Is It Possible to Teach Vision?

I ended my last post with two questions:

How do [teachers, other leaders] design virtual spaces that lead to not only the expected outcomes, i.e., academics or prayer, but to the deeper opportunities [afforded by digital tools and spaces]?

And how do we, the ones experienced with these spaces, inspire them to begin?

The past weeks have seen a flurry of activity and, with that, some powerful moments of insight. 

For example, last week, one of the pastors said to me, I get it. The Google world? How it can make it easier to work together, make so many new things possible? It took me a while to see it, but now I do.

Two weeks ago, when the email surfaced that called on the pastors to take worship back to the familiar safe physical locations and practices, I didn’t just vehemently object, I offered alternatives. Even more important, I think, and this is key, is that I talked about a theoretical framework to work within. Principles that researchers have identified as being some of the key aspects of new digital worlds, practices, and outcomes. In one of the conversations, I said that I hoped we would be able to use these principles to  imagine some new possibilities for worship. The older of the pastors said “I’d be interested in doing that.” 

But principles are only so much hot air until people begin to experience their effects. Then, each experience gets stacked onto a prior one; slowly, a wobbly pile of stones begins to take the shape of a foundation, one that not only stands atop the principles but also shores them up, making the principles stronger.  

I talked about three things that digital tools could make possible that might otherwise not be possible:

  1. A sense of connectedness with others, without regard for time, space, or geography (sadly, I called this “participatory”, which is too much a jargon or research term);
  2. Unparalleled potential for creativity, combining writing and multiple other modes; 
  3. A powerful sense of self-efficacy. (Unfortunately, I talked about this as greater sense of agency, which people did *not* understand….)

What I wish I had included:

  1. The potential to collaborate with others for a variety of purposes and outcomes, including to effect change;
  2. The ability to “publish” without a gatekeeper, such as a publishing house, magazine or other print periodical. Of course, the web brings its own constraints and negatives, such as the need for access to a device and the internet, concerns about privacy, etc. Still, it’s fast and easy to publish a video on Youtube, TikTok, Instagram, etc. 

I think now that having a big-picture set of ideas lurking in the background is an important aspect of enabling or encouraging a vision of what kinds of things might happen. My prediction is that once some of these actions or outcomes start happening, people will have begun to form a capacity for vision-making. In this instance, I think a vision might relate to the nature of the community and its purpose(s). Or maybe the institution’s religious-cultural foundations would still be foundational, but the ways in which the church body arrived at them might be described or thought of differently? Time will tell. 



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