First Third Conversations

Thinking Through Media Use

A blog post by Jessica Thielke 

Image Credit: iPhone iPhone iPhone by Braden Kowitz on Flickr

I recently finished a class at Luther Seminary about the uses of media and ministry. How can we most effectively use media? Can we use it to build community? If so, how? How can we embrace the digital age we find ourselves in?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions…I have ponderings, and perhaps a few tricks up my sleeve to take back to my current congregation, but definitely no answers.

In one of my first group conversations, we were talking about media and discussing the good and bad qualities and everything in between. We came to the conclusion that “Media (including social media) is neither good nor bad. It is just powerful.”

I don’t want to spend time meriting the good and bad qualities of media. Instead, I want to give you cause to slow down and reevaluate your media usage and the habits we are passing on to future generations.

How do we use media?

Watch this YouTube clip. It was introduced to me a few months ago, and I can’t get the images and thoughts out of my head.

There is nothing inherently wrong with having phones (or other digital media) on you at all times. It is a great way to stay connected to our ever-expanding networks. But are there things we are missing out on because we no longer know how to view life without the filter of a smartphone? Are we choosing to not be present in the life we live, instead choosing to record everything to review at a later date? Are we attempting to live authentically, embraced in the love of Jesus Christ, or are we choosing to live behind a mask for the greater public, only revealing our best sides, not our true sides?

Media Use and Children

In my current context, I work with 3-year-olds through 5th graders, and every summer I take a group of kids camping for a couple days. And every summer I reexamine my values regarding how we will use social media and digital devices. We are going out in nature to experience God’s creation, yet at the same time we are still connected to the public world.

Last summer I was explaining the ground rules for their phones. I reiterated that we were out in nature for a chance to pause and reflect on all that God had created. I had us all listen to the different sounds we could hear. Then I heard a young boy ask if he could record the sound so he could listen to it later. Have we lost the ability to be in the moment? Do we recognize the present anymore?

As someone who works with children in the church, I am constantly trying to model good habits when it comes to digital media and how I use it. There are habits and values that need to be taught to the next generations. I urge you to think about how you use your own social media in the presence of children, making conscious decisions to instill good habits.

Social media and the digital world are here to stay. Our next challenge is figuring out how to live authentically in a world where everything can be photo-shopped, deleted, or made to look better. Somewhere there is a balance, we just need to find the line.

Jessica Thielke PhotoAuthor Bio:
Jessica Thielke is a current Master of Arts student in the Children, Youth, and Family Ministry program at Luther Seminary. She works full-time as Director of Children's Ministry in Moorhead, MN.

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