Families, Technology and the Church
Recent studies from the Barna Group show that technology is having a profound impact on family life. David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, writes, “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.”
One of the interesting findings in the research is that church attendees are looking to their churches for advice on technology and coaching on how it can enhance their family life. Technology is definitely affecting human relationships and social media is changing how we interact with each other. It is also changing how people in the church grow in their faith and practice spiritual disciplines. People now have Scripture in their pockets with apps like YouVersion and can quickly search for Bible references. The church needs to be offering workshops and training opportunities in how technology can help relationships and deepen our faith.
But we also need to help people realize that technology can also hinder relationships and keep us from connecting with God. For myself, I had to get rid of my iPhone and the instant access to Facebook and my email so that I could be fully present with my family. When I run I don’t take my iPod with me because I need to experience silence and solitude in God’s creation. I also know that connecting with someone on Facebook is a poor substitute for sitting down with someone over coffee and sharing life with them.
One of the “buckets” in my new job description is technology and I view part of my role to be a technology coach for those in our congregation. We are right now discussing the possibility of offering a series of classes this summer on how to use our new church website and learn how online resources can help us practice the spiritual disciplines. This weekend I’m leading a high school mission trip down to Mobile, Alabama and we are challenging students to leave their cell phones and iPods home. Teenagers need to step away from technology and experience God and each other in real ways.
The possibilities are endless. Churches need to engage their congregation in discussing how technology impacts their relationships and their faith.
You can read more of the Barna findings here.