I’m both a pastor and a public school teacher, and while prayer is definitely needed in both occupations, there isn’t a lot of cross over in what I do from one position to the other. However, occasionally, I’ll pick up a little tiny piece of wisdom in one field that just might help me in the other.
Last week, while teaching my largest, most difficult class, I realized that part of their problem in learning the material was my fault.
What had I done?
I had used PowerPoint.
PowerPoint, Microsoft’s presentation juggernaut, allows me to put my students’ lesson on a smart board so that they can copy it down without me having to write, erase, and rewrite the notes each hour. This is very helpful. However, the problem crops up when it comes to demonstrations of the lesson.
Here’s what happens:
- I give them an example and tell them to work it out on in their notes.
- I wait 45 seconds.
- I advance the presentation, giving them the answer.
- I move on.
Last year, however, I did it differently. After giving them the example and waiting for a few seconds, I would have proceeded to work through the example with the class. We would have gone through it step-by-step, together. Why? I didn’t have PowerPoint to “hide” the answer for me until I pressed the space bar. I had to use the marker board, but now, given the option, I chose the computer over the dry erase marker.
Unfortuantely, by using PowerPoint, I may be depriving my students of a learning opportunity: watching me work through the example step-by-step with them. The result of this has been that when test time comes, they may have an example of the work in their notes, but they have no practical knowledge of how to do it for themselves.
Obviously, faith doesn’t work quite like that. As pastors and leaders, we don’t give our people “examples” to “work out” in their notes. But that’s not the point. The point that PowerPoint, while making part of teaching easier—I don’t have to continually write and rewrite notes each hour—it make it easier to short-change the learning experience. This is a classic example of the subtle technology-fueled changes to human behavior that John Dyer warned against in his book From the Garden to the City.
In his book, John carefully demonstrated the using technology to accomplish one goal or to affect a certain change will inevitably result in other changes as well, some of which would not necessarily be positive. For my students, they are losing out on the chance to watch me work out each example on the board. They only get to see the beginning point and the end point of the work. The middle part—the part where knowledge is actually applied—has been cut out.
What’s the “middle part” of Christianity? If the beginning is grace and the end is glory, the middle is the process by which we go from the one to the other. It’s where we “grow up” in the family of God. So how do we show our people the “middle”? I’m not sure I have the answer to that question, but I have two ideas.
1. Step Back from the Microphone
Pastors and leaders are people, too. We’re going through the “middle part” just like everyone else, but we sometimes obscure this fact with our polished presentations and well-time video clips. Let’s step back from our use of technology in preaching and make more use of our personal experiences, struggles and successes. Perhaps simplicity and authenticity go hand-in-hand.
2. Pause the Program
Programs can help us to “streamline” parts of ministry, but those parts just might be the parts that our people need to experience naturally, sans programming. For example, my youth group is making a change next week. The first Sunday of the month is “Communion Sunday” at our church, and so we’re going to have our students in the main service, with their parents on Communion Sunday from now on. Why? So they can experience some of the “middle parts” of Christianity by watching their parents. Instead of expecting an “expert” to produce perfect little Christians, we’re trying to reduce our reliance on the technology of programming in favor of elevating the role of the family in imparting the faith. Who better to teach our youth how to love and worship God that the parents that God entrusted our youth to in the first place?
As leaders and techs, we must be careful that we do not allow our various uses of technology to short-change our congregations by removing the low-tech aspects of church and worship that might actually be key to learning, practicing, and growing through the “middle parts” of our faith.
Are you short-changing your congregation by allowing technology to skip the “middle parts”?
Could technology actually limit the efficacy of the Church?
[Image via Tom Magliery]