What is Mobile Ministry

In one of the recent conversations that I was around (about the kiosk), we talked about how ventures like MMM would do well to be certified – it would add validity to the effort around this site and the perceptions towards mobility and mobile ministry. Thing is, mobile ministry isn’t something that you can be certified in (yet) – frankly speaking, it isn’t old enough for there to be sufficient best practices and/or innovations above those.

And yet, I (and some others) sense this need and therefore, we’ve got to define what mobile ministry is, what are the key applications, and what are its clear implications. This post will sit as MMM‘s re-introduction to the public conversations on this topic.

A Working Definition
Mobile ministry is the skillful use and application of computer technology classified as mobile for the context of fulfilling the Christian (religious?) designation of forwarding the proclamation of the key ideals and history of the faith, following form to and innovating on top of cultural and faith traditions within applied contexts.

Mobile [technology] can defined as:

personal computing use that is defined by time, task, and spatial relationships, and is not limited to a device which maintains a wired connection; behavior of use is not limited to non-moving contexts; viewport of use is established by a 1:1 ratio of device/service and user.

Another way to look at this definition is to look at these specific mobile characteristics of mobile technology as identified here:

  1. Mobile is the first personal mass media
  2. Mobile is permanently carried
  3. Mobile is always-on
  4. Mobile has a built-in payment mechanism
  5. Mobile is available at the point of creative inspiration
  6. Mobile has the most accurate audience measurement
  7. Mobile captures the social context of media consumption
  8. Mobile allows augmented reality to be used in media

via Tomi Ahonen, Communities Dominate Brands

This differs from what we commonly hear about mobile. The market definition of mobile is any device that contains wireless communication capabilities (cellular or IP) and is designed around a viewport (screen) of less than 5in. This cosigns mobile into a personal computing context that both magnifies the characteristics, and presents the framework in which to approach mobile for service/life application.

Working Applications of this Definition
With this definition in mind, we can start looking at contexts in which this action of ministry (sharing and multiplying faith experiences) happens. Here are some of these contexts (as defined by MMM‘s case report categories):

  • Short Messages: SMS (text messaging) and MMS (multimedia messaging)
  • Long Messages: email, mobile web, mobile applications
  • Social Networking
  • Multimedia
  • Evangelism
  • Analysis and Metrics
  • Language Development
  • Communication Strategies/Implementations

Indeed, within these constructs, the definition and application of mobile can get very wide and deep. The challenge therefore, is to identify the characteristics of mobile, with the applicable technologies which are mobile in context, to create opportunities for ministry-type engagements.

Missions, Media, and Moments
There are currently, three focuses that I’ve seen in the area of mobile ministry which have come to light over the past 6-10 years: mobile in missions, mobile in media, and mobile capturing/definiting moments.

Mobile in missions looks at the application and use of the technology and characteristics of mobile primarily within the context of fulfilling missional engagements. This includes SMS/MMS campaigns, multimedia sharing/engagement, web media development, educational facilitation and mobile health/wellness campaigns.

Mobile in media ascribes the characteristics of mobile to existing media domains (TV, radio, Internet) to bolster activities and engagement to fringe audiences, and to bolster connections to existing audiences. Here we see SMS/MMS campaigns as a subset of a larger media campaign. There is more of a focus on creating experiences through dedicated applications. And we commonly find those persons whom are missional in business contexts creating Gospel-led moments through these activities.

Mobile as a moment is largely the space where personal use and experimentation of the technology becomes the driver of Gospel engagements. Here, we have the use of religious applications such as bible readers, reading plans, and messaging alerts. Many missional and media engagements start also at this level – where a single person, directly with a mobile or with the assistance of a messaging/social networking service, reaches out to friends and loose associates with messages of encouragement, reproof, instruction, etc. In the marketing space, this would be akin to grassroots and viral methodologies at their most basic levels.

Where Do You Stand
Given this short look at defining mobile ministry, I’d hope that you’d be able to better see where you or your organization might stand in respect to how you choose to engage mobile contexts.

At this still early stage of making this field a viable option for ministries and individuals, such definitions are not just helpful, but frame and understanding towards what can and should be the aims of the tools and behaviors that we shape as mobile ministry becomes yet another avenue to share the wealth and depth of the Christian faith to others.

Stay tuned to the Mobile Case Studies/Research page as items there will also continue to contribute to this (working) definition and the means to identify trends in this space.

  • HI! What do you mean by ‘certification’?

    Thank you for your work in this area~ I’d love to see your comments on specific types or categories of mobile media and know yoru thoughts, or even see some research, into the effectiveness of each towards their respective purposes (out reach, evangelism, etc).

  • About “certification:” every field, technological or not, has a metric that defines best practices, or, mastery (if you will) of certain commonly held concepts. Usually speaking, this is conferred one other another by a process called certification. For example, a person can know project management, but the PMP certification guarantees that the person knows (or at least was exposed to in an accountable manner) the topic and its use/application.

    In respect to “mobile ministry,” there’s 6 years of posts here talking about it 😉 As people who work in fields that exercise the use of mobile tech come forward, there will be more to present towards research, effectiveness, etc. As it stands, the problem with “mobile ministry” is – like other fields – folks do but don’t document. Hence the reasons for starting this site/initiative (to get it written down; document trends, themes, etc.; and enable others to learn from what’s happening). Suffice to say – and today’s post has been sitting in my queue for a few months – its hard to get folks to open up to what they are doing even here.

    Stay tuned; its pretty much a mission of mine to record these media moments.

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  • Antoine,

    Thanks for your input. I guess I’m left wondering how MMM (I assume that’s an acrynym for Mobile Media Magazine) would be measured inorder to be certified.

    A certified expert in Mobile Media?

    Certianly I am new to the site, but am interested in the mission as I am a church planter VERY interested in using technology in my miistry. I’m bent on technology as I am a systems development and implementation contractor.

    I look forward to continuing to learn from your posts with respect to Mobile Medias use in the global cause of Christ.

  • That’s the question I (and others) are endeavoring to answer. To be measured, you need an accepted definition. With the definition, context and practices can be researched and measured. Repeated testing and benchmarking gives way to accepted practices and general knowledge. These practices and knowledge items become the basic tenants for creating something that can be “certified.”

    How to measure MMM (Mobile Ministry Magazine)? Not sure (yet). Before initiatives like MMM, Internet Evangelism Day, and Mobile Advance (and some sites and initiatives since), the idea of mobile tech and ministry didn’t exist. Hence today’s post on putting forth a(nother) definition. Those who work in/near this type of work can use this definition as a building block to understanding what is possible and what has been done.

    Stay tuned; we’ll be unpacking this line of conversation specifically, while also doing/connecting to those projects and experiments which are helping to define this in a manner that can be measured in Christ-impacting ways.

  • Excellent, well I’m willing and excited to participate as able through a church plant in PA. Looking forward to seeing the fruit of your continued work in this area to His glory!

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