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Tuesday
Jan242012

Day 6: Search Engine Optimization (or getting more than 10 people to read your blog)

Blogging takes a lot of time and I am pretty sure writing 30 blogs in 30 days was not the best idea I’ve ever had.  The question I find myself continually asking is the same one I started with.  Can anyone hear me?  I routinely post each blog link to Facebook & Twitter, but let’ s face it; my friends are busy and my followers live cluttered lives.  Not too many of them actually read my blog.  So how do I get my name out there and get my content read by more than just my mom?

One answer is SEO or search engine optimization.  Now, true SEO is way beyond my novice blog.  I have students who work on SEO and even though I see their mouths moving, I never know exactly what they are saying.  Rookie SEO, however, is all about getting Google to notice. For instance, I Google the exact name of one of my blog posts.  After looking through 10 pages, I quit—Google doesn’t know who I am.  According to the experts, the real key is to get other websites to link to your site.  The better the website, the higher the rank in Google’s algorithm.

Sounds easy, right? All I need is to get Christianity Today to link to my blog, and I should start seeing traffic increase. Oh, wait.  That’s right. Christianity Today doesn’t care about me or my link. So what are other ways to get linked? One way is to leave comments on stories related to your blog or your product.  While comments left all over the web may actually decrease your ranking, it makes sense to comment on the articles or blogs that actually relate.  This accomplishes 2 things.  It will impact your SEO and people will start to notice your name.  One thing I have found is that the community of people who blog & tweet about certain topics is usually a fairly small bunch.  It doesn’t take too long that, with a little work, you can be part of the club. Once you are part of the club, people will link to you because they like you.

According to blogger Susan Gunelius, it is all about writing great content. “If you write great content, people will want to link to it… Get on the radar screen of popular bloggers and websites by leaving comments, writing guest posts, participating in forums, emailing directly, writing articles, and so on. Build relationships with people who write for high quality sites, and the number of quality, incoming links you get to your blog will grow organically over time.”

So that is my task for today.  I am going to find the best articles and the best websites and begin leaving comments. There is a real-time twitter forum tonight on my topic and I am going to suck it up and jump right in.  I am even going to take one of my blogs and re-form it into an article and send it to one of the websites I follow.  With a little work, I hope that by the end of the month, Google will actually know who I am.



Monday
Jan232012

Day 5: What is my Twitter purpose?

As I begin to try and get twitter organized in this 30-day challenge, I am confronted with a nagging question….what, exactly, is the purpose of Twitter?  The question has arisen as I develop a list of people I want to follow.  My hashtag success pointed me toward social media experts like Social Media Insider. However, my students point me toward celebrities like Ashton Kutcher. The “most popular” list pointed me toward inspirational speakers like Rick Warren & Joyce Meyers. And my writing turns me toward people I know in real life in an effort to build community. The problem is, when I begin following all of these people, I am overwhelmed with tweets and more than a little confused by where I should go or what I should be doing in Tweetland. I had hoped to avoid the bigger questions of purpose and strategy until after I was more skilled at the tools. However, it is becoming clear that the tools won’t work unless you figure out why you want to use them.

Apparently, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is trying to finesse the same question.  In a conference in Munich this weekend (as reported by blogger Chris Crum and tweeted by Social Media Insider) Dorsey claimed Twitter is NOT about social connectivity.  Rather it can be characterized in 3 words: “public, real-time and simplicity”.  Apparently Twitter’s greatest success is in real time news-gathering. (And, might I say, Mr. Doresey, Twitter is the least “simple” thing I have done in a LONG time.)

If news gathering was Twitter’s highest calling, then I would have to say, there must be easier ways to accomplish that goal.  I think there is more. According to Twitter user TJ Therrien, the greatest benefit of Twitter is professional networking.  I have to agree with him.  Although the #, @ and links still overwhelm me, I am becoming increasingly educated on current trends and linked with the change leaders in my field (leaders I never knew existed).

