First Third Conversations

Fostering Faith in a Digital Age - a command and a question

PhoneA blog post by Terri Elton

Image Credit: Social Media Apps by Jason Howie on Flickr

It doesn’t take much to make me feel incompetent when it comes to technology. For example, while my college daughter was home during break, I asked for help fixing something in iTunes. After a sigh, she let me know iTunes was “out” and Spotify was better. Now, I knew about Spotify, but didn’t know how it worked. Forty-five minutes later I was up to speed with a few playlists and friends.

Some of us ministry leaders know what this “incompetent” feeling is like. Ask students about the best way to communicate with them, for example, and you might be introduced to a new vocabulary. You might try to learn this new language, and it isn’t long until something even newer emerges. Things change so fast that it is hard to keep up. And these changes have a greater impact on our lives than simply how to communicate when activities happen. The digital age is changing so much in our lives that it is easy to start second guessing ourselves and this work of faith formation. Need further proof? Talk with the parents of 4th graders, middle schoolers, or young adults about how different their growing up was from today, and it is clear the digital age is changing our lives in huge ways. What do these changes mean for fostering faith?

As faith communities, fostering faith among children, youth, and young adults is part of our role. We said yes to this role as these children and youth were “marked with the cross of Christ” in the waters of baptism. In the past it has meant offering Sunday School and VBS, confirmation and camp. But are those initiatives actually fostering faith today? This curiosity shifts the command to a questionwhat does fostering faith in a digital age entail?

Addressing this command and question is not a simple thing, but it is something worth giving out attention to. Hence Fostering Faith in a Digital Age is what we are going to explore this month. We are going to revisit some of our past posts; we are going to discover some faith formation lessons from outdoor ministry; and we are going to have students, who are taking a J-Term class centered on this topic, share their insights. And we’d like to hear from you.

What are your thoughts? Learnings? Struggles? You can comment on this website, on our Facebook page, or you can email us at

Terri EltonAuthor Bio
Terri is passionate about young people and their families, and loves the church. No really! She's our Associate Professor and teaches with an eye toward developing leaders and leading change. She also serves as Director of the Center for First Third Ministry and hopes to help ministry leaders create environments that cultivate a faith that matters. Growing up in southern California, Terri discovered her love for the city, cultural diversity and the beach. You can usually find Terri running or biking the streets of Minneapolis/St. Paul, or wherever she happens to be. When not moving, she's watching a movie with her husband or traveling with her two young adult daughters.

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