Tech solutions to missions problems

By January 29, 2019

International (MNN) — What if the best tool for missions was in your pocket?

Technology is everywhere, but sometimes that means the Church forgets that tech can be a missions opportunity. Nick Skytland wants to change that.

Skytland wears several hats. He was the co-director of the Hackathon event at InterVarsity’s Urbana ‘18 conference, runs a technology consulting firm called Quite Uncommon, and works as a data analyst at NASA. In other words, he has one foot in the world of technology and innovation and another in the world of missions.

And he thinks the Church is missing a major opportunity.

“The biggest mission field that exists today is online, and the fewest missionaries are being sent online,” Skytland says.

Photo courtesy of InterVarsity

So what’s the solution? Skytland thinks believers need to start thinking creatively about tech use so that the next generation of innovators has the Church in mind.

“This generation of students is growing up as one of the first truly digital-native generations,” he says. “They’re growing up using technology, developing technology, creating technology, and using technology to share the Gospel with their friends, their family, and their neighbors.”

How To Use Tech

So how do we encourage a tech-savvy Church? Skytland says this could look like creating tech that assists missions, using tech to access people directly, or working with tech-based organizations and providing Christian perspectives. He wants Alexa’s answer to “Who is Jesus Christ?” to be written by Christians who care.

Missions organizations often have practical challenges that require technological solutions, so connecting with a group that already does mission work might be a good place to start.

“All missions organizations have a need for technologists to come alongside them to help them with their work,” Skytland says. “That might look like a full-time job for them, but that might mean simply volunteering some of your time.”

Urbana 18’s Hackathon provided that opportunity. “For four days, we get these organizations to sit down and work with the students and partner with them around collaboratively building technology to address a problem that the students care about and the organizations care about. Collectively, they can do what they could never do individually.”

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

What’s more, tapping into missions organizations might be easier than it seems at first glance. After all, they have access to resources and information that can be invaluable in tech solution development.

“Missions organizations have a lot of data, and they don’t even know what the true potential of that is, so a lot of the work that we’re doing these days is about how to uncover that data, how to make it more accessible, and how to build visualizations that inform decisions by the leaders of those organizations.”

Your Role

But this issue isn’t limited to NASA data analysts and young technologists. Skytland thinks everyone who can access technology can make a difference. If you can read this story online, that probably means you too.

“If you’re a Christian and you have access to technology, the question you should be asking is ‘what could I be doing with this technology to reach the world and share the Gospel?’ You might just use technology creatively to share a meme, to write a story, to make a Facebook post, or to just be bold in your faith.”

Connect with InterVarsity to help equip young people here.

Find out what Skytland does with Quite Uncommon here.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.

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