Gutenberg Versus Googlies

October 29, 2008

Author and "futurist" Leonard Sweet recently offered some interesting thoughts at the United Methodist Association of Communicators 2008 Convention. Here are highlights from an article about his talk:

Too often, he said, the church has clung to familiar ways of communicating that have worked well in the past—developing mission statements, perfecting documents and following parliamentary procedure.

Meanwhile, young people have moved on to more interactive faith communities where they connect through simultaneous use of digital images and sounds.

"Advertisers don't spend billions to give you words—they give you images. Why are you not coming up with an image statement?" he asked church communicators.

... Today, however, the primary delivery system for young people has become the Internet. And if churches did what Wesley did, "we'd be passing out Palm Pilots, hardwired with all the right software," Dr. Sweet said. At the very least, he added, every United Methodist church should become an Internet "hotspot" for their communities.

Unfortunately, pastors are among the last to catch on, and continue to use communication tools that are familiar to their own generation, Dr. Sweet said.

... He advised church leaders to switch from Powerpoint—"the Gutenberg person's use of 'new media'"—to using veejays, or video jockeys who can spontaneously put Googled images on a screen in the sanctuary to illustrate sermon ideas.

Dr. Sweet suggested using metaphors and stories to communicate spiritual truth today. Jesus was a master at giving "unsettling and disturbing" messages that caught people's attention, he added. Often his stories would begin with: "You have heard it said... but I say to you..."

"Your mind is made of metaphors," Dr. Sweet said. "Words come out of metaphors. The natural language of the brain is metaphor. When you reframe metaphors, you're doing brain surgery."
Definitely some issues there for church leaders and communicators to think about. Hopefully people are paying attention in order to reach those Sweet calls "Googlies."

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