An open letter to the Church: will you lead the technology conversation?

Barna Group, David Kinnaman, technology and families, churches, Christians online, Toni Birdsong, sticky Jesus, digital age, online evangelismBy his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. ~2 Peter 1:3

by Toni Birdsong
This letter is to the Church; to pastors, bishops, elders, deacons, youth pastors, and anyone accountable for leading and discipling God’s people.

A recent Barna Group study reveals striking new data on how the digital age is shaping parent-child relationships. For us, the study begs the question: Why isn’t the church taking a stronger lead in teaching proper technology use in families?

We believe the study should compel church leaders everywhere to find the resources to equip their congregations in this area. In addition, this focus needs to take place immediately—not worked into a five-year plan.

Study highlights

  • Surprisingly, parents are just as dependent on technology as are teens and tweens—there’s no gap.
  • Most family members say technology has been a positive influence on their families; 55% of parents are relatively unconcerned about technology in the home.
  • Very few adults or youth take breaks from technology. Just 6% of kids and 10% of parents try to shut off technology once a week. Regular habits include: using the phone while eating and checking email or texts in bed.
  • Families experience conflict about technology, but not in predictable ways. One in four parents and kids admitted tension or conflict over technology. Parents welcome technology without suspicion.
  • Few families have experienced—or expect—churches to address technology. However, 42% of parents and 33% of kids say they are interested in learning the Christian perspective of how to use technology in the family.

Read the complete summary or order the full study.

Thank you, Mr. Kinnaman

We applaud that along with the study, David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group adds critical commentary at the end of the study:

“Technology is shaping family interactions in unprecedented ways, but we seem to lack a strategic commitment to the stewardship of technology. The Christian community needs a better, more holistic understanding of how to manage existing and coming technological advances. Parents, tweens and teens need more coaching and input in order to face the countless choices they make regarding how technology affects their attention, interests, talents and resources.”

Please. Lead.

We address this issue in depth in our book @stickyJesus and on this blog daily. And there are others—many others—faithfully waiting for the Church to take a lead and impact this conversation for the Kingdom.

We cheer on the churches that have made digital strides and especially those who have been passionate about and successful in equipping their flocks—to any degree—to thrive in this space. Sadly, a deep void of church leadership in this area still exists.

This study reveals to us that parents and families are essentially not talking about the boundaries of technology and God’s expectation (and sanctity) of a healthy Christian family. We are texting while eating and checking email in bed, bringing our work home consistently, and there isn’t a role model in the home monitoring the incoming influences. Because of this we believe the family—and the church—is in true peril.

We implore the church to use the resources available. Teach individuals how to balance technology and protect the family relationships that make up the present and future church, and, most importantly, that bring glory to God.

This is not a cultural issue; it’s a discipleship issue, which is the lifeblood of the church.

We close with our @stickyJesus agenda to you: In equipping families to use technology properly, we challenge you to also get serious about training them how to reflect Christ and share His message with the world via thier online channels.

As we state in our book, “there is no need to renounce your residency in The Land of Shiny Things [the digital age] or mask the evidence of your connected life. There’s no shame. This is the hour to which you’ve been born—so by all means, power up! Just power up the way God wants you to. That means with God-breathed strategy; Holy Spirit power, and divine discernment.”

Please, we implore you Church, carry this torch, lead the way, equip your people. We must survive and thrive in this digital age—with our families and faith in tact.

What is your church doing in the area of equipping and do you think church leadership is even needed in this realm?

Post/Tweet this today:
We must survive and thrive in this digital age with our families and faith in tact.

For a free downloadable @stickyJesus Family Ground Rules Covenant for families click here.

To dive deeper in to a faith perspective of social media, order @stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online. Buy one for yourself, your teens, and your pastor.

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  • Coenraad Fick

    Great post, and great comments made. Here in South Africa, we are only now getting to this starting to stick out its head as a serious issue. I thank God that He has led me to you guys, in order to try and do a little bit from my side to try and counter this problem getting out of hand in my community.

  • Anonymous

    @coenraadf:disqus : thank you! He’s obviously given you the spark as well. I had no idea you were in S. Africa! We’d love for you to continue to share with us what’s taking place there on this front. God bless you!

