For those who work on remote teams, virtual meetings were commonplace prior to the spring of 2020. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, they, and more specifically the platform Zoom, have now become a conduit for connection across nearly every sector of life. As those who serve in congregations, many of us have leveraged this technology in more than one ministry area: Bible study, board and staff meetings, visits with homebound and hospitalized members, even worship for some.
Though not new, the opportunities for people to serve in technology-related roles have greatly expanded in many congregations. Joining the ranks of service mainstays in the church, technology teams are now just about as prevalent in the regular functioning of a congregation as the altar guild, trustees, and board of education.
About a year ago, we were experiencing one of the biggest disruptions to collective life in decades. Although the calendars of some were wiped clean, others’ lives ramped up to an exhausting pace. Church workers and communicators fell into the latter category. Leading in unfamiliar territory quickly became the norm and tools that were once supplemental shifted to our primary conduit for connection.
When I was a sophomore in college, I moved into a dormitory that had previously been used as a fraternity house. There were a lot of things that made it different than a typical dorm, but the thing I was most excited about was the large kitchen.
Over the previous year, I started to become interested in cooking, especially food that was healthy. The prospect of having a full kitchen available made me decide to skip the cafeteria meal plan, plan to go grocery shopping on a regular basis, and cook healthy recipes for most of my meals.
Like many plans, I certainly had good intentions, but I didn't implement it very well. By the end of the school year, I was so busy with homework and finals that the majority of my meals ended up being off-brand mac and cheese bowls heated up in the microwave. It was not really healthy, but it was inexpensive, quick, and easy, and I was at least able to eat.
In 1997, back in the dark ages of the internet, I wrote my first website. I wrote it, but I didn’t publish it because, honestly, I didn’t know how. It wasn’t a great website, but I was proud of it.
I wasn’t even a teenager yet, but I was fascinated by computers and especially the internet. Creating a website seemed like a fun challenge, so I did what is almost unheard of now: I went to the library and borrowed a book about how to write Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the language of the internet.
It’s so tempting, isn’t it? It’s new, it’s exciting, and it seems to be quite effective at doing the job. Plus, the price is right.
Sure the old one was working just fine for you, but this new one looks like it might be even better! Why wouldn’t you jump in feet first and give it a try?
The “it” that I am referring to could be almost anything. It can be the newest iPhone from Apple or the latest streaming service like Disney+. It could even be the most recent gadget that achieved the “As Seen on TV” label. However, in the realm of church communications, it’s usually the latest social media platform or the newest feature on an existing platform.
“What’s your favorite color?”
As adults, we typically do not ask each other this, but for kids, it is an especially important question.
My four-year-old daughter has a knack for both picking up on details about people and mentioning them in a positive way. She will notice if one of her fellow students is wearing a new shirt and say how much she likes it. She will compliment a teacher on her new haircut, telling her it looks nice. And when she colors a picture for someone, you’d better believe that it will have a lot of that person’s favorite color in it because that is one of the first questions she would have asked them.
Everyone appreciates it when someone else does a nice thing for them, but when that nice thing has been personalized, it makes it even more special.
Admit it; you’ve done this before too. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I’m at a restaurant having a meal with my family. The server brings the food out, distributes the dishes to each person, and checks to see if everything is in good shape. We confirm, and she replies, “Great, enjoy your meal!” I respond, “Thanks. You too!”
How embarrassing! If I had stopped to think about what I was going to say, I would quickly realize that she was going to continue working, not sit down and enjoy a meal, but I did what came naturally and returned the pleasantry in kind.
This past Sunday, my church, along with many other congregations, observed Good Shepherd Sunday. While not an official holiday in the Church Year, it has been historically called that because the Fourth Sunday of Easter focuses on Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
The Gospel reading this Sunday was from John 10:1–10, but I want to draw your attention to what Jesus says just a short time later in verse 14.
“I know My own and My own know Me.” (John 10:14 ESV)
What a wonderful thing to have a Savior who cares about us so much that He left the glory of heaven and became a human being so that He could live and die for us and our salvation. Jesus is a Savior who really, truly knows us.
We as leaders in the Church are called to follow Christ’s example as a shepherd and care for His flock. In fact, the word pastor is a Latin word that means “shepherd.” As every good pastor will tell you, you can’t care for your flock until you get to know them.
At Concordia Technology Solutions, we hold weekly product meetings with members of our marketing, support, and development teams. We discuss what happened during the week and what tasks will be accomplished in the coming week. This is also a time for us to share feedback we’ve heard from the users of our software.
We get a lot of great ideas on a daily basis, but I’ve learned I have to be careful in how I bring them up. If I say, “What do you think, can we add this new feature?” it’s likely that I will get a tongue-in-cheek response from a developer such as, “Yes, we can do anything ... with time and money.”
I’ll admit I’ve used that phrase in other meetings as well. While there is a certain level of sarcasm to it, the reality is that technology has improved so much over the years that (almost) anything is possible, as long as you have sufficient resources.