This is an excerpt from “Time to Update: 7 Areas to Integrate Digital Discipleship into Your Children’s Ministry Strategy” by Brittany Nelson, creator of DeeperKidMin.com and INCM Partner.
There are many positive and negative opinions about the next generation’s obsession with the digital world and how the digital world is influencing development, relationships, and society.
But, no matter your thoughts about the influence of technology, there are three reasons ministry leaders can’t ignore digital discipleship:
First, digital is all the next generation knows.
As a millennial, I’m a digital native, meaning I’m one of the generations who doesn’t know life without the internet.
We’ve spent our entire lives surrounded by computers, video games, cell phones, streaming services, and all the other tools and apps found in the digital world.
The next generation of kids and families doesn’t just use the internet; we live on it.
Digital native generations (those born after the 1980s, though some argue that the first actual generation of digital natives was born after 1995) receive judgment for our misuse of social media and the digital world.
I acknowledge the adverse effects this digital age can have on our relationships, attention spans, and self-esteem, but the digital world is the world into which we were born.
Children’s ministry leaders can fault a generation of kids and parents for living in the only reality they’ve ever known, or leaders can step into their realities to reach them with the gospel and teach them about Jesus.
Using technology and the digital world helps leaders stay relevant to the kids and families they serve.
Second, digital provides opportunities for the church like never before.
Digital media and social networking allow for faster information sharing in a way accessible to anyone with an internet connection, which is nearly 65% of the world’s population as of January 2023.
People can communicate more quickly and easily; the digital world offers flexibility and quick adaptability.
Ultimately, the internet and social media provide a mission field for the church that moves beyond the confines of physical space or location.
Digital discipleship offers an extension of your physical ministry into the online world.
Finally, like it or not, the digital world is here to stay.
Churches must embrace the tool of technology or risk becoming completely irrelevant to the next generation.
According to a recent Barna study, Six Questions About the Future of the Hybrid Church Experience, only 42% of Millennials (the parents of the kids in your ministry) prefer in-person worship, meaning that the majority don’t.
This same study also showed that parents are looking for hybrid (in-person and online) options for church services for their families.
Kids will continue growing up as digital natives, knowing how to operate a tablet and scroll through a smartphone at a young age.
Technologies will continue to advance, change, adapt, and improve faster and faster.
For better or worse, our world’s addiction to and reliance on technology means the digital world is a permanent fixture in our lives.
You can pick up a copy of Time to Update: 7 Areas to Integrate Digital Discipleship into Your Children’s Ministry Strategy on Amazon.
Brittany Nelson is a former children’s pastor and the creator of DeeperKidMin.com, an online hub of downloadable resources for FOR children’s ministry leaders BY children’s ministry leaders. She holds a Master of Arts in Ministry degree from Wesley Seminary with a concentration in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry.