Education Religion

Preaching to the choir

I’ve attended more conferences/trainings/seminars/and webinars in the last month than I thought I would do this year. And it’s not over. Each one has been different, but the one thing that really stood out were the speakers. I was blown away by the difference in speakers and who actually did the best (so far).

Future Midwest was obviously the biggest array of speakers. Spanning two days and with shot, quick presentations, there are a wide range or topics and a wide range of presenters. Some were really good, others seem to lose their point halfway through and never really did it for me. In trainings, well, the instructors are usually pretty good as they generally teach the product or process a couple times a year. And really, how interesting can you make a week-long class about a specific database. See? Event that sentence was boring.

But then, there was the digital gospel conference. Held at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, this conferences surprised me on so many levels. I have no idea why it was so sparsely attended, but I do know it made a huge impact for me.

The first presenter was Dr. Lawrence R. Rast, Jr., the academic dean at Concordia, a historian and a former pastor. For the first time in my life, he made history interesting. He talked about the lack of control that came with each new media, from the printing press to the radio to the TV and to the Internet. I kept thinking we were coming into the epitome of digital communication, but looking at the past, this is just another brick in the way. What is in the future will far outmatch anything I can even consider in my mind. It was an amazing look at all of the work that has gone into trying to maintain control of communication, yet all the success people have by giving up the reigns.

The second and third presenter was Kem Meyer. A non-Lutheran, Kem was speaking at Concordia for the first time. She shared her experiences at Granger Church, where she works. She was funny, witty and incredibly engaging. She had plenty of slides, but she never read from them. Very few of them even had words that she mentioned as she was speaking. It got the point across and was visually appealing. It was refreshing to see someone else embrace the digital movement and not be afraid to use it to praise the Lord and spread His word.

The final speaker was Rev. Bill Johnson, the conference organizer, who discussed where technology is going next. I had no idea how he was going to fill his alloted time on the topic that no one could possibly predict, but he did it well. He made the point that we can’t ignore where technology is going, even in the church. We have to embrace it and use it as a way to communicate and engage the congregation in and online environment to help them experience the community that the church fosters every day. People are turning to the websites, Facebook pages and blogs long before they walk into the front doors of the church. By having an online presence that encourages interaction and immersion, they will feel welcome even before they sit in the pew.

All three of them were really, really great speakers. I appreciated the way the conference was put together and presented. There was an online audience as well as an in-person audience, all with a chance to interact with the speakers and ask specific questions related to the needs of our congregation. I couldn’t stop typing. The information the speakers were sharing was useful and positive. I can only hope that this conference is held again next year and that I’m able to attend, whether in person or through the online stream.

Job well done guys.

Dr. Lawrence R. Rast, Jr. is t