Christianity in the Digital Age
How can young Christians harness digital tools to share and grow in their faith, and how can pastors and youth workers use technology in creative ways to support their youth ministry? These were some of the questions broached at a dialogue with Kevin Kim, Executive Director of Crazy Love in San Francisco, and elder and pastor at We Are Church. As the co-founder of a faith-based technology organisation called Basil Tech, Kevin is part of the team that has developed Read Scripture, an app that incorporates contextual videos from The Bible Project with daily scripture readings. Kevin discussed the intersection of faith and technology in the digital age, and shared his personal experience of using digital tools to aid Christian ministry. Rachel Tan, 24, shares her reflections:
“Christianity in the Digital Age” with Kevin Kim was centred on the relevance of innovation to ministry, missions work, and the Church at large. Three main lessons that I came away from the session with were:
- The importance of unlocking the enormous human capital in church, and activating people in church to apply their gifts and talents.
- How the Church can be thought of more as a ‘platform’ rather than a ‘product’ (to use tech metaphors).
- The value of using current platforms and tools (such as hackathons or investing in online seminary education through the use of channels such as YouTube) for engaging young people.
Kevin’s most inspiring story pertained to how he incorporates innovation into his ministry and missions projects, and how he applies his entrepreneurial and marketing skills to understand his audience, which largely consists of millennial start-up enthusiasts who are into hype and innovation. I was impressed by his honesty and progressiveness in being willing to recognise and acknowledge the kind of audience he was dealing with, and to cater to both their preferred modes of engagement and their particular spiritual needs.
While the gospel is unchanging in the attractiveness of its message, the mode or medium of communication used to convey it can matter. One of the perennial difficulties in ministry and missions lies in understanding how best to engage various audiences by demonstrating the relevance of the gospel to them. This is why being open to innovations in modes of outreach, in order to cater to younger generations today, is particularly important. For example, many ‘techy’ millennials are crazy about innovation and keen to identify and make full use of their gifts. They are always up for a challenge to fully activate their potential. Hence, organising hackathons that encourage the use of design thinking can be a logical win-win for both millennial participants and organisations that can benefit from crowd-sourcing solutions for problems they are trying to solve.
During the Q&A, a question was asked on what skills, resources and tools are needed to engage millennials today. The answer, in a nutshell, was:
- Take the initiative to go to where the need is, and be present where millennials are found (both offline and online);
- Stay open to opportunities to engage millennials and ministry partners who are amenable to new modes of outreach and discipleship that are responsive to the profile of young people today (even if they may be in the relative minority); and
- Recognise people’s talents and identities.
In other words, think about the Church as a ‘platform’ rather than a ‘product’ – a platform for recognising talents and identities, and equipping people to do Kingdom work.