Jesus Geeks: Equipping Technology Ministers to Serve Digital Natives (AccessEd Conference)


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This presentation explains how there is a need for a new group of technology ministers for this generation just as we have developed other specialties like urban ministers.

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  • My Name is Andrew Sears, I’m the president of City Vision College. Give you some background. I grew up as a techie with a Commodore 64, in the bulletin board era in the 80’s. Went to school at MIT, studied under one of the fathers of the Internet. Cofounded the Internet Telecoms consortium, multidisciplinary group to understand the social and business implications of the InternetI worked consulting to venture capital and Internet startupsI’ve spent the past 15 years running TechMission, which is a ministry that equips Christians to use technology for the kingdom6 Years ago we acquired Rescue College. Many of you know Michael Liimatta. It became City Vision College, and I became a college presidentSpent the past 6 years learning how to be a college president. We have seen our school grow at an average of about 30% a year since then.Many of you have heard of the term Jesus Freak, from the Jesus people movement in the 1960’sI like to talk about another group: Jesus Geek: Technology Ministers & Digital Natives.
  • The basic analogy I’m going to use for my talk is the lessons that the church has learned from urbanization, which is the largest mass migration in history. I would like to argue that we are going through another mass migration, to the virtualization of the world into online and digital formats. There are lessons that we can learn from how the church responded to urbanization that we can apply to this second mass migration.
  • If you look at the Bible, it starts in a garden, but it ends in a City. We are in the middle of the largest mass migration in history. Just recently, more people now globally live in urban rather than rural environments. The blue line represents the percentage of people in urban environments and the green represents the percentage in rural.
  • Now there is a much more rapid migration happening in the virtualization of the world into online and digital formats. The yellow line represents the percentage of the world online, the blue is the developed world and the red is the developing world. Now I recognize that the analogy of urbanization to virtualization doesn’t exactly fit, because people actually don’t move from cities to a “virtual world,” but just work with me.The reason why I want to use this analogy is that it is helpful in providing a cultural and ministry framework.
  • The same type of thing has been happening in our use of media. You might say that our time has been getting colonized by the virtual world of media
  • Why do people move to cities? New opportunities: jobs, education, churches, better transportation. The challenge is that cities create new problems: slums, gangs, violence, anonymizing, drugs, addictionIn summary cities make good more efficient and evil more efficient2. Rural parents not fluent in parenting urban childrenThe typical story is that a naive rural individual comes to the city, and quickly gets robbed. Then their kids get caught up in gangs and drugs.I grew up in inner city Kansas City. Both my parents were raised in rural environments. When you are on the farm, you can just let your kids go unsupervised outside. In the city, they will get into trouble and get hurt. I saw most of my friends start using drugs and having sex in elementary school. The problem was that we had parents that didn’t have the parenting skills they need to live in the city.3. Need balancedurban-culture fluent parenting and teachingNow, I’m raising my children in an urban environment. I know the risks and know how to moderate those risk because I’m fluent in urban culture. Hundreds of urban interns: walk down these streets, and don’t walk down those streets at nightIf you are raising your kids in an urban environment, then avoidance is not the solution: urban culture = bad. We are called to be in the world, but not of it.Parentsalso shouldn’t be too permissive. That results in children being exposed to urban dangers because of lack of street-savvy of parents4. New modelsSo how did Christian schools adapt? They had to develop new models for teach people to address new opportunities and problems. Now they are called schools of Urban Ministry, and they deal with urban problems.So let’s apply the similar lessons to this digital migration.
