Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Is the Internet the new printing press?

Beth Lewis is a significant player in the publishing world. She is CEO of
Augsburg Fortress. She has been a manager with Time Warner Inc. and
McGraw-Hill. So, when people ask her for assurance that print publishing
has a future, it’s safe to assume she would offer good news, right?

Well, Lewis is passionate about publishing. But she gets as excited, or more,
when talking about her electronic toys: an Amazon Kindle, a flip video
recorder, a smart phone, and a wireless access card. Clearing security at the
airport may be a challenge for her.

These are necessary tools of the trade, she told participants at a recent
workshop, titled “Technology Enhanced Outreach for Congregations,” at Zion
Lutheran Church in Buffalo, Minnesota. “Are you passionate about outreach?”
she asked. “If so, a Web site is a great way to show it.”

It’s all about making one more accessible, she said. “People in the rest of
their lives are accustomed to a fast response” these days.

The Rev. Dr. Charles Mueller, Jr., pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in
Roselle, Illinois, agrees. “In the age of social networking, the newer
generations live with a constant contact expectation,” he told Metro Lutheran.
“Young people don’t watch TV on televisions,” Mueller said. “More watch on
their computers so [they’re] not stuck with a specific broadcast time.

“I was watching a Web cast of a Santa Claus responding to kids immediately,”
he went on, “and I thought, ‘Why not do this with prayer requests or
questions about the Bible.’

“People want the delivery of God’s word to them in their time and their way,”
Mueller explained. “Increasingly, ‘their way’ is electronic.”

Kristin Skare, education director at Word of Peace Lutheran Church, Rogers,
Minnesota, participated in Lewis’ workshop at Zion. She knows that
congregations now need to get out information in a variety of methods for
the different populations within the community.

“Our youth director wanted a more visual message and so started ‘The
Announcement Show,’” Skare explained. “Young members of the
congregation download these humorous vignettes off the church Web site. …
And at least 25 percent of the congregation get their newsletter by e-mail.”

Curtis Griesel, a freelance information technologist and member at St.
Stephen Lutheran Church (ELCA), in Bloomington, Minnesota, sees potential.
“Social networking has untapped potential for the church,” he said. “A new
model allows contact among many people immediately, and communication
can go two directions.” He believes that “gatekeepers” are no longer essential
for order.

But there are potential problems too. “We have an environment of freedom at
Word of Peace,” said Skare. “But we are careful to have many eyes seeing any
message before it goes out. We want anything we send to reflect well on the
views of the church.”

“[New technologies] do allow for dissonant voices,” said Mueller. He explained
that people haven’t always had the capacity to share their thoughts without a
filter. “It’s causing me to have to bone up on all the ancient heresies.”