Whiteboard: Assimilation Lessons From Toy Story

October 28th 2014

Some churches struggle to incorporate technology into their assimilation processes. In this whiteboard session, Rodney explains how you can simplify assimilation—drawing from Toy Story.

Video Transcription

Hi. Welcome to Elexio Whiteboard. If there was a top ten list of Christian buzzwords, I feel certain ‘assimilation’ would make the list. It’s something that most churches are talking about, strategizing about, thinking about, maybe keeping pastors up at night.

Today in the Elexio Whiteboard we’re going to talk about how you can use technology to leverage the assimilation process.

When I think assimilation, I think Toy Story. Now stay with me. Toy Story is actually, in my opinion, a movie in many ways about assimilation. You’ve got this guy, Buzz Lightyear, who joins a group of toys and he feels like a foreigner.

We’re going to talk about three scenes from Toy Story that can help us see how technology could leverage the assimilation process.

The first one is Apps. As we look at it, actually the second one’s Apps, and the third one is Apps. We’ll get to that. It looks like I don’t know how to spell, but stick with me.

The first one is Get A Process. I think of the scene where Woody calls all the toys together and he’s got this crucial concern that the family is moving and he doesn’t want any toy to be left behind.

I love it because in his speech he just says, “If you don’t have a buddy, get one” and I would say the same thing as a church. Before you can use technology to leverage the assimilation process, you have to get a process.

The next thing I would say, once you get a process, is to Document a Process. This is, again, also not technology necessarily, but it’s getting down on paper with the key leaders at your church not just big ideas about what we’re going to do in generalities, but very specific things that we are going to do as a church and as a church leadership to make efforts towards assimilation.

Get a process, document a process.

Now, it’s Automate a Process. Really, I say that comes in three main ways. Automated communication in the form of letters, emails and phone calls.

You may be thinking we’re doing all those things right now, but if your process heavily depends on somebody, church staff or church volunteer, remembering to do these things, if you’ve documented that you want to make sure we send a letter in the first week, an email in the second week and a phone call somewhere in between, but you don’t have any automation supporting that, you certainly run the risk of the best intentions not happening.

If we think in our Toy Story terms somebody’s going to get left behind simply because automation didn’t help you in the process.

This really does start to speak to what technology does your church have to be able to automate the processes you’ve come up with? Again, letters, emails, phone calls.

The automation process is going to depend on having technology that is flexible. Some software packages you may have or other technologies you have at your church, you may hit brick walls where you’ve got this wonderfully documented process, but you’re not able to really translate it into automation because you’re stuck with potentially terminology that is foreign to your church or processes that are very rigid in the technology.

The ability to automate it and then avoid those brick walls is going to be a real key to being able to leverage technology to serve assimilation.

Finally, the final thing says App and I’m reminded of the scene in Toy Story where Buzz arrives for the first time. As I said, that’s the whole concept of the movie, there’s this new toy, he comes.

When he first arrives, he’s looking around and everything is very different to what he’s used to and the other toys are looking at him and thinking you’re very different. I can’t help but think about how that is for people who visit churches.

Churches themselves are different. Your church may be very different than what this person grew up with if they didn’t grow up in a church at all, and your church is serving communion and reciting prayers. There’s a foreignness that has to be bridged and really that is at the heart of the assimilation process.

We have our documented, our automated, now a real enhancement to that can be and now I’m using the term properly here, gaving a church app. Having a church app is going to help you be, by default, relevant.

The degree and quality of your app is going to certainly say more and more, but just having one alone is going to help you in our culture be relevant. Getting the church app in the first place is the first step. It’ll show some relevance.

I’d say the second thing that if your app, if you already have one or if you’re looking to have one, the thing that you want to look for is can we communicate who we are as a church through the app? Can it say something about our church culture?

I’d say one of the great ways to do that is with video content. I think when people like Buzz, when he arrives in the room and he doesn’t know what’s going on, if he could pull up a video and watch and see, here’s how these people interact. Here’s Woody giving a speech. I would say the same thing about the people who come to your church.

If they can pull up a video that says, “There’s the pastor, and here’s what he speaks about,” it will help communicate your culture through a device that people are already very comfortable with. You’ve bridged the gap in many by simply having the app in the first place.

The final thing I would say that an app should have, if it’s going to really help with the assimilation process, is to have your church directory accessible through the app.

You may not want that to be available for everybody who downloads your app, so maybe it’s something that has to be given permission to get there, but once somebody is a part of your church being able to pull up a church directory is a great way for them to feel more comfortable.

Three ways. Relevance, culture, directory. Those are possible ways to have an app affect assimilation. In general I would say, the whole process related to assimilation, it can get a bad feeling associated with it.

When we think of assimilation we sometimes think of that movie, the Star Trek movie from back in the 1990s, I think it was called First Contact and there was this alien race called the Borg. The Borg said they were going to assimilate everyone and their general theme was your individuality will no longer be important and you’ll be part of the collective. If that term starts to lean that way it could not be something you really want your church to be associated with.

When we think assimilation what we really want to think about, what I like to think about, is really one of the final scenes from Toy Story which is Buzz has been through, pretty much been through the assimilation process. He really is part of the toys. There is a scene in the end where he and Woody end up flying through the sky and there’s fear, they think they’re going to fall, but they utilize an individuality that Buzz brings by the wings that pop out and they’re able to drift right where they want to be.

I would say that’s the beautiful thing about assimilation. All of these people coming to your church, shepherded through the process that you’ve developed, enhanced by the app that you potentially have, so that they can take what is individual about them and make your church what it’s supposed to be which is something that is pleasing to God.

Thanks for watching The Elexio Whiteboard. We’ll talk to you later.

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