We talk a lot about serving the needs of spiritual seekers online but I often ask a bigger question to many of my colleagues.
Once they find you online...then where do they go? The truth is that in order to minister to this generation you need to hustle. That's a lesson that most don't want to hear and the biggest fear of luddites who refuse to put their homilies online or who constantly say that "online does not equal community" is that folks might stay online in favor of an actual, real time, face to face, community.
Michele Nuzzo-Naglieri of Headline Bistro gets this and the main thrust of my book extremely well and thus, gets a h/t as well.
Mike Hayes argues that, almost equal to the desire to find love, Millennials are also concerned with “security” and “truth,” and that the two go hand in hand. In a recent Catholic Focus episode, Hayes explained that for young Americans in particular, events in recent years (Columbine, 9/11, Katrina, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – to name a few) have induced both an overall sense of fear over the precariousness of life, and feelings of distrust in humankind. This in turn is causing many of them to search for something to hold on to that remains unchanged. “God” and “faith in God” have stood the test of time, and while Millennials would perhaps not be prepared to step foot into a church, they are looking for sources that point to the truth.
That being said, we are left to wonder where their search is leading them. They may find answers that are irrelevant to their questions or perhaps too simplistic in nature and either stop there or end their search, dissatisfied. How do we ensure that these modern seekers of God find Him? How do we ensure that they are finding the right gateways that lead them to a community of believers asking the tough questions and sharing insights? How do we provide for them a safe online faith environment until they are ready to take the next step? Time to apply our talents and creativity to the mission of digital evangelization.
As Pope Benedict says, “Life is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful” – let’s make sure we’re doing our part to influence where that search may lead.
Amen. All of this tells me that the most important thing for us to do is to look interesting online, to be a presence for the young people who are struggling to make good choices. We always have to be thinking of the next step, of where young people will be led. Many will find us online and what they find there says a lot to them about who we are, or more appropriately about what our websites or blogs or podcasts transmit to them about who we are.
And that is their first step in spiritual seeking and it serves as a test case for them to find out just who we are as church.
In other words...
If your website looks awful then young people think your church is awful. If it's not up to date than they think nothing has been going on since that last update. if you have wrong information on it than that says that you don't care enough about wanting them to get involved.
I'm assuming that in your case, none of that is true. And if so, then you'd best get to work updating your site.
Because in a digital world, where every piece of information needs to be at the fingertips of young people, if it doesn't exist online...then neither do you.