“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Digital Ministry and Why it Matters: An Interview with the Rev. Phil Lund, PART 1

Rev. Phil Lund
I’m introducing a new feature to this blog – the interview! Every few months, I’ll post a short interview with someone who is inspiring me with their ministry, or who I’m deeply thankful for, or who has shaped my life in some way.

Regular readers will recall that in my first blog post
, I mentioned that "The Well" was inspired, in part, by the Rev. Phil Lund, and the “social media ministry” he’s been involved in. Because of this work and his willingness to share what he's learned, Phil has become something of a mentor to me. 

I had the chance to chat with Phil recently, and he was generous enough to answer a bunch of my questions. Here’s the first part of our conversation:  

“Phil, I've heard you and others use the term 'digital ministry.' What does that mean and why is it important?"  

Actually, it’s a term that I’ve recently started using. For me, it’s sort of expanding on the Faith Formation 2020 initiative  notion of using digital media and web technology as part of a lifelong faith formation network. The idea is that a congregation needs to be doing two things: providing opportunity for people who are already part of your community to deepen their faith through digital media and web technology, and offer people who an not involved with our community the chance to do some spiritual seeking online, with multiple invitations to come in for face-to-face interactions. So you’re using the internet two ways: to augment the faith formation of friends and members, and to give newcomers a taste of what your congregation can do for them spiritually. Digital ministry expands that to include the entire ministry of the church. So it’s more than faith formation.It’s worship and social justice as well. Of course, as a faith formation leader, I consider everything we do in our congregations to be faith formation.

“Just a quick sidetrack here: What is 'Faith Formation 2020' and why is it important, as it relates to ministry and digital ministry?”

Faith Formation 2020 is an initiative of Lifelong Faith Associations (a Catholic group, by the way) that sought to answer these three questions:

1) How can faith formation flourish in Christian churches over the next ten years?
2) How can churches address the diverse spiritual and religious needs of people today?
3) What are the promising innovations that can guide faith formation in this decade?

Through a long process, they came up with 16 strategies “for designing the future of faith formation.” At the top of the list was this: Faith Formation using Digital Media and Web Technologies. Whether we’re talking about faith formation specifically or the ministry of the church in general, it’s clear that we can’t address the forces that are affecting religious institutions in the United States without digital media and web technologies. In other words, digital ministry is a must.

"What are some of the key things you've learned in the past year, as it relates to digital ministry?"

The number one thing I’ve learned is that most of our congregations are favoring 20th and even 19th century technology and media. That means we’re way behind here. There are congregations out there (mainline congregations, by the way, not just evangelical) that have full-fledged digital ministries that are far beyond anything UU congregations are doing. I’m thinking Darkwood Brew here. Just spend a few minutes checking out their website. It’s a ministry of an actual UCC church that meets in real life. This is their digital ministry. It is truly amazing. Having said all that, though, another thing I’ve learned is that you don’t need to do it all. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube—they may or may not be what a particular congregation needs. And when I say “what a congregation needs,” I mean, what a congregation needs to spread the word about their mission, vision, and values.

(Readers – stop by tomorrow for Part 2 of this interview. In the meantime, you can find Phil on Twitter @psdlund, or “Friend” him on Facebook.)

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