Notes - New Habits for Nones: Practicing Digitally-Integrated Ministry in the Post-Christian World with Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson

I attended a great Woodbury Leadership Workshop at Andover Newton Theological School today. I got permission from the presenters to post my notes from the day on my blog. Enjoy!


New Habits for Nones: Practicing Digitally-Integrated Ministry in the Post-Christian World with Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson

  • 1 in three are religiously unaffiliated for people under 30, 1 in 5 for total population
  • the population is increasing in ever demographic group
  • if nones were gathered into a single denomination it would be larger than any Protestant denomination
  • 68% believe in God or a universal spirit
  • Nones are produced in churches - 70& are from a Christian Background
  • 40% of nones pray on a regular basis
    • what prayer means in the culture is beginning to change
    • 55% identify as “spiritual” or “religious”
    • “No labels except for ‘No Labels’”
    • until the Civil War, average religious affiliation was @20%
    • Varieties of nones
      • secularist, spiritual-but-not-religious, nothing in particular, secular humanist, soft agnostic, hard agnostic, atheist, metaphysical, nothingagarian, freethinker, pagan, churchless, unchurched, unsaved, heathen, lost, publicans, seekers, soulless, woo-woo, all of the above, none of the above
      • 44% of nones come from Protestant backgrounds
        • many leave church because of the way we do formation, generational segregation, when they’re done with high school they’re also done with church formation
        • Anatomy of a none
          • folks in minority faith communities are now confessing to the “noneness” of their kids and perhaps even themselves
          • is it religious decline or religious change?
            • how can churches engage new expressions of religiosity and spirituality?
            • Redefine religion
            • It’s currently known as a social cohesion system
              • its focused on the idea of propositional belief
              • people tend to gather because they want to have a similar kind of experience and they don’t care if they all believe the same thing
              • System of Ethical Practice
                • the idea that we unite under a singular moral code
                • focuses on the meaning, aka end result, as opposed to the process, aka the journey
                • Experience of immanent transcendence
                • Manufactures disciplinary and analytical system
                  • how do nones practice “lived local religion”?
                    • the theology emerges from a practice, rather than being layered on top of it
                    • quotidian  and experiential, embedded in ordinary life practices and interests, relational more than either individualistic or institutional, embodied, holistic, valuing authenticity and difference (are we “affirming” our youth out of the church?), eclectic, dynamic and practical (does “it” work for you? And when it stopped working did “that” work for you? Good!), sustained within social identity narratives (often we don’t give people permission to talk about it, we don’t ask), transformational
                    • religious identity as networked, relational, incarnational life narrative
                    • we’re not really giving people language to move from one zone of their life to another, church to spiritual spheres for example
                    • religion and spirituality ARE media, interfaces between human and the divine
                    • church as relational medium
                    • 4F’s of contemporary spirituality (things that nones and domes believe in): family, friends, food, fido (pets). The fifth thing is prayer
                      • priesthood of all food eaters
                      • sometimes religion cuts the attendant off from family
                      • Somes: golden rule spirituality, the problem is that it’s based on the notion of sameness (I can love you because you’re like me)
                      • Nones: good samaritan spirituality (I love you because you’re different)
                      • We need to focus in our churches on Jesus as a Exemplary Jesus, not just “Magic Trick Jesus”
                      • more and more people IN churches are identifying as nones
                      • nones are 20% of the population and growing at 20% a year

Can They Hear Us Now? Plugging In With Nones

  • what are the technologies that re at work in our places of ministry that we take for granted and don’t realize the effect of?
  • The trouble with our technology
    • institutions looking for institutional solutions to save the institution, that won’t get nones back because they have stepped away from or reject the institution
    • “religiously unaffiliated” does not mean non-religious, just because nones don’t attend church doesn’t mean they don’t live out their religion and spirituality in their walk. Let’s revisit where religion and spirituality happens
    • what do we mean by “religious” or “spiritual” for that matter?
      • “Boundaries are the place of Christian work, and their displacement are the result of this work.” Michel de Certeau
      • Why Social Media and Nones?
        • it’s where people are
        • simultaneous engagement with nones, domes, and actively religious participants - what is my stance in ministry when I engage these people all at once?
        • fosters a shift in stance on leadership, language, and community: accessible, authentic, relational (with social media, its more about the social and less about the media)
        • technology = culture, to be culturally relevant we have to be technologically fluent
        • disruption = opportunity
        • By the #’s
          • 73% of online adults are on social media
            • 71% of those are on Facebook
            • 42% are on multiple social media networks
            • 22% on LinkedIn, 21% on Pinterest, 18% on Twitter, 17% on Instagram
            • are we treating nones like prey? Let’s be in relationship with them rather than converting them
            • Networked, Relational, Incarnational Ministry
              • Digital Ministry: the set of practices that extend spiritual care, formation, prayer, evangelism, and other manifestations of grace into online spaces like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where more and more people gather to nurture, explore, and share their faith today
                • it can also refer to these practices as they are influenced by the networked, relational character of digital culture in general, in both online and offline spaces
                • LACE model - listening then attending then connecting then engaging
                  • “…we must leave behind the imaginary organization we design and learn to work with the real organization, which will always be a dense network of interdependent relationships” -Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in A Chaotic World,  By Margaret Wheatley
                  • The Relational Ministry Leader “Too often in ministry we seek to make people into some form other than they are, to make them “holy” by pushing them to transcend their humanity.”
                  • God on Tap: Theology Without a Net - conversations at the intersection of life and faith
                    • people come who would never come to church service, young adults who drifted away from church
                    •, there is also a Facebook group-not page, group
                    • listen without judgment, accept without demanding, embrace them
                    • a week or two before gathering I blog about the topic we will discuss to marry the physical and digital connections
                      • we welcome them, introduce the topic and throw it out there, the minister is more of a facilitator than a presenter, not to give answers but to hold the community in prayer
                      • resurce: Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God
                      • Making Meaning Together
                        • Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes
                          • nones speak in extra theistic language, somes and actives move between theistic and extra theistic, so there is a common language
                          • St. Lydia’s Dinner Church - the entire gathering is a eucharist
                            • Convene and curate - find ways for people to share their stories
                            • Re-Incarnation of Everyday Life
                              • we make false divisions about where religion and spirituality can and cannot happen
                              • Locating the sacred - in our everyday lives, “…relocate the sacred not beyond but within our everyday experience.” Ronald F. Thiemann The Humble Sublime, Secularity and the Politics of Belief

Laura Everett! Executive Director of Massachusetts Council of Churches

Arts of Digital Ministry

  • “You’re not a leader, you’re a place. You're like a park or a garden. If its comfortable and cool, people are attracted.” -Joi Ito
    • unity is not about sameness, it should be about holding diversity in love
    • people are not interested in joining institutions or sameness, but they are interested in joining together to have similar experiences where they can feel safe comfortable and themselves.
    • offering hospitality - creating sacred space and welcoming others into it
      • “As though they were God” - The Society of Saint John the Evangelist
      • caring for God’s people - sharing prayer, encouragement, inspiration and wisdom

Arts of Digital Ministry: Seeing and Believing

  • examples: 10 Commandments on Instagram, have people check-in on their social media when coming to church events, blessing of the devices, YouTube responses to emerging events, etc. (can you tell this is where I got tired and stopped taking detailed notes?)

It was a great workshop. Go out and do good…Online!

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