  • Online world presents new problems and opportunitiesOpportunities: world’s information at our fingertips, online education, instant communicationProblems:, tech addiction, pornography, online affairs, online predators, fraud/gangs, terrorist are globalized2. Digital-immigrant parents not fluent in parenting digital native childrenWhathappened to me in my childhood effect of being unsupervised in an urban environment is happening to a whole generatoin. A whole generation is growing up online unsupervised exposed to the online underworld: theft is the norm, exposed to porn, predators, becoming addicted. I mentioned that I was an early adopter among digital natives, but I was unsupervised. I used my commodore 64 to became a computer hacker, and saw a lot of my friends go to jail for hacking.3.Need balanced digital-culture fluent parenting & teachingExtreme avoidance: ethnocentric view of all tech = bad. I remember having a friend growing up who never played a video game; honestly he was a social outcast. It was like he spoke a different language than the other kids. I know some parents that are raising kids without any media: TV, video games, etc. I’m concerned they will be like children who grow up with over-restrictive parents, and then once they are on their own, they are like sheep before wolves and go wildExtreme permissiveness: expose children to online dangers because of lack of tech fluency to know healthy online boundaries. Five year old having bad dreams because he was playing an NC-17 violent video game with his older brother. Computers and tablets with no monitoring alone in kids’ rooms. What happens when you start with regular access to hard core-pornography in elementary school? You become like one of the teensI worked with where her friends regularly had parties with their teen friends that were orgies. 4.Need new models for ministry to address new opportunities and problemsIf we developed schools of urban ministry to deal with urban problems, we need to develop Schools of Technology MinistryWhat are the major opportunities and threats
  • What are the megatrends that are being caused by this virtualization? I’ve spent much of my past 20 years researching this starting at MIT where I co-founded the Internet Telecoms consortium and then consulting to venture capitalist and then at the at TechMission where we live out the values of Jesus, Justice & Technology.Since eating of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Mankind has been increasing in its knowledge of Good and EvilThe real question is how do we maximize the strengths of this new model while offsetting the weaknessesThat will be the struggle of the next few generations
  • That was my introduction. The real question is how do you prepare future technology ministers to help address these needs? I spent the past several years interviewing Christian experts in all types of fields to help answer this question. Part of the reason why I wanted to give this talk was to get input from this group on this question. Before I open it up for discussion, I want to explain our best attempt at designing a program to help prepare future technology ministers to address these needs.
  • You start by recognizing that technology is actually a culture. That gives a good framework for missions. In urban missions, we call this incarnational ministry, based on how Jesus incarnated and came to us where we are. It is summarized by the phrase from Paul, “I became a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks.”So what does that look like for technology ministers. It requires just a slight translation to modernize it for techies.
  • What does it mean to contextualize the gospel to techies and the digital native generation?There are a lot of ways to do that. One is to start with the language of that group, immerse yourself. Recently there has been criticism of the fact that all the pictures of Jesus are white Europeans. Then you see Black Jesus, Asian Jesus. What does it mean to present Jesus in a way that techies can understand? I personally like to think of Jesus as the first techie. The word the Bible uses to describe Jesus is Tekton, which has the same root as where we get our word for technology. He used the tools of the day to build things. If Jesus were born today, I like to think he might be a computer programmer. My point obviously isn’t that we should start putting glasses on Jesus to contextualize him to techies, but that we need to be asking the question: how do we contexualize Jesus to techies and digital natives.
  • Many of you have probably heard the quote by Alan Kay: “Technology is anything invented after you were born, everything else is just stuff”If we understand technology is a culture, then we understand that our own view toward technology will be generationally specific so we can avoid being ethno-centric
  • Who here is familiar with the diffusion of innovation curve. It comes from Everett Rogers. The basic idea is that as a new technology comes, it takes a period of time before it is adopted. The yellow line shows the period until everyone is using a technology. The blue line shows the distribution of people into how quickly they adopt that technology. I’m using this curve to show the diffusion of digital culture. Might be more analogous to when immigrants move to the US, how does fluency in English diffuse. For the kids it is fairly quick. Many parents don’t even make the attempt.
  • What we’ve done at City Vision is to design a whole Master’s program to prepare Technology Ministers with these questions in mind.
