The Tech-Wise Family

The Tech-Wise Family

Wisdom: living well in God’s world.
Like a fine wine or a learned skill, wisdom must be crafted and cultivated. It’s not an instant download or a Prime delivery. It must be practiced. We practice it in relationships, in finances, in education, in time management, and in our interactions with technology. In fact, as we have highlighted many times before, we habit our way into wisdom. In other words, wisdom is not limited to knowing important information; wisdom is living well (thoughtfully and reverentially) in God’s world. It means practicing, through repeated actions, what we know and confess to be true.  
In the opening article, we shared wisdom regarding devices and software designed to keep you and your family safe online. In this article, we’re going to highlight a concise, thoughtful, and practical book designed to help you develop and practice wisdom with the internet, media, and the ubiquitous (appearing everywhere) screens in your life.
Andy Crouch, author of the insightful book Culture Making, has written a book on wisdom and technology entitled The Tech-Wise Family. I highly recommend it (it’s available in the church library). In it he observes, “The pace of technological change has surpassed anyone’s capacity to develop enough wisdom to handle it” (17). In what seemed like a blink of an eye, everyone was walking around with screens in their hands, the internet at their fingertips, and soon to be the “metaverse” before their eyes.[1] A world of content (for good and ill) is available to anyone and everyone. Beyond content, though, is the way this new medium has changed our interaction with truth as truth has been removed from divine revelation, from creation, and from the wise (those living and practicing wisdom) to anyone who can tap the “share” button.  
In addition to atomizing (breaking into pieces) and disjointing truth from God and His revelation in Scripture and creation, our addiction to screens has diminished our understanding and appreciation of wonder. Mr. Crouch explains, “My iPhone’s wonder generators, from Instagram to Temple Run, turn out to be only distractions from the things that really spark wonder” (12). Wisdom, therefore, reminds us that “Wonder comes from opening your eyes wider, not bringing the screen closer” (12-13).
In other words, wisdom teaches us to see something bigger, brighter, and better than screens in the real world all around us. Wisdom, therefore, drives us to focus on “something older and better than the newest thing” (11). It doesn’t mean eliminating screens; it means taming them, intentionally limiting their presence in our lives so that we can meaningfully engage in the world beyond the screen. 
It involves, as Mr. Crouch emphasizes, three fundamental choices, choice every individual and family should thoughtfully make. We’ll list them then explore them:
1. Choose character
2. Shape space
3. Structure time
Choose Character
Choosing character, as Mr. Crouch puts it, means making “the mission of our family, for children and adults alike, the cultivation of wisdom and courage” (38). Appreciate what he’s saying, families should have a mission. Your family should have a mission: living and practicing wisdom and cultivating the courage to do what is right (even when no one is looking).
More foundationally, it’s critical for us to appreciate that wisdom and courage are best cultivated in families which serve as the bedrock of society and the cradle of culture. Schools, extracurriculars, clubs, etc. are important, but they are built on the family bedrock and are strengthened by the family bond. So, while it is right and good to emphasize education and extracurricular activities, it is shortsighted to do so without appreciating and strengthening the family.     
Forging courageous, resilient, wonder-awakened people happens first and foremost in the family through the discerning habits they intentionally hone. So the question is: “How or will any particular technology help us in developing these wisdom-honing habits?” As Mr. Crouch puts it: “Will this [technology] help me become less foolish and more wise? Will this help me become less fearful and more courageous?” (68).
That question, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is daily asked and answered in families. And we must acknowledge, as Mr. Crouch emphasizes, “Technology, with all its gifts, poses one of the greatest threats ever conceived by human society to the formation of wise, courageous persons that real family and real community are all about” (62). As we’ve emphasized before, though, it’s not that technology is bad, but it most certainly is not neutral. To choose character families need to practice discernment in screens and media.
Further, if families truly desire to learn wisdom, they need to find meaningful ways to connect to the church. Mr. Crouch writes,  
The first family for everyone who wants wisdom and courage in the way of Jesus is the church – the community of disciples who are looking to Jesus to reshape their understanding and their character (60).
As emphasized before in previous newsletters, the church becomes the hub of the family’s life. As their week turns, they, like spoke sliders, go out into their vocations with the confession of Christ on their lips and the virtue of wisdom in their lived choices, and they then return to the church weekly for worship and training in wisdom.
Shape Space
Shaping space involves giving careful thought to the main living areas in your home. As Mr. Crouch emphasizes, “We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement” (71). The goal is to make the heart of your home about “things older and better than the newest thing” (82), things like conversation, creativity (making music, toys driven by imagination, family games), and reading (aloud as a family and as individuals).
To do so we need to “Find the room where your family spends the most time and ruthlessly eliminate the things that ask little of you and develop little in you” (79). This will require brutal honesty. It will make you stand in front of your TV and ask, “Does this technology help me and my family become less foolish and more wise? Will this help me and my family become less fearful and more courageous?” It will require the same with every item in your main living space. Is the space shaped for creation or consumption, for cultivating wisdom or facilitating distraction, for strengthening the family or fragmenting it?
It may require dramatic change to rearrange rooms for the cultivating of wisdom. Mr. Crouch is straightforward about it: “You don’t have to become Amish, but you probably have to become closer to Amish than you think” (29). We need to remember that developing wisdom won’t happen on its own. It requires intentionally shaped space. It requires asking hard questions about the heart of our homes and then shaping our living spaces in a way that facilitates the cultivation of wisdom.
Structure Time
Structuring time is bigger than daily schedules and to-do lists; it involves intentionally, as Mr. Crouch explains, 
Build[ing] rhythms into our lives, on a daily, weekly, and annual basis, that make it possible for us to get to know one another, God, and our world in deeper and deeper ways (38-39).
God, Himself, built this rhythm into His creation with six days being given for work and the Sabbath for rest and for remembering His creative and redemptive works. Mr. Crouch reflects on this: “Sabbath will be most powerful and helpful if we let its core pattern of work and rest become the defining pattern of our lives” (98).
How that pattern of work and rest plays out in each individual and family will vary, but the existence of the pattern shouldn’t be ignored. There is great wisdom in regular rhythms, but it is a wisdom that can only be appreciated and enjoyed when it is lived. Therefore, work, especially meaningful work as a family, should be thoughtfully embraced. Mr. Crouch acknowledges that practicing and modeling meaningful work may be exacerbated by labor saving technology, but he emphasizes, 
In a technological age, even those of us who have good work to do have to make an extra effort to show our children how our work requires real skill and produces something worthwhile (92).
Real cooking, hands-on projects, planting, weeding, mowing, pruning, building, cleaning, and so on not only produce worthwhile results, but they connect work to meaning and purpose and they give children (and adults!) something to admire and value.
And rest, intentional, structured rest, gives us time to reflect, to recharge, and to reenergize relationships. And this rest may need to be applied to our screens so that we can accomplish the purpose of rest. Mr. Crouch writes,
We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest.  So one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, play, and rest together (83).
As with shaping space, this may look different in different individuals’ and families’ lives, but time and the way we interact with it should not be ignored. Wisdom calls us to structure time around the divine pattern of work and rest.
If you’d like to learn more about putting these choices into practice to become wise and courageous people, check our Mr. Crouch’s book (in the church library or available online) or come visit with me. – Pastor Conner  

[1] The metaverse is a continuous online 3-D virtual world accessed through computers and virtual and augmented reality headsets. It’s why Facebook has rebranded its parent company as “Meta.” It sees the future technology coming online and it is intentionally moving to align itself with it.  

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