"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Technology

The Internet's Impact on Kid's Faith

Andrew Careaga


Will the Internet really entice a generation of wired kids away from the church in favor of online religious connections? In a 1998 report, Christian pollster and sociologist George Barna predicted that the coming "cyberchurch" will seriously undercut church attendance. Soon, Barna contended, "millions of people will never travel physically to a church, but will instead roam the Internet in search of meaningful spiritual experiences."

In fact, according to an online survey of Christian teenagers I conducted last year 10, teenagers who regularly surf the Net aren’t fleeing their youth groups to seek spiritual nourishment online. Rather, many of them say the Internet actually strengthens their faith and involvement in the "offline" church.

The survey also revealed that these Net-savvy teenagers are integrating their Internet experiences–chat-room prayer, Web-based Bible study, and electronic evangelism–into their "real-life" faith.

A slight majority of the teenagers I surveyed (52%) say their Internet activities have made them more confident in their beliefs.
Slightly more than 45% said the Net neither weakened nor strengthened their beliefs, and only 2% percent said it made them feel less confident about their faith.

Almost all respondents (98%) said the Internet has had no adverse affect on their involvement in church, youth group, or other religious activities.
A third of them (33%) said they’re more involved in religious activities since going online, while two-thirds said they’re just as involved as before.

Almost two-thirds of teenagers in the survey (62%) said it’s easier to discuss spiritual issues online than in face-to-face conversations.
Particularly for females, the anonymity of Internet communication, often cited as something that inhibits the development of true relationships, may actually be a positive factor when it comes to faith discussions.

One teenage girl said, "I personally feel more comfortable talking about my beliefs to people online because they don’t know me. They aren’t going to judge or act different the next day because of a conversation we had. With personal (non-Internet) friends, there are some things I don’t feel comfortable talking about because I’m unsure of their reactions. Also, it gives opportunities to share the gospel without rejection."

No surprise–email is the most popular form of communication for Christian teenagers.
All of the teenagers I surveyed reported using email. Instant messaging or chat was the next most popular activity (85% do it), followed by reading and posting messages to online forums (73%). But only 8% of those surveyed reported spending time in online role-playing games such as MUDs (multi-user domains).

Half of Christian teenagers say their online friendships are as "real" as their offline relationships.
And almost three-quarters (72%) say they’ve developed friendships on the Net.

Judging from the topics they discuss in their online forums, Christian teenagers see the Internet as a tool for evangelism, discipleship, and Christian fellowship.
Online communities seem to provide a safe environment for young believers to practice "exhorting one another" (Hebrews 10:25).

You can help cyber-savvy teenagers make the most of their passion for the Internet if you’ll ...

1. Recommend Christian online communities to them.
Hook them up with sites such as About.com’s Christian Teenagers (christianteens.about.com) and ChristianTeenagers.Net (christianteens.net), or monitored chat rooms at Christian Web portals such as Crosswalk.com (crosswalk.com) or Global Christian Network (gcnhome.com).

2
. Help them log on to chat events that feature Christian artists and authors. Both Crosswalk and GCN offer regular moderated chats with popular Christian musicians such as Jars of Clay and Audio Adrenaline and authors such as Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye) and Max Lucado.

Author

Andrew Careaga is a volunteer youth minister in Missouri and author of E-vangelism: Sharing the Gospel in Cyberspace (Vital Issues Press). You can contact him at andrew@e-vangelism.com.

Permissions

Used my permission, Group Magazine, Copyright September/October, 2000, Group Publishing, Inc., Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539.

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