For those that missed it live, here is the lecture I did for Ambrose University minus the live Question and Answer time.
Category Archives: Digital Ministry
Virtual Public Lecture: You Are Not A Machine: Fruitful Disciple-Making In An Artificial World
You are invited to a virtual public lecture presented by Ambrose University.
Description: Many of our discipleship metaphors and understandings come from a mechanical view of the world shaped by technological advancements largely foreign to the agrarian world of the Bible and the metaphors Jesus used. If metaphors shape our world and help us understand the abstract, then how might the machine-ladened metaphors we’ve used warp our view of discipleship, and what can we do about it?
Speaker Bio: Rev. Dr. Bryce Ashlin-Mayo (DMin, George Fox University) served for twenty-five years as a pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, most recently as Lead Pastor of Westlife Church. Bryce is currently Dean of Theology and Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta. Bryce has written several books on social media and digital ministry including, “Digital Mission: A Practical Guide for Ministry Online.”
AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the Future Pastoral Ministry
***This post was written entirely by AI (I asked it to write a blog post on using AI as a pastor). It is posted intentionally without edit or comment***
As a pastor, you may be wondering how you can incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into your work to better serve your congregants and improve your ministry. In this blog post, we will explore some ways that AI can be used as a pastor, as well as some potential benefits and challenges to consider.
One way that AI can be used as a pastor is through the use of chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs that are designed to simulate conversation with human users, often through messaging applications, websites, or mobile apps. As a pastor, you could use a chatbot to provide information and resources to your congregants, answer frequently asked questions, or even provide spiritual guidance and support. For example, you could set up a chatbot on your church’s website that allows people to ask questions or share their struggles, and the chatbot could provide personalized responses based on the information it has been trained on. This could be especially helpful for people who may not feel comfortable reaching out to a pastor in person or may not have access to traditional pastoral care.
Another way that AI can be used as a pastor is through the use of natural language processing (NLP) algorithms. NLP algorithms are designed to understand and analyze human language, and they can be used to analyze texts such as sermons, Bible verses, or other spiritual writings. As a pastor, you could use NLP algorithms to help you understand the themes and patterns in your own writing and teaching, or to find relevant passages from the Bible or other spiritual texts. You could also use NLP algorithms to analyze the language and sentiments of your congregants, which could help you tailor your messages and support to their needs.
AI can also be used as a pastor through the use of virtual assistants. Virtual assistants are computer programs that are designed to perform tasks and answer questions for users. As a pastor, you could use a virtual assistant to help you manage your schedule, organize your tasks, or keep track of important information. For example, you could set up a virtual assistant to send reminders about meetings or deadlines, or to help you find relevant resources or information. This could help you save time and energy, allowing you to focus on the more important aspects of your ministry.
There are many potential benefits to using AI as a pastor. One of the main benefits is that it can help you reach more people and provide support to a larger number of congregants. For example, a chatbot or virtual assistant could be available 24/7, allowing people to access support and resources at any time of day. AI can also help you personalize your support and care to better meet the needs of your congregants. For example, a chatbot or NLP algorithm could analyze the language and sentiments of your congregants to provide more targeted and relevant responses. Finally, AI can help you save time and energy, allowing you to focus on the more important aspects of your ministry.
However, there are also some challenges to consider when using AI as a pastor. One potential challenge is that AI may not be able to fully replicate the human element of pastoral care. While AI can provide information and support, it may not be able to provide the same level of emotional support or deep understanding that a human pastor can. It is important to recognize the limitations of AI and to ensure that it is used in a way that complements, rather than replaces, human pastoral care.
Another potential challenge is that AI may raise ethical concerns or raise questions about the role of technology in ministry. It is important to consider these issues and to have open and honest conversations with your congregants about the use of AI in your ministry.
In conclusion, AI has the potential to revolutionize pastoral care and ministry in many ways.
***This post was written entirely by AI (ChatGPT) – openai.com***
A Digital Missiology – Book Chapter (Free)
We always have the tendency to jump into new methodologies and opportunities without considering the potential consequences.
As we engage in digital ministry and mission, what are some of the questions that our future selves would wish we asked? What if we could pre-ask them and engage in digital ministry and mission with a more reflective posture from the beginning.
To address this, I wrote a chapter in a newly released ebook, “On Mission Vol. 5.” My chapter is entitled, “A Reflective Pathway to a Digital Missiology.”
Download the book for free using the following link.
Hybridge Ministry: Bridging the In-Person and Digital Divide
As your church considers the future of digital ministry in a post-pandemic world, you are probably contemplating what is referred to as a hybrid (combination of in-person and digital) model of ministry. This is often experienced through live-streaming in-person worship services or providing the ability to allow small groups or discipleship classes to have digital participants join the in-person participants through video conferencing software.
Although some churches will embrace different digital and in-person strategies and ministry methodologies, most will adopt a hybrid ministry model for a variety of reasons (most commonly, limited time and resources). To better communicate the desired outcome of this ministry model, I have started to use the term “Hybridge Ministry.” Hybridge Ministry seeks to close the digital gap and connect both groups.
Like all bridges, they are only as strong as their foundation. Thus, I want to suggest four foundational columns for effective Hybridge Ministry.
