In conversation with a church member after preaching at one of our services, we started a conversation about reopening the church after the pandemic. This church member had an interesting perspective on the pandemic. He said, “The pandemic has forced the church to get online; perhaps this is an opportunity for us to spread the gospel further.”
It’s probably true. In the book of Acts, we see the persecution of the church forcing them to go out into the world to make disciples. Are we just as reluctant today to go out into the world? Have we created Adventist enclaves where we feel safe to be “ourselves” without having to explain the reason why we do what we do? Perhaps!
We can look at this pandemic as a painful reality for the church, that it forced our members to sit in their homes and do nothing, or we can see it as an opportunity. In fact, it might even be a calling to our church to become more outward-facing again. We have been forced to put our services online for the public to see, never truly knowing who is watching. Is this person an Adventist? Or a young adult who knows nothing about the Bible? Is this person in the United States or watching from a phone in Armenia?
Online church services could remain just as they are, catering to people who regularly attend our churches, or they could shift to become more evangelistic in nature. This shift could give us the opportunity to use social media as a tool to reach people all over the world, and challenging us to do ministry differently. But the question we have to ask ourselves is, why are people going online? And how can we fulfill that need so they see our church as a resource to grow in their faith?
Luckily, we have research to help us understand this a bit more. Recent Barna Group research shows that the top three experiences Gen Z gets through social media are feeling connected to the world, feeling connected to others, and staying informed. We can use this as a basic framework to lead us on how to approach digital ministry. It’s not just a place where we dump our sermons; we have to be more intentional about creating our online space. So let’s dive deeper into these three experiences that we see Gen Z seeking online.
Connected to the World
Young people crave connection. It may not seem like it when you try speaking to them, but young people don’t always know how to make connections. They are still learning, growing, and they may feel embarrassed to start a conversation. The easiest way to get connected is often through an online platform where you can find connection without becoming vulnerable to rejection.
Connecting to the world can look like talking about relevant topics in your churches. Oftentimes, the church feels like an isolated entity in its own reality. Social media is a great way to share and produce high-quality content about relevant topics and issues in the world from a faith perspective. Some ways to effectively connect to the world extend beyond just social media, sometimes it is in your churches’ ideation and planning. Plan to discuss and dialogue about conversations that young people want to have. One of the best and simplest ways is to invite young people into these ideation spaces to produce relevant content that lets people know their church is helping them connect with the world.
You can ask your church, how can we become an avenue to connect young people to the world? How can we use our digital platform to create a space for that?
Connected to Others
As noted before, young people crave connection. Social media was never intended to become a place for commerce but a means of connecting people who are far away from one another. Hence the word “social.” Yet, when young people get online, they actually feel more disconnected from their family and friends. In another Barna Group study, Gen Z shared that they would rather talk to their friends in person, go outside on a beautiful day, spend time with family, and go on a walk or run than be online.
Online communities are a real thing. So many young people have felt seen, and their interests and passions have been affirmed in online communities. As a church, you can provide a space for developing and creating communities, such as an online book club or a game night. Find something simple you can do together because the church is a great place to find community.
You can have your church’s social media provide tips that help propel them to build an intentional connection with those around them, whether family or friends. You can create videos or blogs that help young people learn social skills and help them reframe the way they think about those relationships in the light of eternity. It can even be something as simple as giving them ideas on what to do with family and friends to bond together and create a way to foster intentional connection.
So, how can your church give its youth ideas on how to go beyond online interaction and spend time doing the things they really want to do?
We live in an age of information, and our young people are the ones accessing most of it. More and more people are taking online workshops, watching YouTube videos to learn how to cook a recipe, and watching TikTok videos that inform them on current events. Young people are looking for easy and quick ways to access information. It’s also known that when young people find something they believe to be valuable, they send it to their friends. Thus, digital information is very valuable information for our churches.
A key element to this is sharing and producing content with the help of young people. In asking their input and what is on their minds, we can craft relevant and authentic content. When producing and providing information, we have to be willing to step outside of our comfort zone. Far too often, we do the bare minimum in the digital space and think that it’s enough. In our efforts to effectively educate, we need to produce quality more so than quantity. Our content, graphics, design, and audio must show that we take this work seriously. There are 3.5 billion people on social media, and the more intentional and high-quality we are, the more effectively we can communicate.
Brainstorm some ways your church can use social media to educate the community of young people around you. Not just those in the church, but those you desire to reach with the gospel message. We can teach young people the best way to study the Bible, help a friend when they are going through depression, or even answer some of their most pressing questions about life.
Think about the abundance of resources at your fingertips. There are so many people with a plethora of knowledge. Harness it to create powerful digital media to share with the world.
Go out into the world, because this is the hour to harness a powerful digital world, for good.
 “ChurchPulse Weekly Conversations: Jennie Allen on Gen Z, Tech & Formative Suffering.” Barna Group, February 17, 2021. https://www.barna. com/research/cpw-jennie-allen/.
 “Technology Promises Connection, but Gen Z Sees a Paradox.” Barna Group. Accessed May 20, 2021.