In some recent conversations with clients/friends, I was asked if I would check out a few pieces of mobile software that were looking to be utilized for a few different mobile ministry projects. I used to not mind doing so, but this time I did. A few pieces of the software that I was being asked to investigate/review were core to the goals of those projects. In addition, the persons asking that I’d take the time to investigate those mobile applications had seen in projects or used similar mobile devices to the ones which would be utilized in those projects. They’d essentially be relying on my disconnected use of the software on a device and platform they had little familiarity with in order to roll out a solution that they felt met the needs of their project.
I battled several moments with these requests – not the least because they were being asked in the (usual) “please do this as soon as possible” tone. As I poured over how I would respond to the latest of these requests – I started wondering how it is that those who are forwarding efforts utilizing mobile devices and services could take steps to being servant-leaders of the technology. If you will, how could they take steps in their home usage to make strides to being equipped and knowledgable when in the field?
The first thought was that folks have to become more knowledgeable about mobile devices. Not just about the devices they can afford, not just about the ones their carriers sell, but about the ones that are prominent on the field to which they’d like to pursue mobile ministry opportunities. The easiest way to do this is to take sites such as GSM Arena and PDA Database and just getting associated with the manufacturers of various mobile devices. Look at the device that you own, the carrier and the manufacturer, and then compare that to similar models from the same carrier and manufacturer on those websites (these are two of the largest datasets for mobile devices online).
Second, at least in respect to the mindset of knowing what you are talking about when you refer to the device or service’s effectiveness on the field, is to purchase a similar mobile device to what would be on the field. For many of you reading, this means getting a second or third GSM mobile made by Nokia, RIM (BlackBerry), or any of the many Android licensees or purchasing at the very least an Apple iPod Touch in order to test non-cellular-based applications. These devices cannot be items left in your drawer either, you’ve got to use them regularly so that you know their positives and negatives. Load them with applications, burn through the battery with multimedia and Internet, and even share content with others. Get to know the device and any services you wish to run on it before making the decision to use that device and/or service in the field.
Side note: doing #2 with GSM mobiles is simple. You can purchase a prepaid SIM card from any grocery/convenience store or gas station, or use services like Truphone, MaxRoam,Simple Mobile, Net10, and others to get a taste of what its like to use the device in a manner that’s similar to that of non-contract markets/users (pre-paid; using multiple platforms, international services for testing roaming, etc.).
Third, you have to get over the affluence that is marketed all around you in mobile and chart a path that looks like those you want to serve. Remember when Jesus, after his final meal with the disciples , rendered himself as a servant and washed the disciples feet (John 13). Besides breaking protocol (he was technically the host of the meal), he also demonstrated that there are times in which you have to break with social norms in order to demonstrate the fullness of your message. This might mean that you have to get away from the family plans, bundled services, or even smartphones that you cary right now. If you want people to pass content from one mobile to another via Bluetooth or memory cards, then you have to make a practice out of doing it in your day-to-day mobile life. Do you want people to utilize a mobile learning curriculum, then you also need to be teaching and leading groups from it. For you to lead effectively, you’ve got to have some understanding of what your efforts will cost those whom you are serving.
The best demonstration of mobile ministry is the act of living through that grace in your own life. Take these steps in mind when looking to make mobile technology a focus in ministry efforts. Yes, this means that you’ll have to make decisions such as using lower-end mobiles, or getting by without the security of a contract and device insurance. But, if this is what your target audience is doing, aren’t you better able to serve them by speaking from their experience?