One of the questions that comes across the brow, just about every month, asks how religious groups, missionaries, non-profits, or some other faith-serving group can adjust to the rise of mobile and social (aka, digital) services and devices. For the most part, many of the folks asking have been on the side of a paradigm of living and sharing faith much like a producer or broadcaster does – authority/validity on one end, action/activity on the other. Problem is, access to the content, whether it comes from verified sources or not, leads people to synthesize faith in a manner that works for them best, not necessarily for everyone. Disruptive to the norm? You bet.
Take a look at some recent statistics on device ownership from Pew Internet:
The majority of people own devices with a personal screen. Shared screens are owned a bit less. What should be the implications of this? We should be seeing much more personalization in mixed-media content for the devices with greater ownership. But, what do we see instead, the greater variety of content pushed to the higher economic of ownership (folks got to make a buck), with automation and personalization seen as longer-term functions of those offerings.
What mean is that you have more people with mobile devices, but you spend more time and money making your desktop-friendly website and HD video streams than you do providing content that sits on mobile screens that’s easier to share, comment on, and study.
Does that make sense?
Of course it doesn’t. But that’s because low-cost and multi-channel digital access has disrupted the model for disseminating the faith that seems like it has always been hierarchical. But the faith isn’t such, it was and always will be organic first (“…he who does the will of the Father, the same is my brother…”) and then as the needs arise/fall, people take position to serve and direct (“…body is made of many parts…”).
The challenge for religion is to get out of its mindset that it controls the conversation and the process of faith. Digital has disrupted the mess out of the control that was never supposed to be permanent. If you want to adjust to the mobile paradigm, or the social networking paradigm, or the upcoming ones (AR, cybernetics, etc.), then you have to disrupt yourself, and find a faith that’s deeper than traditions, and more unified than maintaining an attention span.