However, if professional networking was the sole purpose for tweeting, then what about ministry?  Is it worthwhile for pastors, or any kind of person desiring to share the love of Christ, to use Twitter?  According to blogger Houston_proud, Twitter is more than links to blogs and a bunch of friends sharing what they had for breakfast.  It is about “presence”.  Sharing life’s tidbits helps us to feel like we are present with our friends.  When people need help, Twitter is a real-time way to listen and “be there”.  According to blogger Brian Humek, active use of Twitter has helped him encourage people, help friends with job leads, talk people down from suicide, and "make new friends along the way".  I don't think that getting to this level of Tweeting is easy, and at this point in my journey, I'm not sure it is worthwhile. 

So why worry about purpose?  It shapes how you use Twitter and what you expect from Twitter.  If you expect theological discussions and strong community, you may be disappointed and quit before you find a purpose that actually suits the tool. I think that figuring out how to use Twitter is wrapped up in where you are on the journey and what you want out of this social medium. I’ll end this blog with a chart on Twitter acceptance that I totally resonate with. I'm not sure if I will ever move beyond stage 3.But, of course, this is just day 5--who knows what I will think at the end of the month.



Sunday
Jan222012

Day 4: Failure to launch...Pinterest, Instagram, and the invisible “send” button

Yesterday I shared with you my lovely tweeting successes.  In an effort to communicate authentically and to avoid the appearance that this journey toward social media competency is easy,  I thought it only right to share some of my recent failures as well. They focus on one challenge: “send”.

Failure 1: Instagram.  I noticed some of my Facebook friends are posting modern, trendy-looking pictures.  Yes, they may be pictures of a cup of coffee, or a pumpkin, but they look so artistic.  The answer: Instagram.  Let me tell you, me and my instagram had a fun afternoon.  I took pictures of the dog, of trees, of a squirrel, and, TBH a bunch of pictures of me in the mirror—making different faces.  After all, you never know when you will need a picture of a crabby-looking woman.  Taking Instagram pictures: a success.  Then came the failure.  I tried to figure out how to get these pictures from my iPad to someplace helpful, like a blog post or a Facebook status update.  I went into a few settings pages, hit a few innocuous looking buttons, and before I knew it, a tree popped up on my Facebook page.  Ahhh!!! I didn’t want a tree on Facebook!  Then a horrifying thought crossed my mind.  What if I accidentally sent all those pictures of me in the mirror to 273 of my closest Facebook friends!?  I quickly shut the program down, shuttering at the near-social death experience I had just narrowly escaped.

Then it happened again.

Failure 2:  Pinterest. Everyone seems to be doing it, so I hop on. It was nothing like I expected. I absolutely don’t get it. That is where I got into trouble.  I decide to pin something.  Why not pin my book ReBoot—I like my book. Pinned.  I quickly scroll through a few things and pin some stupid dress, a picture of a dog, and a blog I had never read.  “Well”, I think to my self.  “This is lame. On to the next thing”  Little did I know, that silent send button had once again claimed me as a victim.  There was no official “share” button, no pleasant request, no flashing lights.  But, without my knowledge, my stupid little pins were suddenly public record.  And that wasn’t all.  In my e-mail box I began to get one notification after another that I had new pinterest followers.  “NOoooo!”  I wanted to tell them “Don’t follow ME!  I don’t know what I’m doing!”  I began to philosophize ‘What does this say about followers in this social media world?  what does this say about leaders who randomly hit pin buttons?”  but what I should have asked is “how do these programs decide to “send” my material around the world?”

Here is my lesson. Experimentation with social media is good—you can’t learn if you don’t try things out.  The caution is “beware the silent ‘send’ button”.  Even when you are experimenting, make sure you don’t do anything REALLY embarrassing, because you never know when 273 of your closest friends will get an unintentional glimpse into your social media mistakes.



Saturday
Jan212012

Day 3: Who is Mr. Hashtag and why is he my new very best friend?

