By Shannon Greene
The ultimate goal of the church is discipleship, to guide people into modeling their lives and behaviors after Christ. After all, Jesus commanded his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), not to simply get people in the doors of a church building.
Discipleship in the church has traditionally looked like Sunday school classes, mid-week teaching groups, or small group gatherings. This model of discipleship usually requires participants to enter into a church building or perhaps another congregant’s home.
But for digital natives like Generation Z, and similarly for their slightly older Millennial predecessors, much of their lives are lived online. Rather than expecting them to go to their church’s traditional discipleship spaces, how can churches take discipleship online and make it more digitally accessible?
As your church looks to “make disciples” within a brand-new audience (Millennials and Generation Zers who aren’t already engaged in discipleship as a part of your congregation), one way to engage in digital discipleship is to share bite-sized, accessible content on your digital platforms. These younger generations are spending most of their online time on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, or Twitter.
Smaller chunks of content might include a clip from your most recent sermon, a devotional thought or word of encouragement, times of prayer or worship, or a pastoral reflection. The primary goal for this digital content is to deepen the viewer’s faith, and if they really resonate with the content, an added bonus is that they may re-share it for others to view and connect with your church.
Digital discipleship doesn’t have to be taken too seriously. It can be humorous, light-hearted, and personal, as well as insightful and poignant. The beauty of sharing content through social media platforms is that a certain level of humanness shines through the medium.
Content creators on YouTube or TikTok are typically amateurs, and their audiences are not expecting perfection. The same is true for your church, as well. The video clips you share do not need to be overly produced or polished; they only need to be real and genuine. In fact, your Gen Z and Millennial audience will actually prefer it that way.
There does come a point in discipleship where in-person gatherings are necessary, so they should not be eliminated altogether. But the discipleship content should not be the point of these in-person discipleship meetings.
Community and social connection are the primary reason Millennials and Gen Zers show up to anything on-site or in someone’s home. They come because a friend invited them, because they are new in town and looking to meet people, or because they are hoping to find fellowship and connection.
Most won’t join in for the first time because the discipleship topic looked especially intriguing. If your church’s discipleship group spends 30-45 minutes in casual conversation and only 15-20 discussing the topic, but you had young adults show up and participate, that is a win.
Discipleship can be reimagined for Millennials and Generation Z as traditional models are transformed for digital spaces and casual connections. Making disciples is and always will be the ultimate goal of the church, but the “how” needs to be adapted to meet our online world.
How has your church taken discipleship online and made it digital?
This article is courtesy of Burlap, a full-service, church-assisting organization that exists to help churches reach Millennials and Generation Z by weaving new stories of faith and culture, www.thinkburlap.com.