Balancing Technology Use

Hear from Madalyn Metzger, Amy Gingerich, and Melody M. Pannell on faith and technology in our Three Women, Three Windows Timbrel column.

How do you use technology in your work? How do you use technology in your personal life? Are there any perceivable differences?

Metzger: In both my personal and professional life, I use technology to access and share information. The primary difference would be the type of information. Professionally, I use it for information related to Everence, marketing, financial services, and the various denominations that Everence relates to. Personally, I use it for social reasons and to receive news about current events.

Gingerich: My coworkers and I are constantly connected digitally, if not in person. With our staff spread out in different locations, we connect throughout the day on various electronic platforms and try to utilize video connections as much as possible. In my personal life, I try to limit how much I use my phone or social media. As a parent, I do not want my kids to see me on my phone checking Facebook or email, so I try to keep it to a minimum when my children are awake.

Pannell: As an educator, I use technology for email correspondence, learning management systems, shared documents, video conference meetings and educational webinars. In my personal life, I use social media for  “self-help” education, entertainment, communication with friends and family and engaging in hobbies. At work, my focus is more external as I communicate with and give my attention to others. In my personal life, I use social media in solitude and my focus is more internal.

How does technology affect your faith formation?

Metzger:  Technology gives me access to discussions and ideas around faith that I may not have been part of on a regular basis without it. But, it’s also easy to participate only in discussions about faith that I agree with, which has the potential to stifle faith formation, rather than grow it.

Gingerich: About 15 years ago when people started to subscribe via email to daily devotionals or inspirational thoughts, everyone thought it was great. But I sense that this era has waned. In terms of personal spiritual development, people are going back to print – whether physical Bibles or printed devotionals. There’s something about holding printed words in my hands that lets me engage more deeply than the skimming I would do if I were reading on my phone. Technology provides instant accessibility, which is not always helpful to me in my faith formation.

Pannell: Technology gives me access to “toolkits” to assess my spiritual growth, provides me with  avenues to engage in mentorship and creates platforms in which I can share my faith journey with others. I see these connections and resources as positive influences on my faith formation.

How does technology connect us as a church? How does it distract us?

Metzger: I think technology serves an important role in connecting us as a body of Christ. It gives us the ability to touch parts of the church that we may not be as naturally connected with (geographically, theologically, racially, ethnically, economically, etc.), which I believe is an important way for us to grow and learn as the body of Christ together. On the other hand, technology can distract us. It’s too easy to jump on the bandwagon when someone posts something, rather than enter into a thoughtful discernment about a topic. It’s also too easy for us to stay in our own theological bubbles, and only interact with others who think the same theologically as we do.

Gingerich: Technology can make us feel connected to others in our congregations but I sometimes wonder if we feel more connected than we actually are. Am I really getting to know someone in my congregation and taking time to engage with them or am I getting to know their Facebook or Instagram profile?

Pannell: Technology has  the potential to connect us as a church in meaningful ways. With the use of technology as a “strategic tool” for church growth and congregational engagement, church leaders can use apps with the intention of encouraging enthusiastic giving, expanding audience participation and creating exciting visual examples of Christian Discipleship and Faith Formation. If utilized in a positive manner, engaging in an online church community creates safe and brave spaces where people can continue and embrace conversations about the challenges and joys of faith formation and com-munity outside of the walls of the church or a set schedule of sanctioned services. However, the power of technology with-in the church can definitely distract us from prioritizing face-to-face relationships and communication skills. Technology lends itself to easily enabling us to form a false sense of connection with one another. When social media, email or online church services take the place of authentic, accountable faith formation with a body of believers, we may be settling for an easy distraction from the process of wrestling with what it means to be in relationship with Christ and the ebb and flow of growing towards spiritual maturity.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Timbrel, Faith Formation in the Digital Age. To subscribe to Timbrel, click here.

Six Lessons Learned by Giving up Social Media

by: Emily Kauffman and Morgan Leavy

Morgan Leavy is in her freshman year at Hesston (Kan.) College, majoring in Psychology. She enjoys musical theater, photography, traveling and being with her friends. Emily Kauffman is currently a sophomore at Hesston, majoring in Communications and minoring in Bible. She has developed a passion for the church and a desire to explore how technology is affecting our society and relationships.

This article originally ran in the Hesston College Horizon.

Sherry Turkle, author of the book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, writes, “This is our moment to acknowledge the unintended consequences of the technologies to which we are vulnerable, but also to respect the resilience that has always been ours. We have time to make corrections and remember who we are—creatures of history, of deep psychology, of complex relationships, of conversations, artless, risky and face to face.”

In a search to rid ourselves of, as Turkle puts it, the “unintended consequences” of social media, we decided to give up social media for Lent this year. We were in need of a break. A break from the constant mindless scrolling. While the past 40 days have been full of temptation and loss, we have learned so much about ourselves and the world around us.

Here are the big six:

#1 We became more aware of how social media affects our relationships.

On the first day of Lent, I sat down at lunch with some friends. Immediately, I recognized that the five or six people surrounding me were on their cell phones. Continue reading

The Cost of Distraction

by Jill Schmidt

Jill Schmidt is a member of Mountain States Mennonite Conference’s Dialogue Resource Team. She lives in Denver. This piece originally rain in MSMC’s Zing newsletter.

One of the biggest changes we face as people of faith is the society-wide impact of rapidly evolving technology and distractions.

This past month, I spent a weekend retreat with a group of First Mennonite of Denver youth. We intentionally relinquished our cellphones for 24 hours as we explored the meaning of Sabbath in our lives.

Through this process, I came upon a prayer in the 2010 winter edition of Seasoned with Peace, a daily meditation book compiled by Susan Mark Landis, Lisa J. Amstutz, and Cindy Snider. These lines from the January 5 prayer contributed by Don Clymer stand out to me in particular, “I confess that I too often plunge myself into busyness to distract myself from the pain of the losses I have experienced personally or from the brokenness of the world I see around me….Help me not to deviate from your paths because of the distractions around me.”

As I observed the responses of our youth varying from boredom and distress to relief and comfort, I found myself wondering how times have changed so quickly.

I am considered by many to still be a young adult and yet cell phones were not an active part of my life until my 20s and the internet was just catching speed in high school. And here we are, so dependent and connected to others and information at all times, and yet simultaneously Continue reading

Former Amish Woman is Now CEO of Successful Heartfelt Creations

by Linda Bontrager 

The Discovery

I will never forget the day I picked up a rubber stamp for the first time. I had bought a little stamp set for my kids and I was showing them how to use it. I remember picking up the stamp, inking it and pressing it down on the paper. As I lifted the stamp and saw the image it was that “AH-HA!” moment. It was one of those moments in my life when I realized I had discovered something amazing and it would shape the course of our future.

Our family for generations back is old­ order Amish. Our education went up to 8th grade in a one room Amish parochial school. Growing up infused with tradition, legalism and living in a Northern Indiana rural farming community was not conducive to thinking “outside of the box” or “being creative.” We did not have access to any stamp or scrapbook stores in the area and hiring a taxi to shop for stamps was not an option at the time. But the stamping bug had permanently bitten me. Continue reading