Communications

Digital Parish: Faith formation in digital contexts

"I'm being called to minister in a digital space, but seminary didn't train me for this." Some seminaries and divinity schools have heard the need and are responding. Dr. Emily Peck-McClain will be teaching classes on digital ministry for Wesley Seminary. She joins Pastoring in the Digital Parish to reveal how her classes might help train digital ministers in a challenging area: faith formation.

The Episode

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Show Notes 

Wesley Seminary in Washington DC is working on a Doctor of Ministry in Digital Ministry. You can check out the course load and some details. 

If you're a young church leader looking to build bridges with other young adults, then the Wesley Design Fellows cohort may interest you.

Dr. Peck-McClain mentioned a church in Alexandria, Virginia, who was executing a nice design of digital faith formation. That congregation is Alfred Street Baptist Church.

Emily Peck-McClain:

The context is different. So you speak to it differently. The way that Jesus taught differently to different people in different places and used different parables with different people. And

Ryan Dunn:

We're talking with Dr. Emily Peck McClain, our adjunct professor for this session of Pastoring in the Digital Parish. My name is Ryan Dunn, I'm the producer and host a of pastoring in the digital parish. And when this podcast started, it was a response to a very real need that we heard pastors saying I'm being called or even pushed to do ministry in digital space. But I didn't learn about that stuff in seminary. Well guess what? Seminaries and divinity schools heard that at call as well, and several have responded with courses and even degrees in digital ministry.

New Speaker:

Dr. Peck-McClain Is a former professor of mine who is now teaching one of those courses as part of a doctor of digital ministry program. I can thank Dr. Peck-Mcclain for teaching me all about pastoral care during my days at Duke Divinity School. And when I saw that she was now offering a class about faith formation in digital context, I was super interested in hearing about some of the models and practices, the course covers. So Emily was willing to pull back the curtains on the class and reveal quite a bit a of what they'll teach at a seminary level. And this topic is super important because I think that when it comes down to it, the one area of digital ministry, where many of us feel challenged is how we engage in faith, formation and discipleship. So let's hear about that with Reverend Doctor Emily Peck-McClain

Ryan Dunn:

Reverend Dr. Emily Peck-McClain teaches in Christian formation and works as a theological educator for the Wesley innovation hub, which is part of the Lilly endowment initiative for young adult ministry. She is a United Methodist elder from New York and her ministry background is concentrated on ministry with young people in urban ministry. And right now she's teaching a class at Wesley theological seminary on faith formation in digital context, which is really what led to our conversation. So Emily let's start with a macro view of that class, cuz it sounds really exciting to me. What problem or problems is that class really trying to address?

Emily Peck-McClain:

Well, we first have to put this in future tense because the, the class isn't actually being taught until the fall. So okay. Right now we're in the prep stages, which means I'm, I'm, co-teaching it with a colleague at Wesley. So right now the class looks like a bunch of legal pad paper with really and ideas that we've sketched out and topics that we wanna cover and things like that. And we're in the, the dreaming stages. So we don't have like a syllabus set yet, which is kind of fun because this is the dreaming, the creativity, the way that we can like imagine how the pieces are gonna fall together and all of that. But I would say the problem that we're trying to address is, or, or the question is what are the best ways to engage people in faith formation in this digital space, which, you know, we, we like to sort of parse out our lives.

Emily Peck-McClain:

We think about like our home space and our church space. And several years back there was the big talk about like the third space and it was Starbucks or a coffee shop or whatever your neighborhood bar, which was the third space. And, and we kind of forget that the digital space is part of all of this and that we really can't separate all spaces. Like we move in between them, we're at home and we're posting, you know, we're at home and we're thinking about work problems, we're at church and we're thinking about home problems. So even though we might think about all of these different spheres as separate and different, they're really not, they're connected. And so if we're forgetting to consider how we form people in the digital spaces of our lives, then we're leaving off this whole segment of how we live and present ourselves, how we connect for dating, how we connect for work like LinkedIn and, you know, Tinder or whatever. Like you, you can't just say like, you can be a Christian at home or you can be a Christian at church or at work without saying, what about your digital presence and how much time we spend in those spaces means that we need to take it seriously. Yeah.

Ryan Dunn:

Or the investment that we put into relationships in those spaces. I think that's key as well.

