Mobile Ministry: Definition, Contexts, and State of the Body

Antoine RJ Wright

Founder/Primary Voice, Mobile Ministry Magazine

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Abstract: This is a high-level, yet contextual explanation regarding mobile ministry; starting first with its observed definition, the contexts which have led to this definition, and the overall state of spiritual and technological achievements that have occurred in this space. This presentation is designed as an overview to the entirety of mobile ministry applications, yet contains technical, business, and statistical information for several types of listeners.

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Summary of MMM

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Quick Summary of MMM: Mobile Ministry Magazine (MMM) was started in the Fall of 2004 as a response to joblessness, and a heart to do more with my growing knowledge of mobile technology beyond the reviews and editorials that I was writing for BarganPDA (later Brighthand). The first issue was produced for a small audience of 50 persons who agreed to test out the magazine's delivery and format. However, none of the 50 persons read it, nor gave feedback. The project was shelved untli the Spring of April 2005 when in response to repentence, MMM was given a dual home as a downloadable magazine and a (near-daily) website. The magazine would soon morph into a blog-only offering, and successive site changes and downloadable issues later, would become featured around the web for its notable difference in how it presented mobile technology. For a long time, it was one of a few sites that would even broach the topic of faith and technology in a manner which was a bit more enjoyable than traditional publications. Several posts and topics gained attention, including attention from the BBC, Dallas Morning News, National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) and more. MMM's brand has remained a pecular one, even with much of the world now paying more attention to mobile. And indeed, the early question of "what is happening with the church and mobile" is being addressed by several entities. Currently, MMM provides an alternate perspective on matters of mobile/social web technology and faith through its team of writers, and maintains resource listings of software, services, and research articles which point to existing contributions which further the understanding of mobile as a ministry tool. MMM has also expanded ot offer training, speaking, and consulting services to those wishing to engage the practice of mobile ministry, in whatsoever capacity they are looking to be involved.

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Where is Mobile Now

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Definition of Mobile Ministry

The defintion that we are using here for mobile ministry is curated from several sources/leanings. First, the idea of skillful use being made clear in Proverbs 4:7 - wisdom in using mobile isn't the providence though of Christians, it should be the hallmark of all people using this technology or engaging in its benefits.

Secondly, in calling it an application of computer technology, we are divorcing the behavior of mobile from other mobile-like behaviors such as listening to music via a walkman, or even limiting the tool to that of a mobile phone. As stated in our formal article on this defintiion, mobile inlcudes any kind of computing technology which is not bound to a specific space, and has usage models which fit within these 8 recorded unique characteristics.

Because we use the appended term ministry we are also filtering the use and application of mobile to faith practices. Certainly, there is mobile beyond faith, however this definition is deliberate to describe mobile technology in this context only.

We use the phrase forward the proclamation of the key ideals and history of the faith as any use of mobile in/for minsitry has to contain the scent/fingerprint of profitably carrying forward the tradition of fatih, while also growing the understand of living within the concepts and ideas that were originally set out when the Christian faith was understood to be codified.

Lastly, we use the phrase applied contexts because we understand that mobile and minsitry are bound and loosed within specific environments - and no two appliations might give the same result because of the characteristics of mobile. That also means that mobile ministry is more than a theoretical exercise, for at some point all faith (theory) must be lived out (proven) and vetted for justification as profitable to the faith, and to all humanity.

Specific Focuses of Mobile Ministry

QR Code to MMM's 2011 Mobile Lens Report (PDF)

These items are defined as such:

  • Mobile in Missions/Evangelism: as those efforts which contextualize Gospel messages on local and global cultural scales.
  • Mobile in Media: creating and distributing visual/audio/text stories; or, building and implementing specifications and best practices around mobile multimedia opportunities.
  • Mobile in Discipleship/Education: those activities which facilitate curriculum development, address targeted and special education needs, and explore new styles of learning made possible by mobile technology.
  • Mobile Marketing/Analytics: the produced product; lso include search engine optimization, security, access, local media channel development, and then the use of mobile applications alongside and independent of broadcast channels.
  • Mobile in Moment: the use of connected services and applications and/or SMS/MMS; the implications towards towards social and linear networks starting from a context of personal use and associated theological constraints/precedents.
  • Spiritual Implications: theological constraints/precedents; psychological/cultural effects of mobile vs. other personal/connected technology media elements.

These have been talked about on our site in the following articles:

Some organizations which have explored and worked within these mobile-specific focuses include:

  • Mobile in Missions/Evangelism: Mobile Advance, Mobile Ministry Magazine, Internet Evanglism Day, CyberMissions, Wycliffe Bible Translators
  • Mobile in Media: Distant Shores Media, Kiosk Evangelism, Global Short Film Network, Lifeway, Zondervan
  • Mobile in Discipleship/Education: Missionary Aviation Fellowship (Learning Technologies Division), Campus Crusade for Christ International, OpenScriptures, Biblia Project
  • Mobile Marketing/Analytics: CyberMissions, visionSynergy
  • Mobile in Moment: YouVersion, Logos, Olive Tree, Zondervan, Crossway, The Sword Project, Laridian, CHURCHSMO
  • Spiritual Implications: Don't Eat the Fruit, Mobile Ministry Magazine

The point here though is that while a definition of mobile ministry is helpful, it is how mobile is being applied in minsitry contexts that makes it suitable to be understood as (a) a gift or (b) an opportunity. One of the inabilities of ministries and organizations which have been attempting to address mobile ministry is that their focus had been too wide or not deep enough. They've actually targeted more than one of these areas at a time, and have therefore been left with failed initiatives because their true, or most important note of relevancy, was not easily seen by those looking for mobile ministry. In effect, when people got to the point of wanting to answer, "what happens now at my intersection of faith and mobile technology," they were left with options, but no clear signage as to what made the most sense for them.

What Happens from Here

QR Code to 2010 Mobile Ministry Forum's Executive Summary/Report (Google Doc)

Clearly, there are all kinds of opportunities in ministry with some clarity. And even there's now the ability to discern whether activities are profitable or not because analytics have been mapped to some features. However, the practice of galvanizing a movement that's embraced or empowerd by mobile requires the same kinds of focuses, teamwork, and savy that has marked other media and cultural shifting movements. The items here are noted as possible avenues, and will (in order) give a clearer understanding to praticipants, and a clearer latching on of communities towards efforts - and that's all before marketing has to be done.


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