  • Unique Needs of Techies1. Theology & moral dilemmas: whether tech will ultimately help or hurt people. Theology of technology. Integrate theology and technology worlds rather than compartmentalize them.2. Unique Identity Issues: STEM fields are not affirmed as ministry, Young earth creationism are a much bigger deal that for typical Christians and has identity implication. How to affirm someone who was picked on in high school, but will be your boss in work. Ethnic identity development for tech culture. Why are all the geeks sitting together in the cafeteria? Solidifying identity as a Christian techie and enable it to be an integrated identity rather than compartmentalize worlds.3. Unique Language. Systems is a common language that people from STEM fields can understand. Need to understand how to navigate organizations. Organizational Systems4. Summary of Bible is Love God, Love others. How to use technology to help people? and in particular the poor. Appropriate technology as a framework for thinking about technology in missions.5. Limits: Need to understand limits of quantitative methods & how to respond to negative aspects of technology. Technology Addiction. Marshall Mccluhan developed the interdisciplinary field of media ecology. There are new fields needed: media nutrition how we consume media by crossing the fields of nutrition and media. Technology & addiction: cross fields of addiction recovery with media6. Techies often think about tech, but not the business side and how to keep it funded. Sustainability.
  • In this next part I would like to take these frameworks and this incarnational ministry approach, and apply it to some delimmasShallows: multitask so much that it is difficult to focus. In the rural to urban migration, might analogous to parents lamenting about the lack of physical exercise. The reality was that the jobs of the future required knowledge skills, but there is still a need for physical exercise as shown in the obesity epidemic. So we have gyms where we workout—a concept that would seem so foreign a century ago. Why do that?What is the modern counterpart to a gym? Mindfulness and training on boundaries that enable focus. Prayer & meditation.Device distractions in the classroom: professors complaining that no one pays attention to their lectureRespond with a flipped classroom, recorded lecture, recorded discussion, no notes, no devices. By being very tech savvy, you gain authority to limit technology.How well would it work with me as a white guy going to some black gang memberWhite people who go into the Black community and lecture them on how they should be vs. Black pastor who are has lived a life giving him street cred, challenging themChanges the Nature of Responding to Tech AddictionsStaff with tech addictionsI’m a techie. I tell them the story about how I was so strung out on Civilization 3 that I played for 24 hours without eating and only had 1 hour of sleep and almost passed out. Tablets with kidsI became an expert curator of educational apps for kids. I could write a book or blog as good or better than any out thereGive my kids unlimited access to educational games: like all you can eat salad bar 24 hoursThey get non-educational games like desert. On special occasions.Spiritual Formation OnlineWe run 12 step groups online, with huge spiritual transformationMost compelling stories are those who cannot access offline communities: Use Online Technology for what it’s good forOnline is good for matching, content distribution and communicating across many surface relationships Online is limited for in-depth spiritual formationOnline becomes a mechanism to more effectively match people for in-person relationships and spiritual formation offline: internships, volunteer opportunities, Christian housing, churches, small groups,
  • Be all things to all people vs. specialization
  • Move from a vertically integrated university to a modular networked universityDoes the university have to be all things to all peopleMost instructors can never compete for teaching with the podcasts I listen toIn some cases this will be better and in other cases it will be much worseBut it is what the trend is toward
  • Jesus Geeks: Equipping Technology Ministers to Serve Digital Natives (AccessEd Conference)

    1. 1. Andrew Sears President, City Vision College Executive Director, TechMission Jesus Geeks: Equipping Technology Ministers to Serve Digital Natives
    2. 2. Lessons on How to Serve Digital Natives Based on Past Mass Migrations Rural Urba n Online/ Digital
    3. 3. Lessons from Urbanization 1. Urbanization presents new problems and opportunities 2. Rural parents not fluent in parenting urban children 3. Need balanced urban-culture fluent parenting and teaching 4. Need to teach new models for ministry to address new opportunities and problems
    4. 4. Lessons for Virtualization 1. Online world presents new problems and opportunities 2. Digital-immigrant parents/teachers not fluent in parenting/teaching digital native children 3. Need balanced digital-culture fluent parenting & teaching 4. Need to teach new models for ministry to address new opportunities and problems
    5. 5. Opportunities and Threats from Technology for Digital Natives Opportunities Threats Growth in diversity Growth in deviance Many options/connections Shallow focus & relationships More information More temptation Less global poverty More domestic inequality Decreased autocracy Decreased accountability Viral church growth Viral cults Megachurch network growth Wal-Mart Effect on Churches Increased specialization Holistic church decrease Increased Capacity for Good Increased Capacity for Evil
    6. 6. How Do You Prepare Future Technology Ministers to Address These Needs?