Emily Peck-McClain:

Yeah. I saw meme the other day that was like, you know, me in 1996, never make friends with people online me and in 2022, all my friends are literally online.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Yeah. I especially as we imagine, like the last two years, what, what our relationships have looked like, had we not been carrying on so much with people through a digital space? So so in recognizing that, and as you're think about some of the notes that you have jotted down on that legal pad, what are some of the, I guess the dreams that you have for the class? Like what might be some of the things that really have you excited about bringing to light in front of students?

Emily Peck-McClain:

I mean, I guess this goes to me as a teacher, right? I'm, I'm, I'm a very passionate, excited person. I love engaging with people and engaging with ideas as someone who has been in ministry in the local church and, and, you know, committed as a, a tender. I actually have two churches that I attend regularly now. So I, you know, I, I love the church and I think that we have so much possibility and so much vocational call to respond to and, and so much to offer the world and that if we can listen to the world, then the world can teach us so much. So I bring all of this, you know, excitement and passion. And my real hope in any class that I teach is that I can sort of awaken passion in my students. And that's easier in a course like this, where I know people really want to be there right than in a course that like people have to take to get their degree.

Emily Peck-McClain:

And they might not really want to, but a Dmin, I love Dmin students. They are here because want to be, because they've been in ministry in their contexts, they have questions that are live and pertinent and right in front of their faces. And they want to dive in. So in D men classes, it's almost more exciting because they already have their questions and their concerns from their ministry sites. And a lot of master students do too. But all the Dmin students do, they they're active in ministries right now and they know what they need to be able to fulfill their vocation in that specific place. And so sometimes that, that passion and excitement that they have is just below the surface. And so being able to tap into that and really wrestle with their questions, and it's always my favorite thing to start with what the students are wrestling with. So I want students to show up in this class and to say, I've been trying to do this and it's not working, or I heard this worked somewhere, but it doesn't work here. Or I have no idea what I'm doing, but I know that something has to be done and I'm here to like learn and to share ideas and to hear from other people that classroom community of, of, of excitement and real live questions is my favorite part

Ryan Dunn:

In thinking about that then a lot of the problems that, well, at least the problem that I anticipate that I experience in my, my own church context is trying to translate in person practices into digital base. And, and you've warned that that digital context, they, they affect us. They change us even. So if we're just trying to translate in person practice into digital space, what are some of the things that we're missing out on?

Emily Peck-McClain:

I, I almost wanna just say everything.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay.

Emily Peck-McClain:

Right. Like it depends on the, on the person's learning style. Mm. In actuality, right. If somebody learns really well from listening to a lecture, then they can go on YouTube and they can listen to amazing lectures. And, and that will form them. Some people, myself included, that's just not how my brain works. And there's a lot of, you know, pedagogical research out there that says that people learn differently and a lot of people need their experiences to be taken seriously first. Right. No person is a length slate. And so to think about formation as something like, well, we teach this Sunday school in person. And so we'll just kind of pipe it out to the world, just like this doesn't respect that, that, that might not be engaging, that that might not be hitting people where they are, that it might not be taking seriously the context in which the formation is happening.

Emily Peck-McClain:

So the digital context is different than your Sunday school classroom. And so to try, you know, there's, this, there's the is great. There's a Saint, and I don't remember the name of the Saint because I'm not Catholic. And so I don't think in terms of saints, but, but you, there, it's a picture of a Saint, like holding a cathedral, like holding a church and, and you can't just, you know, pick up one context and put it somewhere else and expect it to work. And so we have to, to learn the context and respect the context and speak differently. And we know this, right? Like we speak differently at church than we do at home. We speak differently at work than we do at home. We speak your, your words, change your body language changes. And so we can take all of that into account when we're thinking about the digital context as well.

Emily Peck-McClain:

It is a different space. And so we need to like learn its contours and, and, and translate. We need to speak in that language, not in another language. You know, as a person who's been teaching in higher education for two years, I hear students like, you know, I can hear them rolling their eyes. As they're reading the syllabus that says they have to post on their discussion board and then respond to two peers. And they're like, not again. And it, and for some reason, right, the Blackboard or the Sakai or the Moodle or whatever, like that, just discussion board is not the same as your Reddit thread or your Facebook thread or your comments on Instagram. It's different. And that's, that's a digital learning management system, right? Like that you think that those two digital contexts would at least translate, but they don't. So you speak differently and you act differently in different places is, and that's not like saying that you have a scattered self or you don't have a coherent sense of who you are, or you're being fake in one place.

