Ministry in the Digital Age (Review)

David Bourgeois has written an excellent little book on digital and social-media directed ministry entitled…(you’ll never guess…), Ministry in the Digital Age (2013: InterVarsity Press). The book is a total of 140 pages when the appendixes are included which, really, helps serve his purpose and reflects the fact that he knows what he’s talking about. Social-media and digitalization are largely a step away from traditional means of acquiring knowledge and, thus, it would be quite ironic if he chose to write a massive monograph to get this point across. And, frankly, for a book that addresses things like ‘SEO optimization’ and ‘Strategic Framworks’, I’m glad he didn’t. This makes the book accessible to almost everyone: the layman, the pastor, the elder who knows nothing about the internet, the board of directors, and–of course–the one (or group) that has been chosen to make a social media platform work.

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The overall premise of the book is hardly brain-science and, given the fact that technology is now moving a thousand times faster than even the advent of the internet, must be understood by everyone whether they like it or not: we are in a post website world. As Bourgeois puts it, “the primary use of digital tools is now relational, not informational” (23). This means that when someone goes online to look at an organization, the mere practice of surveying their website to find out what they are about is gone. The most successful organizations implement some sort of interaction in their digital life and that is largely done through certain social media tools.

The 140 pages are packed with useful information on creating, sustaining, and propelling a social-media proclamation of the gospel. It’s not over-technical, but there are an incredible amount of nuggets which reflect the hard science behind Bourgeois’ message. Social-media is a huge platform that ministries, churches, organizations, and people can’t choose to ignore. To be sure, Bourgeois doesn’t suggest that every ministry needs to have a social media platform to make a difference, nor does he suggest that if everyone gets on Facebook and Twitter that they’ll have a success story. The story of this own blog is confirmation of that (wrong time, wrong place…though I keep on writing). For Bourgeois, strategy is central. This means understanding your platforms (i.e. Facebook , Twitter, Blogs, Apps, Youtube/Vimeo, etc.), your target audience, and–most importantly–your own mission. To emphasize that last point, Bourgeois suggests that many digital implementations fail solely because the approach is out of line with the organization’s identity. On a final note, Bourgeous believes that especially for ministries and organizations, the utilization of social media actually is necessary in some way. You just have to do the research and find the strategy that works.

An organization becomes irrelevant when the change outside the organization exceeds the change inside the organization – Walt Wilson

This review is not lengthy, in part because there’s too much in this book to cover. Like I said, it’s packed with all sorts of practical information and is worth the time of anybody looking to move into the 21st century (albeit, 14 years late!).