VIRTUAL MINISTRY IS VITAL MINISTRY!!! Now before you pick up your pitch-forks, allow me to say this. In-person ministry is important. Yes, this is true. In-person ministry matters and regardless of the advancements in technology, if you ask me, in-person ministry is here to stay. In-person ministry provides a sense of community that will never go out of style. In March of 2020 the United States was shocked to it’s core as a global pandemic forced businesses, schools, and places of worship to shut down temporarily to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This shelter-in-place mandate proved almost too much for some to bear. This was especially true for those who thrived in face-to-face settings. However, recent research is showing that digital natives are redefining what authentic community looks like for a post-modern culture and it would be wise for the church that wishes to be around in 2030 to pay attention.
As the tide turns and Millennials and Generation-Z constitute the majority of the US population, it is vital that the church study the cultural shifts that are happening if they wish to stay effective in reaching people with the gospel of hope. Ultimately, the most technologically savvy generation will represent 75% of the global workforce by 2030. Whether you like it or not, The future is Digital and it’s nothing you can do to stop it. WAKE UP CHURCH! It’s time for an upgrade! As Children’s Ministry leaders, it is our responsibility to do the necessary homework to effectively reach each successive generation that comes after us. Those who work with children and families should be amongst the first ones on top of the customs and digital trends of the next generation. Unfortunately, the church as a whole is known to be historically behind on matters like these. Whatever the reason that keeps us lagging behind, the truth remains that there is an alarming generational trend happening before our very eyes away from the church. Younger people viewing it as old, stodgy, boring, out of touch, and an organization prone to cause more harm than good.
So what can we do? I believe the answer isn’t found in more sterile entertainment and green screens, but in bold leaders who are willing to open their minds to fresh, new, and innovative ideas that connect with the heartbeat of the next generation. Like the Apostle Paul, we must recognize the customs of succeeding generations and leverage them for the glory of God. Paul put in the work and because he did, he understood what the culture needed and didn’t allow old ways of thinking to contaminate the gospel message. Could the same be said of you? My point is this. Paul knew the culture. And if we ever hope to be effective then we too must know the culture of the next generation and invest the time to connect with them in meaningful and authentic ways that most effectively minister to them. So why is virtual ministry so important? Check out some of these digital trends that are already here…
Regardless of your love for a paper-only society, the newer generations are going digital downloading hundreds of millions of e-books annually while leaving bookstores with the decision to either go digital or go out of business. Guess what else is going digital…THE BIBLE! Those Children’s Ministry Leaders who insist on treating the digital version of the Bible as a lesser version or a “fake” bible are only revealing how out of touch they are with where things are going. Be careful that you’re not teaching kids to worship a format. It’s not about the format but about the God behind the format.
According to Common Sense Media, on average 8-12 year olds spend over 4 hours and 44 minutes on screen media each day. This doesn’t include time spent on screens due to education or homework, and a majority of that time is spent on YouTube! Another study reported that kids 8 year olds and under spend 65% of their online time on YouTube. In May 2020, American children ages 4-15 watched nearly 100 minutes per day on average on YouTube. My point…GET ON YOUTUBE! Get a YouTube channel up and running for your Children’s Ministry. Fishermen go where the fish are. We are called to be fishers of men or in our case, fishers of children and families. If YouTube is where your kids are, then YouTube is where you need to go!
Unlike traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and Gen-Xers, Millennials and Gen-Zers draw no fine line between online and offline. They view social media platforms as valid ways to build REAL relationships and engage in REAL community. Don’t waste the amazing opportunity that this is for the church because you’re so obsessed with one way. Strive to make your online ministry just as special as your offline one. Take a step back and think about everything that makes what you do in Children’s Ministry so special for children and families in person. Now think about ways to convert that online. Brainstorm with your team on ways you can use social media to inspire families, equip and celebrate volunteers, teach Christian values to children in relevant ways, and show others your heart. My point…Don’t make it stale and plastic! In this day and age, people want authenticity. Focus on consistency over perfection and on equipping over engagement. You will build a community over time. And remember, real community online has the potential to lead to real community offline. And that’s a win win for everybody!
Moving forward, It is crucial that the church stop seeing virtual ministry as a fake ministry to check off their “I’m with the times” box. I know that navigating in these digital waters can be hard. I get it! But I guarantee it is worth the investment. Behind those devices are real people, real children, and real families in need of the hope of a real gospel that has the power to transform their very lives and change the world.