Generation Z: Scripture and technology
Generation Z-ers have grown up connected to the internet, and technology is a constant in their lives. Leonid Bershidsky of the Bloomberg View reports that Z-ers “multi-task across five screens: TV, phone, laptop, desktop and either a tablet or some handheld gaming device, spending 41 percent of their time outside of school with computers of some kind or another.”
Ben Trueblood of the Lifeway Student Ministry Podcast expands on this thought and believes this has implications for every aspect of church ministry. Trueblood claims that those in generation Z are part of “the first truly mobile generation” and are thus constant multitaskers. They not only use their phones for text messaging and social media, but also for accessing the Bible and conducting web-based research. Additionally, they also use multiple screens when they are available, and seem to be comfortable accessing more than one stream of information at once.
Sermon planning, small group experiences, and gatherings for worship should take this into account. Millennials have surpassed Boomers as the largest living generation. Gen Z-ers are not far behind. Both of these emerging generations are accustomed to using technology throughout their day. How has your congregation adapted to this reality?
While serving in youth ministry I witnessed this technological shift first hand. When I asked students to open their Bibles, they took out their phones, opened YouVersion’s Bible app, and clicked their way to our passage for that day.
I had to adjust. I wanted my students to learn the location of each book of the Bible relative to the others. But I also wanted to honor them and their way of participating in our life together. If a young person downloads a Bible study application to their phone, they are expressing interest and communicating that faith is important to them. I thought it best to nurture that interest rather than suppress it.
Furthermore, the ultimate goal is for the Word of God to go forth and for those entrusted to our care to grow and mature in faith. I needed to find new ways to encourage my students to remain engaged with the Bible by way of technology, but I also needed to help them apply wisdom from Christ’s teachings to new challenges they faced. Digital technology, smart phones, and social media have positively connected us in many ways, but have also opened up avenues for cyber-bullying and heightened anxiety.
In The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Lesslie Newbigin writes:
The task of ministry is to lead the congregation as a whole in a mission to the community as a whole, to claim its whole public life, as well as the personal lives of all its people, for God’s rule. It means equipping all the members of the congregation to understand and fulfill their several roles in this mission through their faithfulness in their daily work. It means training and equipping them to be active followers of Jesus in his assault on the principalities and powers which he has disarmed on his cross. And it means sustaining them in bearing the cost of that warfare (238).
Gen-Z is part of our congregations. As Newbigin suggests, it is therefore part of our mission to engage these members of our congregation and to equip them to live faithfully in their daily work, which often involves school, extracurricular activities, and maintaining healthy relationships with their friends and family. To do so, we must recognize the importance of technology in the lives of those with whom we share a common life, and help them to use those tools wisely as “active followers” of Jesus Christ.