Many readers live near a park. Cities all over the world feature spaces where people can congregate and enjoy life together. Yet to a certain group of people, these spaces mean something completely different. They represent physical challenges of skill, dexterity, and balance. This group of people are skateboarders. Their unique view of landscape provides a few lessons people in church communications can learn.
One of the most famous places to skateboard was LOVE Park in Philadelphia, PA. That posed a problem as the city eventually banned skateboarding there. Yet regular busts by the cops did not deter skaters. So the city decided to create obstacles to impede the ability to perform certain tricks in the park. This only sparked outcry from the community. The change in design even outraged the park's designer, Ed Bacon. He saw skateboarding in his park as a re-purposing of his design... and loved it.
"... it was their joy to adapt themselves physically to what was already there." - Ed Bacon
So what can we learn about this approach. As a former skateboarder and current web geek, I can certainly provide some insight.
View the world differently
I still walk around and see skateboarding opportunities. A set of steps with a good approach & exit path screams "nose slide". This is like when I am handed a paper handout in church. That screams "why isn't this digital" in my mind. Always look for ways you can digitize and automate parts of your church. I understand there are times and places for physical or analog mediums. You can often reduce time and money if you look for spaces to convert them to digital.
Obstacles are Challenges
Skateboarders view many of our landscape's obstacles as challenges. Ledges, handrails, and stairs are mountains waiting to be scaled. What obstacles does your web team face? Do you have committee members you feel are hindering progress? This is an opportunity for a workshop and education. No WordPress plug-in to provide a service you want? This may be your time to learn PHP programming and write your own code. Do not simply complain about that curb. Learn how to ollie it (that means jump up with your skateboard).
Embrace Unpredictable Interruptions
You probably never experienced anything as jarring as hitting a small pebble with a skateboard. It stops your wheel in an instant. Unfortunately, you continue forward to greet the pavement. While I never enjoyed this, it did not stop me from getting back on my board. Many social media conventions happen by accident. Users invented the "at mention" (using the @ symbol in front of a user name) and "hashtag" (using the # symbol to denote a tag/topic). Not the platform designers. There was even some adversity to adopting these conventions. Yet Twitter and even competitive platforms like Facebook eventually adopted them. Visitors will not always use your content the way you wanted. A prayer chat room may turn into something completely different. As long as it has a Kingdom impact, roll with the punches and see where it goes.
Take lessons from what is typically a rowdy bunch of teenagers. They see the world and tackle problems differently than the rest of us. Examine your church's physical landscape. See where your web team can take on a new challenge. And by all means, do not dismiss different behavior as inappropriate. If it has any Godly uses, redeem it as a new convention.
Note: This episode was inspired by the 99% Invisible podcast, Ep. 71: "In and Out of Love"
Also, special thanks to my childhood skateboarding buddies, Mike & Anthony for the many fond memories.
Photo courtesy of Angel Janer