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What You Should Know About the Changing Digital Landscape


Christian Leadership Alliance

By Gordon Marcy and Tami Heim

With all the noise in today’s world, it is critical that ministry leaders know how to focus their time and attention before God. Those called to lead in such a time as this must discern how to embrace what God is making possible for leadership development and his service.

Leaders must submit to Christ-centered thinking, teaching, and information and immerse themselves in it. Great discipline is required for a leader to stand steady on the strength of an unchanging God as he directs them in the midst of high-velocity change and chaos.

We all feel how the landscape is rapidly being reshaped because we have access to more people, more information and more technology. Change no longer happens in a cycle, but occurs one continuous moment after another. Technology presents spectacular opportunities every day, some which can shake up entire industries.

The Internet and digital devices are changing media consumption habits. Two trends put the rapidly shifting digital media landscape into perspective:

First it’s where they are. It finally happened: A report from eMarketer finds that in 2013, Americans spent more time with digital media than any other medium, for the first time ever.

Second, it’s where they learn. Pew Research reports that 50 percent of the public now cites the Internet as a main source for national and international news, still below television, but far above newspapers and radio.

Leaders have an extraordinary opportunity to be intentional about this change in media consumption. We know that media can be a source that amplifies God’s purpose, or it can bring confusion and actually derail God’s authority. It is a stewardship choice, and the kingdom outcomes and consequences of that choice have epic implications.

Many leaders struggle to reconcile rapid changes in digital media with the organization’s overall mission and strategy. The challenge is complex, for four reasons:

1.  Digital Diversity

Digital is not a single medium where all the parts fit together squarely, like broadcasting, print, or marketing. Digital is made up of an array of different media: web-based, mobile, social, and the newly emerging and still evolving cloud variants, each characterized by rapid change.

2.  Digital Complexity

Though opportunity is increasing, so is the cost and complexity of creating, managing and delivering digital content. Everything is merging: text, spoken word and video. The concept of stand-alone media is nearly gone.

3.  Digital Context

We are quickly moving toward media that is primarily consumed via mobile devices. This means content creation will have to change and be relevant for different contexts.

4.  Digital Change

Finally, simply keeping up is a huge challenge. Internet video streaming is shaking up traditional entertainment and high-speed Internet access. In April 2014, 186.1 million Americans watched online content videos, according to comScore. And research firm NPD says about 35 percent of all U.S. households now have televisions connected to the Internet.

The impact of this rapid change on the spiritual and leadership development of Christian leaders and the ministries they serve is undeniable. How are Christian leaders to contend with a rate and scope of technological change so relentless and, at times, incomprehensible?

  • Embrace it. Author and futurist Richard Swenson says the process is irreversible, so it’s best to just buckle up for the ride of a lifetime.
  • Get the right people on the bus. It takes a lot of work to attract a large audience of highly focused online visitors. The digital revolution requires staff members with digital skills.
  • Shake off reluctance. Recommit to service excellence and make sure it extends to the use of new technologies. Get to know people online. Build relationships through genuine two-way interaction. Websites that are not updated frequently with fresh images, video and relevant content quickly lose their audiences.
  • Stay focused on what matters most. The Lord does not change (Mal. 3:6). The mission does not change. The urgency of the hour remains: to bring hope from the heart of God to a lost world. It is a sobering fact that nearly two billion or more individuals on the planet still do not have a personal knowledge of Christ. Today’s world, more than ever, needs the unique ministry of sharing and caring to which CLA member organizations and leaders have been called by God.
  • Collaborate for greater impact. To succeed in this new digital world, ministry collaboration must be front and center. In fact, new technologies allow us not only to reach further, but also to work together more strategically than ever before. That quest for collaborative impact is what the new CLATV is all about.

Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) is dedicated to helping its members both manage technological change and become change agents. For CLA, that means that we must lead by example. We, too, seek to be change agents, by adapting methods, while staying true to our core mission and values.

Collaboration is part of the DNA at CLA. We encourage CLA members to think of CLATV as an opportunity to work together for ministry in the digital world. Already, content partners like Lead Like Jesus,  The Colson Center, The Lausanne Movement, Lifeway’s Ministry Grid,  The Exchange, Growing Leaders, CRU, Stewardship Ministries and more have collaborated with CLA to provide outstanding, Christ-honoring, leadership content for CLATV.

CLA believes that technology and digital media have a critical role in the future of every organization. Today’s successful leaders need to be “learning engineers,” thinkers who embrace digital and emerging technologies to advance the kingdom in our dynamic, diverse and interconnected world.

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Gordon Marcy is president of Capstone eMedia Group LLC, whose company developed the eStation Platform and Glorystone Content Network.
Tami Heim is president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance. This post is an excerpt from the 2014 Fall edition of Outcomes Magazine.

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