Digital Parish: The future of ministry leadership with Jeffrey Mahan

How will our changing relationships with technology affect ministry?
How will our changing relationships with technology affect ministry?

Our culture and our relationship with technology are changing. Jeffrey Mahan points out that these changes have noteworthy implications for the future of ministry and leadership. What will a ministerial job look like in 10 years? What skills should pastors begin to implement and refine?

Dr. Mahan challenges us to think creatively about what a successful, outward-facing ministry will look like in the near future.

The Episode

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Jeffrey Mahan:

So I think, I think it's helpful for pastors to think both about how they're rooted in and committed to the denomination to the institutional church and about how they're going to create their own spaces of serving and of, of finding their voice.

Ryan Dunn:

We're talking with Dr. Jeffrey Mahan in this session of pastoring in the digital parish. My name is Ryan Dunn. You're Proctor for pastoring in the digital parish, which is your resource in community for leading in digital ministry. It's a tough time to be entering into ministry. Part of the challenge is that our denominations are changing for those of us connected to a denomination. Part of the challenge is the pull to minister into separate spaces, both the digital space and the traditional analog space. What sits over all of this is that our culture is changing and that culture change means people view our institutions differently now than they did in years past. They view our roles in ministry differently, and they engage in meaning making differently than they did just a few years ago. All of this is incredibly important for understanding how the church is gonna speak meaning into the lives of digitally native people.

Ryan Dunn:

Jeffrey has a lot of input to help us understand both the cultural shifts happening around us and how we can adapt in ministry to move alongside these shifts. So let's meet our adjunct professor who happens to be a real professor, Reverend doctor Jeffrey Mahan Dr. Jeffrey Mahan is ordained in the Rocky mountain conference of the United Methodist church and is a professor emeritus of religion and communication with Iliff school of theology and serves a little bit with the university of Colorado as well. And Dr. Mahan is written many books, including most recently church as network, which I found to be helpful in diagnosing where the church stands in the midst of Western culture right now, as well as it gives an inspiring look at where both the church and professional ministry are headed. I'm excited for this conversation because I think Dr. Mahan challenges us to think creatively about what's successful, outward facing ministry will look like in the near future. So Dr. Mahan--Jeffrey thanks for taking the time to, to talk with us. I really appreciate you being here.

Jeffrey Mahan:

Thanks, Ryan. I'm looking forward to the conversation.

Ryan Dunn:

Well, you've been writing books since the 1980s. It sounds like, and it looks like one of your first books was American television genres. And the way that we interact with TV has changed quite a bit since then. You know, since the days when we had like VHF yes, and UHF bands and channel dials that clicked over and Thursday night must see TV and all that. Well, you open church as network and presenting several of the ways our relationship with media has changed. Now, would you mind sharing some of the ways that you've witnessed media culture changing?

Jeffrey Mahan:

Sure. This is a problem with talking to somebody my age. So I felt so I, I, I used to say to students often to sort of signal the change. So, so the house that I grew up in had one telephone, which hung on the wall and which I actually had a party line that we shared with three other families who had to recognize your ring. I am sort of, of the last generation that can remember a time before my family had a television. And, and when we got a television, we had one television, which sat in the living room where we watched it together. So, so it's interesting. The early scholars about television all said television's going to be great for families because it's this thing that people will do together. And they'll gather as family. In fact, you think about early, early television programming, it was designed for the whole family to watch.

Jeffrey Mahan:

So, so the night the Beatles are on ed Sullivan. There's also a circus act and the ed Sullivan dancers, you know, so there's something for grandma, there's something for the, for the younger kids. There's something for the teenagers because the, the, the vision of audience is this vast shared audience. But obviously all of that collapses or shifts in the intervening a age. So now it it's even hard to say, well, how many televisions? Because you have to say, how many screens do we watch stuff on in our house? And so programming shifts because it's no longer trying to pro to, to reach everybody. So you have programs for old people and programs for young people, programs for women programs, for men programs, for people of color. And that the idea that you're going to produce something that everybody's going to go see becomes much less compelling. So we, so we're talking about niche audiences that are kind of creating their own networks, if you will. And then the, the rise of digital culture just amplifies that. That's my, that's my big claim.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Well, in what ways has the, the rise of digital culture maybe as we start to speak beyond television, ha has it begun to, I guess, amplify that the niche?

