eFormation 2020: Run and Do Not Grow Weary: Acknowledging and Managing Digital Fatigue

his presentation run and do not grow

weary acknowledging and managing digital

fatigue I fully recognized that this

probably would have been a great

presentation to have at the end of the

day but sometimes that's not how

scheduling works out when we're dealing

with four different time zones and eight

different presenters but I'm excited

that Keith will be able to to join us so

I am excited and thrilled that Keith is

here and let's give them a virtual round

of applause

it's Sarah it's great to be here and

great to be with everybody this morning

I'm just gonna pull up my slides for us

right now and we can get started

today's topic is digital fatigue and

something we've been talking about for a

while we didn't realize it would be

quite so poignant in what we're

experiencing both with Coby 19 and also

protests that are happening around the

country and around the world and keeping

track and keeping touch and keeping care

with our communities of faith and also

our neighbors in need in this time and I

wanted to share this meme that I made a

while ago damaged him I'm a pastor not

in IT department actually didn't make it

for for this experience it was one some

time ago but I came back to it as a way

to say that a lot of us right now are

doing a lot of digital work that we

didn't sign up for that we didn't expect

to do or that we expected to do over a

long period of time and roll out over a

long period of time rather than having

to do it when quarantine hit and have to

figure out how to do online worship and

whatever way we're doing it how to care

for our congregations and our

communities how to advocate and so first

I just want to thank everybody for being

here and I want to thank you for all the

ministry that you're doing in this time

it is really a Herculean effort and I've

been amazed to see ways in which

ministry leaders are reaching out and

supporting their people and I just want

to thank you for all the work that has

gone in to make

that happened so as we begin this day

we're talking about weariness we're

talking about fatigue and I think we're

all burying some level of that so I want

to acknowledge that I want to thank you

for the work that you're doing and I

hope that in this short time I can share

some tips and tricks and perspectives

that might help you to sustain yourself

through this time certainly as we look

ahead the digital work that we're doing

will continue to be part of our

ministries in some way moving forward

even as things begin to reopen so the

time and effort and energy and learning

that you're putting in and in in in and

also by being here today is going to

benefit your people not just in this

short term period that we find ourselves

in but I think over the long term as

well so thank you

we know we're fatigued we are living

through a crisis we're having to learn

new skills but it's nice to receive some

affirmation about that and we came

across this article from The Wall Street

Journal about how just being on zoom'

