Submitted by Paul Lamb, Principal of Man On A Mission Consulting
As an avid promoter of technology for social change, and as an active participant in a community of faith, I have often wondered why the two worlds remain so segregated? Particularly when faith-based communities (meaning the full range of formal and informal religious communities) are among the most active social sector organizations? Not to mention the fact that the lions share of giving in the social sector is directed toward religious institutions - so there are resources that could be brought to bear if innovation found its way onto the religious radar screen. If religious orgs are serious about building and enhancing community, why are they so behind in leveraging the latest and greatest technology tools to do so? And if nonprofit and do gooder techies are serious about social change, why aren't they tapping into some of the largest and most effective community-based organizations out there? It's a missed opportunity IMHO. I have found that most of my technology friends never talk about their spiritual activities even when they are religious or spiritually inclined, and most of the religious leaders I know are relatively clueless (I say this with all due respect) when it comes to the revolutionary changes occurring all around us due to technology & innovation.
Fortunately there are some murmurings. A couple of weeks ago, Time magazine ran a story on churches using Twitter during their regular services. And picking up on the Second Life media blitz a couple of years ago, NBC did a story on religion in Second Life.(BTW, if you haven't seen this "Guided Tour of Spirituality in Second Life" its worth a looksee).
Here are a great couple of postings on "Church 2.0", which offers an overview of some of the most cutting edge and technology-relevant happenings that involve faith-based communities. Not surprisingly, much of the most innovative work is being done in so called "Celebration" churches with a relatively young audience steeped in broadcast and digital technologies. Many traditional religious institutions are experiencing a decline in memberships and losing younger members - perhaps in part because they don't fully understand how to communicate in a changed world? Take a look at the official website of the Catholic Church, representing the largest religion in the world, and you'll know what I mean.
I sense a lot of fear among traditional religious institutions around embracing and leveraging technology change. They seem to fear losing control and having traditional hierarchies challenged in an increasingly open source and bottom up world. Ironically, the best of social media leads to the kind of direct peer to peer communication among people of faith that was the origin of most mainstream religions before formal institutions and hierarchies were established. No doubt the new technologies can be distracting and take away from mindfulness and rich spiritual practice, but they also offer tremendous opportunities for enhancing and supporting religious communities in unprecedented ways. And many folks don't seem to understand, as the book Groundswell articulates so clearly, at the end of the day it's really all about relationships and NOT the technology tools.
.It is for the above reasons why I have decided to rollout a "Technology & Spiritual Practice" program, designed to help faith-based communities make the leap into the brave new world of technology and social media. I am also interested in bringing together spiritual and technology leaders to come together and dialogue about the creation of next generation tools and a "Spiritual Web" to enhance (and not distract from) spiritual practice. It's time we bridged the relgion-technology divide, so I have put together some workshops to do just that. I would love to hear from folks who are also interested and active in this area?
With a little honest dialogue and collaboration, I think great things could happen here!
p.s. You can join a discussion on this topic happening now on Social Edge
This article was originally posted on Cool n' Conscientious at http://cooltool.ning.com/profiles/blogs/bridging-the by Paul Lamb:
Paul is a consultant, writer, wild-eyed entrepreneur, and nonprofit professional.