Beyond Digital: A New Initiative from Leadership Network

At Leadership Network, we are constantly scanning the landscapes of church and culture in order to recognize trends that influence Kingdom work around the world, as well as to respond to the needs and opportunities of the churches we serve.  Doing so positions us to be both predictive and responsive when it comes to our program offerings and experiences.  One experience we recently announced, the What’s Next Leadership Community, is a good example of a response to the conversations we are having with senior leaders across North America.  Our newest project, the Beyond Digital Initiative, is a strategic move ‘forward’ to create impact-oriented conversations among churches, as well as Kingdom-minded individuals and organizations, to leverage the latest trends in technology and new media for the mission of God.  We are excited about the potential of the Beyond Digital Initiative!

What Is the Beyond Digital Initiative?
The overall objective of Leadership Network’s Beyond Digital initiative is to explore the “what’s next” of the digital landscape to help churches more effectively achieve their mission in this ever-changing world.  We believe everything that can go digital, will.  Couple that with the increasing speed of technological innovation and rapid consumer adoption of a ‘digital lifestyle’, and it becomes easy to see how churhces are being presented with an unprecedented opportunity to digitally multiply their impact both locally and globally.  Our desire is to accelerate the learning of churches that place a high value on the innovative use of technology for the Kingdom, by facilitating conversations among creative leadership teams, removing common obstacles to digital tools and talent, and creating opportunities designed to multiply impact through strategic goals and action plans.

Additional core objectives of the Beyond Digital Initiative include:

  • Accelerating the mission of the church through the development of effective digital tools.
  • Balancing the rush toward emerging digital trends by amplifying the counter trend of the “relational resurgence,” the renewed emphasis of life-on-life, human-centered ministry.
  • Creating an intentional, synergistic relationship between virtual and “brick and mortar” strategies.
  • Challenging leaders to cast a vision that will leverage untapped potential in the pews.
  • Expanding the global reach of innovative churches through Kingdom-oriented, digital applications.
  • Increasing opportunities for churches to engage in digital initiatives through the removal of obstacles related to cost and human resources.
  • Discovering and maximizing individual talent and organizational partnerships outside the walls of the Church.
  • Broadening the digital footprint of the Church by facilitating the ongoing creation of adaptable digital resources and tools.

The two primary components of the Beyond Digital initiative are the Beyond Digital Leadership Community and the Leadership Network Hackathons.  The Beyond Digital Leadership Community is a two-year, peer-centered learning community that brings together innovative church leaders who place a high strategic value on digital tools, tactics, and spaces for accomplishing their church’s mission.  These are churches that have “gone digital” to a high degree, but also recognize that having an app or an internet campus isn’t the extent of their digital reach.  The result of the Beyond Digital Leadership Community will be the deployment of the most innovative digital tools of our time for the accomplishment of the timeless mission of the Church.    Applications are now being accepted for the group that launches April 28-30.

Code for the Kingdom, Leadership Network’s Hackathons, will involve a series of creative contests designed to help churches engage and release the information technology innovation of the general public, without constraints of geographies, church membership, and cultures, to produce solutions that will advance the Kingdom.  Code for the Kingdom hackathons will take place in metropolitan areas where there are significant technical talent pools, universities, and high-tech employers, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Austin, New York City, Raleigh, Seattle, and Los Angeles.  For 2013, we will host a late spring or early summer event in the Bay Area, as well as a fall event in Austin, TX.

While each component will serve its own primary objective, there will be areas of intentional overlap to accomplish the goals of the overall initiative, accelerating the development and deployment of new tools for the Church.

Why Is This Important?
As I mentioned previously, we’re seeing a rapid increase in the adoption of a digital lifestyle throughout the world.  One does not have to look long or far to see evidence of this all around us.  In fact, most of us have more advanced technology in our pockets or purses than entire companies had just 20 years ago.  Consider these trends and statistics:

  • Increase in Internet Use.  People continue to spend an increasing amount of time on the internet.  According to a recent report released by Nielson, time spent on PC’s and smartphones was up 21% from 2011 to 2012.  Time spent on apps more than doubled during this time as more people are purchasing smartphones and an increasing number of apps are being developed.  According to January article by Mashable, Africa saw the greatest increase in internet users over the past decade (nearly 3000%), while Asia boasts the most internet users (1.07 billion – that’s over ¼ billion more people than are currently living in all of Europe).  Last year, Americans spent just over 1 day per week (26 hours) on the internet.  And on it goes.  How can the church take advantage of the overall increase in internet use?
  • Social Media Adoption.  According to the same Nielson report, people continue to spend more time on social media networks than any other category of site – 20% of their time on PC’s and 30% of their time on mobile devices.  A hasai infographic reveals that, every 60 seconds, social media users view 2 million YouTube videos, send 700K Facebook messages and 175K tweets, and conduct more than 7,600 searches on LinkedIn.  With each rising social media platform seeing faster adoption rates than its predecessors, who knows where social media engagement will take us in the years to come.
  • The Mobile Revolution.  According to Tim Kelly, Lead ITC Policy Specialist at the World Bank, “The mobile revolution is right at the start of its growth curve: mobile devices are becoming cheaper and more powerful while networks are doubling in bandwidth roughly every 18 months and expanding into rural areas.”  Because of the great potential mobile technologies bring to all citizens of the globe, many world governments are encouraging ongoing mobile development, particularly in third world regions, through the establishment of mobile labs (mLabs) and mobile hubs (mHubs).  What could this mean for the church, both locally and globally?

Historically, churches have been late adopters or ‘laggards’ when it comes to embracing and investing in digital strategies.  Even the most tech savvy churches among us manage to merely scratch the surface of what is available in the marketplace.  As the emerging generation of ‘digital natives’ ages and grows, churches cannot afford to remain behind the curve if they expect to effectively engage and impact the next wave of young adults for Christ.  The decisions churches make today regarding the use of digital strategies and tools will have a profound Kingdom impact, positive or negative, in the months and years to come.

How Can My Church Get Involved?
There are two ways your church can get involved in the Beyond Digital Initiative:

  1. Participate in a short survey.  We want to know how churches are already leveraging technology to reach, equip, and release people for the Kingdom.  By completing this 5-minute survey, you are helping us expand our vision of the current reality for churches engaged in the digital space.  We will share data from this survey in the weeks ahead.
  2. Consider getting involved in the Beyond Digital Leadership Community.  We will be selecting 12 forward-thinking churches to be a part of our first Beyond Digital Leadership Community.  You can learn more about this group at the Beyond Digital website.  If you are interested in having a conversation with us about this unique opportunity, complete our Contact Form and we will be in touch.

What Do You Think?
What role will the use of technology play in the future of the Church?  How will the digital lifestyles of people impact the Church’s ability to fulfill its mission?  What innovative uses of technology do you see in the Church today?  Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

Part 2: Opportunities and Obstacles in Technology for Churches

Part 3: How Is Technology Being Used for Human Impact?

Part 4: There Is Tension Withing the Marriage of Tech and Ministry 

Beyond Digital Survey Results | Top Tech Tools for Ministry

Code for the Kingdom Hackathon Series Overview (Coming Soon!)


Nielson Social Media Report:
Mashable Article:
Hasai Infographic: