By Garry M. Spotts, M.Div.
You see them everywhere, smartphones, smart cars, and even smart homes. Virtually everything we use is now “smart.” So how smart is your “Smart Phone?” According to an article published by Samsung, a world leader in mobile and entertainment technology,
Forget the oft-cited statistic that today’s smartphone is more powerful than the mainframe computer NASA used to send astronauts to the moon. Today’s smartphones are faster than the mid-80s Cray-2 Supercomputer, faster than the computer onboard the Orion spaceship that NASA is currently testing to go to Mars and — perhaps most significantly — faster than the laptops most of us are carrying around.
We haven’t just reached a tipping point when it comes to the power in our primary computing devices — it’s already tipped.
The mere fact that the devices we carry around are much smarter than they were five, two or even one year ago begs the question, “Is my church ‘smarter’?” The question is not about the use of technology in the church. It is about the church’s ability to harness the power of human ability, coupled with knowledge and technology to make the environment better at solving problems and increasing the quality of life for the people it serves.
To answer that question, we must first determine what it means to be “Smart.”
“Smart” in this context means
The connectedness of data and information and the ability to process it quickly for the purpose of solving problems. One definition of intelligence is the ability to solve problems. We all have the ability to solve problems, yet our respective intelligence is valued at a higher number based upon the more complex the problems we can solve.
The Smart Church
Intelligence is a measure of problem-solving ability. Therefore a church’s ability to solve more complex problems is the standard of the 21st Century “Smart Church.” Albert Einstein, arguably one of the most intelligent people of the last millennium famously said,
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination
The challenge is that intelligence and imagination require a steady stream of growing knowledge. Churches are deep repositories of information. Every church has access to information about the
economic power, and
educational levels of its members.
The church has access to information about the community it occupies and the communities in which its members live. The information churches possess is the raw material of knowledge, and the knowledge is the seedbed of imagination which may offer the solutions needed to move the church forward.
A Solution-Focused organization, such as a church, is primed to become a “Smart organization.”
Using the information available and organizing it and studying it to form knowledge can offer solutions to challenges faced in real-time. It is important to note that the “Solution-Focused” approach originated as a therapeutic approach to working with patients.
Wally Gingerich, Professor of Social Work at Case Western Reserve University, and a leading researcher into the effectiveness of SFBT says:
“Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a short-term goal-focused therapeutic approach which helps clients change by constructing solutions rather than dwelling on problems. Elements of the desired solution often are already present in the client’s life, and become the basis for ongoing change.” (www.gingerich.net)
The approach has yielded so much success in problem-solving that it has expanded into virtually every quarter of life. Educators, businesses, corporations, hospitals, and social workers actively use a Solution-Focused approach.
The approach can be adopted and adapted to ministry development in the local church, regional, state, and national church organizations to address the persistent problems their constituents face. The challenges faced by the families who populate the local congregation and those who do not and yet live in the church’s shadow are not going away anytime soon.
The time has come for a different approach to leadership and problem solving for the dire reality many churches face. Becoming a Smart Church that uses the knowledge available at its fingertips to solve complex problems is not an option for the church that wants to survive in the present and to thrive in the future.