I like to think of myself as being fairly cross-culturally savvy. I preached my first sermon in Spanish while doing an internship in Spain. I served as an interpreter for an English speaking pastor in Mexico and I have lived and served churches in both the US and Canada--and yes, that counts. What also counts are many years working with youth. So, I am a bit flummoxed by the fact that I find navigating the digital world difficult. I am an immigrant who continues to flounder. The following is a perfect example: After moving to Canada I wanted to stay in better touch with my daughters who were studying at Calvin. At a meal with new congregation members during my daughters’ visit to us in our new home I announced that I had single handedly signed up for “Snype” so that I could talk to them via the internet for free. I was so proud of myself that it took awhile for the groans and disappointed “Oh, Moms" to hit me. Apparently, one shouldn’t brag about technical prowess if one does not know the name of the technology she is using.
This is not the first time I have stumbled and fallen. When our church in Cinci decided to switch from flimsys and the overhead, to Powerpoint and a projector, I volunteered to get trained on how to make “stunning” worship presentations. The instructor promised to go slow for us novices and began at square one, “Right Click on this icon.” I followed instructions and typed c l i c k on my screen, several times actually, and never did my screen have the same images as the other folks at my table. It took the instructor a good 5 minutes to stop laughing and continue our class. Who knew there was a right click button?
I am not a Luddite. I want to adopt and adapt, but I find it challenging and I need help. I will not be the expert who can speak into this part of my students’ lives. I will always speak with a thick accent that belies my status as a resident alien. It is tempting to be quick to vilify technology that I do not understand, whether it is social media, or video gaming, or the constant and fluid change in the technological landscape. I remember preaching once and the entire first 2 rows of young people were texting or messing with their phones. I wanted to yell, "Unless you are getting a text from Jesus…." I totally get wanting to ban phones from group meetings. Here is one more area where adults and students can wrestle for control.
A better solution for me is to engage in some solid reverse mentor/coaching where my youth can take the lead in helping me navigate a culture that will probably always be somewhat strange and daunting and out of my comfort zone. This is their world and I need them to guide me. Just like learning Spanish, I will need them to teach me a new language. One resource that I found helpful is Sid Koop’s study on technology at Truth Matters. I pray that in the journey together my students and I can have some awesome conversations on discerning how to engage “Christian-ly” in the digital world. I will try to have a humble, teachable heart. Hopefully, when explaining to me why their pastor shouldn’t sign up for certain social media, or why they are censoring some of their video games, we will come to some conclusions about what true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy things to think on (or engage in)... together.