Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

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So, we’re in the middle of Lent.  A few weeks ago we were resolving to take care of _____, give up_____, or donate to _____ during this Lenten season.  These actions are all well and good.  But who amongst us even thought about developing our Digital Minds?

Here we are in the 21st century, where technology surrounds us!  For many years, most of us in ministry have kept technology at an arms length from our ministry.  Over time, we made wise decisions and a computer was purchased for our office.  We may even have purchased a laptop so that we have the flexibility to take our work home.  Overall we have gotten comfortable with word processing, email, spreadsheets, and presentation tools. Some of us are very  proficient with these tools, and others may still need to learn how to leverage these tools in order to be effective and efficient.

However, when I speak of a Digital Mind, I am calling attention to a mind that is engaged in the Digital culture, knows how to speak the ever evolving digital language, and has skills that go beyond the basics of being able to use a computer for email, word processing, presentations, and tracking our program finances.

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This Digital Mind is very comfortable with technology, creatively engaging in using the digital tools for research, online learning, social interaction with others, and more.  This type of person is engaged in exploring how the desktop,  laptop, and now tablets and mobile phones can be an integral part of our ministry lives.

I invite each of you to engage in this conversation with me.  I want to distinguish between the characteristics of a Digital Mind and a Non-Digital Mind.  I am suggesting a list of seven (7) characteristics.  If there are other characteristics that you are aware of, I invite you to participate in this conversation by adding your comment to this blog post.

I would say that you have a Digital Mind, if the following characteristics are evident in your daily ministry:

  1. In a casual conversation with friends, family, or parishioners a question arises that  you are unable to answer, instead of saying that you will get back to them later, you pull out your smart phone or tablet and Google the question. You have an answer within a minute.
  2. Your TO DO list, is on your phone.  In fact, short notes that are your grocery list, and other important things you need to remember are added to your electronic note pad of your mobile tool.
  3. 10 to 15 minutes of your day is spent on FaceBook, casually looking over posts on your parish FB page, or viewing posts from your family, friends, and members of your parish.
  4. In addition, you take 5 or 10 minutes to post a faith-thought on your FB page, or a simple response – click the LIKE button, or comment to other posts. When someone posts on the parish page, that a member of your parish is in the hospital, you are one of the first to offer prayers.  On Sunday, when you see this person in Church, you can engage in a conversation where you are aware that this person has just returned home after a hospital stay.
  5. Instead of killing trees because of the paper you use to distribute a weekly newsletter to your parents, you are comfortable in creating a blog using WordPress or Edublog or any other blog tool for this newsletter.
  6. Your familiarity with Web 2.0 tools has provided you with helpful new ideas to present to your catechists.  You follow Catechesis 2.0 to learn from pastoral technology leaders what tools are available, and how you may use them!  Now many of the student activities are available online, so that others can see the projects and your students are learning how to be a Digital Disciple.  Parents and others can comment and affirm the classwork.
  7. You have a team in the parish who assists you with recording (audio and/or video) your parent sessions, catechist meetings, or other activities so that a podcast or video is available for those who were unable to attend this meeting.

and, where have you exhibited any other characteristic of a Digital mind? If you are not developing your Digital Mind, then you are:

  1. Running to your office library to find the resource you may need to answer the question.  If it is not in your office library, then you are off and running to a library, calling a friend, or just hoping that you find the right resource with the answer.
  2. Many of your notes are on a variety of sizes of paper or notebook.  When you need the note, it is lost, or you’re unable to find your spiral bound tablet, or unable to decipher what you wrote.
  3. You do not believe that FaceBook is a viable way for communicating with your family, friends, or parish community. You avoid it like “the plague.”
  4. Your weekly newsletter:  Of course you use a publishing program to create this wonderful newsletter, email it to your printer, wait a day or two for the UPS package to reach you, distribute to your children, and hope that each child remembers to give it to their parents.
  5. You go to your favorite publisher website, print off a  worksheet, go to the copy machine to make the number of copies that you will need for your students, and distribute to them.  You collect the sheets, and several students have not completed the activity and a few have not returned their worksheet and now you take a few moments to review their work and write comments on their work.  One student “doodled” a cartoon on their worksheet. Next class you return the worksheet and have a conversation with your budding artist!
  6. For those who were unable to attend the parish meetings.  You email each family with a special message about the event, and invite them to meet with you for a special session.  This time, you have 20 families unable to attend the Family First Communion meeting.  As you listen to their stories, you learn that these students are involved in sports and Girl Scouts. Have you thought of doing a webinar with them?

So even in the middle of this Lenten season, it is appropriate to ask – How am I developing my Digital Mind.  Or, do I even want to develop my Digital Mind?

I trust that you see developing your Digital Mind as a wholesome activity, that once developed will provide you with a means to be a Digital Disciple in this ever evolving 21st Century where the New Evangelization is calling us to communicate in new ways, with new tools!

May your stories of HOW you are developing your Digital Mind, be an inspiration for each of us.

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