Yesterday I tweeted. Thank you. Life is full of little victories and I celebrate mine.  What was even better than the excitement of hitting the tweet button was the introduction to my new very best friend. Mr. Hashtag (or # as I like to call him).  After days of reading through scrolls of tweets with this annoying little # interrupting anything that communicated with a flow, I decided to figure out why Tweeters were out to make reading sentences so difficult. So who is Mr. #? Why is he standing between me and Twitter competency? Well, let me tell you my discovery. # is magic. Pure magic.

I first found my favorite hashtag buried in an article I was reading.  Instead of skipping over the annoying #, I decided that, since I was on a social media journey, I would click on the link. I learned about the hashtag #chsocm.  It is like this happy little community who sit around chatting about social media and the church. Well, I like chatting about social media and the church, and I like being part of a special club, so I decided it was time to suck it up and try something new.  After all, this 30-day challenge is all about diving in and making mistakes. So I made a tweet and stuck a #chsom at the end.

Oh, I can't tell you the excitement I've had in the last 2 days. Because of that little #, people found me.  They retweeted me.  They liked me. I have new "followers", for Pete's sake!  The added benefit is that as I try and sort through which tweeters to follow and which tweeters are too boring or too complicated to follow, my new little very best friend has helped me find and organize the things I'm interested in.

In case you haven't been introduced to my new very best friend, let me formally get you acquainted.  Mr # is officially defined as a symbol "used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages."  I have seen people at conferences use Mr. # to organize everyone's tweets about the conference.  At the time, of course, that was way beyond my twitter expertise.  But now I get it!  I think the most helpful article was this one in the New Yorker.  Susan Orlean talks about the creative way people use hashtags to be sarcastic or as a "muttered-into-a-handkerchief" style-tool. She talks about how to blend them into sentences or how to make them serve as commentary.  Well, I thought to myself, I can be sarcastic. I can have commentary. So, even if I mess up Mr. #, I can just say I was being a creative writer.

Well, my relationship with Mr. # just keeps getting better.  According to the experts, you don't want to put more than 3 in a tweet--that's just showing off.  I found some of the most commonly used hashtags at hashtags.org  So, when I put in #socialmedia and #chsom in one of my tweets, anyone who searches for those keywords, or is one of my new homies at the #chsom club, will find me.

Thank you Mr. #.  You are truly a very good best friend.

Friday
Jan202012

Day 2: Tweet time. Must I?

Today is my Twitter day. I'll be honest...Twitter scares the socks off me. I sent my first twitter message 2 years ago. It was something like "hey, how do you use this thing?"  No one answered. That was my last tweet. Oh, I've gone back a few times.  One time a figured out how to follow people, so I signed up to follow about 40 tweeters. Kind of a mistake.  I was overwhelmed with messages from strangers--most of which I couldn't understand. That's the other problem--no one uses complete sentences.  I see symbols like # and @ and links that ... into nowhere.  And how can people say anything of value in 140 characters--other than "I just had a cup of coffee #help @blahblahblah http://linktonowhere...."

So why worry about Twitter? Why clutter my day? Why learn to speak Twitter instead of Italian (which is a lot sexier)? Unfortunately for me, Twitter is a new way of communicating that probably isn't going away. According to the Huffington Post, Twitter now has 105,779,710 registered users and new users are signing up at the rate of 300,000 per day. But just because everyone else is sharing about the coffee they just drank or the lame thought they just had, doesn't mean I should.  According to Social Media Today, however, "It’s not just about what you are doing and what others are doing. It’s about the world around you and it’s about the community you create within Twitter." That has clear implications for ministry. This is the kind of social media that happens in real-time and in real space.  When people experience an emotion, have a question, need a friend, seek a deeper connection, they probably aren't going to wait around until Sunday morning. They go to the friends they keep in their pocket.  And the thing is, those pocket friends can minister in new and creative ways.  For instance Rick Warren has over 432,000 followers and Joyce Meyer has over 435,000. Somehow, their messages of hope are infiltrating the lives of almost half a million people--one tweet at a time. Well, I don't have that kind of following, but why can't I send a little hope out there too?  I'm not sure what it will take to build a community on Twitter, or what that even looks like, but I guess it is time to figure it out.

