So many communications channels are available today, and they all can be used to share the Gospel. And therein lies the challenge for the church, says the Rev. Keith Anderson of Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, author of The Digital Cathedral.
Introducing the Communicating component of Forward Together in Faith, Anderson noted that fewer people know what God and church are about. There is a cultural distance, now, and less engagement in faith. We need to bridge the gap. The church, which as been used to people listening, can’t take that for granted anymore. The church needs to stop telling people, and start listening to people.
Bob Fisher, assistant to the bishop for mission interpretation and communication, reminded us that technology is changing very quickly. It’s hard to keep up. We need to pay attention. We need to know our audience. Adopting new things, we will make mistakes; everything we invest in won’t last. Platforms are not forever. For example:
Facebook usage is growing among older, not younger, people. 71% of the US is on Facebook.
American adults participate in a variety of networks: Linked-In (28%), Pinterest (28%), Instagram (26%), Twitter (23%). More than half (52%) of adults are using two or more networks. Networks are places to be—people meet people on digital social networks.
20% of people say they have shared their faith online. 46% of people have seen someone else share their faith.
Fisher described our situation this way: “We are on an asteroid, we are going somewhere, going very fast, and lots of things are coming at us at the same time.”
Synod Communications is doing more to tell the stories of synod and congregational ministries, many examples of which were on display at the Assembly. Anderson noted how powerful it was to have professional assistance telling the story of Upper Dublin’s God on Tap ministry, which was shown in video earlier in the gathering. Part of Forward Together in Faith’s vision is to help the synod have the time, expertise and resources to explore new technologies and share what we learn, Anderson said.
We are getting support from SEPA synod to tell our stories; the synod is helping us to do faith sharing with technology. The synod is using technology in other ways as well. For example, this year there is an Assembly app with all the reports and other materials, instead of a big binder.
But the vision extends to congregations, Fisher said. The synod wants to help congregations become fluent in media, to connect with their audiences, and to help member share faith online with their friends who have no church connections.
In conclusion, they reminded us that we all have to be part of this. Nowadays, people don’t have to connect with an organization; there are other channels to connect with people. People are sharing in other circles, not church. It is very important to network people more. We were invited to visit the Mission Center to find out who the synod communicators are.
— Elise Seyfried