Our weekly small-group Bible study has been over for nearly an hour. The last of the lingerers has just pulled out of the driveway to head home. I'm picking up the popcorn bowls and coffee cups. My wife is already logging onto the computer, preparing to send quick e-mail messages to several of the young women she has just been talking to.
E-mailing someone she has just spent an evening with may seem odd, but for the young married couples in our small group, it's a vital connection. Some of them will be eager to get home, not to go to sleep, but to log on and see what Karen has sent to their inbox.
Friday morning, I'll be at the computer myself, sending a longer e-mail to a young man who asked a complicated doctrinal question during the evening's discussion, a question that would have derailed the whole study if we had tried to explore it fully at the time. But the next day I can compose a well-thought-out explanation and include links to Scripture references or other online resources for further study. By the time I see him again Sunday morning, he will have had a chance to read it all, and I'm sure he'll be ready to hit me with follow-up questions.
In our ministry with college students and young married, we have discovered that a strong sense of personal connection is vital, and intimate relationships are fostered by combining face-to-face and e-contacts. Their expectations for immediacy, heightened by technology, have made our use of the Internet more important. Our contacts now are only only more immediate, they're more frequent.
Small-group ministry is no longer a once-a-week event. It's often daily.
Ministry has changed since we were students thirty years ...