Emoji’s to the Glory of God

I just thought it was fun. A little emoji generator that translates your favourite Bible verse into emojis. ? b 2 ?

I was sure that people, like God in the opening verses of the book of Genesis, would look at this and say “it was ?!”

Perhaps now, at sporting events, the big placards saying John 3:16 would simply convey “ ? so ? the ? .”

However, the indignant caller did not share my sense of fun.

“Is this another of those new communication things I’m going to have to learn,” she said.

The conversation spiralled into a rant about the number of emails that kept her inbox overflowing, an iPhone that pinged at all hours of the night and day with messages expecting a response, parishioners incessantly on the web and reporting to her any discrepancy between a statement and what Google reported.

“Maybe I should move to France!” she offered. “Do you think the church could ban people from sending emails outside regular work hours like the French are considering?”

The understatement could not be more dramatic than to observe that the explosion in communication technology has made things better and worse for leaders.

At a congregational level, a website is virtually non-negotiable and the standards are global. Gen Xers and younger generations simply expect that when a question arises about something to do with the congregation they will find the correct answer on the website. Confusion or disarray there means inquirers are gone in a couple of minutes.

Congregational members no longer rely upon the verbal announcement or a phone network. Messages need to be repeated in generationally appropriate ways. And with the increasing emphasis upon transparency decisions need to be announced and rationalized very soon after they are made.

Not to mention the pressure on leaders to go “social,” to have an active presence on Facebook and Twitter. The challenge there is two-fold: (1) most congregational leaders and members are learning the technology, as opposed to inhaling it like their children and grandchildren (and they don’t feel they have time to learn it, even if they really want to); and (2) they do not think in a social media way.

Congregations who hire a “communications person” often forget someone needs to give them CONTENT for the tweets and Facebook postings. And that content needs to come from clergy, committee chairs and others. Mind-reading is not a skill that comes packaged with a facility on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Social media skills are like learning to play the piano. They not only require some basic understanding of theory but also practice. Those who wish to play Beethoven’s Fur Elise or massage the keyboard like Oscar Peterson become frustrated with the learning curve. And they, rightly, wonder: Is the congregation willing to have a sermon half the length for a few weeks while I learn this technology?

The tsunami of communication technology can overwhelm but learning both its use and its boundaries are non-negotiable. The average age for a child obtaining their first cell phone is 10.3 years and “the largest percentage of kids – 39% – got their first (social media) account between ages 10 and 12, but another 11% got a social media account when they were younger than 10.”  

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