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culture, web 2.0 and where are we going from here?

Ok, so I admit it, I've been out of school for over a year now and still find myself studying things... I've been really fascinated by culture lately, specifically the culture of young people. I am fascinated by youth and young adult ministry as well as current trends in culture.

So that tends to mainfest itself in studying it. Who knows how much time I spend on the internet looking up stuff related to youth and young adults and what they are passionate about and what they are doing and how they act and how they interact. Maybe it is because I'm young that it interests me, but culture has always been something that I really contemplate about and think about.

On Friday, I watched an hour long panel that featured youth and young adults, I think from the San Francisco area. They were asked question upon question, and I really found the questions and answers intriguing. It is definitely something from a business perspective, but when you think in ministry you can't help but have to think a little about advertising and marketing. I found it completely fascinating how basically the young adults said that you can't advertise to them. There is minimal tv watching, and if watching it they have a dvr so they skip commercials. They block nearly all internet advertising. I think one said that the only thing they notice is billboards. Of course the panel moderator went on and on about advertising and how to reach young adults, and basically the response was "You can't. I choose what I want based on what friends recommend to me."

I of course immediately thought about this in the context of church. In the context of advertising ministry, I've come to realize that advertising to young people isn't going to work. Evangelism does not (generally) work by sending flyers around and by posting billboards or playing tv commercials at 6:45 am, but rather by forming relationships. By really getting to know people and what they are about.

One of the ways that I think is reaching people is this new phenomenon (coined in 2004, but really starting to turn heads now) called Web 2.0. We all remember the first huge internet boom in the late nineties that just bombed. Web 2.0 is what came next. In short, web 2.0 is all about the users. It has fueled social networking sites, blogs, and other sites that feature the users having the opportunity to share information. Sharing information is what it is all about, and for most web 2.0 companies that is what it looks like. It looks less like profit and more like enabling users which then turns into more profit.

So what if ministries looked like that? What if ministries were less about how much we need to make in the offering plate to run and more about how we are going to enable people to be in ministry throughout the week. More about how we enable our congregation to be people who try be what Jesus called us to be?

As time moves on, and more and more young people are disillusioned because they have no place to go and no place to serve, the church as a whole is going to have to have a mindset shift. There are churches doing this yes, but in my opinion, not very many. I know when I get involved in a church, I want to feel like I matter. How can I do that if it is difficult to meet with a pastor? Or if I feel like my voice is left unheard?

The short answer of what I think churches should be doing about this culture shift is I don't know. I could speculate about how things need to be interactive, how websites need to feature areas where there can be group input. How ministry models will need to shift and how we'll have to leave behind some of our preconceived notions of ministry in order to be more effective. But honestly, I'm studying. I'm 23 years old and I'm finding reason to study people my age. To understand what the passions are and to understand what we need to be doing.

It is going to be next to impossible to make these shifts if we're not constantly studying and learning. That's why I read so many blogs, that's why I read techcrunch (it highlights web 2.0 companies). But I think the most important piece is to be doing. I can learn and study all I want, but unless I am a part of this culture here, I'll never be relevant enough to be effective.
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