Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Ever wonder what kinds of personnel are needed to nurture the integration of technology into our ministries?  I do!

Why? As an educational technology specialist (one of the hats that I wear), I often feel like others in ministry do not understand why this area of expertise is greatly needed in today’s church.

Dale Jonasson

Dale Jonasson

When I met Dale Jonasson, Director of Information Technology Services, Diocese of San Bernardino, at the 2013 Diocesan Information Systems Conference that was held in Dallas I was delighted to hear that he had recently hired an Educational Technologist for the Diocese. What a wonderful surprise!

Why this new position?  Dale said, “In the process of technology upgrades in all of our schools, we realized that the bigger challenge was to help the teachers to integrate and use technology in the classroom.  We also realized that we faced the same challenge in our parishes.”

As we spoke about these challenges, Dale mentioned that schools adapt to the integration of technology in the classroom faster than parishes.  Of course there are many reasons why this happens.  It appears, at the parish level that the integration of technology is not in the forefront of their priorities!

Yet, the young people present communicate with technology. So how do we stay connected to a generation that is rooted in a Digital Culture?  I would suggest that we learn from what others are doing in educational settings and adapt what we learn from them to our ministry world.

As Dale and I chatted, we also began to identify the differences between school and parish technology.  They are often at two different levels.  For example:

  1. A school will have the overall infrastructure that it needs to manage the needed technology, a lab, possibly a wireless network, and a staff person who is the school technology coordinator.
  2. A parish often has a home-style wireless infrastructure and volunteers who manage to cobble together a wired or wireless network.
  3. National standards like the ISTE – International Society for Technology in Education National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) guides the overall direction in an educational setting.
  4. Technology standards normally do NOT exist for ministry or parish-based programs, except in a few diocesan locations.
  5. School staff has ongoing technology training.
  6. Diocesan workshop days offer workshops that focus on technology, but parish level catechetical leaders and volunteers may or may not attend.
  7. Publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw Hill, and Pearson have the money to support the development of technology options for reading, writing, science, and math.  And the school market is ready to implement these options in their classrooms.
  8. Religion publishers have attempted to offer technology options.  Overall, the religion market is not ready to implement these options in their parishes.

In our ministry world, it appears that we are often working with the bare basics of technology.  Our school staffs are moving comfortably ahead in the technology world and leaving us behind – and this inequitable environment often exists in the same parish.

In the ministry world we are focused on the use of social media tools including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ but social media is just one part of a technology triangle.  In today’s technology world there are three areas of technology that are often referred to as the ICT Triangle:

  • Information Systems: These are the folks who keep the systems in operation
  • Communications: Before the Internet, these folks were concerned about newspapers, magazines, journals and the traditional print tools to communicate the news.  Today, they are transitioning to a Digital Means of Communicating that is more participatory than ever before through social media tools!
  • Educational Technology: Are those who make sure that these digital tools are used to enhance learning and assist others in learning how to best do this.

When these three areas work collaboratively, we have a system that is able to support the various technology needs in an organization.

The Diocese of San Bernardino is moving in the right direction.  Each part of the ICT triangle will be present within the same diocese.  My hope is that a collaborative model will spring up that will demonstrate how the best of these areas can contribute to the overall growth and development of technology as a major tool in 21st Century ministry.

I will be watching closely what will develop in the Diocese of San Bernardino. In order to learn from one another, would you respond to either of the two questions: (1) What is happening in your diocese or parish in the ICT triangle? Or (2) What policies exist in your parish to support youth in the parish by means of technology in faith formation?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

© Cerveny

Comments on: "Faith Based Instructional Technologists: Do We Need Them?" (2)

  1. I feel very blessed in the large parish where I minister in Adult Faith Formation. I have attempted to use some media in RCIA that needed internet support as well as host live webinars on Spirituality. Though we thought everything was in place with a wireless connection in our Church, wireless did not support the digital technology. However the parish was looking at our phone line contract and discovered that by upgrading to a digital line (one line and letting go of 23 lines analog) we would save money. So at the same time we installed the digital line for our phones we had the foresight to also run a line to have the Church hard wired for technology purposes. Perhaps others might benefit from changing their phone contract, save money and use it for upgrading their technology for internet access.

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