meetings all the time is fatiguing in

itself that physiologically it's

draining to be connecting with people

just on zoom' or whatever video

conferencing platform that you use they

said the affliction that's come to be

known as zoomed fatigue is way more than

a byproduct of too many meetings social

scientists say it's the result of the

sudden mass adoption of technology

that's disrupting the normal and

instinctual and finely tuned way of

communicating that developed to help

humans survive so we've had to shift

away from that face to face and into the

digital space everything just takes

longer it takes more time it takes more

coordination and there's always that

little pause on zoom' everybody's

starting to try to talk over each other

and it can be weary but this is not just

an issue of technology

it's not just an issue of this moment

right fatigue burnout exhaustion

weariness that is also part of the

experience of doing ministry and I

continue to come back to a quote that

was shared with me by my friend and

ministry supervisor back in divinity

school tad Meyer who said to me ministry

will take everything you've got if you

let it and it will and I've certainly

had bouts of perhaps not total burnout

but brownout perhaps of so I speak from

some experience of digital fatigue and

also in the ministry fatigue ministry

will take everything we've got it we've

got if we let it and that's the danger

but also the if we let it part is an

important piece of that that we have to

do the best we can to set boundaries to

care for ourselves so that we can care

for others and so we've got a ministry

challenge that ministry will take

everything we've got if we let it and we

have a technology challenge that we're

living in this time when we're always on

when there's always more to do when the

realm of possibility and what we can do

is actually more than what we were doing

face to face because we had established

programs or patterns or worship that we

were working with in the container of

and now a lot that a lot is there's a

lot that's not possible but there is a

lot more that is possible and there's

this urgent feeling that I experienced

that my staff is experienced that as

I've talked to other ministry leaders

they've experienced that there's this

sense of anxiety about wanting to

provide for our people and to do

everything possible to have them said a

sense of connection and normalcy and

care and really kind of recognize what

are our limitations in this time for for

our congregation has been a real

challenge and to be able to say no or

not yet or that's a great idea about

what we can

you is this part of this for it for now

so ministry and Technology will both eat

us alive if we let them so just a little

bit about my journey this is a picture

of me I was one year ago I was walking

the Camino de Santiago de Compostela and

this is I'm with my friend Susan and

Felicity from New Zealand here along one

of our legs walked from I walked the

Portuguese route over a couple weeks to

Santiago and this was part of a

sabbatical I took last summer I've been

doing digital ministry in some fashion

for about 12 years since about 2008 and

I've been writing and researching and

presenting about digital media for

probably 10 years since I got started

and so I've spent a lot of time doing

technology digital ministry digital

projects a lot of stuff online and part

of the sabbatical being intention in the

plan and to unplug and decompress and

step away from digital so before I left

I deleted so many apps from my phone I

just took what was necessary

namely my you know Google Maps and

Camino apps to find my way to Santiago

and coming back so that's at the end of

last summer coming back from my

sabbatical I had really been much more

disciplined and careful with media so I

kept a lot of social media off my phone

like Facebook I accessed on my desktop

but not on my phone I deleted my Twitter

accounts I really pared down my digital

footprint and I found it to be a much

healthier relationship for me between

myself and the technology that I really

do enjoy using that I find a lot of

creative outlet in and that I used it in

ministry but finally I felt and it took

a sabbatical to reset my relationship

with technology but then life of course

gets a little busier and

industry coming home gets busier but I

was still doing pretty well and then

pandemic --it and all the ass went back

on my phone and I'm checking news

constantly and it's a you know it's like

this line from the Godfather Part three

yeah I was out and they keep pulling me

back in and so I'm at least as plugged

in as I was before and perhaps even you

know maybe more than before

between having to produce online worship

having to keep track of my parishioners

keeping track of the news and news

updates which is only accelerated you

know over the last week that it's it's

very difficult in this time to be bound

read around our use of technology not

because we're trying to abuse it but

because we want to know and we want to

care so just so just as I would say just

as the endemic was sitting our

congregation this is the this is the

middle of March like so many

congregations we're figuring out what we

were gonna do we decided to close we

pulled pulled up online worship service

together in a few days and we got to

going and we've been going for a couple

weeks and I'll share with you that I had

a panic attack and I had to go to the

hospital because I thought it was having

a heart attack and I'd never experienced

anything like that before and it was a

real wake-up call for me to take better

care of myself and to pace myself for

the long journey that we're on with the

pandemic and also our work for justice

and so I'm speaking out of fatigue of

something that's very been very present

for me in this time in which everyday

I'm aware that if I push it too hard it

could wind up in the same place if I let

ministry or the technology consume me I

can be in a very compromised place and

not being able to care for the people in

my charge at my church the way that I

want to be able to do that so I hope as

we think about all the possibilities and

the wonderment of the technology that's


to us and how we'll go about

implementing these ideas throughout this

day in some ways this presentation would

have made more sense to have at the end

but to say at the beginning you don't

have to do everything you hear today you

don't have to do it all at once we each

have our own capacities and thresholds

for being able to do this ministry in

this time and to please take care of

yourself and pace yourself and do what

you're able and you're able to do is

more than you think it is it means more

to people than it feels like and it's

hard when you can't get that immediate

feedback from people that it means so

much so please take care of yourself and

sustain yourself in this time what I

want to share with you are some kind of

small picture and big picture ways of

approaching managing your relationship

to technology and digital fatigue in

some ways it's a given that we're all