Column One: VALUE Digital
Digital ministry and the technology that allows it is still in its infancy. Social media, live-streaming, and video conference technology continue to develop rapidly, and the emergence of the Metaverse™ and other iterations of the digital domain (including the Neuralink™) will continue to evolve. One thing’s for certain, we never really go backwards with technology. Like it or not, technology always frogmarches us into the future.
Digital will have an increasing place in our collective futures. Consequently, I believe thriving churches will have a robust and reflective (understanding its potential and its perils) digital ministry strategy that embraces the way people will increasingly connect and learn. Digital is a growing means of engagement and community for people in our world.
As culture and the church comes out of the pandemic, you may be tempted to make digital the scapegoat of your post-pandemic church problems: people’s lack of engagement, decrease in giving, lack of disciple-making, etc. Although it may be convenient, these problems can’t be laid at the feet of digital ministry. The reality is that these were all very prevalent and well-documented pre-pandemic problems. The pandemic only accelerated them. Digital has its issues and challenges, but it is not necessarily the reason for all the Church’s challenges. As a result, be cautious about making it an easy scapegoat, ignoring the more significant and critical issues and problems.
As you engage in Hybridge Ministry, be very careful not to make digital second-class citizens. Recognize that some people engage online because of family challenges, social anxiety, health issues, lack of mobility, disability, etc. One of the benefits of this season is that the church has become more accessible to people. It would be unfortunate to regress, close the doors, and devalue this access as the church re-engages in person.
As a result, treat digital with dignity. Assign online hosts, call on Zoom small group participants during discussions, and welcome and acknowledge your online community, helping both communities feel valued and integrated.
In summary, Hybridge Ministry is best done when ministry occurs in the middle of the bridge. This is challenging (as we will discuss), but it is foundational to its effectiveness. Although there will be a temptation to accentuate the in-person (out of convenience or for philosophical reasons), don’t overlook the digital.
Column Two: RECOGNIZE that Digital is Different
One of the dangers of Hybridge Ministry is the assumption that in-person and digital cultures work the same way. This is not the case. Digital is not just a different platform; it is a different planet. I talk about this at length in my book, Digital Mission and the Digital Mission Course. Relationships, community, authority, communication, and how we understand the world operate differently online. This is why Hybridge Ministry is uniquely challenging if not done with sensitivity and intentionality.
Take time to consider more than what you are doing and the technology and platforms you are using. Take time to consider digital culture and how you will effectively engage your digital and in-person participants, knowing they will experience things differently. Asking “how” is challenging, but it is also vital in the success of your Hybridge Ministry.
Column Three: RESOURCE Digital
For effective Hybridge Ministry to take place, it needs resources. I am not primarily talking about technology or platforms (although necessary). Instead, Hybridge Ministry needs resources in people and attention. For example, if you are doing a Hybridge small group, class, or worship service, it is vital that you consider the digital audience as important. Staff it (paid or volunteer). Let people know that those who are online are valued and welcome. Be sure to welcome and acknowledge digital participants, making them feel like they are part of what is happening, and translate between in-person and digital cultures. The digital audience will be disenfranchised as second-class citizens if you don’t, and they will fade into the digital distance.
One effective means to evaluate the effectiveness of your Hybridge Ministry methodology is to ask how the in-person audience would feel if the meeting, service, or event were primarily online and the people in the room were only watching on a large screen. What if they were the passive audience? This would be rejected as inconceivable but consider the reverse. How does our Hybridge Ministry make the digital participants feel? Are they ignored? What would it mean to meet the two groups in the middle?
This may seem like an impossible goal, and one must choose one or the other. However, with some thoughts and tweaks on how you engage people and bridge the digital divide, you can ensure the online audience feels as engaged as the in-person congregation. Attempt to meet in the middle of the Hybridge.
Column Four: FOSTER Two-Directional Contextual Community
In the next year, there will be an influx of companies offering to outsource your digital ministry. As the church moves back to in-person gatherings, the resources allocated to digital will need to be split. This is understandable. However, digital ministry outsourcing will be ineffective. In a sea of content, what makes your digital ministry unique is your church’s proprietary stories, your pictures, your recaps, your people, your community, etc. Generic graphics outsourced to a team unplugged from your community will lead to disengagement and reduced effectiveness. Digital Ministry is like fine art; its value is in its provenance (the story connected to it). Effective digital ministry is all about contextualization and authenticity (made in your community, by your community, and for your community). Artisanal content is always better even if it means less content with less polish.
As you engage in Hybridge Ministry, move your community and content in both directions. Mix your content and cross-pollinate between digital and in-person. You probably take pictures of your in-person gatherings for social media, but what do you do to bring the digital into your in-person gatherings? Make contextual and authentic content in two directions. This will help to build community in both directions.
Hybridge Ministry is probably the most efficient model for most churches in this season. Yet, it is also the most complicated. It comes with a temptation to disenfranchise digital and see it as an afterthought or bonus. As you engage in Hybridge Ministry, be sure to build the bridge over the digital divide using the four columns and keep learning as you do. We will not go back when it comes to technology and so moving forward with an innovative impulse paired with a constantly evaluative lens is vital for the church to be faithful into the future.