How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education (and church?)

I found this to be fascinating and thought that you might enjoy this graphic. How much is or could be  applicable to the church? For example, to paraphrase a paragraph found in the graphic:

But today, due to the Internet’s transformative power, faithful people can custom-design their own religious experience in whatever way they see fit. Creating discipleship content and being discipled is no longer confined to being connected with a church; anyone with an Internet connection can grow in their faith.

I don’t agree completely with the paragraph above but see how it could be appealing. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?

How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education
Via: OnlineEducation.net

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Google Fiber is coming to Kansas City, KS

I am pretty excited about the announcement that Google Fiber is coming to Kansas City, Kansas. Here is an update from the blog post announcing the decision:

As part of our overall goal to make the web better for users, last year we announced a new project: to provide a community with Internet access more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have today. The response was overwhelming—nearly 1,100 cities felt the need for speed—and we were thrilled by the enthusiasm we saw across the country for better and faster web connections. Thank you to every community and individual that submitted a response, joined a rally, starred in a YouTube video or otherwise participated. After a careful review, today we’re very happy to announce that we will build our ultra high-speed network in Kansas City, Kansas. We’ve signed a development agreement with the city, and we’ll be working closely with local organizations, businesses and universities to bring a next-generation web experience to the community.

In selecting a city, our goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations. We’ve found this in Kansas City. We’ll be working closely with local organizations including the Kauffman Foundation, KCNext and the University of Kansas Medical Center to help develop the gigabit applications of the future.

I don’t know what it means for the rest of the metro area, but I assume that this is very good news for the metro area and the state of Kansas.

Huzzah!

4 Steps to Starting an Online Worship Service

As Pastor of Resurrection Online, I have heard from several others who are interested in starting an online worship service. I suggest the following:

1 – Ask the Right Questions

Pastor(s), key staff and volunteers need to be able to have clear answers to the following questions:

  • Why are we considering starting an online worship service?
  • How will this initiative further our mission as a church?
  • What are we hoping for?
  • How will it be implemented?
  • What will comprise the worship experience online?
  • What impact do we anticipate on the current congregation?
  • Why does this make sense within the culture of our church?
  • What balance between service to the current and future congregation will be struck?

At Resurrection, I was part of a staff team that considered these and other fundamental questions about the structure of an online worship service for nearly a year before we launched weekly worship online. While many of our initial responses to these questions changed, it was crucial to getting off the ground.

2 – Clarify Scope and Ownership

A key to success in launching an online worship service is to be clear about the scope of the initiative and who will own it.

  • Will there be interaction around the online worship experience?
  • Will there be intentional efforts to provide care and discipleship?
  • Is it to be just a worship service or more than that?

The scope of the online worship service will provide a guide to who will own the effort. It may be within the worship team, volunteer effort, stand alone ministry area or some combination. Before launch, it is necessary to know who will own it.

At Resurrection, it was clear that Resurrection Online would become a stand alone ministry area. It did not begin that way, however it was clear that this was where it was headed.

3 – Get it Started

Go for it.

If you have spent time on fundamental questions, scope and ownership, it is time to kick it off. You might start with a webcam, a laptop and livestream.com or you might have high definition cameras, broadcast quality switcher and dedicated encoders. In any case, start and see what happens. You will not be able to really tell what works and what doesn’t until you actually get started.

4 – Be ready adapt or hit the kill switch

When you start an online worship service, you have to be flexible. Be ready to make changes as needed and incrementally. Always be ready to pull the plug on the online worship service if it is no longer making sense for your church. Don’t make it something that starts and can never stop. It would be helpful to go back to the fundamental questions on a regular basis to check for any changes in direction or to realign your efforts.

Additional Posts that may be helpful:

Internet #FAIL at Resurrection Online

The past Sunday morning was not a great at Resurrection Online. First, here is a normal graph of connections from the evening service on June 13:

The blue line is the number of computers that are connected and the green is the estimated worship attendance. The black line at the bottom is the iPhone stream multiplied by 10 so that you can see it on the graph. Here is the graph from Sunday morning:

  1. The initial drop in traffic was the result of a loss of connection between the Resurrection Servers and the Wowza flash servers at Amazon sending out the Flash stream. iPhone stream was not affected, likely as it was on a different subdomain.
  2. Losing the video feed will cause people to reload the page which puts a heavy load on our web server. The deep spike is when the web server was rebooted as people were trying to reconnect.
  3. Uptake around 11:27 was from people seeking to reconnect. The Wowza flash servers were not able to maintain the traffic when people were seeking to reconnect so we did not sustain those who sought to get the connection.
  4. The main player was switched to the iPhone stream around 11:40 and the flash servers restarted.
  5. Restarting the flash servers regained their functionality.

Although the initial failure was out of our control, we are taking steps to mitigate the issue. Sending streams to two different Amazon availability zones with a primary and back up built in as well as continuing to explore other content delivery networks will hopefully move toward preventing this in the future. We have a catastrophic failure like this less than 2% of the time, however we can and need to do better than that.

