Faith Formation 4.0 is a much needed guide to evangelism and faith formation in the 21st century. Julie Lytle helps us navigate our new world with vision, approaches, and practices designed for a digital, interactive, connected world. One of the unique contributions of this book, is Julie’s analysis of the evolution of faith formation (and communication) through history: from 1.0 (oral communication) to 2.0 (written communication to 3.0 (mass media) to 4.0 (interactive media). She provides a portrait of what faith formation 4.0 actually looks like in practice. Her “message, method, and then media” process makes it clear that we are using new methods and media to communicate the Christian message, and not being used by the new methods and media. Let Faith Formation 4.0 be your guide to this exciting new era for faith formation.
— John Roberto, Author, Faith Formation 2020: Designing the Future of Faith Formation
Faith Formation 4.0: Introducing an Ecology of Faith for a Digital Age is an engaging, knowledgeable, and delightfully readable book about Christian evangelization and faith formation for the 21st century, in which Julie Ann Lytle invites religious educators, pastoral leaders, and their communities to re-envision these processes and practices through the expanded perspectives of digital technology. She also invites readers to envision the brave new world of digital technology through the traditional lenses of Christian “story-keeping, story-sharing, and story-making.” Each chapter begins with a Scriptural story providing a touchstone for what follows, beginning with Mark and Matthew’s stories of the Great Commission (Mark 16: 15-16; Matt 28:19-20), which provide the impetus for following this foundational mandate into the digital age.
In a lively overview of Christian communicative practices from the first century C.E. to the present day, Lytle contends that Christian communities have consistently embraced new cultural modes of communication, beginning in a predominantly oral culture that soon intersected with the written word to render the stories of Jesus more durable for succeeding generations of his followers and to communicate the Christian message to geographically distant audiences. Just as the technology of the written word became an indispensable instrument of early Christian evangelization and formation, Lytle affirms how digital media and social networking today “offer faith communities powerful tools for passing on a faith.” At the same time, she helps readers navigate and evaluate these tools and resources in the light of their own formational goals and programmatic priorities in her noteworthy chapter, “Message, Method, then Media.”
Faith Formation 4.0 is not a user’s manual for digitally timid DRE’s on how to use Facebook in religious education classes, nor will readers find a crash course for parish administrators on building bigger and better church websites. Rather, this is a book about celebrating faith in a digital age, informed by a vigorous digital spirituality, which challenges readers to imagine and embrace “God with us” in virtual spaces–webcasts, chat rooms, online conferences, Skype, or Facebook– no less than in the church sanctuaries, parish centers, and other physical spaces where we typically experience Christian community. For example, describing all of the digital technologies at play at the Episcopal Church’s 77th General Convention (July 2013), which she accessed in her hotel room while writing this book, Lytle evocatively captures the intersections between the “live” conference and its proliferations through digital media and social networking “to provide a sense of `being there'”, as the Convention delegates deliberated, voted, prayed together when one of their bishops suffered two strokes, and attended daily worship services available on the Convention website for all who wished to join them.
This brief review cannot do justice to the richness, resourcefulness, and wisdom of this book. Suffice it to say that it practices what it preaches. Its hybrid format of print (book), digital (e-book), and interactive website,[…] invites readers to join the conversation that Lytle initiates and to become part of the community of “story-keepers, story-sharers, and story-makers” that the book celebrates. It is essential reading for religious educators, pastors, parish administrators, theological seminary professors teaching online courses, digital novices and experts seeking to find God in all things virtual as well as physical, and all concerned with faith formation in a digital age.
— Lucretia B. Yaghjian / Adjunct Faculty, Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge MA