Emily Peck-McClain:

And not in another, although we can talk about that too. Yeah. when it comes to the online presence, but, but we can't just say that if, if it works in this context, it's gonna work in this other context. It's about getting to know the different text, the same as you would, if you're coming into ministry in a brand new church to get to know the context, and you do things a little bit differently, everywhere that you pastor and no matter, you know, you're the same pastor, but the context is different. So you speak to it differently, the way that Jesus taught differently to different people in different places and used different parables with different people. And it's, it's just another context.

Ryan Dunn:

Mm. All right. So recognizing that context matters in that we might represent ourselves differently in different contexts. Are we inclined to kind of put up a false front when we're speaking in a, a digital context? You, you alluded to that a little bit, maybe

Emily Peck-McClain:

Yes, I did. And the, you know, this I'm somebody who has been interested in youth ministry for all of my faith life. I found my own Christian faith through youth ministry. And my first job in a church was as a youth director and youth ministry is near and dear to my heart. I direct I co-direct the children in youth ministry and advocacy certificate at Wesley. Like I love youth love, young adult ministry, love children's ministry. So I'm always thinking about young people and there's been research, and this has come out. This was even in congressional hearings, that the way that people present online and the algorithms can be damaging to people because people are putting up front in some ways. This is isn't actually that dissimilar to a church where people are putting on their best clothes and coming on a Sunday morning. And we're very careful about who we pray for and how we pray for and what prayers we don't speak out loud because we're afraid of how we'll be judged and what, what concerns that we will never speak out allowed to anyone at the church, because we don't want them to know that this is something that we're wrestling with because we have this false idea that to be in a church means we have to already have it together.

Emily Peck-McClain:

We have to be fully formed. Only kids are allowed to still be in the process of faith formation. There's always more kids in a Sunday school roster than in the adult Sunday school, right? Cuz we have this idea that you're learning how to be a Christian when you're young and then you're done at 18 or whatever which is false. The, the life of faith formation and, and, and transformation through the spirit is lifelong. Thank God because otherwise we'd be so bored. You know, the spirit is always moving and shaking us up and doing new things and our heart in new directions and convicting us of ways that we've been malformed and helping to shape us to be closer and closer to who God wants us to be. And this is a lifelong process. So in some ways that digital imagery, isn't all that different than how people try to show up in church and pretend that they've got it together.

Emily Peck-McClain:

And I think it is similarly damaging. And we've seen that the reports of this, especially for young people, for teenagers who look at their friends threads and see if this person is always together and people's, you know, self-esteem is, is really kind of hinges on the number of likes that they get or the number of share that they get. And there's this anxiety about not being always connected and not being always you seen in the light that you want to be seen in. And actually I think this is a space where we can form people. That's the way that like the digital context is forming us. And when I think about Christian faith formation and digital context, I wonder how we can help to shape the space instead, or also it's never gonna be instead, it's a, it's a give and a take, right?

Emily Peck-McClain:

But how can we help our people show up online as they are blemishes included, bad haircuts included hard days included all of those prayers that we don't want to speak out loud. What happens when we do, I have seen incredibly brave pastors post things on their Facebook timeline that are just heart shattering. And instead of being like, wow, they shouldn't be a pastor. I think, wow, they are an incredible pastor to be able to say, Hey, life is hard for me too. And I'm in this struggle too. And I know that in the midst of this deep dark despair of whatever situ it is, God is with me and I can reach out to my community and tell them that and tell them I need that reminder. And that there's so much strength in that. But we don't see that enough. And those people who show it, I think are the people who are really changing conversations in these digital contexts.

Emily Peck-McClain:

And so I hope that we can help form people through our communities to, to be similar, you know, which is not a substitute for therapy, please go to therapy, right. And also be real, be me be more real online find spaces where you can do that. And there are, you know, more private places where you can do that with just feel folks who are connected to your church community too, that are gonna be safer. You know, if you can't pray this out loud in your congregation on Sunday morning, maybe you can pray it out loud in a digital space where the people from your congregation are gathered, but you've just got a little bit more distance between you and the people. And it enable, like, let's see that as a space that that distance can make it safer.

