Steve Molkentin, Digital Youth Discipleship. Photo: Holly Jewell
Steve Molkentin, Digital Youth Discipleship. Photo: Holly Jewell

Switching on to digital discipleship

Mobile phones, the internet and video games may seem like an inseparable part of the lives of our youth but engaging them in the digital realm is critical if we want to emotionally and spiritually connect ourselves to the next generation. Steve Molkentin, the Queensland Synod’s new Digital Youth Discipleship project officer, writes.

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

You may think young people spend too much time on their phones. Forever peering at a screen that illuminates their face, a few taps, snigger, take a photo, repeat. FOMO this, IRL that.

“I’m not a digital native so there’s no way I’d ever understand all that.”

More and more schools are moving to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program which quickly thrusts the tech decision back onto parents. It’s a decision many feel ill-equipped to make, and that’s just scraping the surface when you speak with them about technology and their kids.

How then are parents supposed to know how to support their pre-teens, teens and young adults in an increasingly digitally-dependent existence when they themselves can barely remember their Facebook password? Who do you turn to when your son is in trouble for sharing a nude picture of someone else’s girlfriend? How do you cope with your daughter being the victim of cyberbullying?

Part of my role within the Digital Youth Discipleship project is to engage and build a community with young people that values their contribution, and connects across a number of digital platforms. Face-to-face community is as important as life online—young people manage this transition every minute of their lives. There’s little difference between their digital and analog lives.

Working to grow disciples within that squishy, melded space is vitally important and deeply humbling.

This is our opportunity to directly support parents as we discuss strategies of surviving the internet age with their family relationships intact while we learn about the minefield of issues facing our young people.

Steve Molkentin

“Understanding Your Kids & Their Digital Life (a survival guide for parents)” is a presentation and Q&A experience for congregations to leverage as a missional opportunity. To register your interest or talk more about the Digital Youth Discipleship project, contact Steve Molkentin via email molk@ucaqld.com.au or call 07 3377 9926.

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