The Disability of Christians in IT

Summer Coffee Outing - Share on OviHaving recently spent some time at both the GCIA and ICCM conferences, I’ve gotten to take a look at some of the more techie aspects of ministering in the Body. And truly, there’s something different about IT folks – Christian or not – that these kinds of conferences are ideal for. That being said, I’ve also noticed that because there’s such a need for these conferences, this also points to a signifiant sense of disability (or even disunity in some cases) amongst Christians that goes unchecked.

A Clanging Cymbal…

Starting with the common parlance, “those geeks/nerds don’t speak our language.” And this is indeed true. The vernacular of IT professionals seems to totally qualify as “another tongue” and hence much of the wisdom your local IT nerd/geek can espouse would fall on deaf ears (that clanging cymbal of 1 Corinthians 12).

What’s not usually addressed is how to get over those communication barriers. I got this lesson in college. When my dreams of being an industrial designer were shredded, I was led by the Lord towards communications and public relations as a focus. It was there that I learned how to take my more technical leanings in some areas, and parse them toward more understandable terms. That’s not a common path, and hence we have many technologists whom have their weaknesses in speaking and writing relationally.

Transformations of the Mind…

Communication though isn’t the only struggle. There’s also the struggle of fit (psychologically). I noticed that there were an unusually high number of IT persons who they themselves, or those close to them, who suffered from some diagnosed mental disability. For some, that meant a series of medications to keep on track. For some, that meant counseling instead of, or in addition to, medications. And for others still, it meant that they had to transition from areas of work they loved, to areas that weren’t so lovable, because of the stress levels and effects of that stress on them. It is hard to have the position that IT is a ministry, when IT is perceived as something of a disease to be treated and brought into normacy.

Let’s be clear here. There are chemical/psychological leanings that are clear cases of disorder. However, some of those diagnoses come from a misunderstanding not of brain chemistry, but of the entirety of mental capacity ranges in any society. I wish that I could go back to my time teaching in Lancaster, PA and document the effects of the relationships that I had with kids who were diagnosed one way, but given a change in engaging them, their disabilities became a doorway to unlocked abilities.

Every Good and Perfect Gift…

Lastly, and this kind of follows along with language and psychology, is that IT isn’t seen as a “gift from God.” It doesn’t fall within the (often mistaught) five-fold (or four-fold if you actually read the Greek) ministry. Yes, its a service-oriented platform, but there was no such thing as information technology in the Bible (or so some would have you believe). ¬†And being that it wasn’t there, this is just a product of the times and those people with IT leanings need to be directed towards more traditional forms of ministry.

Unfortunately, this position is more common than we sometimes want to believe. We lose a lot of people not just in respect to ministry service, but also in terms of the entire population of this faith community when we demean talents and competencies such as those found in information technology. When these competencies are denied or taken advantage of without a clear teaching of their usefulness, fruitfulness, or historical perspectives, we actually rape from one another the clothing that God’s given us towards clothing the Bride of Christ.

Unlike the other two items I’ve mentioned, it takes a bit more than behavior changes and diagnosable terms. In this respect, we’ve got to do a better job of communicating the full scope of the gifts of service, organization, craftsmanship, etc. that go into the Body. In a very real sense, we need to figure out “why” we have a Gall Bladder, not just cut it out when it explodes. Groups such as Digital Disciples and Church Tech Matters have sought to shift the perspective here, but much work is yet to be done.

No One Is Exempt…

IT professionals and ministers need to also take heed here. You don’t get off free because you’ve gone the better part of the last 40 years not being understood. You’ve got to learn new skills – some of them people-relational skills, some of them journalistic – in order to make sure that what you are bringing to the table isn’t simply clanging off the ears of others. You know that you’ve been given that brain and those technical skills by God, step to the plate in learning how to better apply them in a relevant manner.

In All Thy Getting…

At the ICCM conference, I stopped to talk with a brother and his family whom accompanied him there. He had two tall sons (taller than me). One was beginning to look at colleges and the other was entering high school. For the one entering college, he responded when asked that he was looking into engineering. Always an impressive field, but wrought with people whom are technically sound, but lack relational skills. I admonished him to make sure that he takes some writing and communication classes. His technical skills would be enhanced by his ability to communicate in spoken and written words. The father had never heard of focusing on weaknesses in schooling like that before and was himself encouraged at the recommendation. I can speak from experience, writing and speaking classes made it a lot easier to get some points across – even when I do write longer articles like this.

I say all of that to encourage the body of believers to not neglect one another because one gift comes across more geeky than another. And don’t always subject yourself to stresses and pressures of only catering to what makes you unique. We all have value to one another. Its a disability to us all when we allow our IT-focused brothers and sisters to sit away from us, neglected in what is clearly a direct copy of God’s image-building of us (Genesis 1-2).