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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- I'm not so good with my hands. I own a tool set, but the tools are scattered throughout the house and the case is hidden under our bed. Yes, I own a lawn mower -- but it's the electric kind because I don't care to have a gas can in my garage. I don't own any nails, that I know of. If I had to use a level, I'd get an app on my phone for that.
In other words, on missions trips where physical labor is involved -- like building a house -- I'm pretty much useless.
This past week I met with Cleve Persinger about an initiative he helped lead this summer: Creative Missions. If you're like me (and, well, you're reading this column, so I assume you might be), you'll be glad to know that Persinger has approached service-based missions in a unique way: gather a bunch of tech geeks, design creatives and communications specialists to volunteer to help teach churches how they can better communicate with their surrounding cultures.
This summer Persinger led a team to Albany, N.Y., and donated over 7,000 hours of teaching, training and optimizing the tech and communication teams at local churches in the Hudson Baptist Association. Like an Extreme Home Makeover, Church Communications Edition, the Creative Missions team built six websites, redesigned church logos and implemented sustainable solutions for nearly 20 churches to effectively communicate an ultimate message of God's never-ending love for each community where these churches are involved.
"We didn't want to give the church a fancy Ferrari that they'd have to spend time and money to upkeep," Persinger said. "Some churches had websites that hadn't been updated in, literally, years. Not because they they didn't want to, but because they didn't know how."
As creatives and techies, we take so many things for granted. Because of the "curse of knowledge" -- the idea that because we know something we assume everyone should -- we forget what it's like to not know what an FTP is or why someone couldn't figure out how to change just a bit of HTML. Or we argue over the benefits of Flash vs. Silverlight when so many pastors would be happy just change the basics on their site. We may not know how to lift a hammer, but there are so many ways we can help the church through the gifts the Lord has given us.
Persinger is the web and external communications strategist for The Chapel in Chicagoland (Chapel.org). Through Creative Missions, his goal is to help churches remove the barriers for outsiders looking in and help churches be effective communicators of the Gospel. "Image, sound reinforcement, video production and social media are all basics of American society," Persinger said, pleading, "In a media-driven world we need to be doing things first-rate.
"It's still and always will be all about Jesus and His people devoted to growing in their faith and reaching out to others, but if your church has some basic understanding of technology, if everything is done with excellence, your church's message will not be overlooked," he said. "Churches need to be relevant and stand out among the noise of the world."
Creatives and techies often are lost in the church. We have spent our lives studying complex theories of audio feedback loops. We cringe when the speakers squeal. We have won awards for our design projects, but have to settle for "clever" word art in Microsoft Word in creating our bulletins. We want to be involved; sometimes it's very hard to see how we can help our own local churches, let alone be effective with our talents on the mission field.
There is an art and a need for churches to have well-designed invite cards, relevant signage and audio cables plugged into their right spots. We also need to remember that when we work with churches, we're working with people who might be struggling with how to even turn on the equipment -- your pastor went to school for deep theological training, not to learn how to record a podcast. There are needs all around us where we can pitch in.
Sean Pierce of the Hudson Baptist Association complimented the work of Creative Missions, saying, "Thank God for Creative Missions. We've had dozens of teams but none were better or had bigger impact. Their servant heart and expertise was a huge blessing to pastors."
If you would like to learn more about Creative Missions, visit http://CreativeMissions.to
Aaron Linne is executive producer of digital marketing for the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He writes a monthly technology column for Baptist Press.