What started as one blog post about technology and pastoral care continues into part 5. I want to dig a little deeper into some specific technologies and how they might help us in our ministry of prayer and mutual support.
I have already laid out my thoughts on why this is an important topic. In the last post, I wrote about how to leverage the technology of live stream in a way that can keep us connected. Today, I am going to focus on video conferencing.
I remember, as a kid, watching in fascination as futuristic movies and television shows would tease us with promises of talking face-to-face with someone far away. It looked as easy as a phone call. Soon, we were told that this would be a reality. I got to see images of telephones with screens on them. I was promised they were just years away. That didn’t work out exactly as planned. I never got my telephone with a screen on it… until I got my smartphone. Now, when I am away from home, I can pick up my iPhone and see my boys on the other end of the line as I say goodnight.
With platforms like Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom, video conferencing, both one-to-one and in groups is inexpensive, simple and accessible to more and more people. How can this be a part of our life together as Christians? How can it be used to help us in our shared ministry of prayer and mutual support?
Reaching the Mobile and Immobile
Let’s look again through the lens of mobility and immobility. Many of our members are more mobile than ever, travelling for work, pleasure and family. Many of our members are becoming more immobile, as getting to church is becoming more difficult (or impossible for them.) Let’s add another dynamic that is at play. As communities, we are continuing to spread out. It is rarer for most of a church’s membership to live in the same geographic community. Now, it is not unusual for someone to drive up to 45 minutes to get to church. Sometimes distance is another kind of immobility. With work and family committments, driving to the church on a day other than Sunday may become impractical. Or, a member may be temporarily or permanently living some distance from the church. Perhaps they are in the hospital, or assisted living, or even in hospice. Due to circumstances beyond their control, that place might not be near their church and pastor, at a time when they most need their church and pastor.
Again, physically being present to someone is essential and scriptural. Pastors and church members often drive hours to be the representation of the church to someone in crisis. However, that cannot always happen or happen as frequently as it should.
The Power of Face to Face
That is where the technology can come in. Not to replace personal visits, but to enhance the presence of the church. Often, when a personal visit is not possible, we reach for the phone. The phone is still a powerful tool. Hearing someone’s voice has been, for a long time, the next best thing to being there. However, video conferencing adds another dimension, the ability to see each other’s faces.
A colleague of mine told a story last week. He was planning a meeting with Zoom and connected with someone to double check the connection. It just so happened that this person had a really, really bad day. It did not show up in his voice, it showed up in his face. My colleague was able to see and respond with prayer and compassion. When we talk on the phone, we miss so much data. The only way to truly get all the nuances of a conversation is by being with the other person. However, seeing their face is very powerful.
What if a pastor, in addition to personal visits, could visit people time to time via video conference? How many more people could she see every week?
What if a church member made a ministry of visiting from house to house via video conference? Maybe this minister has trouble getting around. Maybe this minister visited people via video conference that were temporarily or permanently far away.
What if someone could make an appointment to talk to a pastor, lay minister, or staff member via video conference. Maybe this person needs to talk to someone but just can’t manage to get to the church during the week?
What if someone travelling for business could check in with their small group during the week using video conference? What if someone who can longer come to church could still be a part of their Sunday school class by using the technology?
What if video conferencing was an option for church Bible studies?
What if the church facilitated support groups that met via video conference? Think of the number of people who need to be part of a group for healing and mutual support but can’t get to the meeting place.
I bet you and I could think of a million difficulties: not everyone has access to the technology, equipment costs money, some people aren’t comfortable with video conferencing, sometimes there are glitches with the software or the network. I agree.
However, for the churches and people who do have access, can figure out how to get equipment, are comfortable with the technology and can handle a glitch now and then, isn’t this an opportunity?
I would love to hear your thoughts.