experiencing that fatigue right now but

how can we alleviate the burden for many

people the work in digital ministry that

we're doing is entirely new or the

volume of digital ministry that we're

doing is so much higher and that takes a

lot of energy to do things for the first

time and learn them and get them up and

running and explain them and communicate

them and to manage our anxiety and

anxiety of our people so I'm gonna share

some technical hacks and then I'm gonna

share some more of adaptive suggestions

for you so the first is that if you

don't have a workflow that I really

recommend you think that the workflow

that works for you whatever whatever

that is I use file sharing

like I love Dropbox but there are plenty

of other file sharing possibilities like

iCloud other things office 365 to make

your work and share your work more

easily so it's not a zillion attachments

in your email that sounds like a tiny

thing and why would you come to II

formation to hear that but it really

does wind up taking a lot of time so

there are a lot of tasks that we wind up

doing that are repetitive over and over

and over again there's a lot more

digital content that we've got a handle

in this time and figure out how we get

it in the right place

and to the right people I think we've

been in such a rush of trying to make

these things happen that maybe this

summertime is a chance to step back a

little bit and say how can this workflow

work better for me whether it's

file-sharing or taking your time to

organize your files you know I have a

giant junk file my downloads file on my

Mac and it's just like my junk drawer

the other but I try to then take time to

get those things in the right places it

just saves time in the end maybe this is

a time to invest in software that is

going to work better for you because

your time is valuable we often don't

take into account the time that it takes

us we look at the cost of the software

or the cost of subscriptions but your

time is valuable and if there's our

programs that are gonna save you time

and make your life easier and free you

up to new more ministry that might be

worth looking at this summer small thing

I use a password manager I like one

password there are other password

managers with more and more platforms

and logins and being remote I like to

have a password manager that saves all

my passwords so not to remember them go

find them I would think consider this

summer learning new programs and

technology as part of your continuing

education I did this a couple years ago

I wanted to do learn more about video

production so I took a online class on

Final Cut Pro so I can do some video

projects that I was working on that

final cut and it worked better for it

so you might think if your continuing

education is kind of like the conference

you go to the workshops you would have

attended the retreats you would have

done I've dried up there are incredible

amount of online courses on anything and

everything related to technology and you

might consider that this summer as a way

of helping you to save time and develop

your skills so that things will work

more smoothly for you

I recommend planning in advance for how

you're gonna repurpose your content so

if you do an online worship service

how are you sharing that are you putting

that on a website somehow are you

capturing that if you're offering some

online gap educational gatherings are

you recording that are you making that

then available for people later on which

is really to say get the most you

possibly can out of your content you

know are people recording music for your

online worship services is that on your

YouTube channel so finding ways to make

the time that you're investing in

content creation which takes in my

experience the most amount of time to do

how can you get the most value and

purpose out of that not just in the

moment but on an ongoing basis at my

church where we're we're about to launch

a new website that's going to help us to

foreground a lot of the digital content

that we're in the process of creating so

people can experience worship they can

watch or and listen to an educational

program so give that content you're

investing so much time in a long life

and a long tail and assess and build out

your own digital platform so as we look

ahead to the fall it just feels like

we're gonna be in this place of

continuing to be a hybrid Church where

there is some in-person but there's also

online so thinking now about how your

website could work better for you

thinking now about if you have to put

content for your educational programming

online what would that look like

like using a learning management system

like a Google classroom to make things

available for your students for your

work for your learners is a good

possibility so a lot of us just are

working with sometimes antiquated

sometimes insufficient digital platforms

and foundation that we we were just

dealing with and worked okay for the

moment but with more demands the summer

could be a time to think about building

out a digital platform which in

and will help to save time and I think

helped me the needs of our communities

so and now sort of kind of zooming out

just a little bit in terms of thinking

about digital fatigue and a relationship

with technology one of the the most

maybe the most important thing for me in

thinking about how I relate to

technology is to focus on creating and

not just consuming because a lot of

times you know I'm doing something I'm

writing something I'm doing email and

then you know it's two clicks and I'm on

Facebook or you know Instagram for 15

minutes and it's like when did that


and so what I try to do is am i creating

something here

am i writing am i doing a slide am i

putting together a video you know that

includes like I'm creating by putting a

Facebook live out I'm creating by

writing a pastoral message to my

congregation I'm creating by using canva

to create images for our website or for

our publications so am i creating or am

I just consuming and that is helped me

to kind of draw a line and to say I'm on

here to create and I feel good about

that it's purposeful it creates value

not just kind of like flipping around

clicking link after link and just

consuming and commenting that's been an

important distinction for me and helps

me to stay focused

I would ask I would ask you to consider

what you uniquely bring to digital

ministry so in the whole realm of

possibilities of all the digital

platforms that you can do what is the

unique thing that you bring to it

is it writing is it photographs is it

artistry is it music what is that what

is the thing that you uniquely bring

that I feel like there's a lot of

pressure for people to do all the things

and especially when we see all the

amazing stuff that

three leaders are putting on social

media right now it really kind of fills

me with a little envy of all the things

that people are able to do are the ways

that they do them and I can't do it the

way they do it and I can't use that

platform the way that they use it so

