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Microsoft’s Kevin Turner on digital faith

These days, Kevin Turner has his head in the cloud.
Turner, a member of the Bellevue Church of Christ in Washington state, has served as Microsoft’s chief operating officer since 2005. He leads a global organization of more than 47,000 employees.
He’s helping Microsoft transform from software giant to a “devices and services company” — a term he used in a recent interview with The Australian titled “How Microsoft is shaping the post-PC world.” Gone is the era when people purchased his company’s products on disks in shrink-wrapped cardboard and installed them on bulky desktop computers, he says. Now users access a “cloud” of information through touch-screen devices, carried in their pockets.
Turner is used to change — and making change. The Stratford, Okla., native began his career as a Wal-Mart cashier as he attended East Central University in nearby Ada.
After graduation, he rose through the ranks of the retail giant, eventually serving as president and chief executive officer of Sam’s Club, a firm with 46 million members and more than $37 billion in annual sales.
He attributes his faith in Jesus to the influence of strong Christian parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. He and his wife, Shelley, have been married 24 years and have three children: Blake, 17; Beau, 15; and Brynlee, 11. This fall, Blake Turner will join the football team as a walk-on at the University of California, Los Angeles.
As a Christian father — and avid follower of communication trends — Kevin Turner sees opportunities for churches to use ever-evolving technology to connect with new generations.
The Word of God is there, in the cloud, he says, but people of faith must make it a part of their online “inner circles.”
How can the church remain relevant in this highly technological environment?
The church must find ways to connect deeper with young people. Young people have new forums and new ways to communicate and connect, and the church has to become contemporary in those ways. It’s not about young people conforming to the way that the church has always communicated. It’s about the church adapting to the way the communication evolves.
This is a very fluid time from a technology standpoint. And it’s a very interesting time because the level of communication, the quality of the communication and the clarity of the communication has the potential to never be greater than it is today.
The ability to reach people on certain subjects at certain times has never been more timely, has never been more up-to-the-minute, up-to-the-second.
It would be great if the church could continue to make changes, adapt and become contemporary in this new world of communication.
Should a church have a staff member devoted to that kind of communication with the congregation?
It could. But I think it also means that everybody needs to broaden their skill set. Anytime you assign that to somebody, that says that other people don’t have to work on it or think about it.
You may need a catalyst to come in to teach, train and bring everybody along, but I think as long as you have the mindset that it’s the way that you have to re-transform yourself — and embrace the technology, and make sure that you’re not afraid of it.
I think that a catalyst can be very helpful and beneficial. The world needs the Word of God now more than ever.
Why do you see the world needing the Gospel more than ever?
The ability of people to get information has exploded with the Internet. I don’t believe that the spreading of the Word of God has exploded at the same rate as the Internet.
I think there’s a chance there for that to be resolved and improved. Utilizing the contemporary means finding and connecting with people and sharing ideas and thoughts.
Think about it. There’s never been an easier forum to discuss, debate, learn things about the Gospel and the Word of God than there is today in a very broad, diverse, opinionated way, which can only make us all smarter and better and give us a different perspective.
Yet the ability to see people use those vehicles is still limited today. I think it can be dramatically changed.
What do you perceive as the relationship of teenagers, technology and the church?
In terms of teenagers utilizing technology to connect to the church — or to connect to the Word of God — they are limited. They’re connecting with their circles, their interests, their friends, their family. Everybody is creating their own inner circles.
The inner circles are getting broader and bigger, but the ability to have the church be a core part of people’s inner circles is something, from a technology standpoint, that should and needs to continue to evolve.
Technology provides the means for people to belong to a community. Having the religious community be a part of people’s personal circles is very, very important — and is underutilized today.
How has technology impacted our work and personal lives?
Today’s work environment has positively affected families — the ability for people to work from home, the ability for people to work from a job-sharing perspective. The Internet has created a lot of jobs and opportunities for people to stay connected.
People ask me what I think about work-life balance. The word “balance” throws me off a little bit, because that says one is trying to do two things at once. I’m a real fan of work-life harmony rather than work-life balance.
There are times when family must take priority, and there are other times when work must take priority. It all depends on the situation.
How can parents help their children understand this work-life harmony?
The biggest thing they can do is find the quality time that is necessary. Some quantity is important, but it’s not the most important thing. The quality of the time is the most important thing. We have a rule in our house that when it is dinner time and we’re all sitting around the table, there are no screens, no technology, and we talk and communicate face to face and person to person.
Technology is a real asset. We love it, and it can change our lives in a positive way. But there are times for no technology and making sure that we don’t forget that we have to talk to each other and listen to one another and share with one another so that we can totally connect with each other on a deeper level.
What have you learned from managing a large workforce that might benefit church leaders?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that almost every person has hopes, dreams and aspirations.
It’s difficult to understand exactly where everybody’s coming from, but as long as you keep in mind that you can be a positive energy carrier, you can be someone who inspires hope. 
People want to feel heard. They want to feel like their opinion matters. They want to feel like the leader really understands where they’re coming from. Even though their point of view might be different from the leader’s, it’s important that the leader connect on an individual basis and have that connection at a deep level, to be able to inspire and motivate and encourage people to do things they normally or ordinarily wouldn’t do.
That is one thing that I have found. It’s pretty universal around the world, regardless of the organization, culture or country.

Filed under: Dialogue

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