Here at the Episcopal Communicators annual conference, I’ve heard about amazing Internet tools that make it easier for us to communicate far beyond the walls of our church, and tools to find out how well and with what kinds of people we are connecting with – and not connecting.
It would be easy to hear all this as technical geek talk. There is a good deal that is way above my head, and a great deal of jargon that escapes me. Around 3 pm I stopped taking notes – I could absorb no more.
Yet all this comes down to one word scarier than all the other words in our good staid church:
“We are at a hinge point in our church,” said Scott Gunn, executive director of the Forward Movement, the publishing house that produces those nifty purse-size booklets with daily meditations, and now a good deal more than that.
“We can make a real contribution to the world… or have a narrative of collapse and decline.”
Gunn led a terrific panel discussion on communication as evangelism in the church. I found it enlightening and encouraging to hear the top communication professionals in The Episcopal Church cut past the minutiae of search engines and social media sites and talk about the purpose of what we are trying to do.
“Part of the problem is communicators think in terms of tools. The conversation needs to be about evangelism,” said Gunn. “If we talk to our bishops and rectors, and we talk about are tasks, that sounds like something that can be cut.”
Communicators are often seen as technicians transmitting press releases and promoting events. To confine them to that silo is to squander the gifts that they offer that is central to the mission of building God’s kingdom and transforming the world.
“Communication as mission assumes external focus,” said Anne Rudig, director of the Office of Communications at the Episcopal Church Center in New York. “But many in the church don’t have an external focus so they see communications as maintenance.”
With social media and Internet analytical tools, the communicators are now able to transmit back to the church how our message is being heard, and who we are missing.
I would love to see the best of our church professional communicators travel the country and conduct workshops and panel discussions at diocesan conventions and clergy conferences.
We no longer live in a Yellow Pages world, but in a highly interactive universe that is getting more complicated by the minute. Ironically, it may be leading to less human connection. And that is precisely what we have to offer as The Episcopal Church.