Faith and Technology: A Great Team!
We live in a digital age that is a playground for Millennials (ages 18 to 29). Most children and teens are more proficient than their parents with computers, tablets, and mobile phones. In a recent Barna study, Millennials certainly stand apart in their unsurpassed digital-savvy. They’re also in a class of their own when it comes to faith experience and practice. The Millennials are using technology in three unique ways to practice their faith.
1. Real-time Faith
According to Barna research, the most common way Millennials are blending their faith and technology is through a digital reading of Scripture. There are just as many YouVersion (the free Bible phone app) downloads as there are Instagram downloads. And BibleGateway.com has become one of the top Christian websites today.
Seventy percent of practicing Christian Millennials read Scripture on a screen. One-third of all Millennials say they read Scripture on a phone or online.
Millennials are also heavy users of online videos pertaining to faith—54% of practicing Christian Millennials, and 31% of all Millennials engage in this activity.
About one-third of all Millennials are using online search to scope out a church online. This increases to over half (56%) of practicing Christian Millennials who do the same.
“The Bible according to Google!”
Certainly, the internet has made finding answers to questions—any questions—more accessible than ever. Whether it’s curiosity about a new restaurant or matters of faith, Millennials are taking their inquiries to the search bar. 59% of practicing Christians say they search for spiritual content online, but it’s not only Christians doing this kind of surfing. 30% of all Millennials are too, which may open up a new field of opportunity for churches hoping to understand and connect with these souls in cyberspace.
2. Fact-Checking Sermons
The one-way communication from pulpit to pew is not how Millennials experience faith. By nature of digital connectedness, Millennial life is interactive. For many of them, faith is interactive as well—whether their churches are ready for it or not. It’s an ongoing conversation, and it’s all happening on their computers, tablets, and smartphones. What’s more, many of them bring their devices with them to church. Now with the ability to fact-check at their fingertips, Millennials aren’t taking the teaching of faith leaders for granted. In fact, 14% of Millennials say they search to verify something a faith leader has said. A striking 38% of practicing Christian Millennials say the same.
Beyond the congregation, technology is also changing how Millennials learn about and discuss their faith. This generation is accustomed to foraging in multiple digital places at any given time—from texting to Twitter to Instagram, from news feeds to blogs, and more. This digital deluge naturally includes matters of faith and spirituality. For example, more than 40% of practicing Christian Millennials say they participate in online conversations about faith. The same number says they blog or post comments on blogs about spiritual matters.
3. Digital Donations
10% of Millennials say they donate to a church or faith organization online at least once a month. The rate is four times higher among practicing Christian Millennials (39%). These levels are lower than average donors of other generations but nevertheless demonstrate millions of Millennials are active givers.
Another way to spark Millennial giving is to reach them where they are, which in many cases is on their mobile phones. Nearly 10% of all Millennials say they text to donate at least once a month, doubling among practicing Christian Millennials to 20%.
The traditional tithing envelope that worked for their parents and grandparents doesn’t seem to work for a generation as mobile as Millennials.
Based on this Barna research, how do Christian parents and the church plan on reaching this technically savvy generation and those to follow? What must we do to ensure that our faith's Biblical principles and practices are passed on to future generations?
Couple of key points must be addressed:
1. The Internet is a very valuable and information-rich resource. However, it also contains a lot of information that is not suitable for young minds and Christian families. In order to protect Christian values in the family, parents must educate themselves with the available filters and monitoring tools. Parents have the ability to turn on content filtering, thus disabling unwanted information from being viewed. There are also monitoring tools available that allow parents to see what their children are viewing or communicating. Password protection schemes and downloads can be implemented too. These protection vehicles are plentiful but require implementation and training.
2. The family and church need to make technology available to the younger generation. Not allowing them access to the internet will just force them to find alternative sources which will not have any policing mechanisms. Recently, TBC has implemented a new software program call “REALM”. REALM is basically “Facebook” for the church. This includes chat rooms, news feeds, posts, and online giving with text giving embedded. Church websites and social media pages are also a must to reach the next generation, but the content must be relevant, current, and easy to navigate.
Although these points may seem easy, they require constant attention and an adequate amount of financing to ensure current trends and avenues are addressed and policed to meet the technology needs of the next generations while continuing to promote biblical principles.