Ryan Dunn:

Have you noticed, so besides maybe sharing some of our struggles, are there some ways in a kind of a, a group context in which we can, as church leaders start to break down the walls or the barriers of the false front and digital space,

Emily Peck-McClain:

You mean by where leaders can connect with each other

Ryan Dunn:

More or less connect with their, their constituents, for lack of a better word or their congregation or the class,

Emily Peck-McClain:

Their, their faith communities broadly speaking. Yes.

Ryan Dunn:

Better way of putting it. Yep.

Emily Peck-McClain:

Yeah. Yeah. I've, I've been working consulting with a church in Alexandria, Virginia who has been over a hauling their Sunday school. They looked at the curriculum that they'd been using and it's a denominational curriculum. And they said, you know, this just doesn't, it doesn't really speak to the specificity of our community. And as a Christian educator, like my heart grew three sizes that day, because I was like, yes, like there's wonderful curriculum out there. And also it's never gonna speak to the specificity of each location, right? So I'm always telling my students, you get the curriculum that works for you, and then you have to integrate it. You have to process it. You have to put it into communication with your context and your people and what, you know, you know, folks struggling with any curriculum that came out in 2019 that you thought was gonna work for 2020.

Emily Peck-McClain:

Like it took you six weeks into 2020 to realize that like you needed to maybe bring in some other issues, not that you throw the curriculum out, but you put that into conversation and you put that into conversation and take it really seriously. And so when it comes to this church, what I saw them do was come together. I've never seen a church work like this. It blew my mind. They got youth together. They got adults together. They got Sunday school teachers, they got pastoral staff, they got deacons, they got everybody on board. They have people who are professional editors. They have people who, who know their church's theology really well. And they decided they were gonna write their own curriculum. Yeah. And it became an online curriculum because this was happening in 20 20, 20, 21. And now they have people who are engaged in these Sunday school classes, all over the world, all over the country, all over the world.

Emily Peck-McClain:

These are people who are never gonna come to their actual physical church location, but involving the entire community and writing this Sunday school curriculum enabled them to create this online space that really deeply matters to people of all ages, both within that local church community. And then as I said, from around the world who are, who are now participating and feel fully a part of this community and they're learning together and they're connecting their own life stories with the stories of their congregation. This is a historic black congregation that was begun by people who were enslaved by George Washington. Like this congregation has incredibly deep roots and deep history. And they have people overseas who are now connected to the history of this particular church and it's informing who they are and how they live in the world on their screen and off. So I think it takes a lot of work and the, but, but I've seen it happen. And, and it was, it was just stunning to see this happen. So yes, I think those spaces can be cultivated that become, you know, a lifeline, a community, a place to, to learn about and practice your faith, to become more the person who you feel called to be through those in those contexts.

Ryan Dunn:

So that church had to write their own curriculum. Have you seen any curriculum available at large? That's kind of geared for faith formation and digital context?

Emily Peck-McClain:

You know, I haven't looked to be perfectly honest. You, that's not I mean, that would be an, a great course to teach a course on curriculum and, and look at all of the different kind of curriculum that's out there. We do, I do a little bit of that with one of my Christian ed courses, but you can, you, you know, by my bio you here, I have a couple different jobs. So I don't get to teach all the classes that I want because there are not enough hours in the day. But no, I've not done a deep dive into curriculum to see what's out there.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah, this might be your chance to prognosticate a little bit. So if you were able to teach this course on, on curriculum development for digital space in, in offering some, some critique in for our, our listeners out there who may be interested in, I don't know, seizing the opportunity in developing some curriculum what are some things they might need to be aware of?

Emily Peck-McClain:

I think we need to, I think we need to think about digital context separate from the tool that digital context offers us. I don't, I don't think that it's fair to talk about the digital context as a tool. I think that's too limiting. I think we, to, to think about it broadly and to help other folk to think about it broadly, to take it seriously. And I know that like, I mean, in some ways the metaverse is this thing, right, that everybody's talking about. And, and, and I think that goes too far because that makes it sound like it's like separate from the universe and maybe even bigger than the universe and like let's calm down. But, but I think helping people to learn how to read their context from saying, this is a tool we can use is helpful. So if we're cultivating our the members of our faith community, or those who connect with us in some way, then we want to get to know them and we want to connect with them and help them to that's what this is all about, right?

