In Which We Create A Holy Maker Space*
[*Another in a collection of posts about the experience of leading an organization into the digital age.]
We didn’t set out to turn the church upside down. We simply wanted to update the hardware and software, and then begin to move operations to the cloud.
We wanted to show committee members how they could work from home and still share documents or update calendars. (They believed the had to work at the church in order to access files.)
We’ve come to see that many people in the church community have a limited, if any, idea of what we are talking about.
For one, people lack knowledge of what different technologies do. But the issue is not just the technology. The issue is their mindsets.
For example, in one committee meeting– have I mentioned that in Presbyterianism, there is a committee for everything?– someone made a Google Doc and invited others to add to it. “But whose document is it?” one committee member wanted to know. “It’s all of ours,” said the maker of the GDoc. “Everyone can write on it.” The woman who’d asked sat back, perplexed. “How can it be all of ours?” she murmured.
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Come to the Sunday Salon the notice in the weekly church email reads. Two Sunday afternoons a month, at 4:00 p.m., the bleakest hour of a typically bleak Pacific Northwest winter day, the Communications Committee will invite our people to come into a Zoom space and experiment with cool tools of the internet. No experience is needed, we promise in the invitation. Just a computer and a willingness to learn. Our guiding principles will be two: 1) you can’t break the internet, and 2) this is a space of acceptance– we will all make mistakes.
A friend and colleague has described Sunday Salon as my personal Maker Space.
In part, this is true– an attitude of playfulness makes it easier to learn. But the stakes are higher for this church community– for all churches, in fact. Scholars across denominations have been in discussion about just what church will be once the pandemic subsides. “People have discovered they like going to church in their pajamas, with their cup of coffee beside them,” a pastor said to me. So is church a place? An experience? And what about worship? Is it like a spectator sport, where a religious leader takes center stage? Is it an experience where everyone participates?
Unless our community has an inkling of what digital spaces and tools make possible, unless they get it in their guts, it will be impossible to envisage anything but what they’ve known. And if that’s the case, they will hang on to the past so hard they will strangle the life out of it.
So, in Sunday Salon, we’ll get people to experience the technologies. We’ll chat about some of the different ways the tech tool can change the way we approach or think about something. We’ll stand back and watch; we’ll wait for ideas to begin to click into place.
Like the moment last year, when one of the pastors stopped me in the hallway and burst out, “I get it. I see what you’ve been talking to us about for all these months! How this can change everything….”
That’s when conversations about the future will really begin.
Background: Digital Church Project