By: Kyle Oliver

Exploring Digital Media for Ministry

Something is happening in Christian education and formation.

Ministry models are changing. Curricula and other resources are adapting. Teachers and learners are discovering the joys and challenges of using new media to enrich their faith journeys.

For the past three years, the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary has been helping faith formation ministers, clergy, communicators, and other church leaders grapple with and explore these changes in the form of big-picture inspiration and hands-on training.

They will be bringing this experience to this year’s Annual Event 2016 in Chicago. This pre-event opportunity is titled Digital Media for Ministry: a hands-on training intensive. It will be held at Fourth Presbyterian Church.

“When we started hosting these events, we didn’t we want a ‘sage on the stage’ telling us how smart they are,” says Lisa Kimball, director of the CMT and professor of Christian formation and congregational leadership. “We wanted a highly participatory, emergent event. We wanted a learning lab.”

In that spirit, the workshops for the Annual Event will be practical, hands-on, and interactive. Participants will get to work on website (re)design, strategies for using social media for connecting and building community, and using visual social media to share their story and message. There will be time to explore the wide variety of online spiritual resources, blogging, and tools for digital storytelling.

This new technology provides new tools—new tools to tell our stories, build and shape our communities beyond the limits of geography, and inform and transform our lives in light of the gospel message of love and grace.  Before the printing press the church used hand-copied books written with quills.  Later it was film strips and white boards.  Today we have the internet and Google.  Why would we not use these new tools to continue to share the gospel message? Why would we not use them to grow and enrich our discipleship?

This isn’t about just playing with new gadgets. A recent e-Formation participant observed, “We need to work on helping people see that there isn’t a ‘digital’ world and a ‘real’ world—they are one and the same, and we need to be there to help people meet God.”

The day will follow the schedule below:

9:00 – Opening plenary
9:30 – Workshops round 1 (2 concurrent)
10:45 – Break
11:00 – Workshops round 2 (2 concurrent)
12:15 – Lunch on your own
2:00 – Workshop round 3 (2 concurrent)
3:30 – Closing plenary
4:00 – Optional consultation hour

The following three people will provide leadership for the seminar:

Lisa Kimball currently serves as Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and Professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. She is also a member of the leadership team for the Confirmation Project. Lisa will lead the workshops on blogging.

Kyle Oliver is the digital missioner and learning lab coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary. He is the conference coordinator and content developer for the e-Formation Learning Community, and he coaches congregational and diocesan faith formation ministers as part of the CMT’s Hybrid Faith Formation Cohort. He will lead the workshops on website, online spiritual resources, and digital storytelling.

Adam Walker Cleaveland is a husband, father, Presbyterian pastor, writer, and artist who loves thinking about the future of the church. He will lead workshops on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

From the e-Formation FAQ’s:
Q:  Why should technology matter to churches?

A: Because digital media are helping churches reach out to their neighborhoods and strengthen the ties among their members. Because technology is helping individual Christians explore and deepen their faith outside of Sunday morning.  Because the Spirit of God is with us wherever we go. Because, as Meredith Gould said, “Christ has no online presence but yours.”

Kyle Oliver Kyle Oliver organizes the e-Formation Conference, edits the key Resources blog, produces the Easter People Podcast, teaches and coaches in digital media for ministry and is a contributor to the forthcoming book and symposium The Seasons of Adult Faith Formation.