by Maggie Lovins, Congregational Life Consultant
We all know technology moves at the speed of imagination, and church…well, church moves at the speed of church. This is ‘old school’ thinking. As we delve deeper into collaboration in our Southern Region and across our UUA, we have many hurdles, potholes, and speed bumps to traverse. Familiarity with tech tools will make these maneuverings a bit smoother and less overwhelming. Let me share a few examples with you.
I hear many questions like, "How do we get to know our regional family if we are so spread out?" and, "Can you suggest another meeting model? It is so difficult to find times that all committee members are available for meetings.” My response to such inquiries may sound like a foreign in language to some. I say, “Use the tools and resources readily available online!”
For example, if you are having trouble with schedules for board meetings, committee meetings, RE meetings, etc., find a time most, if not all, people can attend an online meeting from their homes, and try a Google hangout or Skype meeting. Google hangout is easy to use, easy to access through a Gmail account, and free! For those who need a more low-tech option, freeconferencecall.com it can be used in phone in only mode, and its easy to use. You could try a service that is a hybrid and allows both phone-in and online web meetings like anymeeting.com or fuze.com. These services are freely available to all with a computer and internet service, and are easy to use. There are simple 'how to' videos on YouTube to get you started.
Now, getting a bit deeper, have you ever thought of how you could revamp your adult RE? Make it a more relevant part of your congregation’s life through use of online technology! Instead of spending many hours on a Sunday at church, how about a Thursday night session of Tapestry of Faith online? How about inviting your neighbor congregations to join by hosting once a week learning sessions for your locational cluster? How cool would that be?! Sharing the load of facilitating AND getting to know the other members of Unitarian Universalist congregation? That sounds like a win-win to me!
To include the youth, there are many educator sites out there such as edmodo.com that could help our DRE's reach our youth throughout the week by putting faith development curricula online or assigning shared online projects that could turn in to multigenerational services. There are blog sites like edublogs.org to give the kids a place to write about their faith, fully articulate what they believe, and share it with the world. There are animation sites that they could use (and the adults too!) to make cartoons about what they are learning in Religious Education. The list goes on and on!
In this age of technology we still have one Great Wall we have not overcome: the need for electricity for all our gadgets. This is felt deeply when tragedy strikes, such as a hurricane, a tornado, or an unexpected flood. The days of 'phone trees' and email groups are almost gone, and are mostly ineffective in a time of emergency. For situations such as these, I introduce wiggio.com. From this site you can set up a 'text tree.’ When phone lines are down and the power is out, you can usually still get text messages…if you charged your phone before losing power, that is! You can send mass text messages, emails, set up online meetings, share files, and so much more! You can even update all of your congregation’s social media sites at once. How great is that? Again, Wiggio is just one example of a site that offers a service like this; there are many platforms online which can meet your congregation's needs.
How will you use technology to fuel our faith? You could set up monthly online meetings to enable congregations in your area working on social justice issues to share information, the state justice ministries to share strategies, the three women's retreat groups of the Southern Region to share inspiration, DREs to share resources, stewardship teams to share successes and pitfalls, and Board presidents to help one another run more efficient and productive, less stressful meetings. Now those sound like great ideas to me!
I hope this gets your creative juices flowing, inspires you to see what is available to help enhance your worship and congregational experiences, and gives you confidence that you, yes, YOU, are fully capable of utilizing any or all of these online tools!
Be well, and I'll see you online!
Congregational Life Staff
UUA Southern Region