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Bridging Faith and Technology: The church hackathon phenomenon

In a pioneering event hosted by tech company Gloo in Boulder, Colorado, the first-ever “AI and the Church” hackathon gathered about 200 participants to explore how artificial intelligence could serve Christian congregations. This hackathon aimed at developing AI solutions to enhance church administration, equip churches, deepen intimacy with God, and reach beyond traditional boundaries. Teams tackled many projects, from AI-generated illustrations for children’s catechisms to AI tools for Bible study and prayer guidance. Despite skepticism from the broader Christian community about AI’s role in spiritual discipleship, the event underscored a growing interest in leveraging technology for faith-based purposes.

Christianity Today:

Nick Skytland likes to ask pastors a question.

“Have you ever considered that the biggest mission field in the world is nowhere in the physical world?” he will say.

“It’s actually the digital world.”

Usually when he asks that, the NASA chief technologist, whose day job is focused on getting astronauts back to the moon, just gets blank stares.

For a few days in October, though, Skytland was surrounded by people who do know the scope and scale of the digital world. And if they didn’t respond to him, it was because they were busy working with artificial intelligence programs to develop real-life solutions to take faith to the digital mission field.

About 200 people gathered at the tech company Gloo’s headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, for the first-ever “AI and the Church” hackathon. Gloo, which is dedicated to connecting and equipping the faith community, invited 41 teams to compete for $250,000 in prizes and $750,000 in additional funding. Skytland and a NASA colleague, Ali Llewellyn, cohosted the event.

The “hackers” worked on one of four challenges: streamlining church administration, equipping the church, deepening intimacy with God, and pushing “beyond boundaries.”

They lounged on couches and hunched over laptops at tables across the headquarters’ open workspace, part of an old building Gloo renovated and modernized. Some wore noise-canceling headphones, blocking out any distractions from their work. Others chatted and made new friends. Still others worked together on problems with their projects.

Read the full article here.

Key Points

  • The “AI and the Church” hackathon hosted by Gloo aimed to explore AI’s potential to support Christian congregations.
  • Projects ranged from making religious texts accessible for children to creating AI-driven Bible study tools and prayer guides.
  • Despite skepticism within the Christian community, participants were optimistic about AI’s ability to enhance spiritual engagement and discipleship.

Themes Pros Cons
Technology in Worship – Can enhance learning and spiritual growth – Skepticism about AI’s role in faith
Accessibility – Makes religious texts more accessible – Potential for misinterpretation by AI
Community Engagement – Encourages innovation within faith communities – Concerns over replacing human-led teaching

Questions to Consider

  1. How might AI technology redefine the way we practice and understand faith?
  2. What ethical considerations should guide the development of AI in religious contexts?
  3. How can churches balance the benefits of technological advancement with the importance of personal, human connection in spiritual growth?

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