Thinking theologically about technology

Posted May 01, 2011 | New Media Project

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By Verity A. Jones


The idea behind the New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary is to help churches and their pastors think theologically about new digital media. We are not the project that will show you how to build a website or create a Facebook page. We are the project that will explore with you what is at stake for churches today as massive changes in communication patterns and tools take hold in our lives.

Basically, what’s at stake is how we faithfully communicate the gospel in a new age. The rapid decline in church affiliation and attendance has been a concern among church leaders for decades. Last year’s study from the Pew Research Center on Millennials—those currently ages 18 to 39—shows that this youngest generation of adults is more likely to be unaffiliated with a religious tradition than the previous generation, Generation X, was at this age (26 percent v. 20 percent), and twice as likely as Baby Boomers were to be unaffiliated at this age (26 percent v. 13 percent).

How do we tell the gospel story and create compelling and faithful accounts of Christian life for growing numbers of younger people who do not affiliate with churches, but are savvy consumers of media? The same Pew Research Center study reports that 75 percent of Millennials have created a social networking profile, and fully 80 percent have used their cell phone to send text messages in the last 24 hours.

The report states, “For [this generation], these innovations provide more than a bottomless source of information and entertainment, and more than a new ecosystem for their social lives. They also are a badge of generational identity.” (Millennials: A portrait of Generation Next, Pew Research Center, 2010).

The purpose of the New Media Project is to interpret theologically these massive changes in communication patterns and tools and to create a constructive framework that could help pastors and religious leaders navigate with some confidence the new world of digital media.

Verity A. Jones is the project director of the New Media Project and a Research Fellow at Union Theological Seminary.

The New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmedia@uts.columbia.edu.

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