    7. 7. Incarnational Ministry Philosophy Become a Jew to the Jews And a Greek to the Greeks
    8. 8. Incarnational Ministry Philosophy Become a Jew to the Jews And a Geek to the Geeks Jesus was the first techie (Tektōn)
    9. 9. “Technology is anything invented after you were born, everything else is just stuff.” -Alan Kay
    10. 10. Techies Digital Natives Diffusion of Digital Culture Time Bilingual “Age Out”
    11. 11. Incarnational Ministry among Digital Natives  Are we becoming bilingual/bicultural by immersing ourselves in their culture?  Are we meeting them where they are or forcing them to meet us on our cultural terms?  Are we preparing them to live in the world we grew up in or the world they will live in?  What indigenous leadership development of tech leaders strategy do you have?
    12. 12. Masters in Science, Technology, Society & Ministry Program Design  Modeled after similar programs at MIT & Stanford ◦ Interdisciplinary like Science, Technology & Society programs, but much more practical ministry focus  Designed… ◦ To balance out training of tech staff in Christian organizations ◦ To function as an incubator/startup accelerator for technology ministries ◦ To equip future Chief Digital Officers ◦ Around project based learning
    13. 13. 1. Theology of Technology 3 . Organizational Systems Emerging Media Electives 4. Appropriate Technology 2. Theology of Work (Identity) Capstone Course MSTSM Program Design 5. Limits of Tech & Tech Addictions 6. Financial Sustainability
    14. 14. MSTSM Courses Required Courses  Theology of Technology  Theology of Work in STEM Professions  Systems Thinking  Emerging Media Ministry  Appropriate Technology in the IT Field  Capstone Design  Capstone Project Electives  History and Case Studies of Technology in the Church  Technology and Addiction  High Tech Social Entrepreneurship  Grant & Proposal Writing
    15. 15. Examples of Helpful Responses to Issues with Digital Natives  Lack of ability to focus in depth: “The Shallows”  Device distractions in the classroom  Tech addictions  Tablets with kids  Spiritual formation online
    16. 16. Questions for Discussion 1. General comments or questions 2. What advice or suggestions do you have to make the MSTSM program more effective? 3. How would you change this program to better meet the needs of tech staff and students from your institution? 4. Ideas for ways City Vision could partner with your school?
    17. 17. Appendix
    18. 18. MSTSM Program Outcomes 1. Theology of Technology: understand the philosophy, theology and historical context of technology in ministry and how to apply that in professional settings 2. Identity and Calling: understand the vocation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers and their unique identity and role within their field in a way that maximizes their calling and enables ministry 3. Systems: understand complex systems in a way that helps them to effectively lead others and apply technology in ministry and professional environments 4. Appropriate Technology: develop effective technology programs in a way that takes into account the unique cultures they will be serving and how to use technology to serve the poor and cross-cultural communities 5. Limits of Technology: understand some of the limits of technology and how to counter some of the negative implications of technology and its effect on relationships and creation of new addictions 6. Sustainability: develop effective strategies for sustainable technology ministry initiatives by monitoring and understanding the latest theories, trends, tools and opportunities in technology in ministry and business professions.
