Exploring AI and Faith with Your Church

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Some topics don't come up in church. It's not because they aren't important or because there aren't spiritual implications, but because it is hard to imagine how you would talk about it in a helpful way. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of those topics. The impact AI will have on our families, careers and our understanding of humanity will be significant, but how do you make the jump from your LinkedIn world to the pews (or folding chairs) of your church? 

Recently I collaborated with our pastor at LifeBridge Church, John Adams, and a technologist and fellow attendee of LifeBridge, Jay Rodgers, to put on a half day workshop for anyone in the church to come and explore AI and Faith. Below I'm going to share how we did it and encourage you to consider hosting something like this for your local church. What we did is very low-key and easy to replicate with a bit of effort. 

First we met as a group with one other businessman from the church, John Hainstock. We talked about AI, our experiences, the needs of our church and the depth we should go into the topic to be most helpful to our community. 

After that we began to collaborate on a shared document and put together an agenda with assignments for each presenter. We decided on a Saturday morning event from 8:30 to 12:00 including a donuts and coffee along with lunch. The schedule is below:
  • 8:30-9:15 Level Setting Panel - What is AI and Why Does it Matter to a Believer today 
  • 9:15 - 10:00 Table Discussions - AI Case Studies to Explore
  • 10:00 - 10:15 Break
  • 10:15 - 11:00 Kingdom Perspectives on AI
  • 11:00 - 12:00 Foundational Principles and Virtues in a Changing World
The panel was designed to personalize such a huge topic with a variety of opinions and insights. Then the table discussions allowed attendees to explore four different case studies and talk about how they would handle those situations. The case studies included topics like students cheating, AI as a friend, Bible study with AI and AI's impact on the workforce. After the break we followed up with two more workshop-style talks about perspectives and principles to help guide a Christian in their use of AI. 

Once the content was well on its way, we began to engage the congregation. We used three key approaches:
  1. We created an invite graphic and began texting it to people in the church who might be interested to give this unique topic a personal touch. 
  2. John shared from the front about the event and was very intentional about explaining that it was not designed for techies. It was really important to highlight that the content was for anyone in the church because AI is going to impact all of us in one way or another. 
  3. Finally, we recorded a podcast episode several weeks out that explained what AI was, talked about why it was important for Christians to explore it and explained what the event would be like. You can listen to the podcast here
Now to reflect on the event . . . I'll start with a few things I really liked and then I'll share some lessons learned. 

I was very pleased with the intergenerational group. There were digital natives and people who could remember when computers were just being introduced. I was also so pleased with the quality of the discussions around the tables and the questions during the workshop sessions. It was fun to see people applying their faith to this emerging area of society and stretching their minds to consider the implications of AI on what it means to represent Jesus in the world today. 

After it was all done, I reflected with John that we could have done even more level setting. There were people who had never used ChatGPT in the room and others who used it daily for their work. Some were well versed in the implications on their professions while others were thinking about the impacts for the first time. Doing more work to explain AI and some of the most basic ways it works would have been helpful. The group definitely had more men than women. We could have been much more intentional about personally inviting women so that they knew this would be a space where they were welcome and could benefit. We did some of that but we could have been more intentional. Ideally we would have had both men and women on the planning team for the event. 

As I listened to the discussions over lunch and the next day at our Sunday service, I was so excited to hear all the thoughtful comments and applications that people were exploring. It was clear that people had grabbed onto the key concepts and were beginning to think them through for themselves. That was a huge encouragement and an indicator of the impact the event had on people who attended. 

To download the presentations, view the panel questions and case studies, click here to engage with the content we created for this interactive morning session. To listen to the panel, and two workshop sessions click on the links below:
Once you have explored what we did, the question is now in your corner. What will you do to help your church wrestle with the intersection of Faith and AI? Let us know what you try and we look forward to celebrating with you.