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Churches need to become adept in communication technologies

First of a series of columns on effective use of emerging communication technologies in the church today.

Once we had to have a computer.  Then we had to be on the Web.  Now the buzz is about social media and social networking.  Experts say that the “business world”—whatever that means—has made the transition from a Web 1.0 world to a Web 2.0 world.  Now the Web 3.0 world is emerging and we are supposed to grab it.  My goal with this column is to offer some perspective, some tips, some humor and some help for effective use of the Web and social media to make connections, build relationships and do the work of the church. 

Jim CastroLang
The Rev. Jim CastroLang

Many of us feel overwhelmed.  In the early 1970s, the first technology I remember holding was a calculator.  By 1984, I had my first computer at home. Last year, I celebrated my 25th anniversary of owning a personal computer.  It has been quite a journey!

Was the calculator the first technology I touched?  No.  I am sketching out this article with pen and paper that look and function much like these instruments did before the electronic calculator was invented.  What level of effort from many people does it take to craft a pen and shape trees into paper?  Before the current pen technology, there were ink wells.

On Facebook today, one of my “friends” was musing that she had 99 FB (acronym for Facebook) friends and wanted to find number 100.  In the FB world, 100 friends is a sign of being serious about Facebooking.  I suggested, it would be wonderful to take a few minutes every day and give each of her friends one minute of her undivided attention.  During the minute, I suggested that she consider that person—their gifts, their goodness, their pains and their needs.  She might hold them up in her prayer time.  She might look at that friend’s FB page and become more aware of how they communicate and connect.

Facebook is a tool that helps us be part of communities that are not in our geographic areas.  Whenever we travel, we may stay with friends or acquaintances who become friends.  With the cost and time of travel, we can’t nurture many relationships that way.  Facebook allows us to have a dynamic insight into the up and the downs, the interests and the causes, the humor and the touching moments of many people. 

I look forward to the Conference Annual Meeting this year, because I feel more connection to people around the Conference through sharing on Facebook.  My UCC connections are important in my life. 

The Conference has a Facebook Fan Page and a Facebook Group, which can be found by using the FB search box and typing in, “Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ.”  We become a fan of a page and a member of a group.   What is the difference?  I encourage the “Page” for now, but we may use the “Group” in the future.  There are two main differences:

• Pages are public.  Anyone who wants to view the page can, and everything is indexed by the Web search engines.  Groups allow you to control access only to group members and to approve who can be members.  Search engines can not index FB groups.

• Push vs. Pull:  Contributions made by other people on FB pages are “pushed out” and show up on FB members’ main (home) news feed status updates.  We don’t need to go to the Conference page to see the updates.  New contributions to Groups are not pushed out.  Instead, those interested need to go to the Conference FB group to see anything new that has been added.

Users might consider how they like to receive information:  pushed out to them so it crosses the path of their day and consciousness, or pulled in to them by knowing where information is and going to it when they want it.  In conversations with friends and across the Conference on this subject, I find we have many strong opinions.   Managing information and relationship flow is a major concern for many people today with access so easy.

We can use technology as a tool to serve our human and sacred endeavors.  It can focus us, making us more effective and enabling us to be just a little more responsive.

This column hopes to offer some ideas for us as individuals and for the work of our churches.  Remember, as we say in the UCC, “No matter who you are or where you are in your relationship with technology and your journey from Web 0.0 to Web 3.0 you are welcome here.” 

The church is a place to build relationships in love and then together venture out into the community to do some important things—sometimes we call it our mission.  There is no way we can be the church we are called to be without skillful use of the tools of communication and resource sharing available to us today.  These are tools for making the connections and building the relationship we need.

The Rev. Jim CastroLang, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Colville and moderator for the PNC yahoo email group and Facebook page, welcomes ideas and questions from spiritual directors to techies as he looks ahead to plan future columns.  He is on Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, ooVoo and Twitter.  Or try these: and 509-998-7203.

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © April 2010


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