Wednesday, October 24, 2007

digital ethnography and 19th century church

“… the basic idea is to create a 3 minute video highlighting the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime” (from here).

I watch this as an educator and as a preacher. I am struck by the use of digital technologies, by the busyness of students and their ability to multi-task, by their awareness of a changing and broken global world.

I see the rows of seats, a 19th century technology, and I wonder what this snapshot of how students learn today might mean for me this Sunday:
– put all the resources I used in preparation on-line with space for interactivity
– work on ways to encourage multi-tasking during our time together
– have capacity to take email questions as I talk
– invite people to summarise on-line what they heard

(I see Grow as being part of it, and I have already created a website)

What would work against this happening:
– the expectations that I, the preacher, feed people and that I feed them something new and different each week.
– a theology that sees the Bible as special, as above and beyond how people learn, and so uses words like “annointing” to legitimate 19th century practices
– the time that it would take for me to put resources on-line
– the related copyright issues
– the effort that is required from individuals to shift from passivity and inertia to participation
– momentum breeds momentum ie the more people that participated and interacted with me, the better this would go. But in reality, this could be one more thing to add to an already busy schedule for people.

Posted by steve at 10:55 AM


  1. I have often thought it is odd that we sit in pews facing the back of one anothers head! But how do you change it when people in those pews seem happy with the way things are?

    Comment by mark — October 24, 2007 @ 4:49 pm

  2. Steve, I notice you say “the time that it would take for me to put resources on-line”

    I was thinking about that when you originally mentioned Grow.

    None of this is a quick process. If you were to do a “video presentation” every week what resources are needed in the church – let alone the classroom where we might 6-9 hours of material.

    Funnily enough there is now a voice in the back of my head saying that the same thing was probably said about gesttetner machines (anyone remember these from school days) and duplicating hymn sheets or church bulletins 30 years ago or so.

    Maybe we do need to be more on the cutting edge and try new stuff, invest in new jobs (“that does not exist now”) and radically commit to communicating.

    But then there is the inertia factors …

    Comment by David — October 24, 2007 @ 6:05 pm

  3. Thanks David. One of the things that struck me is the busyness of those students. I’m busy too. So I’m trying to be honest about my workload. I struggle to be coherent on Sunday morning, let alone put up some resources etc.

    Now one option is the “body of Christ” who all have different gifts. I suspect there are people in my church community who would see this as their gift. But I want to tread slowly with that, because churches are great at sucking people into Sunday and that’s not the point of church – the point is mission.

    In terms of grow, it’s the same. It’s a way of trying to spread the load, and again, I suspect that by saying “hey, the only gifts in this place are no longer preaching and singing” — but they are are also finding movie clips and preparing a PPT and being a good interviewer and asking good questions …. I suspect that will spread creativity.

    What do you think?


    Comment by steve — October 24, 2007 @ 7:52 pm

  4. Not sure I understand how seeing the Bible as special works against this type of communication. Can you explain further Steve?

    Comment by Rachael — October 25, 2007 @ 4:10 pm

  5. Rach,
    At the risk of a caricature, the sort of approach that says “God’s word will not return void, so just preach the Bible and don’t mess with all this fluffy, interactive, creative stuff.’

    (Now the irony is that these people would never actually preach the real orginal Hebrew.) But it’s still a mindset and a criticism that, I think is at play in our churches and works against taking how people learn today.

    does that make sense?


    Comment by — October 25, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  6. Yes, I see where you’re coming from. I see arguments both ways (as I’m sure you do)

    Thought I should mention I’ve almost plagiarised you….well, at least linked to you!

    Thanks for provoking the brain cells to new action today!

    Comment by Rachael — October 25, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

  7. Steve,

    I like the idea of spreading creativity. However I am also concerned about the Sunday trap.

    Something makes me think we need to go back to a model of spiritual gifts distributed throughout the body and that mission is getting the word of God communicated (not in the original Hebrew) through all of us.

    Not everyone is an evangelist but in some way plays a part in getting the word out. We all are the plausibility structures of the faith as Miroslav Volf says. Can not some of this creativity truly be time volunteered to build the kingdom for those who are less relational?

    At the same time what about those who are less creative? How can they participate? I’ve just read Dan Kimball’s Emerging Church which I like all of except the descriptions of worship. Why? Because that sort of creative reflection does not appeal to me but everything else (and I think I mean everything else) does float my boat.

    So while not an answer it still gets me thinking. The other answer is keep it simple. Maybe…

    Though the classroom is another matter again …

    Comment by David Morgan — October 28, 2007 @ 7:27 pm

  8. David, aren’t all people are made in the image of God? so arent all people creative? so it’s about finding ways to bring that to connection


    Comment by steve — October 28, 2007 @ 8:15 pm

  9. Steve,

    I did say “less creative” deliberately so that I could not be accused of saying some people are not creative.

    The trouble is that the forms of creativity we each tend to are not always useful in the midst of a church gathering. The person who finds great delight in categorising and compiling lists of websites would contribute before a worship gathering and not during where as others can contribute musically or poetically during and the person who loves to cook afterwards.

    The trouble as you state is bringing the creativity out in a way that serves the body for the sake of the Kingdom.

    Comment by David — October 29, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

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