Book Review: Faith Formation 4.0 by Julie Anne Lytle

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on September 10, 2013

in Digital Age

FF4.0coverThe title of Julie Anne Lytle’s book, Faith Formation 4.0 attracted me.  The subtitle, “Introducing an Ecology of Faith in a Digital Age,” made me think twice–as “ecology” is not a word that I usually associate with faith formation or the digital age. Dr. Lytle is Grant Director and Associate Professor at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass, and is currently serving as Executive Director of the Episcopal Province of New England. She describes herself as a digital enthusiast and theological consultant. She is known for her “message, method, then media” approach.

Dr. Lytle has received awards for her innovations in the use of digital media for theological education and other service projects. Her process starts with knowing the message, discerning the appropriate method, then selecting the media to use.  This is good practice and a good model.

Near the end of her book she writes:

The primary focus of this book has been to provide a comprehensive process to make decisions about whether and how to use media for evangelization and formation.

The book outlines four eras of communication: oral, written, mass distribution and digital. Dr. Lytle makes the point that religious people have utilized these means to share stories of faith with each generation. As a former Catholic turned Episcopalian, the author positions this text under the umbrella of Christian formation.

The book is well researched and includes scripture, theology, history, sociology of religion, human development, learning theory and an ecological perspective each with its own jargon which the author uses with great facility. I think that in touching on so many areas in this short book of 158 pages, the author has at times overshadowed her focus.

I found the book more of a report on the evolution of communication and methods of faith formation and evangelization than a vision of what could come in the future.  However, Dr. Lytle did open that door near the end of her book when she points out that the impact of digital media and social networking (which she does not spend much time on) will become clearer as the GenXers (34-45) and the Millennials (18-33) and those who follow them become the majority of the population. She writes on page 156: We need to plan for the present, with the future in mind. Hopefully, Dr. Lytle will begin her next book here.

If you have already read Faith Formation 4.0, I would love to hear your comments.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean Ponder Soto September 11, 2013 at 11:52 am

Thank you (again!) for this helpful review. I count on you to keep me up to date on the ministry and media publications. Jean Soto

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND September 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

Thanks, Jean. It is always good to know that what I write is helpful to someone. Have a blessed day!

Julie Lytle October 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Thank you for reading and reviewing my book. I am always appreciative of hearing ways I can clarify my work to benefit others.

One of the greatest challenges in writing Faith Formation 4.0 was covering enough information without overwhelming readers. My hope is that I can help readers understand that we are in a whole new era of communications which is having an impact on EVERYTHING we do, especially faith formation.

Moving from a more “mass mediated” time where a small group influenced the message communicated to a large audience (think radio and television… also sermon and Sunday School) to a “distributive age” when everyone can originate and receive messages (think social media… ) means that we who are passionate about passing on the stories of our faith and enacting God’s mission need to revision how we do it in a more contextualized way. There are many ways to communicate, but what will work for one community likely will not for all communities. Hopefully I offered enough to help individuals and communities to reflect on their contexts, discern their needs and resources, and become evangelists in ways that make sense for themselves and their communities.

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