Jeffrey Mahan:

So I my, my central argument is really that religion and media are always a meshed with each other. Now we, we see that in the way that religion adopts media change, but we tend to think about that naively. We think about it as though we have, we have religious messages and we just put them in the media and they're not changed. They just keep going out. But in fact, act the forms of media that we have available to us change the way that we practice religion change the way that we think about religion. The most famous case of this, at least for Protestant, Christians is of course the rise of the printing press and the way it created lit, which created new ways for people to think about their own identity and came to think about themselves as interpreters. So you get the rise of Protestant culture in that space. That's created by a really significant media change. And my argument is that digital culture is probably the most profound media change since the printing press and that it's reshaping religious practice in, in the most significant ways since then,

Ryan Dunn:

I think one of the ways that we can see how this is kind of shaping our perspective, especially theologically, as in looking at something like tradition, we're, we're out of the Methodist tradition. And well, there it is that word, like it's important to us. It's one of the pillars yeah. Through which we form an understanding of faith. But the modern understanding as you pointed out of tradition changing, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Jeffrey Mahan:

Yeah. Yeah. So maybe we'll start with the bad news first.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. Yeah. Laid on

Jeffrey Mahan:

Everybody. I talk to so pastors, but also college professors will say people, certainly young people just aren't interested in tradition anymore. And, and tradition, isn't a compelling argument for why you should do something anymore. Well, because we've always done it that way just doesn't seem to be very convincing. And it, it's tempting then to think about, to think of that and say, well, so nobody cares about tradition anymore. And if that's the case, I'm really sad about it. I tradition matters to me, but I, but I think it's not that it doesn't matter it's that we live with it in a very different way. So pred culture kind of going back tradition is, is envisioned as a kind of fixed thing. And we envision it as all encompassing. So if you say to somebody what's your religious identity, they say to you, I'm a United Methodist, or I'm a Lutheran, or I'm a Jew.

Jeffrey Mahan:

And this inherited tradition tells you who they are. I don't don't think that's how people think about religious identity today. And I think the change is related to the rise of the digital. So, so lemme say a couple of things cuz this is a, this is a little little complex, I guess. I think people think of religious identity is something they construct. So, so longer something you inherit. Mm. You're not who you are, cuz of where you were born, who your parents were. Religious identity is a construction. It's something you are putting together from a variety of sources. Now, I think it's helpful to us to think of those as traditions with an S on the end that we're mining and putting together in creating our religious identity. So this is partly why, when you hear United Methodists talk about their identity, now they nuance it.

Jeffrey Mahan:

They say, well, I'm a United method, but I'm a Southern Methodist or I'm a liberal Methodist or I'm a, or, or, or they, they will say something like, well, I'm a United Methodist, but I've, I've a Buddhist reflection practice as well. And, and these things come together to be my identity. So the denomination or the congregation or not the determiner in the same way now, now why does digital culture lead to that? Well, it's, I think it's, it's rooted in the nature of the digital to, to say something as digital just means that it's information could be words, could be images, could be sounds that are reducible to tiny bites of information. This is a technical term, a bite B Y T E. And the digital recording, this recording that we're making now, or a band in a studio or a pastor writing a sermon is then made up of these very malleable, movable bites.

Jeffrey Mahan:

And in, in this digital world, then nothing's ever stable. So, so publishing in the old sense. I mean, when I started writing books in the 1980s, once you wrote the book, that was the whole point, it had a cover, it had a front and a back and you figured out what went in the middle and that was it. So, so for instance, one of my books is in its third edition, when we got ready to do the second edition, the publisher said to us, okay, you can revise the book, but because everything's already set, you can take a chapter out. If you replace it with a chapter, that's exactly the same number of pages. And you can take a paragraph out that you don't like if you put another paragraph in, or you can rewrite a sentence, but it has to stay the same page has to stay oriented the same way so that there was this great sense of stability to knowledge.

