For my “regular” (all 5) readers, this post is written in response to what I’m seeing and hearing at the Iowa United Methodist Annual Conference. Much of what I write here will be based in what I believe in education as well, but will have a decidedly religious take on it. Read at your own risk (as you might fall asleep). 🙂
I’ve come to these Annual Conferences now for I think close to 10 years. It’s a gathering of clergy and laity from all over the state of Iowa to do the work of the church: budget, debate, sing, debate, celebrate life, debate, and maybe debate a little bit too. We Methodists are a slow moving bunch and we do ask a lot of questions so we know what it is we are getting ourselves into.
We are also steeped in tradition, which is never a bad thing. The problem with that is, the rest of the world is changing and we are not. We moan about member not in the seats, the church is failing, and Chicken Little starts running around. Here’s the problem though, are we meeting our young families, our youth where they are at?
I’m a Methodist and I’m a teacher and both are talking about “transformational change”. How? How are we doing this? We have classroom teachers who choose NOT to use technology, to not engage their students, their families where they are at right now. That’s not how change will take place! How many of my students have a Facebook page? A ton! How many have smartphones? Too many! How many are on Twitter, Instagram, Kiki, Snapchat or some kind of social media? Almost all of them. How do I reach them? I have a Twitter page devoted to the classroom, I have a classroom Instagram page, I have a website where I can send group text messages to both students AND parents without knowing their numbers (or them knowing mine). I can, within minutes, post pictures and blurbs about the classroom activities going on. I can send a group text, reminding families of upcoming events, permission slips, or changes in the schedule. Why do I do this work? Because that’s where my families are at right now. And if I’m not willing to change how I do things in my classroom, I will surely be replaced by someone who will. Either that, or my students will move right past me, leaving me in the dust teaching and communicating in a way that is foreign to them.
As a church, how many of us have websites? There are getting to be quite a few! Are those websites user friendly? Are they up to date? Now, how many have Facebook presence? A few I’m sure. I can’t claim this idea as it came from Caitlin Cogdon (@CaitlinCongdon) a UMC person who helped me out with our church website. She talked about how we give lip service to the idea of wanting to connect, but yet we expect the doors to open up and the youth to come in. Sorry, it’s not that way anymore. We can’t just sit back and NOT engage our families because if we aren’t doing that, someone else (or some other church) will be. It means climbing outside of our comfort zone and learning the technology. As I watch the older generation at the conference with their smartphone, tablets, and mobile devices, we CAN be doing this. Yes, it may be a little scary, but if we’ve got the technology in hand all ready, why aren’t we using it?
The Annual Conference has begun to embrace that social media aspect, yet, many churches take their lead from what they see happening at a larger level. Imagine if Bishop Trimble had a Twitter page (a shout out to Wil Ranney (@ranne) for that idea) and could tweet out to a following some of his inspirations? Or an Instagram page where he could be sharing the great work that he does and sharing it in real time? Imagine your church with that! Being able to share pictures of events, sending real time reminders, or sharing the good work to both the local community and the United Methodist community. Imagine that your bible studies are online, giving all members of your church family a chance to participate? Imagine hooking your young families by showing them a virtual tour of your church? Sharing your service via podcast or even streaming media? Creating a spot where families could donate to missions, submit prayer requests, or just share their own thoughts of church. What kind of change would this be?
Could it be, I don’t know, transformational?
Maybe not at first, because we are Methodists, and we move slowly.
But you never know…..:)