10 Fears I Have for an “Internet Generation” of Church Leaders

I’m grateful for the opportunities that the Internet, social media, and other tools provide us as we do ministry in the 21st century. We can talk to the world in much more expedient ways today than we could when I started ministry more than 35 years ago. So, I’m overall quite positive about these tools. On the other hand, I do have these fears for young church leaders who’ve grown up with these tools:  

  1. That they will do ministry without talking with people. That’s what happens when your communication strategy usually means texting, emailing, etc.,  rather than having a conversation. 
  2. That they will do ministry via quick fix, simple, 140-character solutions. I worry they will not understand the value of a long-term, deeply felt commitment to a group of people. They’ve grown up in a world of abbreviations and shortcuts.    
  3. That they will not understand the value of their actual voice. It’s one thing to text a prayer to somebody, but it’s a completely different issue when that person hears you pray. A hurting, supportive voice can minister much better than a text. 
  4. That they won’t know how to relate directly to people. When your communication with people is primarily through a phone or computer screen, dealing with people face-to-face can be anxiety-producing and difficult. 
  5. That they will relocate physically as the Lord calls them in ministry, but they won’t really “move” from home. Today, you can relocate and still spend much more time talking with people from home than getting to know people in your new location. You’ve moved in body but not in spirit when your world revolves around Facebook friends from the past.  
  6. That they will learn the hard way the value of words. We probably all learned this lesson the hard way, but it’s just easier to say harsh or impure things via the Internet before you’ve thought about what you said. And, the words we put on the Internet seldom go away; they can haunt us for years. 
  7. That they will waste a lot of time in ministry. For example, writing emails and then following up to clarify misunderstandings, to add neglected information, and to explain your thinking often takes a lot longer than a simple phone conversation would require. Moreover, the Internet simply beckons us to “come and search” when we have other things we must do. 
  8. That they won’t know how to listen to people. It’s tough to know how to listen well when your entire life pattern has been to check your phone continually even while you’re having a conversation with somebody. To listen directly without a phone in their hands might, in fact, bring on the angst of withdrawal.  
  9. That they will look down on others who fight against change. The young generation has been raised on rapid change, but the older generation is often longing for something to stay the same in their lives. That’s a recipe for conflict unless young leaders are willing to slow down, hear, and minister to a generation that doesn’t always live by texts and Facebook posts.     
  10. That they will have no up-close, personal heroes. That’s already happening: their heroes are not men and women with whom they can have coffee; they’re preachers and teachers they know primarily from the Internet. Having those heroes is not wrong, but all of us need heroes who can stare us in the face and challenge us to walk with God. 

Just my ramblings for this Monday. . . . What are your thoughts?  

7 Comments

  • Mark says:

    As for #10, they never saw people have time to chat over a cup of coffee. Likely the only people who had time to chat over coffee were their grandparents who are probably now in the next world. If the internet generation of leaders do have any real authority is yet to be determined. However, the people who the younger generations look up to may well be physically removed but of much higher stature. Of course they are top notch. However, the higher ups tend to associate with other higher ups and not with the lesser people. I am not sure how one gets the higher ups to associate with the younger group. This is not something frequently seen.

  • Don Johnson says:

    They do not read paper books, underline sentences, and browse bookshelves.

  • Gary from Southern NH, USA says:

    Great comments to consider!

    Thanks
    Gary

  • Bill Pitcher says:

    A hand on the shoulder; a quick (proper) hug; a deep look into the eyes…can’t do those things on-line.

  • As an online convenience store for singles Christians, some one needs to talk to some out of state seminary students on how they find a new church when they arrive on campus. They ask their friends. Only 10% of Christians invite people to their churches. If you do not know any Christians , it is hard to find a church. Thus we have the un-churched is 1 in 3 in our population. As an online community ministry I reach 3600 and 5000 in Christmas / Thanksgiving, then 1 to 2 % will attend my events.

    This is going to be a difficult concept to most professional church pastors, but lonely people want to have conversations with people in their age range and life stage that are in a church.

    First on the web place directions from a major intersection to your church because the 1st question can I find the Church.
    Second People do not know the size of your church. Place directions to the Room and time
    On the website place an email address of a person in the age range and life stage who is always in the class.
    Then every thing goes normally and the web acts like some one inviting people to your church without the rejection and emotional investment.
    If some one wants to come to a ministry or class, they have a contact that will meet them in a church and have a conversation.

    Most churches simply fail to allow individuals in their own church to follow the great commission and use the web to help their churches to become multi-generational

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