Frequently those who remember the days before the Internet (digital immigrants) will say that they have to find some young people (digital natives) to get their ministry on the Internet. Then they do something that they would never do to a beginner in any other ministry—they leave the young adult to deliver ministry content without any training or ministry support. Digital natives need ministry mentors. Let’s not abandon them.
It is true that most young people, not all, have grown up with the Internet and social media and are very comfortable with the technology. They have used it for games, socializing and networking with their friends and family. They have used it to do their homework and to take classes—but that does not automatically qualify them for Internet ministry.
Internet ministry requires expertise in:
- Ministry—what is the service we are providing, to whom are we providing it
- Communications—how to give directions, how to explain the truths of faith and answer questions about activities, events and the practice of faith clearly
- Instructional design—it is not enough to know how to post updates, knowledge of good process is also needed
- Internet and social media communications—how to use the technology
Ministry leaders need to own their expertise and then find the right technology support. The best people for ministry support have Internet and social media skills, enthusiasm for their faith, and the ability to exercise initiative as well as to take directions. They also have good writing skills and are attentive to details. What I have found most helpful in the young adults that I have worked with, is that they are not afraid to experiment and to learn new computer skills. And they are thrilled to use their skills to advance mission. I have also found that they need help to use these skills in professional and ministerial environments.
Personally, I think that it is easier for someone with ministry expertise to learn Internet and social media skills than it is for someone who knows technology to learn ministry. Ministry is not just about content; it is about people and life experience. It takes time and real life interaction to learn ministry. We need to have the patience and the commitment to work with the younger people we recruit to do our Internet and social media ministries and we have to be open to learning from them. When we do that, we can bring our gifts and their skills to the people we serve in new, exciting, and effective ways. We will be mentoring the ministry leaders of the future and we will become better ministers in the process.
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