Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Keeping Captive Audiences Captive

A few weekends ago I went to a pretty good presentation that talked about ministry of leadership in changing times. The presenters were very hospitable and knowledgeable, and they’d come from far away to talk to people in the Dioceses of California and El Camino Real.

When one of the presenters saw my name he said, “Aren’t you changing the world?” I was taken aback and asked for some more information about what he meant he said, “Young, fabulous, and trying to get the church into the 21st century.” I said that, ha, sure, yeah I fall into that category and that’s me!

A few minutes later I got to talk with the other presenter about some of the things I am doing in the Diocese of California and some of the things I hope to be doing in the next year or so. It was a great little conversation and I felt really good about what I’m doing and what I want to do. It built on some feedback I’ve gotten from congregational leaders this week too.

Before we started though, I had a surprising interaction with one of the facilitators. I asked if someone had the Wi-Fi password for the church hosting us. The presenter said, “We do. But we aren’t giving it out because people will do other things during the presentation, so we’ll give it out at the end. Nice try, Joseph!”

This facilitator echoed some concerns that had been raised at Episcopal Communicators in early April. If people are looking things from the sermon up as preachers are giving it then they may know what the preacher is saying that isn’t accurate. This already happens. My mom’s pastor has been reading his sermons from a website the last two years. My mom googled a phrase and found out and now she follows along. Every week.

Rather than fearing that people can do that, this access to information challenges preachers (and all kinds of presenters) to be better at what they do. I don’t think that it’s always a good thing for everyone to be online all the time. I do think that avoiding access so that those in leadership aren’t accountable is a worthy defense, though.

Much earlier this year I went to a presentation where our presenter asked us to put our computers away because we wouldn’t need them. She lied. Her presentation was awful, and yes, I wanted to escape her awful presentation into my work email or the Twitterverse. Should I have stayed engaged? Yes. Should she have been better prepared and less hokey? Totally.

The presenter wouldn’t give me the Wi-Fi password on Saturday for fear that people would do other things. He had a captive audience that he didn’t want to escape. That was an unnecessary fear and anxiety though — his presentation was great. I was (clearly) really annoyed by this — the presentation was on the church changing, and I’d just been complimented for the work I’m doing that involves electronic communication, but he didn’t trust me to stay engaged…and he took the choice away from me.

What do you think? Is having outside access a good or bad thing? How do you navigate this in your ministry setting?

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