and community regarding “the great technology divide:”
1. We must adapt to our community’s best form of communication. That means even going backwards to “retro” forms for some; or going forward into Twitter or social networking sites for others. Technology must not define our community, our community must define our use of technology.
2. Nothing substitutes for face to face communication and interaction. God didn’t send a text message or e-mail, He came Himself. In our high-tech world, we need to be intentionally “high-touch.” While taking advantage of technology for the gospel, we must fight the tug of culture that calls 853 on-line associations “friends.” I bet you could count the people you really trust with your struggles and confidences on one hand.
3. We must lead gently forward into new technology. Most people are excited about advancing church technologies from bulletin announcements to e-mail newsletters, or phone-tree’s to text messages. But these changes take time and we must keep inclusion a priority. Always have a good reason to introduce a new technology and preface change with selling the benefits for everyone.
What do you think? Have you faced any “technology divides” within your friends, family, or community of faith? Do you tend to exclude people who aren’t using the same technology? Or do you go out of your way a little to use methods that are unlike yours to keep the communication alive?
[image by caribb]