St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church

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St. Bart's Blog

The Connected Church

Posted by The Rev. William Zettinger on

Recently, I was chatting with a good friend who was one of my former customers and is now an executive for a systems engineering company. The company has more than 30,000 employees and its multibillion-dollar Tech Services business roughly divides evenly between North America, Europe and Asia.

An interesting little tidbit popped into our conversation. He said that last year, 960 people held the title of Digital Director on LinkedIn, and this year, there are more than 3,600.

This news, in turn, sparked a discussion about a recent conference he'd attended and one workshop in particular, Trends in Connectivity offered by Chris Prosper and Will Parkhouse.

Much of their presentation was about how senior executives need to understand Generation Y (Gen Y), for whom life is all about data and all things digital.

Prosper and Parkhouse began their presentation by asking if the executives in the room had a corporate environment that was attractive to Gen Y. Then they offered some insights about this demographic.

Gen Y wants a voice and employers must provide the environment, opportunities and a forum for this voice to be heard. They get frustrated by different obstacles than do Gen Xers - who generally are loyal and comfortable with fixed and variable compensation rewards. Gen Y, on the other hand, is not driven by compensation carrots, and is not motivated by climbing the corporate ladder to higher management levels.

Gen Y needs change, challenge and evolution. They want to create the next new thing. If it becomes obvious that their company cannot provide this, they will pack up and leave, sometimes en masse -- whole departments at once, like lemmings skittering off a sinking ship.

But here's what struck me most about my conversation with my friend. Gen Y, and most of the rest of us, have developed one overriding, overarching, all-important value. And that value is connectivity.

This came through again and again in our conversation. The need to be connected, and to check our connection, looms over anything else.

Connectivity, while the be-all and end-all for Gen Y, is a value that crosses generations and cultures.

Our desire for connectivity trumps even our need to stay married, engaged or in a relationship. Perhaps that's overstated, but some studies show that cell phone usage in social interactions is a huge turnoff and can lead to significant altercations. This behavior is now identified by the neologism "phubbing," a portmanteau of "phone" and "snubbing." If you check Instagram like a hundred times while out with your girlfriend, and you do this every time you're with her, it's likely to be sayonara, unless she, too, is doing the same thing. Mutual phubbing is very common.

Who would have thought that a smartphone could be what the authors of one study call a "relationship buster"?

The thirst for connectivity, however, is moving past one's smartphone to one's car. This is the view of many people in the automotive field as well as other technologies.

One analyst says, "I see a situation in the near future when an individual gets up in the morning and asks a car to take them to work. During that commute they are writing emails and watching the news. The car drops them off at work, and then leaves to recharge itself on the grid, before heading out to be used by another member of the family, a colleague, or even a paying stranger. It then returns ready and fueled to pick the individual up again at the end of the day and take them home."

What gets me all fired up about this is that I see this happening in the church - Gen Y, Gen X and all the generations connecting and connected and being stronger, better disciples of Jesus because of it.

The church, particularly our St. Bart’s has become and is becoming a center through which people can link with each other according to their interests and needs, where they can connect to Bible studies, where they can interact with overseas churches and missionaries such as in Haiti.

Human beings were made for connectivity. We were not designed by the Creator to live alone and apart from each other. It's an essential aspect of human nature -- we love connection with others of our species.

It would seem then that anything the church can do to enhance community and connectivity would be a wildly good thing. Gen Y would love it, and everyone else would appreciate it too.

The church, after all, specializes in connections. It exists to bring God and humankind together, or at least to show how this connection has already happened in Christ Jesus.

So, while we're preaching the gospel of connection, we might also brainstorm about how to increase a connective environment in our local church. Connecting people with people, and with resources, can only enhance our big goal, linking people to God.

~The Rev. William Zettinger

Bill was ordained to the Diaconate by San Diego Bishop James Mathes in June 2007. He is a fourth generation Episcopalian who was born in Brooklyn, NY. Before ordained ministry, he worked in the aerospace and communications industry as an electronics engineer, program manager and executive.

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