So into Twitter I go. First step--what do I say? I think about what I am doing that I can share with the world. I just ate breakfast. No. No one cares. It is cold outside. No. No one cares. The dog just woke up. No.... This is harder than I thought.  I know, I will start with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI.  It is hard to really bomb if I quote the pope. It took me another 20 minutes to get the post whittled down to 140 characters. I hit the "Tweet" button and off it goes.  It wasn't the best thing I've ever done, but I tweeted. Yes, I have overcome my first tweet fear. Twitter, this is your warning...I will conquer you!!!

 

Thursday
Jan192012

Day 1: Social Media Challenge--Can anyone hear me? Anyone?

It is day 1.  It is cold and quiet here in Minnesota and it is cold and quiet in my social media world.  I woke up ready to be the super social media player I know I can be. I posted my first blog. Yeah! My first success! Then I went back and read the blog, quite satisfied with myself.  As I sat there, watching my lovely blog, something became very clear to me. Nothingness. I just spent a long evening crafting a beautiful entry, but if I was lucky, two or three of my friends, and maybe my mom would read it. The question became clear. Was blogging simply my personal form of shouting into the darkness? Would anyone hear?  Would anyone care? It is like if I opened my front door and yelled into the frozen Minnesota woods--yeah, I'm pretty sure there is no one there.  Even the squirrels are too pre-occupied to take notice of what I have to say.  I think the same could be said for my blog.

So, here is my first social media task: let people know I have just blogged something fabulous. I begin by considering the tools I have.  I will start with what I understand. I have a Facebook page and I know how to do a status update.  In fact, if I do say so myself, I have been known to craft a couple of tremendous posts. They don't come around often, but when they do, I know some people fall to their knees, moved by the 3 or 4 sentences I choose to share with each and every one of my Facebook friends.  Yeah, ok, I am a lurker, not a poster.  Sometimes I think about what I could say, but then look at that big empty space under the "update status" button and quickly hit escape, praying I didn't somehow just send some weird link or swear word by accident to all 224 of my closest friends.

I understand that to be an effective social media minister, I have to somehow conquer this fear of Facebook failure.  But, for now, I am going to use Facebook as a megaphone. I already worked really hard on putting together that blog, so I might as well capitalize on that and use it to jump start my new Facebook life.

So, I get the link to my blog. I see my first problem---the link is like 3 pages long.  I spend another 20 minutes looking through my blog program and find a "URL shortcut" process that renames and shortens my link.  Be aware, you probably don't want to make the link too short or mysterious.  According to United Methodist Communications, people on Facebook like to see where they are linking to. I guess not even my friends will completely trust a weird-looking link.

I provide a blurb, add the link and the Facebook post is up! Then I see something that takes my breath away.  Within the first 2 minutes, someone "liked" it! I actually think it would take longer than 2 minutes to read the blog--but that's ok, I'm not complaining. Someone likes me!  Someone actually likes me! Oh, maybe this social life is better than I thought.

Wednesday
Jan182012

30-Day Social Media Challenge: A one month journal of learning to love (or at least not hate) a confusing, abnormal, humiliating, & really frustrating way of communicating

Social media has become a thorn in my flesh, a burr in my saddle, an "F" in my report card of life. I study its effects, I teach about it, I write about it, some people think I am an "expert" in it.  But I have a dirty little secret.  I hate it. What few people know is that I only have 4 names in my cell phone, it takes me hours to come up with a good Facebook status update, and Twitter is just too scary to figure out how to use.

So what is the problem?  After all, life is more than updates, tweets, and pokes. In fact, I wrote a whole book about that topic.  Well, here is where the dissonance comes in.  My colleague and I are examining how churches and pastors can use social media effectively.  In that process, I have run into a number of writers who preach the gospel of social media. For instance, Aaron Marshall, in a presentation entitled "The New Gutenburg" makes a compelling argument that, if we want to be reaching others for Christ, we need to go to where those people are at--whether it is in the ghettos of Los Angeles or the tweets of a co-worker.  Matthew Lee Anderson, in a Christianity Today article, says "When done well, social networking can enhance the fellowship of the church by providing congregants a window into each other's lives. It can mobilize congregants to serve their neighbors and enhance the church's mission by embedding the community of church relationships in the broader community." Even Pope Benedict XVI has articulated the benefits of technological engagement by saying that new media can "facilitate forms of collaboration and greater communion in ways that were unthinkable in the past.”