what can you uniquely bring and what

would amplify your voice what platform

works best for you to share that whether

it's still images or it's video or its

text and writing find the thing that

will help to amplify your voice you

don't have to do it like anybody else or

everybody else you do it the way that

you do it and I think that brings a

level of authenticity that communicates

strongly to people start where you are

you don't have to do it all you should

not do it all and you can grow into it I

like to say in digital spaces we are

learning out loud in public is how it

feels and that's really not necessarily

comfortable for ministry leaders who are

used to having their lessons plans

button up their sermons buttoned up

their music buttoned up and so we're

learning out loud in public that also

leads to the authenticity of what people

are experiencing when we're encountering

in in digital spaces but it allows us to

grow and learn by trial and error and

digital ministry is all about trial and

error it's not about having your right

before you launch it's just about doing

it as you can do it and then learning as

you grow and I hope that in the last

couple of months with the quarantine and

online version online offerings you've

experienced that that in a short period

of time we've gotten up to speed on some

technologies and we've kind of refined

how we're doing things by the feedback

we're getting from our people encourage

you to cultivate non-digital hobbies

practice digital Sabbath and nurture

your physical health one of my problems

with technology is that all my hobbies

involve technology very few hobbies that

don't involve some kind of technology

because a lot of my hobbies are a rat

it's a lot of a lot of what I like to do

is write which puts me on a keyboard

which puts me on a screen so culturally

non-digital hobbies swimming is great

because you can't take your phone with


when you go for a walk leave your leave

your phone at home if you're able um

adopt a digital rule of life Digital

rule of life I write about in the

digital cathedral but I'll share a

resource with our digital ministry

toolkit which has some great guidance

for putting together a digital rule of

life Digital digital world life can help

you kind of set some guardrails for

yourself that are based not just in

functionalities but in your faith about

how you will be present and relate to

digital technologies so a digital rule

of life can help you to clarify what

you're doing why you're doing it how

you're doing it and when you need to

stop doing it and take a digital Sabbath

I find it's been really hard in this

time to say no or I've signed found it

easier to say not now so when we're

thinking about the kinds of ministries

we're offering at our church and maybe

offering at our church this summer

there's a real pull to want to do

everything and to throw in as much as we

can into what we're offering and really

simplicity is really important in this

time in terms of our own capacity and

capability but also in terms of our

people's threshold for what they're able

to sustain as we're all hitting a zoom

fatigue wall and kids are finishing

school and you know we're kind of trying

to take a less is more approach to our

summer but some things are just not in

our capacity to do at the moment and

that's just a fact but they may be in

our capacity later on once we start

small and we see how it goes and we

learn so not now has kind of been my

mantra what can we do and then maybe

we'll grow be able to grow into it and I

would encourage you to be thinking not

just in the kind of reactivity of the

moment and the rest of the moment but

think of about this summer building and

planning for the long haul so how can we

take what

we've learned and be invested in a time

energy and learning that we've made

already and will continue to it to make

and we're investing in today how can we

play that out for a long haul the the

digital things we're learning now can

help us later on even you know please

God after there's a vaccine and we are

through this pandemic that these things

will continue already have been and will

continue to be part of our lives so

think about the long haul I would just

point you with some of these items to

our digital literacy toolkit that's the

link digital literacy toolkit org this

was put together by Kyle Kyle Oliver and

Stacey Williams Duncan and it really

encapsulates beautifully in these seven

literacies how we can kind of step back

and be more reflective on our digital

practices as ministry leaders and those

seven areas are really clarifying you

know where am i strong where could I

grow and the toolkit has a description

of each one it has so as a description

of each one it has examples from

different ministry leaders of how

they've approached those and that's a

really good place to go it has

information on creating a digital rule

of life as well and we can put that link

in the chat finally I just want to share

this video it's a one-minute video from

from Steve Jobs and Ike it's a video I

come back to a lot especially when I'm

feeling burned out he talks about the

importance of keeping your passion

kindled and for me it's been a rule kind

of a piece of wisdom for my ministry and

also end my digital ministry that it's

really hard and how do we keep our

passions for this work kindled even as

it you know threatens to consume us or

deplete us even though it makes us weary

and fatigued so there's a Steve Jobs on

keeping your passion kindled I'm

wondering what would be the single most

valuable piece of advice you give us to

even attempt to create some of

value that you guys have done in both

your very impressive companies people

say you you have to have a lot of

passion for what you're doing and it's

totally true and the reason is is

because it's so hard that if you don't

any rational person would give up it's

really hard and you have to do it over a

sustained period of time so if you don't

love it if you're not having fun doing

it you don't really love it

you're gonna give up and that's what

happens to most people actually if you

really look at that the ones that ended

up you know being successful unquote the

eyes of society and the ones that didn't

oftentimes it's the ones that are

successful loved what they did so they

could persevere when it you know when it

got really tough and and the ones that

didn't love it quit because they're

saying right who would want to put up

with this stuff if you don't love it so

it's a lot of hard work and and it's a

lot of worrying constantly and if you

don't love it you're gonna fail so you

got to love it you got to have passion

my hope and prayer for all of you is

that in this time you will finally used

to take care of yourself that you will

find ways to keep your passion kindled

through the ministry you're doing or

through Sabbath time or other pursuits I

thank you for your ministry and all that

you're doing for God's people and the

world in this time and stay safe and and

be well and take care of yourselves and

thank you