God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Preaching and Teaching in the Time of Facebook - A Heartfelt Apology and Overdue Results from a Survey

In the Spring of 2011 I took a course entitled Church in the Age of Facebook where we completed a project in a certain area of study. I chose church education and using online content to supplement/replace local, spoken content. With the help of others, especially a good friend Carrie DuShey, I put together a nice survey. I let my Facebook friends know about it. I got 12 responses. In somewhat desperation I emailed several Christian bloggers and asked if they would place a link on their blogs for their readers. Scot McKnight, editor of Jesus Creed, one of my favorite blogs that often links to other great content, was the only one to take me up on the offer. This generated over 300 clicks and 200 completed surveys – enough to justify the entire project and I got an A for the class. He hoped I would share with him the results.

But I didn't.

To be honest, that time in our lives was so hectic I mostly forgot about the survey and what he did for me. I finished a quarter of school on a Saturday and we moved to Northern California the next day. We looked for jobs for a few months and have been working since September. We have been scraping by and I have not had the time/money to finish the final four courses to complete my degree.

And I have forgotten Fuller.

It seems like a distant, foreign memory. Like some kind of phase in my life which is over. It both saddens and scares me. Sad because I want to take what I learned and go forward. Scared because I spent so much time and effort and yet it escaped so quickly.

However, that is not an excuse.

I dropped the ball. I'm sorry, Scot. You went to bat for me and I let you down.

So, 14 months later I wish to rectify my wrong by sharing the outcome of my survey.

The unedited survey results. It is long and somewhat tedious.

The full project paper. It is also long and somewhat tedious. However, it also includes my discussion of trends found in secular education and connects the two.

I'll split what I learned into two headings: Things I Already Knew and Things that Surprised Me.

Things I Already Knew

Most of the people who took the survey came from Jesus Creed and so the results about reading blogs were expected – 80% visit daily or more. 3/4ths of McKnight’s readers are male and also very educated – 57% have post-graduate degrees.

Half attend some type of in-person sermon or lecture weekly.

More people felt websites and podcasts they read/listen to helped them learn more about God, the Bible and how they fit into this world. I should put this in a pseudo-category “Things I figured but didn’t know.” I control what websites and podcasts I frequent. I can’t change the minister’s sermon.

Things that Surprised Me

When asked if in-person lessons help give purpose to their life less people “agreed” than “strongly agreed.”

Denominational affiliation was at the bottom of both lists of important aspects of both in-person and electronic messages. “Challenges me to think” came in first both times. This could be because Scot’s blog is inter-denominational or could be a shift in the Christian-cultural landscape. I hope for the latter, but that is more of an opinion than fact.

People seek in-person sermons to connect to others. They seek electronic lessons to learn from broader perspectives.

Most people considered their blog’s audience to be friends and family. But they wanted their audience to be challenged in their thinking and connect to their views while being exposed to different views. I’m not sure why this was surprising, but it was.


If you are a minister – think of your sermons and classes more as a place to connect people to each other since blogs often cannot do this, being removed from the reader’s life. Encourage the learning of facts to be done outside of class.

Encourage your members to seek out helpful materials to bring to class. Your role is more like an editor on Wikipedia instead of the editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica – an expert curator instead of an authoritative gatekeeper. Help understand what is going on outside instead of preventing it from ever getting in.

If you are not a minister – don’t be afraid to go outside your group to learn. And don’t be afraid to bring what you read and learn back to your group.

My only fear is that due to the single-blog source of traffic that this does not give an accurate view of churches today. If only the minister reads blogs and listens to podcasts then the minister must connect the member to the both Word of God and each other. However, I think if Christian ministers were to start openly asking members to contribute by bringing in posts it might start a snowball effect.

Many thanks goes out to Scot McKnight and his readers for helping me out in this project. I could not have done it without you. And Carrie – I’m sorry we haven’t kept in better contact.

What do you think? Leave a comment here or on Facebook.