Jeremy Pettitt on Communication and Culture

5 Technology Assumptions for Ministry

Posted on June 03, 2015

As I travel around the country speaking to various groups of leaders and pastors, I often get asked questions about my thoughts on technology and ministry. Most of them want to begin the discussion with a particular medium or social platform (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, etc.). However, before I address any particular technology or platform,
I usually challenge them to understand some important assumptions about tech.

Here are a few of my basic assumptions:

1. Technology is both a set of tools…and a way of thinking.

While most people tend to think of technology as simply hardware (mobile devices, laptops, Smart TV’s, etc.), technology is also a way of thinking about the systems and processes to accomplish goals and solve problems more effectively. Henry Ford’s assembly line is good example of technology as a way of thinking. It made cars faster and cheaper than hand-building them.

2. Technology is based on the concept of efficiency.

I can choose to dig a hole with my hands but this very time consuming. Instead, I could use a shovel to dig the hole which would be faster but still hard work. Or I could rent a backhoe and create the hole in a very brief time by simply moving a few levers. Or I could find a laser guided auger to dig it faster. Or I could invent a robot that could simply dig the hole for me while I sit in my lawn chair drinking lemonade. Technology drives toward increased speed, power and effectiveness while generally decreasing cost. In short, efficiency.

3. Technology assumes the outcome is known and can be replicated/reproduced.

If the outcome is unknown, it cannot be achieved more efficiently and effectively. The desire to go faster than a horse but with more freedom than a train led to the invention of the automobile. The desire by the masses for these cars (and the freedom they created) led to technological innovations (e.g. the assembly line, power tools, robotic assemblers, etc.) in order to meet demand at lower and lower costs. In this way, technology can be contrasted with art and craft which assume that each handmade artifact is both an exploration of creation and a unique (and often unreproducible) outcome. You can mass produce automobiles but there is only one original Michelangelo’s David or Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (we can argue about Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans another day ;-).

4. Technology can help with ministry processes that need to be accomplished efficiently.

Everything from checking in children for church nurseries to child protection background checks of youth leaders can be accomplished more efficiently using technology. However, before we simply add technology to any given process, we need to ask if the process we are hoping to improve should be more efficient. For instance, I have often heard calls for online platforms and apps to be used for spiritual formation. But is the spiritual formation process, the process of becoming a disciple who is like Jesus, really an efficient one? Should it be?

5. Relationship trumps technology.

I would argue that face-to-face mentor relationships are entirely inefficient (“We could do this faster on Facebook or even over the phone”) and yet they are actually more effective in helping people conform to the image of God’s Son. “We are his (God's) workmanship…” (Eph. 2:10). God is crafting us into unique works of art. We are not prefabricated, robotically painted and boxed pieces of plastic. God’s work in us isn’t always fast but He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. God’s work in us is best accomplished through a community of faith (The Church) as we wrestle with the Scriptures and live accordingly. It will never be entirely efficient. But it will always be more worthwhile in the end.

I would love to hear your feedback and/or some of your assumptions about technology in ministry as well. Leave me a comment and I will respond as soon as I can.

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