Emily Peck-McClain:

Faith formation. It is about knowing who you are and knowing who God wants you to be and learning how to live that out. And you live that out in all kinds of different ways, but you want it to be faithful. You want it to be responsible. You want it to be faith is not a not only about what you believe, it's about how you live. So when I think of about any kind of digital faith, formative curriculum, I think about shaping people who can respond to what God is doing in the living of their lives. And that includes in their digital contexts. So how am I showing up all the time I'm online and how can I do that in a way that shows who I am and expresses my faith is responsible, is attentive to the spirit. And when I say that, I mean, we need to be attentive, not only to what the spirit is doing in our lives, but where the spirit is active in our contexts. So where is the spirit popping up in our digital context? How can we identify it? Because God, isn't something that we possess and hold and then share God is, and always trying to reach us. So when I'm know, scrolling through TikTok, how, where is the spirit in TikTok trying to, to shape me and where is not the spirit trying to shape

Ryan Dunn:

Me.

Emily Peck-McClain:

Right. Cause that's there too. And so helping people to identify, like, how do you know when the Spirit's trying to reach you? How do you see that in a digital context? Because in church we're so used to like, well, the Spirit's trying to reach us through the music that we hear through the piece of Christ that we pass through, the person who's preaching through the person who's reading scripture through the person who's teaching in the Sunday school class. Like we have these identifiable positions in places and, and still feels very new to us online, but you know, it's an algorithm. So what videos you view on TikTok has to do with what videos you view on TikTok. So where is the spirit and where is the thing that, you know, isn't the spirit and might be trying to form you in a way that isn't going to help you be your authentic Christian faithful self and cultivate your timelines, cultivate your TikTok, cultivate your Instagram so that you can be growing, not just in what you're putting out there, but in what you're receiving.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Huh. Yeah. And that's an important note because it, I guess the more, the thinking specifically about TikTok, the, the more videos we view on a particular topic, as you've noted, the more videos we're gonna see on a particular topic. I, I had never thought about kind of purposefully cultivating a timeline in a way that it kind of curates a, a spiritual growth habit. Yeah.

Emily Peck-McClain:

Yeah. I'd love have to teach people how to do that. I think, I think we can do that through our, you know, digital ministries. We can do that through thinking about formation in that, in that context,

Ryan Dunn:

Going back to the class that you have coming up, are, are there other skills that you hope to impart upon digital ministers?

Emily Peck-McClain:

I mean, I think there are, when it comes to teaching a class like this, we, we do want to impart, you know, particular tools if folks are coming in there and they're like, listen, we've been doing this digital ministry thing for a couple years, but we really don't know what we're doing. We really like to offer this space to think about it constructively and fully and slowly. And I think that's something that a, a course helps you to do in a way that like the week to week ministry, doesn't, it's just hard to plan things out and be intentional. My goal in all of my courses is for people to come away with it, with something that they can use immediately in their ministries. So I like to have people come away with a plan, this knowing my context, knowing this theoretical stuff about digital contexts, about faith formation, about faith formation in different contexts. How can I put this together to make my ministry stronger right now? So I want them to be able to go through the course and then have something that they can work with afterwards. I'm and maybe that's because I'm a practical theologian. I want people to be able to use something. I don't want an assignment to exist to be an assignment. I want it to exist because you're called to ministry. And I wanna help you do the ministry that God is calling you to do more effectively.

Ryan Dunn:

Have you seen some good case studies where people are using digital context for faith formation in creative ways or meaningful ways?

Emily Peck-McClain:

Well, this church that I mentioned in Alexandria, one of my favorite things that they're doing is godly play in the digital context, which I don't think anybody would've thought could happen. Right. And I mean, I think, I mean, I'll, I'll put myself in this camp either. It was, I think 20, 20 16, 20 17 might have even been 20 15, 20 16 school year. Anyway, back long ago, I was asked to teach a hybrid online in person course in faith formation for first year master of divinity students. And I'm in Agram eight. So I was like, all right, this is a challenge. I can do anything. I'll do this challenge too. But I totally didn't think that I could. And I remember at the end of the year, looking at what my students had, it was, it was a two semester course. And looking at the end of the year, how my students had grown, how they had learned how to tell their stories differently, how they had learned to see their own story within God's story and, and connect dots in a new way, the, the new ways that they were thinking about how to practice their faith.