Jeffrey Mahan:

It was really hard to change it. By the time we did the third edition, everything was digital. So I said, yeah, throw away whatever you want, add whatever you want, rewrite, whatever you want, because it's all fluid. It's all, it's all, you know, the computers going to then make it all fit and go forward. And it's not just my book that functions like that, but everything we know becomes in the sense, inevitably unfinished, it's an ongoing project. So Wikipedia, I think is the great example of this. You write something for Wikipedia and everybody's an editor. So I write something you don't like, you don't like it. You can go in and change it and then somebody else can go in and change it. And it's, and, and Wikipedia likes it that way because it suggests this kind of ongoing sense of how knowledge is being en created and unfold and unfolding.

Jeffrey Mahan:

This just becomes a norm for us. So we think about everything as though we're digital, including our lives. Mm. So our lives are now these forward focused projects that we are constantly creating and reimagining, and we can take things out and throw them away. We can add things and this becomes true then of the religious life. So I may start somewhere. I may have a real tradition that matters to me still, but it's not the all encompassing who I am. The, I think the Mo it becomes more useful to people well, or, or, or it, it fits the way people imagine the world better to begin to think of tradition as a set of resources. And so it's not that we have to throw them out, but now I think affect Methodist pastors say there is this interesting set of Wesleyan resources.

Jeffrey Mahan:

There are these things that people who call themselves Methodists have kind of tended to do over time and ways that they've tended to think about the faith that are kind of distinctive to them. And you might try some of them on because, because they're gonna be, you may find that some of them are useful, but it's not so helpful to say this is a complete rigid package. And either you buy it all and you be a Methodist in the way that I imagine people always wear Methodists, or you're just not part of our network. Instead I think pastors who think in this way are beginning to say, so there are some kind of Wesley and disciplines. You know, the, there are things we could learn from the old class meetings. There are Wesley and w ways of thinking about grace, for instance so theological resources that you might find useful.

Jeffrey Mahan:

And I think the more we think in that way, the more we help people rooted in this new and emerging culture to find their spiritual half. So, so one way to think about this is to say it's a new missional context that, that what we've, what the churches learned over time is that it didn't work very well to go a new place and say, you have to be Christians exactly like us. I mean, that led to mission missionaries who went to Hawaii and said, you have to wear longwall underwear, right? They, they couldn't distinguish between what was their cultural stuff and what was the gospel? So, so mission becomes more effective when it begins to be able ask in really deep ways, what does the gospel look like in this missional context? And ours is the context of a digital culture. So how are we going to identify the gospel in ways that are effective with people in a world where these old rigid patterns include patterns like belonging to a local church are beginning to break down and beginning to be things they wanna think about in new ways.

Ryan Dunn:

This sounds very individualized then, is it, is it fair to say that kind of the new missional field is, is based on an individual?

Jeffrey Mahan:

So that's a great question, Ryan and, and I, and I think a really fair one. And I think I think it's fair to say it is a more individualistic culture. You know, it is certainly not the culture of the forties and fifties when everybody wanted to fit in and be part imagined themselves as a part of a kind of single single hole. People are more focused on their own identity. But I think we can overstate that. I think it, it then looks like maybe it's just individualism and I, and I think that's not correct either. What's, what's shifting are our models of what community looks like then. Mm. So some theorists say you should think about a com a line which has old traditional models of community at one end and networks at the other. And, and the ideal form of the old traditional model was the village green, the little fixed community gather where everybody sort of pretty much the same.

Jeffrey Mahan:

And, you know, the church sits on the village green, and you go to church where your parents and grandparents go. And you know, that's community. If, if we haven't been together for six generations, it's not really quite fully community yet. And we live in a culture sure. Where, if that's the case, we're in really big trouble because nobody lives where their family lived six generations ago, or at least not very many people do. So my wife, who's also a retired United Methodist pastor used to serve a congregation in an urban community, full of young adults who were all in transition, who were they were gonna be around for a while, and then they were gonna get married or go to graduate school or take a better job. And 25% of their congregation left every year, which meant if in four years you didn't take in any new people, theoretically, you were just gone.