Yes, I truly believe that social media is good and necessary.  Yet, as I put together a study, articles and presentations that tell pastors exactly how use these new tools, this small voice inside keeps whispering my failings.  I can't tell you how many passionate, frustrated pastors have confided in me that they want to use these tools, they really do, but they just can't figure them out; they don't have the time and, in truth, they find this way of communicating unnatural and uncomfortable. I usually give them some "blah, blah, blah" thing about balance, taking small steps, choose what works for them, but, on the inside, I think "yeah, man! You are SOOO right!"

Well, the time has come. The time has come for me to step out of my confessional, to acknowledge I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to most of these complicated new media tools, to acknowledge I don't even like this way of communicating and to suck it up.  I am going to figure this out.

I invite you to join me on this journey to social media competence.  For 30 days, I have committed to tweeting, posting, blogging, commenting, and everything else I tell people they should do.  Some of it will not be pretty, but if this is what effective ministry looks like for the next generation, then it's time to figure it out. 

Wednesday
Jan182012

"Social Media and the Church" Study: Brief Description

The Problem:

It seems like everyone from Best Buy to Aunt Emma is using Facebook, Twitter, blogs—all sorts of social media.  If that is the case, it seems reasonable to think that churches can use these tools as well. But is a church Facebook page really the same as a Facebook page for Pepsi or Garth Brooks?  There is currently very little data that examines how churches are using social media and what benefits and sacrifices accompany this venture into high-tech ministry.

The Solution:

We know that churches are full of creative and motivated ministers and  communication specialists, each with his or her own stories of success and failure when it comes to social media.  We are hoping to compile those stories to get a better understanding of how US churches are currently using new media in ministry.

The Study:

Dr. Peggy Kendall, a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies at Bethel University and Kirk Livingston, a free-lance writer and social media marketing expert, in a study that hopes to get a better handle on how churches are using social media.  The first step in this study is a short survey being distributed to churches across the country. The second step is follow up interviews with pastors and communication specialists to better understand underlying principles related to using these new technologies in ministry.

The Benefit:  Once the data is compiled, the findings will be presented at the biennial Converge convention in Washington D.C. in June.  Resources will also be made available that will help churches more effectively use and evaluate their use of social media.

Your Help:  We are asking that you or the person in charge of using social media in church ministry take approximately 15 minutes to complete an online survey.  

The survey can be accessed by clicking HERE


Thank you so much for your help.  If you have any questions concerning this study, please contact Dr. Peggy Kendall at p-kendall@bethel.edu 

Monday
Sep122011

Radio in Switzerland

Bethel students on Europe Term toured the public radio station today in Lugano, Switzerland.  Some of them even made it on the air!  Listen Here

 

Saturday
Aug062011

Facebook Fast

This summer I required my students to give up a piece of technology for a few days, then write about what they experienced.  The paper turned in by this particular student was terrific and I wanted to share it (I have her permission).  If this sounds inspiring, I would challenge you to take a technology fast--you don't even have to be in a class.

 

Facebook Fast

When 6:30am rolls around every morning and I find myself reaching over to shut my alarm off, I think to myself, “where are the days of sleeping in?!” Going through the same routine of hygiene, collecting my things, and eating breakfast, I always manage to slip in a quick check up on Facebook- as if the world changed in the last 6 hours I looked. Some days though, I even attempt a quick Psalm or picking up where I left off the hurried night before in Ephesians, only to drift off in my head to the latest post by my friend. No matter the hour of the day, my devotional time has been slighted through various thoughts drifting in my head from what I saw online, as well as prolonged visits on Facebook.

