Social Design for mission and ministry (series intro)

I want to open up a conversation about what the Social Design guidelines from Facebook Developers can teach us about Christian mission and ministry.

According to the byline, “Social Design is a way of thinking about product design that puts social experiences at the core”. (As such, it’s a version of the kind of ‘human-centered design’ you can watch David Kelley discuss at a TED conference from 2005.)

The question I would like us to explore is thus, What would it look like to put social experiences at the core of our approach to Christian mission and ministry?

I propose we organise our discussion under the following headings:

  1. Working from the outside in.
  2. Utilising community.
  3. Building meaningful conversations.
  4. Recognising the importance of identity.

Before I launch into it, it’s probably worth mopping up a couple of potential misconceptions about where we’re heading.

First up, I don’t really want to talk about how to harness a social media platform like Facebook for the purposes of mission and ministry — or whether we should.

This issues strike me as pretty overdone. Not to mention perpetually deadlocked between the nay-sayers (‘Social networking is the end of relationships as we know them!’) and the cheerleaders (‘It changes everything!’). I’ve commented on this before.

I’m much more interested in how the thinking embodied in Facebook’s Social Design guidelines can sharpen what we do — and maybe even untangle some knotty problems (like the whole Believing vs Belonging thing).

Second, I don’t want us to treat the source material as anything more or less than ‘codified common sense’.

I envisage culling wisdom from the cultural stockpile of observation and experience. Just as the biblical wisdom writers often seem to have done with non-biblical sources.

My sense is that paying attention to Facebook’s Social Design guidelines can alert us to aspects of our God-given ‘sociality’ so we can resist the drift Andrew Cameron identifies (Joined-up Life, pages 56-57):

Oddly … this constant element of our lives usually drifts into unawareness. We imagine ourselves to be ruggedly individual, choosing and planning our destinies as if we’re not materially and mentally dependent on those who surround us.

In short, I want our discussion to help us remember our creatureliness and factor it in to our approach to mission and ministry.

That’s where we’re heading. Onward!

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