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[Technology] Justifiable Greed

Tony Myles —  December 2, 2013 — 5 Comments

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Think about how many things in life you need to apply that principle to. While you’re at it, reconsider where you feel you’ve nailed it but may actually need a good gut-check.

How about when it comes to technology in your life or ministry?

mp3 My 12-year old son owns an MP3 player that I don’t see much of. He only uses it a few times a week, which means I typically refresh his playlist about every two months. That happened recently when he mentioned how he’d put the device on my office desk and was hoping I could add some new tracks.

It seemed like an easy enough task.

The only problem was I ended up loading songs into the wrong MP3 player. Apparently, I own one that I don’t see much of either. Both are black, only mine has a screen that allows the user to see the title of the track that’s playing. I didn’t realize my mistake until my son pointed it out to me.

“Here you go, buddy,” I said, placing the device on the dining room table.

“What’s that?” he asked.

I was confused. “It’s your MP3 player.”

He was confused. “No, it isn’t.”

“Wait… that isn’t yours, is it? I’m sorry. You’re right. I must have loaded songs onto the wrong player. Tell you what – I don’t really use this one, so how about you just keep it? It’s actually a much better device.”

“I appreciate that,” he offered, “but I’m content with the one I have.”

I was confused again. “Well, I understand that you like the other one, but did you notice how you can see the title for the track you’re playing on this one?”

“Yep, but I don’t need that.”

“This one will also let you fast-forward more easily,” I countered.

“Dad, I’m really content with what I have. Is that okay?”

It was a striking question.

Of course, I know the right answer. My wife and I intentionally nurture the value of simplicity into our family. It’s also a benchmark of how I try to minister in our church.

Still, I didn’t realize until that defining moment how much I’ve let “justifiable greed” snag pieces of me that I still need to push back against. I literally was on the verge of debating with my son that he needed a “better” device to be happy. Thankfully, I shut my mouth and honored his decision.

Here’s the principle again: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

technologyWe can easily struggle with this when it comes to a kind of tech lust in ministry. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Peer Comparison: Perhaps your conscious frustration with how other churches have more resources than you is creating some unconscious action steps in what you’re doing. Does your ministry website really need all the bells and whistles that their ministry does? Who is the website for, anyway?
  • Self-Validation: It’s easy to spot how students use technology as a status symbol. Might you do the same thing? For example, is the purpose of your blog to share Jesus, or to create a platform to be “discovered” and “noticed?”
  • Unnecessary Streamlining: In some cases, it makes sense to say something in a technological format to maximize the people we could reach. In many other cases, we use that as an excuse to avoid the hard work of investing into people. Do you really need to create your own podcast for students or youth ministry when you could instead use that time to personally talk with teenagers and fellow youth workers? Could a phone call or a personal visit have a greater impact than yet another text blast?

Decades ago, people generally believed that technology would make our lives easier. In some ways it has, but it’s also made it possible to complicate our lives that much more. You won’t just feel this when you’re banging on the church copier or yelling at your phone for not working with the speed you need them to.

You’ll usually feel it when you experience the inverse reality of the truth I shared earlier… for while it is true that “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” we’re more familiar with “Just because you should doesn’t mean you can.”

King Solomon (said to be one of the wisest men to have ever lived) shared about how he didn’t apply wisdom in this area: “Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

Saved By The Bell phone

Keep in mind:

  • Not every piece of technology is essential. Things that were once cutting edge eventually become old news. When do we decide it isn’t worth it versus when it is?
  • Not everyone will use technology the way you insist they should. Our church created a message board system to get everyone more active on our website. We later realized that more people in our church preferred to use Facebook instead. It was a good lesson to learn, but we wasted time creating something useless. (Tim Schmoyer shared some great thoughts on this.)

Maybe you don’t have access to what the church down the street does. Sorry about you not getting what you think you deserve.

What you do have that you can never deserve is Jesus Christ. He shared his most famous sermons on mountain sides and along the road. Here we are today, twenty centuries later, still affected by his personal investment into a dozen young people who changed the world.

Might there be a lesson there?

Share your thoughts:

  • How are you maximizing technology?
  • How is technology really not panning out like you thought it would?
  • How are you intimidated by what’s out there?

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles

*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*

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Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

5 responses to [Technology] Justifiable Greed

  1. First thing I have read addressing this issue. Spent Thanksgiving with four 20-something ministers at our house and the whole conversation revolved around phones and Black Friday sales. I had to excuse myself and go clean up the kitchen as I was torn between saying something and not trying to be judgemental. I am a dinosaur but my heart broke over the priority of that day! Spent the rest of the afternoon talking with our 99 year-old neighbor lady who came also, found her much more refreshing.

    • Tony Myles

      I wonder if their chatter is the same thing as your visit with the 99-year old women, but only at a different “speed.” My wife and I once spent four hours with a woman in our church, from pre-dinner, to actual dinner, to post-dinner. We then had to leave for a youth event and she said, “Oh, bother… we didn’t really get the chance to visit with each other.” My wife and I didn’t know what to say, since we were spent after just the first two hours. :)

  2. We recently did a media/tech survey for our church to see how our people engage our church using technology. I haven’t waded through all the data yet but I know it will be very helpful in choosing what mediums we choose to use for our church. Your insight that not everyone will use technology the way I insist they should was a hard lesson to learn for me!

    The tech battle is always a struggle for me because I love new technology. Thankfully my wife balances me out and helps me understand what I really need and don’t need. Thanks for the challenge to consider being more personal (phone call or actually talking to a teen) instead of using technology to communicate.

  3. I have seen a huge shift among the students in my years in the trenches. I used to have regular phone conversations with them, and now I see them literally avoiding it. If I call or leave a message, they will text back, or send a snapchat instead. If I do get a student on the phone the conversation is awkward and brief. You have to almost fight for a genuine relational connection, puts a whole new spin on relational youth ministry.

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