This fast provided an opportunity for me to do what I needed to do for a while. I gave up Facebook for five wonderful days. Why? Because it replaced things in my life that should be number one. Though Facebook wasn’t something that consumed my mind as in needing to constantly check it and post my life for the public to see and know- it transformed my thinking. This piece of technology on the internet gives people the option of exploring other individual’s lives. The latest vacation, the recent break up or relationship, even the newest styles- all broadcasted and shared on Facebook through pictures, status’s, and wall posts. So often I found myself getting lost in the wall to walls between friends wondering, “Why isn’t she writing that on MY wall?” Or even, “I wish I had the means to experience that vacation.” I compared my life to others, though I didn’t realize it all the time.

Facebook even became so much a part of my thoughts that I saw how relationships were displayed- in happy, goofy pictures in different places with different people. You see who hangs out with whom, and I constantly looked at my own life, especially my own relationship and thought that there was something wrong with mine. We weren’t always laughing and goofy. In fact, we have confronted issues this summer that either will make or break us. We didn’t have the same friends, or even find ourselves in those weekend night pictures of people hanging out and having the time of their life. The fact that I used Facebook as a means to define and alter my view of my relationship showed that something needed to change.

My time alone with God is never just God and I. By having Facebook as a routine place to check in, I never fully checked out after the log in page appeared. I even thought that the site could fix things through mediating communication with it. But instead it held my thoughts captive in such a way that I lived Facebook rather than real life at times. Is this what I have become? Is this what it’s always going to be like for me? One who sees online as a catalyst and contributor to enrich my personal physical life?

This fast was difficult at first. I thought about the recent posts written on my wall that I wouldn’t be able to write back to. I always thought about the pictures that were being put up from the concert last weekend and how I wouldn’t be able to see who was there and whether or not they had a good time. After day one rolled around I realized something though- not having to check up on everyone else’s life left me with time to spend in my own, fully. I had a weekend with my family where access to internet was easy but instead of logging in to Facebook, I had conversations with my cousins and my uncle that otherwise I would’ve spent online having with friends and acquaintances.

Facebook, through this fast, was revealed for what it was. It was a place of hyperpersonal communication- a place where people can upload and Photoshop their photos in such a way that it looks most appealing to everyone else. It is a copout for a hangout. It is an easy way to tell someone you miss him or her. This piece of technology took control of a part of my life that I want and will take back. It should be the last thing I do in my day. The thing I check in to when everything else is done. I have wasted valuable sleeping minutes, priceless times in the Word, as well as meaningful conversations with friends and family, by allowing myself to be wrapped up in life online.

Through this fast, all of these things became clear to me. And I was stunned to find that though I thought I was better than a lot of the Facebook “creepers,” I was still spending valuable time on there- time that managed to transform thoughts and form opinions. My relationship during this fast was better. Not even kidding. I didn’t get weighed down on the little things going on that I saw on Facebook and rather enjoyed what we have, which is wonderful. My friendships have become more meaningful through phone calls and Skype. All of these improvements have left me to ponder though- is this what our world is coming to- Facebook as the sole means to really display who you are as a person? If so, how can I combat that and make my life exceptionally rich without displaying it for all to see?

Because of this fast I am willingly limiting myself to time and frequency on Facebook. I am allowing God to rule my thoughts and my heart in such a way that I will find rest in knowing that my relationships are in Him, not in an online site. Thank you for this opportunity.

 

 

Friday
Jun242011

A New Normal Experience

I just spoke at the American Baptist Churches' biennium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I have to say, I haven't had this much fun talking about technology in a long time. After my talk, there was 2 hours of discussion as pastors and leaders unpacked some of the ideas I presented (see previous blog for a powerpoint of that talk).  Here are a few issues that came up....

How do you implement technology into a multi-generational church without disenfranchising one group or another?  For instance, choosing to send information through Facebook or e-mail blasts or having meetings online, may not only miss some of the older generation, but may make them feel excluded. One pastor responded eloquently when she said it shouldn't be an either/or, all or nothing propostion.  Her response simply emphasized for me how important it is to be wise and intentional about how and when we use a technological tool.

Is online communication really worse than face to face communication?  If the answer is yes, then we fundamentally need to figure out how to get people off of their technology and choose, as a church, to go against the cultural tide. What I propose is that although online communication is not the same as face to face communication, and in some instances is not appropriate, there are plenty of times when it is just as good, and sometimes even better.

We need to remember, that many of us see technology from an "immigrants'" perspective.  That perspective is hardwired to highlight the bad things about the new tools we use--"this new place will never be as good as the 'old country'". The "native" perspective, however, is one that sees the opportunity in the technology--and we can't forget--there is plenty of opportunity. Technology is simply a natural way to communicate for lots of people that come to church.  And as the church seeks to find the new normal, seeks to find relevance in today's culture, it simply wouldn't make sense to avoid communicating in a way that is so natural to so many people.

Clearly, I could go on, but knowing blogs are all about short & sweet, let me just highlight a few more of the questions that came up:

is it really about the technology, or is there a bigger question?

if we want to implement more technology, what is "the big question" we need to ask our congregations?

how do we learn to do this stuff?!?!

how do you deal with cell phones in church?

what if our congregation is small and mostly older people?

how do we teach our young people how to use the technology wisely?

I hate technology--how do I lead my church to minister to "the new normal"?

how do we stay relevant?

Thank you American Baptists for an envigorating discussion....

 

Monday
Jun202011

The New Normal

Monday
Apr042011

Fruity Parenting

PowerPoint from Woodbury Community ChurchThis past week I spoke at Woodbury Community Church.  It was an interesting evening, because the topic wasn't specifically about parenting and technology.  Rather, it was about parenting in general.  It was fun because I have spent the last week pondering what it means to be a good parent to my "soon to be gone to college" daughter. Apart from my issues with technology (yes, she is sitting right across from me, typing on Facebook, sending me Skype messages every now and then), my job as a parent these days seems more about role modeling than lecturing.  I have been convicted about what I am teaching her.  For instance, am I teaching her how to have an overwhelming schedule and an underwhelming family life?  Am I role modeling busyness, tiredness, and messed up priorities?  Or am I role modeling peace, patience, kindness, self-control....you know, those fruit of the spirit things?  The bottom line--how do I do good parenting?  I need to get my priorities straight.  I need to find space in my life--big time.  As I spoke on the fruit of the spirit at Woodbury, I was struck at how none of the fruit have anything to do with multi-tasking,efficiency, and productivity.  The fruit of the spirit take time.  They take focus.  They take me re-adjusting my priorities.  That is my goal this week..becoming the parent that I hope my daughter can role model.  Peace, patience kindness...I pray that will infiltrate the things I do. I don't have much time left with my daughter.  I need to make the time count.

 

If you'd like to see or use the powerpoint I put together for my presentation, click here

Friday
Mar182011

Deconstructing the 21st Century Learning Paradigm

 

I just gave a presentation at an IT conference today.  As exciting as the title sounds, there is some interesting information on how we need to educate our young people in a way that is fundamentally different than how we did it 10 years ago.  The answer isn't just using technology--it is using technology in a way that prepares students for a new world.  According to Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, that new world includes Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, & Meaning--the kinds of things computers simply can't do. So, take a look at my presentation. I also used Prezi for the first time (an internet-based powerpoint-type program that zooms and flies), so check out the cool new moves.

 

You can also view the presentation full size (and fool around with the software) at:

http://prezi.com/4ekc9yfemoio/copy-of-copy-of-bethel-university-it-conference/

 

Sunday
Dec192010

Mega Church Worship: Entertainment or Holy Space?


