Some much needed empathy for networked teens

This is a review of Beyond the Screen: Youth Ministry for the Connected But Alone Generation by Andrew Zirschky (Abingdon 2015).

When it comes to teenagers and social media, many of the headlines and much of the prevailing conventional wisdom—including within our churches—is that social media is a danger and a threat.

This not only defies much of the current research on the subject, it often completely misses the realities, longings, and faith practices of teenagers.

In his excellent book, Beyond the Screen, Andrew Zirschky provides welcome guidance to doing youth ministry in a digital age. Drawing on the latest research and Zirschky’s twenty years of experience in youth ministry, Beyond the Screen illuminates the emerging ways we connect, relate, gather, believe, and practice faith in our digitally-integrated world.

I consider it one of the best books not just on practicing youth ministry but any kind of ministry in a digital age.

What I appreciated most in Beyond the Screen is the empathy Zirschky expresses for teens.

As they live into this new reality, they face demands and pressures that even those ministry leaders like me, who are just a generation older but relatively conversant in digital technology, can miss.

This is not a book about how to use social media to lure more teens into your youth group. Instead, this book is something far more needed: it is about supporting and loving teens as they make their way in a networked world, where adolescence is lived out across digital and local networks, much of it quite publicly, and at light speed.

Teens are at the vanguard in the church of this digitally-integrated life and faith. They are often the most technologically savvy people in our churches.

And so, they are leading the way—whether they, or we, know it or not— about how we are the church today and into the future. Continue reading

  • About Keith Anderson — Keith Anderson serves as pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church in Ambler, Pennsylvania. He is the author of a new book on ministry leadership in a digital age, The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World, and co-author, with Elizabeth Drescher, of Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. Connect with Keith at pastorkeithanderson.net and on Twitter @prkanderson.

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