Collision of Spiritual and Technological Trends among Millennials:

Online Faith Practices, Fact-Checking Sermons and Digital Donations

Most would agree that today’s Millennials (18-29 year olds) are the most technologically savvy generation to date. We are also discovering that their faith experience and practice is also unique. So what happens when these two worlds collide?

For centuries the church has taught on practices such as prayer, Scripture reading, Sabbath observance, and gathering for Sunday worship. The daily practices of Millennials include social media, finding answers to questions by “Googling it,” scrolling thorough Facebook, Instagram and Twitter during leisure time, and texting conversations and information via smart phones. Are these ancient observances and contemporary practices mutually exclusive or potentially compatible at certain juncture points?

Some interesting ideas are explored by the Barna Group as a result of their latest study – What happens when the technological trends and spiritual characteristics collide? A few of these ideas can be helpful to churches as they consider ways to reach and engage Millennials. The study brought three ideas to the surface: Faith in Real Time, Fact Checking Sermons and Digital Donations.

“Faith in Real Time”

Millennials are digital natives; therefore, church leaders are safe to assume that this fact will overlap into their realm of faith. Here are just a few examples of their online faith practices:

  • Scripture - 70% of practicing Christian Millennials read Scripture on a screen. The use of YouVersion (a free Bible phone app) is an escalating trend and Biblegateway.com is one of the top Christian websites today. One-third of all Millennials read sacred Scripture online or on their phone.
  • Church Websites – 56% of practicing Christian Millennials use an online search to scope out a church – checking it out from a distance, as a prerequisite for committing to show up in person. One-third of all Millennials have searched for a church, temple or synagogue online.
  • Online Searches for Questions – 59% of practicing Christian Millennials search for spiritual content online. The search bar is as readily used by Millennials when they are curious about a restaurant, as it might be for issues of faith. This creates an interesting opportunity for churches, since 30% of all Millennials (including non-practicing Christians) take to the internet looking for spiritual content.
  • Online Videos – 54% of practicing Christian Millennials and 34% of all Millennials view videos pertaining to faith.

“Fact Checking Sermons”

Millennials view life as interactive. One way they make their faith interactive is by bringing their devices to church and making use of them. They forage in multiple digital places at any given time, including - texting, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterist, Wikipedia, news feeds and blogs. 38% of practicing Christian Millennials say they do not take teaching at face-value and will “fact-check” to verify the content of a faith leader’s talk. 14% of all Millennials indicate they have done the same.

“Digital Donations”

Millennials are generous with their money, but for the most part, the means they use is paperless. The generosity of young adults is significant when looking at giving opportunities such as the Passion 2013 conference, a four-day gathering of 60,000 university students in Atlanta. Attendees donated over $3 million to fund organizations and causes in the freedom fight for the 27 million human slaves around the world. 20% of practicing Christian Millennials indicate they text to donate at least once a month; 10% of all Millennials do likewise. This generation is on the go and digital donations are their preferred means of giving and when presented with a compelling reason, they give generously and often immediately.

Implications of Colliding Trends

Barna concludes their research with the following findings – Millennials desire radical transparency and tend to “exhibit institutional distrust” giving them an “heightened sensitivity for artificiality and false promotion;” they “desire relevant, two-way communication on a wide-range of topics,” and there are numerous opportunities to engage Millennials online with content and in discussion, including those who have left the church.

Note: This article is a summation of the following story: How Technology is Changing Millennial Faith. For more information and graphics, see the reviewed article at https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials/640-how-technology-is-changing-millennial-fait