Social Media vs The Church(TM)

Bosco Peters has reproduced an article from a local newspaper that has some very interesting quotations from The Digital Nun, Sister Catherine Wybourne.  I’ve written previously about the autonomy of social networks and made the comparison between the digital revolution and the printing press so I won’t produce the article in full here.  However, there is one really interesting point that Sr Catherine makes:

“Being web-savvy should be a required skill for religious leaders in general”

This harks back to a conversation I had with a colleague about what professional expectations are made of those in positions of church leadership.  When I was an RE teacher there were expectations of my capability that extended beyond my ability as a theologian.  The government insisted that I must be able to pass a literacy test, a numeracy test and a computing (ICT) test before I would be allowed to enter the classroom.  The government decided that without those skills they consider essential or required, I would not be able to effectively discharge my duties as a classroom teacher.  People who trained in a previous era were given ongoing training to facilitate their careers and allow their cumulative years of wisdom to continue to guide and instruct the youth of this country.

So what are we doing about this level of aptitude as The Church(TM)?  Many of our church leaders move into positions of managerial responsibility but at what point do we train them for that task?  If we are fostering an online as well as offline presence in our communities, at which point are our leaders being equipped for that?  Before they are selected?  During training?  Continuing Ministerial Education?  I think I know the answer.

I need to ponder this one.  What do you guys think?

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2 Responses

  1. In my experience this, like so many other aspects of the vicar’s role, is left to chance. If you happen to be into or understand social media, you are encouraged (by some) to use it, especially if those in your church are into it as well. But you only have to look at the many naff church website to see there are few who actually know how to do it well!

    The root comes down to your point about ‘essential or required’ skills. This job is so diverse there are few skills that can be said to be that, except breathing. Preaching is essential to some but not to others; beautiful Eucharistic celebration is essential to some but not to others; having a web presence or any form of outreach / publicity is essential to some, but not to others.

    In the C of E there is ongoing training in contemporary stuff for those who want it, but often those who use it already know it, and those who need it don’t want it. My boss doesn’t read my blog as she doesn’t really use the web, and therefore isn’t part of the Facebook groups either, which is her loss, even if just to make sure she knows what I am saying!!

  2. I suspect that you are right. One of the things I find disheartening is that people can be so dismissive. If we don’t possess skills ourselves, there are people who can do it for us. If you can identify what the purpose of a web presence is but can’t deliver it yourself it is possible to hand it on to someone who can.

    I think fear of the unknown is the main problem. “I don’t understand it so I can’t control it so we won’t have it”.

    If Coke’s senior managers used this attitude then people would drink Pepsi.

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