Technology and the Modern Church

By Dan Vis
November 14, 2016

Many in the church today are concerned about our inability to connect with and keep our youth and young adults. There are no doubt many reasons for this, but one may be that our churches are often not adapting to the means of communication used by that age group. Or to put it differently, we need to do a better job using technology in the modern church.

Chris Martin, over at Church Leaders, cited a document published more than 15 years ago by Marc Prensky entitled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Prensky, he notes, argued that the "arrival and rapid dissemination of digital technology in the last decades of the 20th century" did not just create "incremental" change between the new generation and the old, but rather a "discontinuity". And that was 15 years ago! We have today a whole generation who have never lived in a time without constant access to a global communication and information network (the internet) and as a result, they "think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors". The older generation are digital immigrants. The youth are digital natives. It's worth the read!

Martin then goes on to suggest 5 keys to making our church more technology friendly and thus more accessible to our youth:

1) DON’T DISCOURAGE TECHNOLOGY USE IN WORSHIP
Obviously, some things are inappropriate. But for many, live posting their thoughts is normative. Many use online Bibles or other study tools, or are doing instant fact checking on what they hear. Rather than shaming good behavior, why not encourage it? Get your youth texting in questions or comments. It opens up new avenues to connect with them.

2) GET YOUR CHURCH ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Social Media can be overwhelming--given the large number of platforms available: facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat. But there are members in your church who spend large amounts of time on each of these. Tap into them, and recruit a team of "ambassadors" to manage small "embassies" on these different platforms. It can greatly extend the outreach of your church.

3) START A CHURCH BLOG
Pastor's lives are busy, but one of the keys to success in ministry is good communication. And a good blog can be a powerful help in keeping the members and friends of your church up on what is happening. If you have a weekly newsletter, convert it to a blog. Encourage members to subscribe, and send out posts to the list. Old posts are automatically archived, discussions can be generated, and your church website stays fresh and current.

4) ENCOURAGE USING TECHNOLOGY TO GROW SPIRITUALLY
There are many powerful tools available to believers on the internet including countless apps and websites. Our own FAST site has a complete dashboard of powerful (and free) tools to help you read through the Bible, memorize Scripture, manage your time, maintain a prayer journal, and more tools are being added all the time. Good tools can be a blessing! Find some of these tools and promote them to your youth.

5) TEACH YOUR CHURCH HOW TO USE TECHNOLOGY WISELY
Lastly, consider developing a theology of technology. Technology is not inherently good or bad--it has to do with how you use it. Giving good solid, practical teaching on this will help both immigrants and natives to understand and manage the shifts taking place all around us more effectively. Such teaching will be relevant to youth and older members. Both struggle with the constant barrage of change--it's just in different ways.

To quote Martin's conclusion: "Digital Natives are filling your churches. Or, perhaps the bigger problem is that they aren’t. Preach the gospel—don’t change that—but consider how you might adapt to the Internet generation." May God give us wisdom to reach today's world.


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