Jeffrey Mahan:

Mm. Now, so, so that whole community that they served was a community in flux in which people had to get drawn into relationships more quickly. And the church and every other institution in that neighborhood had to be more comfortable with the fact that they had to form relationships quickly. And they had to let people go. They had to not feel bad when and feel judged that they'd failed because people moved on. And they're just a kind of microcosm of the world we live in, in which everybody is both geographically and books, but also in this now digital where we are constant, you know, we, we have relationships with people all over, some of which are not so deep, but but we have lots of them and they, they shift very easily over time. People come and go. And so people come to expect that long term relationships aren't necessarily the goal.

Ryan Dunn:

All this sounds a little challenging when we start thinking about church leadership because in our system, and this is true for a lot of denominations where the pastor is appointed to a congregation and they're the shepherd for that congregation. And and that maybe a few years, or, or maybe longer than that. But it sounds like there, there may be, I guess, a broadening in a sense of pastoral influence. Can, can you talk about that a little bit? Yeah,

Jeffrey Mahan:

Yeah, yeah. It's, it's a, this it's a huge, huge issue. I, I, I also think it's full of possibilities, but it is not an easy time to be a pastor. Hmm. And in part, because they, they themselves and the communities they serve are caught between these two paradigms between this image that the churches maintained so long of its stability and rootedness and lastingness. And and, and I, and immense anxiety about the challenges to that. So, you know, United Methodist, no different from other denominations. We keep having these big campaigns where the church is going to get bigger over the next 10 years or five years or whatever it is. And then it doesn't quite happen. And then we launch a new campaign that in some ways is rooted in. So let's somehow we're going to do better. The thing we used to do and the old way is just gonna flow back in.

Jeffrey Mahan:

So that's, that's, that's the one very real tension because we knew how to do that. We know, and as pastors, we knew how to get paid if we did that well. And, and it looked like faithful service to us at the other end is this very fluid vision of an emerging culture in which maybe many of those things don't work aren't necessary. Aren't appealing to people and emerging models are coming up, but they don't fit our old models of measuring success. We don't, we don't fully know how to fund them. We don't know fully how to reward are the people who are, who are doing them. And pastors sit right in the middle between those tensions.

Ryan Dunn:

Can you think of some examples of I guess leaders, church leaders, maybe pastors who are living into the new paradigm of meaning making.

Jeffrey Mahan:

So I'll, I'll, I'll sneak one of other thing in, and then really answer your question. Cool. so one of the things that's happening in digital culture is that our old models of accrediting leadership are hugely challenged. So certainly when this is largely true today, but certainly when I set up to be a United Methodist pastor, we knew how to tell who was the United Methodist pastor. You went to an approved theological school for three years, and you went through a process in your annual conference and you were ordained and you were appointed and you fit into that structure. And that, that was the primary way to be a religious leader, but in a, but one of the ch and, and, and so when that happened, then the implication was that we lived in a cation world in which I was the communicator I was sent to the congregation to be.

Jeffrey Mahan:

And, you know, so I, I preached, I wrote, I mostly wrote the newsletter and communication mostly rolled out for me or from the annual conference, or occasionally from some other person in leadership that was, you know, that was, it's like spokes on a wheel message, goes out from the center in the network. Information's supposed to flow every direction. So I communicate with you, you communicate with me, we both were communicate with other people, some of whom are communicating with each other and in that system other, yeah, so, so this language of, of influencers that you, that you hear in talking about digital culture become, becomes important. So you have all, all kinds of religious influencers who didn't go to seminary and aren't ordained, and weren't appointed by the Bishop, but who nonetheless have real influence. You think about people who are bloggers.

Jeffrey Mahan:

One, one of the interesting phenomena, I think, has been this phenomena of mom bloggers, these women of very often with clear religious identities, who blog about family life and raising children and its challenges, and, you know, their Methodist mom blog, they're evangelical mom bloggers, they're Muslim mom bloggers. And none of the institutions of those faith communities picked them out or legitimated them. They gathered communities around them. So, so, so one of the things that's changing is who's a religious leader and, and the negotiation of whether becoming a pastor is the most effective, or at least the only way to be a religious leader is a real conversation. That's that's going on right now. And those people lead, you know, whether they're ordained and appointed by the Bishop or whether they're just somebody who rose up and found a following, they're leading in different ways, their communities, aren't so much turning to them to say, give us all the answers. As they're saying, be a resource communication, help us think more deeply, but we expect to be voices too. And it's, and, and then this is a conversation that's about, you know, the, the individualistic piece. So what's my identity. How do I do this? What kind of can are we trying to create, how ephemeral are they, to what extent do they exist online? To what extent are, are they still about creating communities that gather face to face what's the work of those communities?

