Wrote this article for the folks at YMToday. I did a similar article last year. What do you think? Crazy talk?
My pastor and friend Jay Voorhees interviewed Leo Laporte some six years ago for a now defunct podcast. For those who don’t know, Leo is a big deal when it comes to geek technologies and new media. In fact, the podcast crashed Jay’s server when Leo blogged about the interview. The portion of the interview that I remember best was when Jay asked Leo about the church’s incapacity to embrace new technologies. Leo threw me for a loop in saying that he didn’t think that the church needed to be on the forefront of technologies. As he went on to explain, someone needed to ground culture from the fad-ish stuff and use was what valuable. I thought that to be a very interesting perspective coming from someone who is most certainly an innovator and early adopter to our emerging technology age.
In 2010 I wrote an article for YMtoday encapsulating some of the best tech tools in youth ministry. I still believe that much of that list is completely valid today (though I do mention Google Wave, which was taken off the development list, and thus is inevitably dead). It’s always fun to look back at last year’s innovations and look ahead to what might become another year in trends.
Best New Ministry “Thing” of 2010—iPad
You might not be a “Mac” person, and that’s cool. But one cannot deny the impact that the iPad has had on culture. The “thing” part is really to say that the iPad has ushered in a new gadget, the tablet, as a technology must-have for ministry. In the past year I’ve seen worship leaders using it for song notes and set lists. They say that since it’s backlit it’s easier to track with the many lighting scenarios in leading music. I’ve seen people use tablets for youth group check-ins and presentations (I’ve done the presentation stuff myself, and am really excited to try out the Prezi app on iPad at my next speaking gig). It takes a little use to make it a production or creative tool, but is easy to use for the tasks of email, checking Facebook, reading books (I do like the Kindle best for that, however). With the concept of “social books” on the horizon, reading just got a whole lot more interactive. Imagine collaborative Bible studies with your youth during the week in which Tuesday is “find a relevant YouTube video for the scripture,” Wednesday is “find a photo,” etc. That day is coming with a tablet
I loved using this for NYWC and Project Homeless Connect here in Nashville, fitting the iPad into my camera case and using the SD Card adapter to send out photos of the event as it was happening. As Sony, Samsung, and other companies give their take on the tablet, we’ll be shifting to a culture that carries these around on trips, work days, etc.
Best Continued Innovations of 2010—iPhone 4 and Evo 4G
The “smart phone” is going to become our norm in life. You will be assimilated at some point, if you’re not already. The iPhone is going to start coming in a pay-as-you-go format, not to mention that the iPhone on Verizon is actually not a rumor any more. Apple folks made their culture-changing product even better, you just can’t argue with that one (though the antenna issue in the beginning was fun for the iPhone haters). For those who are on Sprint and other networks, the smart phone technologies with Droid/Google/Windows systems are different but just as capable. It’s the difference between Fords and Chevys. Most will not notice or care except for the rabid fans of that brand. The Evo 4G I give mention because you can make it a mobile hotspot (more on this later) and it’s is one of the first to tap a 4G signal. One thing is for sure, the smart phone and the capabilities of it to help in ministry (or be a distraction) are game changers.
Best Software Innovation of 2010—YouVersion
Granted, if you wanted to, we could argue over YouVersion being software one housed on a local hard drive or web based. We could argue that YouVersion came out before 2010. It really came into its own in 2010, so there!
I love YouVersion’s Bible app (a creation of LifeChurch.tv folks) and reading sets that you can choose from. If you get behind in your reading (which I am currently), they’ll send you an email reminder to get back on the program. I believe at last update there were some four million users of YouVersion and a few million people on reading programs. You can use the software to start up some reading groups as well. No longer do you need to be in the room with a group of kids to read scripture together. So target those high activity kids who are always out at soccer or football and set up a Bible study group that way.
Best Gaming Development for 2010—Kinect
Yes, Black Ops and Halo get a lot of publicity when they release. But nothing is more valuable to a ministry than a game that can involve groups and build community. Rock Band/Guitar Hero/Wii started something huge and Kinect takes it to a whole new level. Pull out the Kinect for special events or have set up to use for competition games at the beginning of a group meeting or worship. Whatever your ministry set up, this becomes a fully involved game experience for those playing at that moment and for many who are cheering on or laughing hysterically (as in my case).
Best Internet Development for 2010—Facebook
I wondered whether to bring up something like Animoto, Google Calendar, or DropBox as I’m hearing about them being used in ministry by folks all over the states. Still Facebook is king when it comes to pulling your tribe together. Whether you have a Facebook fan page or group for your ministry, maybe your kids have started a discussion group (our youth group has a Facebook group for youth events and one for NFL football…I never said it was a productive tool) you can communicate and relate to your teenagers as much as you feel you need to. Just don’t do too much because that becomes creepy.
I can justify Facebook as “developing” because they continually change themselves. People get mad about it and create “I want the old Facebook back groups;” then they continue with life. (Anyone remember what the original Facebook looked like?) Now you’re able to put teens in groups for specific emailing purposes, or for monitoring. They’re even talking about voice chat. Video will probably be next as youth become more comfortable with Skype video and multi-user video software like ooVoo or tokbox.com.
Best New “Thing” for 2011—Clear/Mobile Wireless
I don’t know about you, but my internet costs me a pretty penny and it’s stuck at my house. Now I can cancel that service, pick up a mobile wireless device that’s about the size of my phone or computer mouse, and take it wherever I go. No more complicated tethering processes to get my laptop or tablet on the internet. I can also let my buddies use my signal as well. How cool am I? Okay, still not cool, but I am saving myself some money. By the end of 2011 I’m betting more smart phones have this capability as the Evo 4G does.
Best New “Continued” Innovations for 2011—Digital Filmmaking
When I started in youth ministry almost two decades ago, making youth group videos was not even a consideration. Paper clipart and a copy machine were considered high tech. This year we’re going to be able to start shooting our youth group mission trip and worship services in 3D. You can spend a little more or a little less. Then you might have to stock up on those 3D glasses from the movie theater. What will your next youth group video look like?
Best New Software Innovation for 2011—Anything Mobile
To me, the future trends to mobility. My guess is that every church will begin to put out their own mobile app, using something like AppMakr or building their own. Youth ministries will be doing the same thing and integrating a robust text messaging communications plan to their ministries. Mobile software developed for the many tablets will become a big demand.
My cliché statement on these kinds of things is, “If you think of it, someone else has probably developed it already.” Look for that to be the case when it comes to mobile software in 2011.
Best New Gaming Development for 2011—Virtual Ministries
Honestly, I’m not a gamer, but my guess is that there is going to be some sort of integration of social gaming apps within ministry contexts. Teen Second Life just got taken off their own grid and merged with the “adult” grid, indicating to me that a gaming environment as a social outlet is still working itself out. But as children who have grown up with WebKinz and Club Penguin become youth and teens who had SIMS and WOW (if you don’t know that code, you’re not one of them) then a virtual environment for ministry seems more and more a norm.
Who knows, though; the best new game for 2011 could be “Angry Birds, Revenge of the Cats.”
Best New Internet development for 2011—Do I dare say Facebook again?
Sure, why not? I’m not sure why, but it’s a safe bet.