It has been a really long time since I have posted (ok, a few weeks – longer if you don’t count guest posts). There are a lot of things I have not been telling you. Some of them are really exciting (at least, I think so).
Over the next couple of weeks (i.e. before General Convention) I am going to try to catch you up both on my own life and ministry developments and on my current thinking on discipleship.
Here’s part one.
I am no digital native. When I left home for college in 1988, I took an electric typewriter with me. That was roughly a quarter of a century ago.
Today, my ten-year-old does his math homework online. My thirteen-year-old’s telephone is a multi-function device; a phone conversation is among the least interesting options it offers.
Kids today can’t imagine life without digital media. As my daughter once asked, “What did you do before Google?” (I attempted to explain card catalogs, not successfully.)
“Normal” for kids today is YouTube and Instagram. But the digital age in the Episcopal Church can only be described as “not-normal.” Most adults (including myself) still tend to think about Christian formation as if the digital revolution never happened. Sharon Ely Pearson does a fabulous job explaining the current state of Christian formation in her recent blog series – if you don’t know what I am talking about, go read it.
Here’s my point: it’s (past) time to more fully engage the tools of the digital age as our allies in growing disciples. Fortunately, this work is already underway. There is no greater evidence for that than the E-formation conference held by Virginia Theological Seminary each June. It started in 2012 as a gathering of forty practitioners and has only gotten bigger and better each year since.
I went to Eformation for the first time last year. Before I arrived, I wrote an impassioned post on this blog asking one core question: How can we support authentic discipleship in all generations using twenty-first century communication technologies? I soon learned I wasn’t the only one asking that question; it quickly became among the most-read, most-shared posts on the blog.
I walked away from Eformation 2014 with the inspiration and encouragement to begin experimenting with the congregation I serve part-time.
I knew a few things:
- I am in my fifth year of ministry with St. Andrew’s and have good relationships with youth and adults of the church.
- St. Andrew’s is a wonderful congregation of caring people who are willing to try new things and tolerant of their associate priest’s tendency to innovate without precisely knowing what she is doing. I am blessed to serve alongside an encouraging and supportive rector. Thanks be to God!
- Three Sundays out of four, I teach a group of sixth through twelfth graders during the first part of our liturgy. (In response to parent and youth demand, we hold an optional “youth class” for this age range.) This group varies in size from three to ten on any given Sunday.
- I own a video camera and had iMovie on my laptop.
Over the summer of 2014, I decided a few things:
- Our learning in the upcoming year would be experiential, practical, and multigenerational. We would consider what it means to be disciples of Jesus in our context.
- Practically and experientially, we would incorporate exploration of the natural world into our lesson plan.
- To facilitate intergenerational learning, we would find a way for adult members of the church to share their faith with the youth.
- The youth would have an opportunity to share their gifts with one another and the wider church.
- We would use the medium of video as a method for capturing and sharing our learning process.
- By the end of the year, we would have a video we could share with the church and the world through the Internet.
- I would know more about engaging youth, discipleship, and Christian formation at the end of the year than at the beginning. Somehow, I would share that learning with the church.
I would not have decided any of these things without my experience at Eformation 2014.
Here’s the video that sums up our year in five minutes:
Along the way I learned a few things:
- The youth knew more about how to set up a video than I did.
- The youth were happy to film events and suggest script changes.
- Many adults are happy to share their faith with youth and for the church archives on video.
- Because of our program this year, two future Eagle Scouts are preparing to make our church the “place in the woods” we identified as a desirable new project.
I end this year with profound gratitude for the empowerment and encouragement I received at Eformation 2014 – not to mention the inspiration that I received at Eformation 2015. More on that later!
Do you have any questions about this program and/or the video? Ask away!
How are you using digital media in Christian formation?