There is a palpable buzz in youth ministries today. It is the buzz of cell phones that are not turned off despite your request for them to be turned off. Since there is no App labeled ‘off’, many people just turn the volume down. There are so many phones in the hands of teenagers these days. Students who don’t even say much have cell phones so that they can text, tweet, and download the latest App. In this age of immediate technology youth ministry communication has changed. We now have conversations with students while they play the latest edition of Angry Birds or giving students the benefit of the doubt that they are truly using a Bible App during the lesson. We also have multiple text-message conversations at once because we realize that the students will look at their phones if it buzzes. It also means being ever vigilant to penetrate the world of constant media stimulation with the ever-constant Word of God. This can be a source of major frustration for youth leaders because students will spend hours staring at the screen and then tell us they have no time for God. How are we to make sense of that?
The Bible is the most relevant book ever written. This has never changed despite all the latest technology. The challenge for us in youth ministry is to encourage teenagers to see it that way. It is a significant hurdle because of the constant distractions the latest gadgets produce. It all creates buzz that doesn’t naturally help students follow Christ.
Faith is not an App we download one time and let it update on its own. Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” It is not good enough for students to set their faith to update automatically and then to never think about it again. It only updates through time with Jesus Christ. Students who don’t have people regularly encouraging them to think and live biblically will have a difficult time growing in faith.
As youth leaders our job is to point them to Jesus Christ as the source of true faith. Students need to understand that the fast paced, media-driven, self-centered lifestyle that so many experience is not what God calls us to. We can challenge students to set down the distraction of technology in order to hear the voice of God because there are no short cuts to that.
The lack of time with God also has an affect on relationships in the youth groups. It used to be that disputes were handled in the public forum. Now students in might look fine on the outside, but on social media they are mean to each other. There have been conflicts between people that have been escalated because of social media. It has become so easy to say whatever without thought and it matters for the long-term.
Let’s create buzz in youth ministry. We don’t do this by offering the same things that the world does. We instead see the challenges of youth ministry as opportunities to teach what God says in His Word. We leverage the good and bad of technology by being engaging in the teachable moments their influence provides, whether pleasant or not. With proper vision and by the grace of God we can make the buzz in the youth group the truth of God’s Word. After all, Faith only grows because there is no App for it.
This is an article I wrote for a recent edition of YLO by Interlinc.