Participation: invitation or imposition?

So why am I writing my weekly blog post on December 29? For one thing, I should be out jogging off the extra five pounds I put on during the holiday. But for another thing, who in the world is going to sit down and read this post? It is December 29!

This is the bane of the info age, isn’t it? People are pumping out info from all the programs they use and then using their increasingly high-tech analytics to see if anyone is listening. The whole info machine is designed for people who want to participate. But does anyone want to participate?

Avoidance as a survival skill

I am not so sure people have the participation time or interest necessary for all the participatory things being pumped out. If I am any indication, a lot of us are not that interested in being wired up and analyzed all day. (That would make me “apathetic” on the analyst’s chart, I think). I think a lot of us are already on to the game and resist most of what is trying to get us to stop resisting and participate!

Pretty soon, I suppose we will all be required to participate just to get paid. And I don’t mean just do a job and get paid, I mean serve the ends of the product like you LOVE it. For instance, the newest business technique is to get all the corporation’s employees to be boosters online so advertising is organic and culture-creating. For instance, a consultant says: “a highly engaged workforce is also your most potent marketing tool to help build, promote, and evangelize your brand.” Tweet the product, pin it, post it, Instagram it. Capitalism meets social media. You”ll wake up in the morning and type up some cute thing your boss at Halliburton said so people will see the human side of Deepwater Horizon.

When a lot of us get wind of all that requirement our response already is, “Whoever, meet my blank screen. I’m out.” One of my friends says that the major psychological trait of the present generation (unlike the narcissism of the Boomers) is avoidance. Is the main communication skill required these days managing to avoid all that communication?

info overload

Can Jesus hope for participation?

I am especially interested in this because I am a communicator (I am typing this on Dec. 29, after all), and we, as Circle of Hope, have come up with a very participatory kind of church and a map for 2015 that requires a lot of participation which will mean a lot of communicating. Did we just get organized for a generation that is not interested in listening for more than 140 characters? — or, even more, who don’t listen at all, just consume images?

I think we might be that weird.

The corporations are actually going to try to steal our word “evangelism” and apply it to consumer offerings, as if what they produce will save people. So that’s one thing. But the other thing is that everyone with a smartphone (almost 60% of the population and escalating) already has skills in blocking out unwanted material, which is most of what’s coming at them. Yet here we are asking inundated people to believe we are not just branding Jesus and believe they should participate in his mission like the valued people they are.

How do you think that is going to work out?

3 thoughts on “Participation: invitation or imposition?

  1. Rachel Walton said on FB: Hmm…I don’t think a lot of Gen-Xers or Millennials are uninterested in listening or are only interested in consuming (not that you’re saying this). But I do think the onslaught of information is exhausting and difficult to sort through. There are a lot of us that want to be part of something that makes a difference, but are unsure what that “something” is. If I show up for this protest, will anything come of it? Is this a meeting where we all just talk about stuff but don’t decide on anything? Everyone says, “your presence matters,” but does it really in practice?

    It’s hard because we don’t always know what will be effective before we do something and there is certainly value to wading through a mess together. But now that we are more connected to more people at a surface level, we are aware of things happening all over our city, our country, and our world and we get stuck. I actually have a pretty hopeful view of the degree to which many of us care, but I do think we are floundering in where best to place our finite resources of time and energy.

    I struggle with this in CoH, for sure. Since we represent several connected congregations, there is always a lot going on. As a lower-energy introvert-type person, I start to pull away and participate less where I might participate more if there where fewer things. This is not intentional, it just happens. (This is also not a critique of CoH – I know there are a bunch of folks who love this, but I also know there are other folks like me too.)

    I have a love/hate relationship with our emphasis on face-to-face time. On one hand, I agree that it’s super important and the “best way”, but on the other hand, I live in the northwest, and so much that matters takes place 30-45 minutes away, through city traffic no less. Every meeting feels like a big deal. I have been chided for my desire for “convenience” – but my participation seems to require an entire evening or half a day’s worth of time and energy. That’s no small thing. It might be worth it, but it’s not trivial!

    I would love to see more creative ways to connect that acknowledge this sort of thing (because it’s not just me) without making it a cause for shame (see buzzwords: narcissistic, apathetic, consumeristic, etc. that get applied to us 20-40-somethings allllll the time). Cell groups are awesome for this – smaller, more local. Meetings that solve mundane obstacles by including child-care or food are great. G+ Hangouts are also great for smaller meetings and side-stepping geographic or mobility obstacles. Some of this is already happening, of course, I just wanted to emphasize it! (And of course, I have the power to organize some of this too – I don’t mean to sound like it’s all someone else’s responsibility!)

    Anyway, technology is changing our world. We’re in a transitional era. Which is frustrating and exciting, both. I hope we can continue to connect in spite of it and also because of it.

  2. I think as communicators, we need to be learn from the best ones and be distinct. I want to be an alternative to the data pool.

    As a listener, I use my best judgment to discern what is worthy of my time. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I need to prioritize important things. I don’t let the capitalists determine that for me, I discern what God wants. The reason I am reading your post now is because I’ve discerned that what you teach is valuable, but more importantly I love you!

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