    As I put on my headphones and focused the camera I was operating this Saturday at church, I quietly began to ponder the role of worship.  In the highly produced mega-church worship service I attend each week, I often become swept away in the thundering bass, the fancy guitar rifts, the flashing lights and the puffing smoke machine. This particular Saturday, as I pondered what worship really was, and whether I was helping to create a holy environment for people who came to worship or simply producing a superficial, mediated form of entertainment, I stopped to talk with the worship pastor.  I asked him a question that has been nagging me for a long time: what was the difference between a show and a worship service?  He had a couple of excellent insights.
    First of all, he called himself the caretaker of the church’s theology.  According to his perspective, the words that people sing in the worship songs are actually more meaningful and real than the words that are crafted by a theology committee and put under the mission statement on the church’s website. The songs are much more than catchy little melodies.  They often form and articulate the longing of our hearts. It is up to the worship leader to choose songs that help form these longings into a systematic approach to how we communicate with God and who we are in His sight. It helps guide our emotions in a way that helps us interpret what we are feeling and what we should do about it. My worship leader takes this role very seriously. It makes him more than an entertainer; it makes him a guardian of theology and an interpreter of God’s stirring.
    Second, my worship leader commented on the production aspect of the mega church. Can we actually meet God when there is so much technology that is part of the mix?  Absolutely.  God meets us in lots of ways.  It might be in a small church with people who don’t even sing that well, it might be in a mighty cathedral with stained glass, and it might be on a bench in the middle of a park on a sunny day.  God meets us wherever we turn our face towards him. For me, I have found that sometimes the noise of my thoughts and emotions gets pretty loud and it takes standing in a darkened sanctuary with smoke filtering through the flashing lights and the worship band singing beautiful songs for my heart to be focused.  It is in that space, in that mega church, that I can quietly and humbly approach my King.  And for helping me create and enjoy that space, I thank you worship leaders.  Job. Well. Done.

Friday
Oct012010

How does access to information impact our view of authority?

I recently sat at a virtual roundtable for Youthworker Journal where we discussed the impact of technology on teens.  This particular question posed a very interesting dilemma--one I haven't thought much about. Here's how I responded. I would be interested in getting some other opinions.

"How does the multitude of information that teens have access to through technology impact their understanding of authority? How does this, in turn, influence their understanding of Scripture, the church, and God?"

Well, on one hand, I’m afraid that the days of the beautifully bound Encyclopedia Britannica sets are gone.  Not only does information change too fast to bind it forever into immovable text, but the way the information is compiled is changing.  No longer is it ok for one smart Encyclopedia Britannica guy to write out the things we need to know.  Now we feel more comfortable accepting the ideas of lots of “pretty smart”, but anonymous guys to provide us with answers. The new Wikipedia strategy is that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”.  In other words, if enough people come to a consensus, the information must be more true than if one guy simply types it up.  This change in information gathering clearly belies a lack of trust in authority figures and can potentially translate into a developing lack of trust in documents and teachings that are not fluid and emanate from only one source.

On the other hand, I don’t see this as a sustainable trend.  I believe we seek permanence in the things that are important.  For instance, according to a 2008 article in Newsweek by Tony Dokoupil, the Wikipedia approach to information is slowly changing. There is a “mounting demand for a more reliable, bankable Web. People are beginning to recognize that the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information…” 

The bottom-line is that students have always struggled with authority and people telling them what to do. I believe that today’s students, however, have an even greater need for a place where truth is not developed by the mob and God is not something that changes from one day to the next.

Friday
Oct012010

The Harvest Show Television Interview

Sorry--just one more interview to post.  I had a great time traveling to Indiana and talking with hosts from The Harvest Show, a production of LeSEA Broadcasting. (My interview begins at 16:50)

Saturday
Aug072010

Connecting Faith: Interview on KTISam 900

I had a chance to stop by and chat with host Stephanie Kay on her 900am radio show. I was happy that much of the conversation centered on listener's ideas of ways to disconnect.

http://www.faith900.com/2010/08/05/technology-and-faith/

Saturday
Jul172010

Occasion: When Time & Place Really Do Matter

I am teaching an online class this summer entitled Communication, Technology and Society.  One of the things I tried was doing some vlogs.  I wanted to build a perception of community in the class and video seemed much better suited for that than text alone.  Here is one of my entries.

Vlog #2: Occasion

Saturday
Jul172010

Radio Interview for "Outlook" on United News & Information

Here is a radio interview I did with George Carden for Outlook, a production of UNI (United News & Information's Weekly Report).   It aired July 25-July 31, 2010.

UNI Radio Interview