Thanks to Ian’s quick work on Sunday morning to salvage those that were able to continue worshipping and the entire IT team for the amazing work they do to make Resurrection Online and all of Resurrection’s tech happen well.

Notes on “Virtual Religion in the 21st Century”

Several months ago, I received a copy of several articles that explore the intersection of religion and the internet. I want to record some of my notes on the articles and at the same time share them with you.

“Believe It or Not: Virtual Religion in the 21st Century” [PDF Link] by Susan E. George was published in 2005 in the International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction. In this article, George “explores the development of virtual religion and its impact on humanity” (63) through three main movements:

  • “First we consider the nature of religion and note that a social and communal expression is vital” (63).
  • “Second, we explore ways that technology is facilitating religious expression, noting it is both supporting conventional practice and enabling new” (63).
  • “Third, we move to consider technology in context, noting how it is ideally the application of science for the benefit of humanity, although many people have identified negatives of technology including its power to rob humanity of the essence of what it is to be human” (63).

These movements give an overview of the landscape of the internet and religion. I found particularly helpful the references to a ruling from the US Catholic bishops on The Sacraments via Electronic Communication. I will leave more discussion about the sacraments online to a future blog post. George leaves the reader with the question, “How can technology play a positive role in humanity” (70)?

How would you respond to this question?

4 Ways to Consider “Spiritualising the Internet”

Several months ago, I received a copy of several articles that explore the intersection of religion and the internet. I was fascinated. I had no idea that there was scholarly work being done on the subject. My background in biology and small experience in research combined with my current job description as Pastor of Resurrection Online lead to great interest for me. I want to record some of my notes on the articles and at the same time share them with you.

Spiritualising the Internet: Uncovering Discourses and Narratives of Religious Internet Usage by Heidi Campbell was published in 2005 in the Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet. You can download a PDF copy here. “Spiritualising the Internet means the Internet is seen as a technology or space that is suitable for religious engagement, whereby allowing users to include Internet-based activities into [the] rhythm of their spiritual lives” (2). Campbell presents four ways in which the spiritualization of the internet could be discussed:

  • “The Internet as a spiritual medium frames the Internet as a technology possessing, within the hardware and wires, an unseen realm where humanity can encounter the transcendent and spiritual experience” (13).
    • In this discourse, the internet functions as a ‘spiritual network’ (14).
  • “The Internet as a sacramental space discourse frames the Internet as space which can be shaped to allow people to engage in new or traditional religious rituals online” (13).
    • In this discourse, the internet can serve as a ‘worship space’ (14).
  • “The Internet as tool for promoting religion frames the Internet as resource able to connect with religious people and activities that can lead them to spiritual transformation” (14).
    • In this discourse, the internet is a ‘missionary tool’ (14).
  • “Finally, the Internet as a technology affirming religious life frames the Internet as a resource for building a communal or individual connection with a particular religious tradition or form of life” (14).
    • In this discourse, the internet supports ‘religious identity’ (14).

I very much appreciate Campbell’s treatment of the subject and find these four discourses to be a good classification.

The internet as spiritual medium does not make much sense to me and I do not believe that this way of spiritualizing the internet could come out of Christian tradition. The final three ways of considering the internet are all ways that Resurrection Online is seeking to spiritualize the internet.

  1. Resurrection Online seeks to encourage people to engage in both traditional and new religious rituals through the internet. Right now, this is primarily in the weekly worship service.
  2. Resurrection Online seeks to be an evangelism tool which can be used to connect with non religious and nominally religious people. I believe that this is a tool for those that are already connected with Resurrection to use when inviting others into the community.
  3. Resurrection Online seeks to affirm a United Methodist way of being a Christian with the flavor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection with a particular purpose, vision and journey.

What do you think about the categories that Campbell presents? How might Resurrection Online live more fully into these categories? Would that even be helpful?

Will you share your thoughts, feelings or opinions in the comments?

Top 3 People Who Visit the Internet for their Spiritual Needs

While there are many different types of people who go to their internet for their spiritual needs, here are the top three.

  • Spiritual Seekers – Non and nominally religious people who are aware that they have spiritual needs and are searching for ways in which they can be met. This may include people who have been hurt by previous participation in a faith community, those testing out a community before showing up in person and those trying out different types of faith expression.
  • Physical Barrier – These are people who are unable or unwilling to seek fulfillment of their spiritual needs as part of a physical community. This group may include those that are hospitalized or recovering from surgery, have a compromised immune system, experience chronic pain and face mobility challenges.
  • Convenience – These are people who have chosen to connect online because it is more convenient than being physically present with others. This may include families with small children, persons who are nominally committed and persons who live far from their faith community of choice.

This is one of the questions that I was asked during the interview on Up to Date last week on KCUR and my responses are based on my experience with the Online Campus at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.