First Third Conversations

Fostering Faith in a Digital Age - Wrap Up

social mediaA blog post by Terri Elton

Image Credit: Social Media Apps by Jason Howie on Flickr

As we come to the end of our month thinking about this command and wrestling with what this question means for our leadership and ministry, let me pause and reflect on seven learnings.

1. It’s ok to feel incompetent! We live in a time when we are moving off the map, away from the territory many of us knew and into uncharted waters. It’s ok to be disoriented. But it’s not ok to let that stop us from living out our command. Move for new terrain … but don’t miss the opportunity to join this new adventure.

2. Digital tools can create and sustain connections. In this fast-paced world, it is hard to foster meaningful relational connections relying only on face-to-face time. Finding ways to be present with others when we are scattered in our everyday lives enhances our relational connections and provides a foundation for nurturing faith. Thanks Kelsey Battleson for the nudge.

3. Embrace the messiness, brokenness and uncomfortableness. Why? Because that’s ministry! Sara Quarberg reminded us that God is at work in such places, and we get to learn and grow and be changed in such places. Fostering faith in a digital age isn’t neat and tidy, but it’s not in any age. Embrace the messiness.

4. Ministry is about inviting people to the table. And inviting people to the table might be literal -- in youth rooms, in sanctuaries and in camp cafeterias. But it can also be virtual -- in Facebook, on Twitter, and with Instagram. The tools are secondary to the call. And as Alyssa Fitzgerald states, this means continually re-imagining ministry.

5. Face-to-face ministry is as important as ever! Our social relationships are changing, and being in community – physically -- is as important as ever. Immersion experiences, as Mike King and Jake Sorenson note, are powerful ministry moments. In our digital culture these times “apart” are counter-cultural opportunities to foster relationships, and they are needed. Think about using technology to connect, but also think about what this means for your face-to-face ministry as well.

6. Telling God’s story, telling our story. Storytelling is core to ministry. It always has been. Making God’s story come alive in each time and place, as we also help young people name and claim their own story, is at the heart of what we do in CYF ministry. Rich Holleque offers a simple, yet profound example of how he’s working to connect the two. Digital tools, now readily available, can provide powerful opportunities to connect these two. And we, as leaders, can venture into creating digital storytelling as well. (For more on Digital Storytelling see my post and an example at

7. Think about your own Media Use. Digital tools are just that – tools. Like many things these tools can foster abundant living or distract from abundant living. Jessica Thielke invites us to be critical media users. And as we are, so too we invite others to do the same. Maybe this Lent your spiritual discipline will be an hour away from your digital tools and present with God.

So much more could be said, and needs to be. This is a live conversation in ministry with those in the first third of life today. Keep exploring, rethinking and expanding your own ideas about what it means to foster faith in a digital age. (I am. I’m committing several weeks to blogging about some of the cultural shifts taking place on my blog, for example. Join me if you are interested in going deeper. (

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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