Emily Peck-McClain:

I remember looking at my colleague and saying, you know, I think this actually worked. And he said, you know, I guess we can't say you have to be in person for spiritual formation anymore. Mm. And I was like, yeah, I think we have to, to change that. I think we have to realize that it can happen anywhere. And you know, we're doing LEC Divina online. Didn't didn't know that that could happen. But it can, it does like this, it's not the spirit who limits, right. It's us who limit. We think we can't do this. The spirit has never said that. And so, so at that point I realized that like, there's more in these contexts than we think we can do more here than we think we've, we've invited the spirit out of a space where the spirit already is. We've chosen not to see.

Emily Peck-McClain:

So this godly play online, I think is like that where I never thought you could do God, I've seen godly play happen in person. And it's so scripted and beautiful and careful and intent. And how do you do that through a computer screen with children? Like I was home for a full year with children. They don't learn online real well. You know, it's, it's hard. It's really hard. I've got stories, right? My preschool are trying to do preschool. It was hard. I know, I know for, for some kids, it was great. I'm happy for those kids and their families for my kids. It was not. Yeah. So I'm just picturing my first grader under the dining room table, trying to pay attention to like zoom while, you know, and part of it is that, of course her parents had to be working at the same time, but

Emily Peck-McClain:

At any rate, when I think about the godly place space and the classroom and how it happens, it's so beautiful and careful, and I never thought that that could happen online and it can, and it's just as careful and just as intentional. And it's just as beautiful and kids are being formed to, to involve themselves in the scriptural story and feel connected to it or disconnected to it and have these big thoughts in these little brains, just like they do in person it's different. And one of the benefits of it, I think is that it often involves parents overhearing in a way that they never get to in the in-person godly play and godly play is not something that needs to be limited to children and doing it in the digital space, almost allows for parents to overhear and, and have the benefit of it in a way that isn't possible in person. So when I say it's different, right? It's not, let's take what we do in person and do it, try to try to replicate it and do it exactly the same, or like pipe it from here to there. It says we're in a different space. And so things are gonna be a little bit different. Things are also gonna be a little bit the same. And also maybe there's a benefit that wasn't there before. Yeah. And having parents get to overhear this conversation is a huge benefit. So I think that was really beautiful.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah, no doubt. Well, we both have backgrounds in youth ministry. And one of the things that you a often here in youth ministry is that it, it can be separated out from the church body, right. That, and when we start talking age specific ministry that we start talking about silos and, and everybody is kind of partitioned out to their own space that do you think that digital ministry then really has an opportunity for breaking down some of those silos?

Emily Peck-McClain:

You know, I do. I think, I think that's a really important potential benefit of it. I think especially, you know, the, the United Methodist church is at its poor a, a church that thinks about evangelism. This is where this like charismatic kind of movement. We've always thought that like, you need to get out there with your faith and it can change the world and it can change people's hearts as it's changing your own heart. And at the same time, when we separate things out by age a church, we make it really, really difficult for new people to communities to find their place. I feel very lucky that I found the church young enough that it wasn't weird. I didn't know anything, you know, I came in and I, I mean, maybe it's also my personal right. I came in and I was like, okay, what's all this about.

Emily Peck-McClain:

I'm gonna ask you a lot of questions at, but ever. This is why I became a Methodist because when I showed up at the Methodist church, people were like, Ooh, it's really interesting that you have these questions. Let's talk about it more instead of being like, you should already know the answer and let me give you the canned one and with a side of judgment. But we make it really hard for people to come into a church community because we expect, well, if you're coming in and you're 40, then this is what you already know because you've been in the church since you were little. And, and that's just not the case. And that's not the case in my classrooms. You know, when I walk into a, and I remember this because I was teaching about prayer and this might have been my maybe always my second year at Wesley.

Emily Peck-McClain:

And I said something like, you know, let's just take a moment. And remember the first prayer that we learned as a child and someone in my class bless her heart, like for real raise her hand and was like, you know what? I didn't learn any prayers as child. And I was like, you know what, first prayers that I learned were Hebrew. And I've just made this assumption of the class that wouldn't even fit with myself. That like you learned Christian prayers as a child, and we can continue our conversation from here. So thusly, humbled, I have taken that into every other time that I've taught that particular class. And, you know, I don't say that anymore. I say, let's think about the first prayer that you learned whenever it was, it could have been last week. We have people who choose to go to seminary who have just become Christians and then come to seminary.

