Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a number of my Christian friends post that because of the divisive nature of social media, they will be deleting their account and no longer present in that space. Reasons for doing so range from political to personal, and while I do understand that for one’s mental health, a step away from social media might be necessary, I question if a complete break is the best call for Christians. Bear with me as I explain.
I currently live in Lexington, Kentucky. In Lexington there are over a hundred murals painted on the sides of buildings, in alleys, up and down streets, throughout the city.
Each mural has a story. Each story is a part of what makes Lexington the city that it is.
Our church hosted the walk through the city as part of our Lex Get Together activities aimed at helping people who are new to the city get to know it better and those who are old to the city to learn something new. We figured there’s no better way to get to know a place and the people who live there than to explore it, engage with it, and experience it.
Which is why I have an Instagram account.
You see, I’m the mother of an almost 17 year old and a 14 year old. Her “city” is Instagram. Her “streets” are the people she follows. Her “murals” are found in that lovely search feature at the bottom of the screen. And her community is found in the multiple group conversations she is a part of.
Each image has a story. Each story is a part of what make their world what it is.
Realistically, I know this is, like everything is, a phase that she is going through, an experiential stage common to most kids her age. I don’t think that for the rest of her life she will “live” there but for now, it’s where she is interacting with people on a daily basis. More importantly, her generation is there. Even if she wasn’t present on a social media platform, the majority of her friends and fellow Gen Zers are there.
And I need to be there.
I need to be on her streets and in her community. I need to understand viral videos, trending memes, and the language that is spoken. More than that, I need to be aware of the messages that are being given and received, not so that I can control them, but so I can have a conversation about them.
Children and youth are our first ministry but if we are not where they are, if we are not engaged, not experiencing their world, we will have a much more difficult time having conversations that lead to discipleship and faith formation.
I get made fun of by my girls for being old and not understanding all the things, but that doesn’t deter me from remaining engaged and aware. If I’m willing to walk the streets of a city so I can know it better, I’m definitely willing to scroll through a social media app to know my children better.
Be where your kids and their friends are. Be present and aware.
Ask questions like, “Have you seen anything interesting lately?” and “What’s new on Instagram?” For younger children, let them sit with you and see how you interact with people. Teach them healthy ways to engage digitally with you because one day, even if it’s after they leave your home, they will engage.
Establish the culture of loving God and loving others in all areas of life, including the digital one, so that even when you are not there, they will be able to approach technology of godly, responsible ways.
This article originally appeared here.