Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review of Ministry in the Digital Age by David Bourgeois

Ministry in the Digital Age: Strategies and Best Practices for a Post-Digital World
by David Bourgeois
ISBN 978-0-8308-5661-9
IVP Praxis
Reviewed by Clint Walker

A few years ago, a group of pastors and I decided to create a workshop for pastors and church leaders regarding internet tools for pastor's and teachers. We shared about social networking, blogging, some denominational opportunities, and much more. People wondered, how do I get my church online? How do we find an internet presence?

That was a few years back. Today, even more has changed. And things will continue to morph as we go forward in the church and in ministry. To this conversation comes Ministry in the Digital Age, a timely and thoughtful book written by David T. Bourgeois. David contends that we live in a post-website world, and we need to adjust with ideas and strategies to fit our changing digital landscape and our goals and objectives.

One of the most interesting facts that Bourgeois shares is that the number of smartphones people have, and how the smartphones are revolutionizing people's internet habits. It is expected that by 2014 (next year) the number of smartphone subscriptions will match the number of people on the planet (p. 20). It is also very possible that this year, more people will access the internet through their phone more often than they do through PCs (p. 21). There are currently more mobile phone subscriptions in the United States than there are people (p. 40). What does all of this mean? That perhaps your best portal for reaching the online community is not to design an internet presence that clunks around with a slow processor, and is not wireless enabled. Because if you are still thinking that most of your potential church members are sitting down to a laptop and clicking around for a church like yours, you are mistaken.

The next wonderful point that Bourgeois makes is that internet use is now more RELATIONSHIP driven than INFORMATION driven. People go online to connect. They want to find a romantic relationship outside of the people they run into everyday, they find a way to access a digital dating forum. They want to shop, they go to Amazon or Craigslist. Shopping is a business relationship. Facebook has more time spent on it than any other website in the world.

All this doesn't mean that websites are bad, and that everyone should just have a Facebook page. Far from it. What it does mean is that ministries, churches, and organizations need to orient their entire digital presence toward answering the question: how do we build relationships with people through the web. One's internet presence should not be thought of like an advertisement in the paper. Instead, it should be thought of as a place to connect, interact, and partner with people to share the good news and do the work of the gospel.

The rest of the book does a great jobs with nuts and bolts ideas of building an internet presence that fits any one organizations goals and objectives. Pitfalls are identified, and some creative ways of looking at one's digital strategy are shared. This is a great resource for a church and its leadership board, as well as a myriad of other Christian organizations or ministry groups. Ministry in the Digital Age should be a textbook in seminaries and a guidebook for church leadership boards.

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