Emily Peck-McClain:

And so we have to remember that it's the same when people aren't gay aging with our faith communities, doesn't matter what age you are. You may not know anything, or you may know a bunch of stuff in your head because you were a faithful, you know, or in a family who sent you to Sunday school, every single Sunday for your whole life. But nothing, you know, the, the journey from the head to the heart is said to be the longest journey. So, you know, a lot of stuff, but you don't know a lot of stuff. So when we think about the digital context, especially as we think about it as accessible, I love that about the digital space that all you need is an internet connection. And there's so much there. Now there's a lot of crap out there too, But again, we can decide what we put out.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah.

Emily Peck-McClain:

And we can make things accessible. And it's wonderful because you can come in not knowing anything. And it doesn't feel like you already should, because only kids are in Sunday school learning the remedial stuff.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah, for sure. I, I, I heard this call that, okay, we need to kind of drown up the, the crap in digital space. Like we're, we're being called to, to flood it with with something a little more uplifting in well,

Emily Peck-McClain:

Or for at least stop sharing the crap.

Ryan Dunn:

Hmm. Yeah. You

Emily Peck-McClain:

Know, we do that and, and maybe we're sharing it because it's crap. And we're like, this is so awful. Look at that.

Ryan Dunn:

Right. Can you believe this?

Emily Peck-McClain:

Don't look at this, don't share it, share something different.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Back to that cultivation idea. Well well, Reverend doctor pet McLean, thank you so much for, for spending this time with us. As you think about the next few months, are there other projects that you're working on that you're excited about?

Emily Peck-McClain:

Oh, I'm always working on projects. You kinda, you kind of fear speaking them into his space because you don't know if they're gonna come to fruition. Yeah. but I can tell you that I've just written an article and hopefully it will be accepted for publication, you know, the academic world you don't ever really know, but I've just sent out an article that I wrote with one of my student researchers. Who's a young adult at Wesley that I'm really excited about talking about empathy and how we can cultivate, how, how we have to cultivate empathy with young adults, if we're going to be in ministry with them, the importance of that, and the challenge of that and the gift that empathy is something that we can cultivate that it's not something that's inherent that it's changeable and that it can really have happen through deep listening.

Emily Peck-McClain:

Hmm. So I'm excited about that. Working on a couple other things that are youth ministry related that again, I don't wanna speak out yet, but sure. Exciting stuff there. And the, you know, in terms of, of work, other than classes that we've already talked about, we're starting the Wesley design fellows program, which is for young adults. And we're putting together a cohort of young adults. Half the cohort will be seminars and half will be young adults who are not seminars and are, have applied from all over the country to come and be a part of this cohort. And they'll be learning how to do innovative ministry with young adults. And also we're sort of equipping them and teaching them so that they can go then be consultants and go work and teach other people how to do innovative ministry with young adults after they're done with their year of a fellow with a so that's really exciting. And I can definitely speak that out, cuz it's happening. And we're reviewing applications right now for our first cohort. And I'm just like over the moon, excited about the people who I get to work with with that.

Ryan Dunn:

All right. Yeah. Sounds fun and innovative. We love that here. So well thank you for offering that to us. And for spending this time with us, you learn more about the doctor of ministry in digital ministry at wesleyseminary.edu, Emily Peck-McClain has co-written several books, including "Speaking Truth: Women, Raising Their Voices in Prayer. And "We Pray with Her: Encouragement for all women who lead." You can pick up those pretty much wherever you buy your digital books.

New Speaker:

Pastoring in the Digital Parish is a resource from ResourceUMC.org. The online destination for leaders throughout the United Methodist Church. We're gonna have a new session next week, but in the meantime, if you want to explore more on digital spiritual formation, check out the session on Lent Madness and spiritual formation or check out the session called "Understanding Our Online Behavior: with Dr. Kelly Price. This has been fun. My name is Ryan Dunn. If you have a question or suggestion for the podcast, send me an email at [email protected] Thank you. And I'll talk with you soon. Peace.

 

Peace

 

 

 

On this episode

Rev. Dr. Emily Peck-McClain

Rev. Dr. Emily A. Peck-McClain teaches in Christian Formation and works as the theological educator for the Wesley Innovation Hub, part of a Lilly Endowment Initiative for young adult ministry. She is a United Methodist elder from the New York Annual Conference. Her ministry background is concentrated on ministry with young people and urban ministry. She is teaching a class at Wesley Theological Seminary on Faith Formation in Digital Contexts.

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.