    19. 19. Re-imagining Internships  What if the internship replaced the campus as the center of education?  What if every class had a major project designed to be applied in an internship or ministry setting? ◦ Each class provides a lens to be applied at internship  ◦ Designed as a Christian counterpart to AmeriCorps based on 9- year AmeriCorps program placing 500+ interns ◦ Over 500 applicants annually to be placed in about 50 ministries ◦ Ministry sites pay tuition of interns
    20. 20. Past Debates: Writing  Key Debate: Will writing hurt learning? “For this invention [writing] will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them.” – Socrates in Phaedrus 274c-275b)  Writing enabled knowledge discovery to be modularized from rest of learning process
    21. 21. Past Debates: Books  Big Debate: Should a professor only teach from books they wrote? ◦ “…If we use Sasso’s book, theywill say what our students have learned, they have learned from Sasso, not from us” –John Paul Nicolas, 1588, expressing concerns about not using grammer books that they had written themselves  Books became modularized from rest of learning process
    22. 22. A Potential Future: by 2030-40…  More than half of majority culture US Christian colleges will either close or will shrink by more than 50%  Non-western Christian colleges will grow by 10- fold ◦ May have cost structure 1/10 of Western colleges  More than two-thirds of enrollments will be online  General education courses online will be commoditized and will be offered by a few large centralized players (i.e. of education)
    23. 23. Potential Future by 2030-40: 4 Models of Colleges 1. Resort College ◦ Residential colleges become counterpart to elite private high schools ◦ For the rich and upper middle class (Saks Fifth Avenue) ◦ Costs will continue to go up 2. Inexpensive online & community colleges ◦ For middle and low income (Target, Walmart) 3. Inexpensive international colleges 4. Non-accredited free educational programs
    24. 24. TechMission/City Vision Strategy How do you lead in a disruptive technology environment in Christian higher education? 1. Gather the Christian disruptive tech leaders (Jesus-Tech) 2. Retail Strategy: Provide innovative (tech) Christian university for serving at-risk communities (Jesus, Justice) 3. Wholesale Strategy: Provide tech capacity (tech) to Christian minority-culture schools (Jesus-Justice)
    25. 25. Modular Transformation of Computer Industry Source: Only the Paranoid Survive, Andy Grove
    26. 26. U of A U of B Virtually Integrated University Univ. Unbundled University Open Lessons Open Courses Study Groups Adjunct Faculty Adjunct Faculty Faculty Networks Churches Internship Univ. Univ. Univ. Research Lab Corporations Individuals Open Content Publishers Self- Publish Univ. Knowledge Discovery Written Knowledge Course Materials Faculty Community Student Community The Unbundled University Knowledge Discovery Written Knowledge Course Materials Faculty Community Student Community Churches U of C U of D
    27. 27. Strengths of STEM Christians • Logic and analysis, Rational/methodical • Objective/data driven • Meritocracy • Innovation/Efficiency • Collaborative, Open • High leverage Weaknesses of STEM Christians • Analysis paralysis • Lower emotional IQ • Perfectionism • Communication/Public speaking/Shyness • Isolated (personally, society) • Risk adverse • Distant from end use • Unknown whether you are helping others • Arrogance of rationality • One part of many/anonymous Opportunities for STEM Christians • Tent Makers • Natural missionaries to STEM fields • People leadership in tech field • Create stuff that helps those in need • Magnify reach of other Christians Threats/Challenges to STEM Christians • Faith in rationality/logic/numbers • Attacked for faith • Legalism • Working for wealth • Limited work in STEM for direct ministry • Isolation: from gadgets • Addiction to gadgets • Loneliness • More frequent crises of faith • Instant gratification/impatience
    28. 28. Tech & Missions ICCM, Lightsys, MAF, GEM, EMI, WIN, OB VisionSynergy, AIBI Wycliffe IT, CheckItOut Tech & Ministry Internet Evangelism Day, Mobile Ministry Forum, YouVersion, ABS, Cru Christian College STEM Programs AccessED, ACU, Calvin, Taylor, Baylor Biola, Olivet, Fuller, Wheaton, Liberty Christian Media Online, Magazines, Software Publishers, Radio & TV Church Tech LifeChurch, Menlo Park Saddleback, Willow Creek Christians in Tech Companies Code for the Kingdom, Christians in Tech (FB & LinkedIn) Christian STEM Academics Christians Engineering Society, Intervarsity Faculty, Cru Faculty, ASA, ISCAST, ASA, CSS Christian Tech Writers Media Ecology, Ministry, Marketplace Ministry Economic Development Business as Mission Tentmaking For ProfitNonprofit General Tech Specific Churches Parachurches Christian Education
    29. 29. Does Technology Hurt or Help the Poor?