A seminar entitled “Smart Church: Youth initiatives for an efficient, vibrant, communicating Church” was held on February 17, 2015 at Azariah House at National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) campus in Nagpur. It was jointly organized by NCCI’s Commission on Communications & Relations and the Commission on Youth. The purpose of this seminar was to provide space for young people from our Churches to come together bringing their own experiences and ideas towards enhancing the ministries of the Church, especially in their organizational aspects, and particularly in terms of consolidating the communication systems, tools and processes. The program was attended by 28 participants from several protestant denominations as well as Roman Catholic orders.
Praise songs at the beginning of the program was led by Ms. Mrinalini Pakhare, Ms. Rebecca Hembrom and Mr. Reuben David. Opening prayer was done by Pastor Zuchon. Rev. Caesar David, Executive Secretary of the Commission on Communications and Relations, outlined the scope of the program and welcomed everyone. The resource persons were felicitated, there was a round of introductions.
In her keynote address Ms. Preety Kamble, President of Youth Synodical Youth Fellowship Committee of Church of North India, said that a Smart Church is a growing church with strong faith, helping the communities to come together for better administration and networking. In her interactive address, she questioned the participants about their idea of a Smart Church. She quoted Rick Warren from the book Purpose driven church: The church is a living organism, it is natural for it to grow, if it is healthy. If a church is not growing, it is dying. She closed with a personal challenge: How would you and I make our church a smart and growing Church?
Prof. Dr. Kalpana Jadhav, Youth trainer and executive member of Maharashtra Council of Churches (MCC) started her session with the game “Chinese whispers” to demonstrate and observe the distortion of information that the process of communication must take seriously. In her presentation she explained the various elements in the process of communication with special emphasis on points that the Church can use towards more efficient working. She also said that, one should find one’s own voice and execute it appropriately with Christian values, and that for the Church to be smart, its youth have to be smart and adept at linking the benefits of technological advances to the work of the Church.
Rev. Sunil Raj Philip, Executive Secretary of the Commission on Dalits, spoke about the Opportunities and Pitfalls of smart communications. He spoke on the intra-personal and inter-personal forms of communication. He spoke about the emerging New Media where people can vent out their feelings when they are not heard in the Church. The two-way communication that is characteristic of new forms of communication must be used by Churches to break out of some set patterns and structures that have been limiting and hindering the efficiency of the Church. He also cautioned about how the overuse of gadgets can sometimes lead to underuse of information thereby resulting in barriers between people.
After lunch, the participants were broken into 4 groups and questions to think about, discuss and bring their findings to the plenary. The discussions were very lively and engaging, and as such, clearly brought out youth ideas, aspirations and hopes towards initiating the move towards greater efficiency in Churches.
The following are the findings as a result of the seminar presentations and discussions:
What is a “Smart Church”?
- It successfully motivates and engages members in the life and growth of the Church
- It caters to spiritual and other needs integrally
- It is a catalyst for people becoming acquainted with the love of God
- It is a growing fellowship where sustainable communities are built up
- It is a networking Church that helps and is helped by other churches
- It uses new media, both digital and non-digital to share, engage and reach to various people groups
- It gives evidence to democratization in communication and other processes used by the Church
- It uses lesser resources to accomplish more by employing smart management techniques and tools
- It is focused and stable in its short-term and long-term goals
- It integrates the functions and ministries of the Church to being seamless and non-conflicting processes
- Following are the barriers found by the participants which hinders the church from becoming a Smart Church:
- External barriers such as undeveloped infrastructure
- Lack of funds leading to inability to harness the offerings of development
- Lack of motivating and/or efforts by Church committees
- Casual mindset towards the youth initiatives / lackadaisical responses
- Lack of skill / awareness of the use of media and communication in church
- Fear of change
- Digital divide
- Lack of ownership
- Competing work and distraction
- Hierarchical structures and processes
- Lack of inter-personal communications and relationships
- Misplaced priorities
In order to overcome the barriers to becoming a Smart Church, participants felt that Sharing information, education and media literacy, networking, cross-learnings, mutual encouragement and help, are some of the main elements that need attention and action.
The program ended on a note of promise as enlightened youth were found to have been inspired to continue explorations at their local and regional levels, spread the idea in their networks and seek out opportunities to put into practice the ideas shared and learned at this seminar towards being an efficient, vibrant, communicating Church and thereby an effective, relevant and a “Smart Church”.
-Ms. Sunita Gaikwad
-Ms. Madhuri Rebecca Hembrom
-Ms. Mrinalini Martin Pakhare