Pros and Cons of tech in ministry

This morning I have a confession that will not surprise anyone. I want to announce that I am a tech-addicted youth minister. As we were working on next year's budget, I made a short list of things to pick up should mysterious money be left in any odd corners, and all of them, from an updated cell phone with a Bluetooth headset, to the new Nintendo wii (for the sixth graders, strictly for the students!) were tech items.

After this year's NYWC, I came home all fired up about MediaShout, which as a program truly is all it promises, and using videos in our youth events. Our little Canon digital camcorder comes to all the events, and the next day the youth minister spends some time splicing and editing to make quick highlight reels for the next Sunday, to show all the folks who weren't there what they missed. When other churches join us for events, they get copies of the videos too.

In a lot of ways, tech is a good tool. But it can also be a distraction. When I'm stuck on a video problem, or surfing through iTunes trying to find the perfect soundtrack to go with a clip, a lot of time goes by, and it's easy (for an often hyper-focused person) to push everything else on the list further down. So what are the pros and cons of tech in ministry?


Youth know tech. They've been surrounded by it their whole lives and are fascinated by it. Learning it myself gives me a connection to students and a way to offer them ownership of the ministry.

Tech (especially video) appeals to visual learners. It's an effective way to drive the message past filters the teenage mind uses to screen out things they can't interact with, and thus aren't relevant.

Tech can (believe it or not) save time. Just one website, Bible Gateway, lets me find the Bible verses I need for talks and studies when I just know a few words of the quote. Mapquest (Google Maps, whatever; not trying to be exclusive) gets me where I'm going without digging through the paper maps myself.

These, of course, are just a few.


Tech can be a crutch that I hide behind when I haven't really prepared properly. It's easy to throw up flashy, meaningless video, knowing it will catch kids' attention, when what I really want to do is pretend I spent more time working on the lesson than I actually did.

Tech can isolate me from my students. When I go to a place using better tech than I have, my first reaction (which I sometimes, to my chagrin, allow to be the only reaction) is to run home and spend however long it takes making my setup shine just as much. It's a keeping up with the Joneses thing, but it means I'm not out finding students and living truth into their lives; I'm in my office tinkering with my computer.

Tech can make the church seem just like any other place my students go. If I'm using tech and excluding silence, candlelight, the Eucharist, other things the church has that are unique, I'm ignoring the raw power of God's story to change lives, and relying on "relevance."

I'm not going to give up tech, but with anything so labor-intensive and two-edged, it pays to keep both sides in mind.

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