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. So what then becomes the role of really the, the appointed pastor within this kind of networked even a little bit individualized way of being

Jeffrey Mahan:

So, so it's always been the case that the role of pastors complex, right. But it's gotten more complex. And I think part of, part of the complexity today is that the nature of authority is changing. And so you know, the, the, the Germans had this phrase had a pasta who was assumed to have great authority. He was really in charge of everything that happened in, in the church. And he, he was always, he had a a kind of theological authority also to sort of speak for, speak for God, speak for how we should think about about God in the spiritual life. I don't think pastors today experience that kind of authority. And so it requires a different kind of a voice in the pulpit in, in teaching in the way you run a meeting if, if this is really a conversation that we're all involved in, we're all together building something that, that sustains our, our, our shared life.

Jeffrey Mahan:

Nonetheless, we appoint pastors because we think they have gifts to help the help the community and its work. And so I think pastors model what it means to, to be reflective of about the life of faith and culture they model the the, those that are, are finding a way to be effective in digital culture model, what it means to be an influencer, to be a voice, to, to have a vision and to invite people into it, without assuming that quite the kind of directing authority that pastors once had, if you want biblical images, I think that we're living in a time of Exodus and that the nature of the Exodus was that Moses was leading the people to a new land, which he told them was a land of milk and honey, but he didn't know where it was. He hadn't been there before and neither had they but Moses communicated a sense that God's with us on this journey, we're going to go together and I can help you get there.

Jeffrey Mahan:

And I think that's a kind of helpful image for a a pastor to take. I, you know, we're, we're going someplace, I'm convinced it's a good place. It's not, you know, the, the good stuff is not all behind God. God is doing a new thing out there in front of us. And it took him 40 years to figure it out, to get through the wilderness and get there. It's gonna take us a while to sort this out. But, but we're on this journey journey together, right? So, so I find theologies of the holy spirit really helpful right now, because I think of the spirit as the evidence of God, among us in the midst of change God revealing God's self in the unfolding of our living and working together. And I, so I think part of the work of pastors then is this kind of visionary a work of in a, in a, in a really pastoral sense, both providing a vision and expressing a kind of confidence that we really are going somewhere together. It's not all about that. The church is dying, even though they're probably going to be fewer congregations in, in the future. And there are real challenges for us to get through. But but God is still at work among us. And we're still discerning what that, what it looks like to be faithful to that in this context. And people will come after us, who will do that in, in other new ways as things change

Ryan Dunn:

Jeffrey, if you were just now starting your journey towards RDA ministry, just now answering the call, what might be some of the some of the skills that, that you would look to be gaining as you think about how you might be employ ministry. Great, great, five years,

Jeffrey Mahan:

Everybody who comes out of seminary at some point provides a list of the things they didn't teach me in seminary. They didn't teach me how to fix the furnace. They didn't teach me how to be a blog,

Ryan Dunn:

How to drive this passenger van. Yeah,

Jeffrey Mahan:

Yeah, yeah. All, all, all those things. I think the, the one thing we can say with confidence is that the, the journey's not getting slower you know, cha change is happening and it's gonna continue to happen rapidly. And so it's not, it not so much about developing a set of fixed skills that you're then going to live out of the rest of your career. It, it is about building the skills to be adaptable, to change. It's about build building, building voice get, you know, clarifying one's voice which, which in some ways is about narrowing your vision and your voice. I think I spent some time talking about talking to successful bloggers and, and one of the theme that RECU is people say, people know what to expect from me. You know, I, I have a list of stuff and some of its stuff I'm deeply com committed to some of it's much more casual, but people know what they're gonna get when they, when they get to my blog.

