“RPMBox aims to create and act on the hopeful anticipation that revitalizing churches is very much related to the ability of the leaders to engage the people in the exact place they are – the digital world.”
In the technological world we live in today, culture, skills, information, knowledge, and even wisdom no longer flow in one direction – from older generation to younger generation or from creators of culture to users of culture. Instead, they come into being by anyone, often unidentified mass, and move through multi-layered, multi-directed channels of communication. Modern technology is at the heart of the process that is transforming the world at large in such ways. Digital ministry is thus no longer for a certain generation or a certain community; it has become an essential part of ministry for any congregation, of any age, in any culture.
Digital ministry is more than simply clothing traditional ministry with modern technology. It extends preaching, prayer, praise & worship, spiritual care, spiritual formation, reaching out, and evangelism and takes them to another level, enabling the people to overcome limitations of traditional ministry in technolgoy-saturated culture. Digital ministry can transform and shape traditional ministry into more effective one in the networked, relational character of digital culture.
The essence of digital ministry is bringing people together: believers, searchers and those who have no problem living without ever wondering about God. It is to connect and build meaningful relationships among those who are living their lives immersed in the culture that revolves around technological innovations. The purpose of digital ministry is to cultivate “organic belongingness” that fosters “naked experience” of acceptance, which in turn will build up a healthy community.
This ministry begins with providing the necessary information to searchers and giving them access to the relationship formed between church and surrounding community. And it continues by enabling them to experience and connect with the community’s life during the most critical period, which is between the first visit and their incorporation into the community. Social networking services and online and mobile media are effective means to convey attention and information in this stage, which is considered to be less intrusive by young people who often feel uneasy with face-to-face or even telephone interaction before they become comfortable with the other party.
Church’s leadership in the society seems to have become an antiquated concept. However, I believe that sharing of stories of communities through blogs, UCC video clips, Facebook timeline and Page postings, tweets and many other online and mobile channels helps church witness amazing things in Christian communities again. The ripple effect is immeasurable and incomparable with any other means of communication and networking that had existed before. Of course, there will be side effects and unexpected results that we will have to caution against. However that should not prevent us from utilizing these invaluable technologies for ministry. Starting a new paradigm of ministry will be challenging. But once we overcome the first hurdles and our own fear, I believe we will meet endless possibilities for healthy relationships and many doors to the new future.
We should be reminded that, in seeking to transform the people’s lives, it is impeccable to first understand the diversity of the ways the people utilize media and technology to make sense of the world, which in turn is heavily affected by cultural intervention. I hope more of ministers learn to appreciate how these effects of digital media shape ministry practices and to realize how the people are socialized into various kinds of media practices and how they make meanings out of them.
The critical question to be asked and evaluated as a clergy and a lay leader is how to do ministry in relation to the effects of digitally-integrated culture, in both online and offline communities. It is crucial that the participants learn to think of digital ministry not merely as a tool to a ministry purpose but as a process of cultural intervention that is deeply relational and collaborative as we integrate digital technologies into our ministry. While it would be carrying it quite far to say that an effective digital ministry will save every declining church, RPMBox aims to create and act on the hopeful anticipation that revitalizing churches is very much related to the ability of the leaders to engage the people in the exact place they are – the digital world.
Rev. Dr. Paul Moon, Founder of RPMBox