How new technology develops into a ministry tool

How new technology develops into a ministry toolWith any new technology, the question is asked by many, “How can we use this tool in ministry to advance the Kingdom?” The conversation that follows is usually full of speculation and theoretical ideas that end up being bad ideas, impractical, or at least not as good as a system or tool that’s currently in place.

Sometimes using a new technology tool in ministry feels somewhat forced at first — like we feel a need to make this tool useful somehow, but the round peg just doesn’t seem to fit in the square hole. Using technology in ministry for the sake of using technology is the wrong perspective. We use technology not to feel cool or current, but to advance the Kingdom, and if it’s not doing that, then don’t waste your time on it. It’s better to let the technology evolve, use it for personal use so you grow to understand it while keeping the ministry implications tucked away in your mind until it becomes the most obvious tool for something related to ministry.

I remember the 90’s when I tried to convince my parents that we needed dial-up Internet. The objections were numerous: “It’s a pipeline to filth, it opens your computer to hackers and viruses, and why do we need yet another means of communication? It’s a waste of money and there is little ministry use for it.”

Eventually we figured out that some of those fears had some validity, but that they were also far outweighed by the ministry opportunities that abound online. It just took us a while of experimentation to play around with the Internet to figure it out and move past theoretical “good ideas” for ministry.

Once the Internet was hooked up, then came email. Again, like anything new, we had to play with it for a while before we could start using it practically for Kingdom purposes, hence all the email forwards we used to circulate. We were still figuring it out how to use it, what it’s best for, and how it could enhance communication.

Skip MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other technological tools that followed the same pattern of, “What ministry value is here?” that later turned out to have tremendous value, but not always in the ways we originally expected. Eventually we get to Google Wave, a service that is currently in limited preview for those who receive an invitation from a friend. I lost count of how many Waves I’ve been a part of that start with a subject of something like, “How can we use Wave in ministry?” While I welcome the discussions, my response is usually something like, “I dunno, but continue to use it, play with it, and eventually it’s ministry impact may become clear. Don’t force it.”

That’s actually what happened for my youth group this past weekend. I’ve been using Google Wave personally for a while now. Although I’m a bit skeptical about how and if it will replace email in it’s current state, it has been especially helpful in collaborating over a blog post I wrote and with the Youth Ministry Mentors. Then this weekend my wife and I were trying to figure out how to best execute an idea at youth group and Google Wave was the perfect solution!

Tomorrow I’ll explain some of our experimentation with Google Wave and how it allowed us to have separate, yet collaborative, guy/girl discussions at youth group. It was a natural fit for our specific context and need, and it worked much better than I expected. We’re still playing with it, but that’s how new technology begins to develops into a ministry tool.

Posted on December 14, 2009

  • Good post, Tim. I appreciate your Kingdom-focused perspective for technology. I've found, too, that there's a fine line b/t knowing what that Kingdom focus is and 'trying' to create it…I have to stop myself sometimes and back up to…"just keep playing with it and see." Interested to see your Google Wave post (still waiting for my invite from Google).

  • Tim, I also appreciate your perspective on using technology for ministry. The key word is "tool." I remember setting up our youth ministry website at my first church, and I got caught up in how cool it could be rather than how useful it could be in ministering to students and families. I think a lot of discernment is needed here, too. I know some will disagree with me on this, but we need to realize that different technologies are not necessarily neutral (neutral meaning they are neither good or bad in themselves, it depends on how they are used). I'll back up and use television as an example. Neil Postman has argued very well (in Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985) that the prevalence of television has in many ways undermined ideas-centered discourse in our culture. Now, video content can be used in a positive way in ministry (and we do use it on occasion). My point: we can't just take any technology and put good, gospel-centered content on it and think we're using it well. More discernment is needed, which is why this post is a great starting point for conversation.

    RootsYouth (and others): send me an email at; I've got about 8 Wave invites to spend.

    • Yeah, Shane Hipps says the same thing about media in his books: communication technology is not neutral — the medium that's used to communicate subconsciously communicates something about the message. I think he's right to a certain extent. I don't think that eliminates certain technologies as much as it means we need to be very intentional about the ramifications of the communication mediums we use and, if necessary, make sure we use the medium in a way that lessons any negative residuals.

      • I actually had not heard of Hipps. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • I've been really interested in using Google Wave in ministry, and been trying to figure out some ways that we can use this in our student ministry. I'm looking forward to hearing how you were able to use it with your student.

    I have been interested in using Google Wave to connect with other youth pastors to work together on a Bible study series. I think this could be a great tool for doing something like this.

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