Jeffrey Mahan:

And that makes the blog helpful to them. And then I, and it begins to identify the, the community that gather around the blog. And so, you know, clarifying identity, clarify vision, those are things to work on. I think thinking about what's church gonna look like five years, 10 years down the line, I is a kind of key piece and a certain amount of realism that the, the old model that, I mean, when I started out, I was fairly confident. I'd made the last professional decision I ever had. You know, last career decision I ever had to make. When I went off to seminary, I would finish seminary and I'd be ordained. And then I'd go where the Bishop sent me. And it didn't occur to, to me that we might, we might approach a day where the Bishop didn't have some place to send me, or the Bishop might say well, a place to send you, if you're willing to serve three churches all of whom are struggling with dying.

Jeffrey Mahan:

So I think, I think it's helpful for past to think both about how they're rooted in and committed to the denomination to the institutional church and about how they're going to create their own spaces of serving and of finding their voice. One of my pastor is when I went off to seminary said to me, you know, before I was a pastor, I was a tool and die maker. And every year I pay my union dues, there's not a lot of money, but I pay 'em every year. I said, well, why did you do that said, well, every time I pay my dues, it reminds me that I'm an ministry because I'm called to do it. And if I stop feeling called to do it, I have something else to do. And, and I think now, I mean, it's easier if you used to be a tool and die maker, I suppose, but I think people entering ministry have to think seriously about what do I think I'm called to do is, is the denomination, the place that's going to enable that for me, or at least is it gonna enable part of that for me?

Jeffrey Mahan:

And how am I going to create other rewarding spaces in my life. And, and, and we see, you know, I think for quite some time, we've seen pastors struggling with this, the, the move into more specialized forms of ministry to various kinds of chaplaincy in some ways is an expression of people's frustration with the limitations of congregational ministry and the kind of narrowing of options there. But we see people doing other things. Yeah. I, I think for you, bloggings part of United Methodist communications responsibility, but for a lot of people, it's a, it's sort of entrepreneurial, you know, they're, they're creating an audience and a space, which to some extent they can monetize. And I don't think that's a bad thing. I think, you know, it, it, it's a different sense of tent making ministry than we used to talk about.

Jeffrey Mahan:

I think to say, you know, some people write books, people people, blog, people create other ways to, to use their skills. So I think that's a, that's a whole mix of what do people need to work on? The other thing I would say is, is, and this may be a response to the individualism conversation we've been having people who are going to lead in challenging times, which certainly means anybody going into ministry right now need to be actively building a community of support a place where they're both held up where they're, where they're held to their highest ideals and commitments where, where they're supported, because the work we, the work we do, which has always been challenging is even more so in the midst of anxiety about the future of the church. And if, if you go into ministry thinking my congregation's going to be my support system, then you cannot say to them, the kinds of courageous things that you will need to say sometimes, cuz it will them off. And you have to have the system of support that lets you make people angry occasionally to you know, in a church will like this prophetic work. And it's always hard in the life life of congregations, but it's, you know, it's parti the more anxious the congregation about its long term viability, the, the, the more skill it takes. And the more cha rises up to saying we're going a new place and the old, yes, the old ways might die. We might not be able to rescue them

Ryan Dunn:

Coming out of our time here. I feel like there's still so much more sure that we could address, you know, in terms of meaning making and the history of church and media. But the good news is you you've covered so many of these topics in church's network. And I would definitely recommend our, our listener pick up that book.

Jeffrey Mahan:

Thanks again, Ryan. It's really been fun. Appreciate your having me.

Ryan Dunn:

Thanks so much for participating in the, this session of pastoring in the digital parish. Again, church's network is an important book and you can track it down wherever you do your book shopping.  And you can track down Dr. Jeffrey Mahan at Iliff.edu.

Pastoring in the Digital Parish is a resource from ResourceUMC.org, the online destination for leaders throughout The United Methodist Church. We’re going to have a new session next week. But in the meantime, if you wanted to explore more about digital culture, check our session with James Kang called What is digital-first ministry. Also our session with Mitchell Atencio called The future of the Web and digital ministry is a good one.

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

 

 

 

On this episode

Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Mahan

Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Mahan is ordained in the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church, currently serving as Professor of Religion & Communication with Iliff School of Theology and on faculty of the University of Colorado. He’s written many books, including, most recently Church as Network, a helpful diagnosis for where the church stands in the midst of Western culture right now as well as an inspiring look at where both the church and the professional ministry is headed.

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.