Am writing this a few hours after listening to Dr. Markus Pfeffier from Regent University give a talk on the implications of the Internet and virtual environments. Much of this talk I’d already known, but both the speaker and audience were more unfamiliar (association and generational differences). As I listened, I wrote a bit of notes on items covered and not covered and realized by the end that much of what has been, and will happen, when mobile is added to the list for many of you, is that you will draw mobile into the same body of work as you do Internet ministry activities. There is some overlap, but not quite the same.
Let me summarize by restating the tweets (@mobileminmag) that relate to this point published before the writing of this piece:
This morning, listened to chat about the 6th mass media (web) & the need for a ministry response; good to hear others in this space…
Despite talk, still feel that simply shooting for web and social media is a miss for all but a few economies & generations, mobile is better… Mobile includes what we know (& are learning) about Internet as media/medium. Some of us would be good to skip to mobile, then bridge back…
For many, Internet ministry is stuck as a visual/screen ministry; mobile by nature moves well beyond that to spatial experiences… When media moves beyond screen, we get audio, behavioral (gesture), & even potential for smells to augment reality of faith experiences… But, to think like that means you need to know how your biological body functions; that’s the key to understanding mobile… Remember, currently the reach for mobile (individual accounts) is just under 4 billion; reach for net is 1.2billion, unique cross-overs here… But that’s just numbers, mobile = personal = accountable, Internet doesn’t do that w/o analytics, tracking, or optional disclosure…
So, depending on how you see ministry = discipleship, that accountability piece plays a huge factor into where you put energies/resources… If ministry = broadcast then teach/disciple, Net is nearly perfect for channel… Then, net ministry should embrace what makes it unique for the effort… to whom it’s most suited for.
Yea, that was a lot of tweets. And if you saw that stream in the middle of it going up, things might not have made as much sense. But, now looking at the whole statement, we can start to draw some of those needed conclusions that lend towards understanding both Internet and Mobile Ministry efforts.
First, know that there is already a Body of discussion happening about Internet and mobile ministries. Web efforts such as Internet Evangelism Day, Jesus.net, eDot Geek, ministries such as Every Student, Cru, and LifeChurch are some of those voices, and associations such as GCIA, ICCM, the Center for Church Communication, and Catalyst do a great effort towards enabling and facilitating the discussion about Internet ministry (evangelism, marketing, discipleship, etc). On the Mobile Ministry side, there’s MMM, IE Day, Cybermissions, Mobile Advance, and the groups partnering within the Mobile Ministry Forum.
Second, Internet and mobile ministries are subject to cultural, contextual, and generational differences. I don’t subscribe to the terms digital native/digital immigrant (mainly because there is no validated research to prove it, and it’s an assumption based on 100% equal access and ability which is totally not the case). I do subscribe to the differences which can be and continue to be understood when we look at economic class, gender differences, cultural transformations, urbanization/environmentalism, commodities management, change management, and other social sciences which tend to do a decent job of describing the differences that lead to our different uses and applications of communications technologies (yes, that’s supposed to be communications with an ‘s’). You have to understand those pieces in respect to the unique qualities of Internet or mobile. Generally speaking, mobile builds on what you understand about Internet when viewing both as participatory/event communication mediums. Trends point to being able to understand this data, then creating the avenues for appropriate products and services to be developed/enhanced.
About Internet ministry being visual: I am being mean, but truthful. Curent Internet ministry efforts start with visuals. This is either the readability needed for engaging in text-driven Bible apps, social networks, or multimedia streams (ever wonder why audio ministries rely on you needing to read text to download an audio message), or the implementing of the structures which foster digital story creations. Unfortunately, this leaves out those who might have access, but cannot read. Or, leaves out those who don’t have access because they don’t have the terminal with which to engage Internet-first ministries. Mobile, being that it has built on the Internet as a participat-media channel, does much of the same. However it’s not, nor should it be limited to visual-first efforts. That’s worth another article to dive into. But it starts at a basic question, whom are you limiting access to the Gospel to because of what you know or don’t know about those who touch that channel? And if you are going to go visual, at least follow accessibility best practices for the web.
The global reach for mobile is currently almost 3x that of Internet. The purchasing power of mobile is collectively greater than that of Internet. The logistical savy of Internet-based efforts is more mature than that of mobile, as are the tools, services, practices, and standards that make those happen. This means that specific engagements on the Internet have a better chance of success towards some groups more than others. However, you are limited by being online. Unless the effort starts online and is able to get offline, it can only have an effect in that virtual space (the Kiosk Evangelism Project, Door 43, and Open Church projects actually seeks to address this specific limitation/opportunity of Internet efforts).
Therefore, how you (your culture, your generation, your bias) defines minstry will determine how Internet or mobile ministry can play a part in your efforts. It’s possible to do both, but not possible to pigeon-hole yourself so long into one that the other isn’t relevant.
Taking from Dr. Pfeffier and Tomi Ahonen, Internet is the first participatory mass media in the history of humanity (you can argue the performance stage was its precursor), mobile is the second. What Internet ministry cannot do in terms of personalized (not algorithmic) attention, mobile can. What mobile cannot do in terms of being standardized across every device, Internet evangelism efforts can. They aren’t the same. Yet, in order to see digital spaces here and beyond (augmented reality, virtual reality, and cybernetics for example) as opportunities for ministry efforts, knowing this is key to making the most of your time and resources.