  • Coenraad Fick

    I will do my best to keep you guys updated on my front. Be blessed in everything you do.

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    Toni, thanks for shining a bright light on this issue. I think so far most churches have failed to lead on issues related to media and technology.  There’s both a great need and great opportunity here for churches to provide guidance to adults and youth and to spur them on to better use of media and technology.

  • Shannon

    Thank you! This is much needed! Making Room for Life, by Randy Frazee is a great book that touches on this. Technology and Intimacy are both topics that desperately need attention! 

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony Alicea

    This makes me think of when I grew up and my parents were very involved in the whole video game thing. I always had limits on how much or when I was allowed to play.

    Technology and social media has been such a game changer because it came almost out of nowhere and invaded our lives so swiftly.

    I’m not a parent, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt but…

    I think many adults use social media and technology as much as their kids. They haven’t put boundaries on it for themselves, so they don’t know how to put boundaries on their kids. They may complain that their teenager texts way too much but if they are doing it as a tweet…well, you see the irony.

  • http://twitter.com/jonmholcomb Jonathan Holcomb

    I think this post is well put, but this is not a technology issue in my opinion.  This is a parenting issue…this is a heart issue.  Many times I get tired of hearing parents baffled and befuddled of what to do about all sorts of issues, not just technology.  I think the answer is to be a parent again and not a best friend.  I think Tony Alicea hit the nail on the head when he said, that parents don’t have boundaries for themselves, so how can they have boundaries for kids (I like Tony don’t have kids yet).  Once again I think this goes beyond technology and goes more to the heart of the issue: Parents really taking responsibility for their children and setting boundaries for the entire family. 

  • http://twitter.com/EileenGibb Eileen Gibb

    Coenraad, I too am in South Africa. I see kids texting at the dinner table.  Mobile phone usage is HUGE – nearly all the kids are on social networking. TV is another killer of family time.

  • Coenraad Fick

    Eileen. Good to know there are other Saffers that are chasing this down. You are right, those are big problems and we as the church need to address them ASAP.

  • Tami Heim

    Thanks for the recommendation. I am actually reading that book now!

  • Tami Heim

    Oh Tony we do see the irony! You are right about the speed of technology and how immersed we are in it. But it’s never too late to call a time-out, prayerfully gather our perspective, and decide to influence instead of be consumed. 
    We need God’s wisdom and purpose to govern our activity and guide us to the right balance. It’s time to equip believers so they can lead this global conversation. The impact on our culture, without Christ-centered voices leading, can no longer be ignored.
    Thanks for always bringing value to the conversations here! We appreciate you.

  • Tami Heim

    We completely agree Jonathon –  it is a heart issue. That’s why we devote so much time to the ‘heart’ in our book, @stickyJesus.  Like everything in our lives – we need our hearts centered to God’s purpose. It’s happening so fast that few have considered what Christ’s influence looks like in the midst of rush.
    He has given us everything we need to live a godly life – we simply need to understand and embrace it in a time such as this. Thanks for adding your thoughts here today.

  • Celeste

    My pastor is very open to doing this, I have been devoting a very small amount of time to learning more and practicing on my own site before getting it in to our church, there are some bumps I anticipate in a ministry group I need to read your book, on my list soon.  Thanks for challenging us!

  • Anonymous

    I agree with some but not all of your thinking @twitter-218506980:disqus . The church has not left hunger, abuse, addiction, and other society woes to parents simply because it can’t—the church ministers and provides counsel in all of these areas. It must provide God’s view of cultural trends in order to give Christians and non-Chrisitians guidance in the positives as well as the negatives. Not all parents are equipped at the same levels. The church needs to be smelling salt to a slumbering world. We can’t simply sit by and watch our kids — OR the adults in our congregations — be enticed and entranced by culture. 

  • Shanthi

    Dear friends,
    In this site I see a lot interested in how to integrate Church with IT in its ministry. This is I’m also interested with.

    In a few days I have to address a large gathering of Pastors on the topic  Information Technology and its impact on
    Church / Ministry’ (Pros and cons). How can you help me giving some insights and any articles on this subject. Have you get any power points on this subject.
    Rev. Shanthi     (shanthi777@hotmail.com)