Digital Fellowship: Our New Reality
The arrival of the challenging “Rona Season,” with physical distancing and quarantine requirements has altered every aspect of daily life.
Courts are trying cases virtually, doctors are performing telehealth visits, employees are working from home, educators/students are engaged in virtual/online classrooms, churches are congregating virtually, youth/young adult ministry efforts are unfolding remotely, and in the nonchalant words of one teen, “We are just going to continue doing our thing—with more permission and authority.” “We’ll teach many how to use Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, Tiktok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat in fellowship and in worship to our Almighty God. We no longer need to be told to [turn] off our phones in church. Instead, the said phones will be church.”
The teen spoke with such authority, because according to author Marc Prensky, in “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” (On the Horizon, 2001), he and much of his generation are “digital natives.” This demographic grew up from toddlerhood using technology and are “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, social media, and the virtual community of the Internet. The opposite of this are the “digital immigrants” who were born before the spread of technology and were not exposed to it at an early age.
Whether a digital native or digital immigrant, every Seventh-day Adventist across the Atlantic Union can acknowledge today that virtual, remote, online fellowship is our new reality.
Certainly, “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, KJV). It is a time to utilize online software, apps, and other virtual means of communication for youth/young adult fellowship and support.
Accordingly, the Atlantic Union Conference Adventist Youth Ministries (AYM) Department has been active in providing Christian telecounseling to many youth/young adults who are experiencing COVID-19-induced anxiety, have lost their jobs, have been displaced from their concrete educational environments, feel isolated and alone, are infected with the coronavirus, are worried about becoming victims of the virus, have lost friends and family members in death because of the virus, and are feeling challenged by all the environmental and daily life changes that have been imposed upon them.
A variety of peer-support youth groups are ongoing across the Atlantic Union on Google Hangouts, as well as Facebook, and Messenger. These groups allow peers to provide emotional, spiritual, and educational support. Additionally, Master Guides, Pathfinder and Adventurer clubs; young adult, youth, and children’s Sabbath School classes; youth small groups, and AY groups are providing virtual fellowship and creative worship and spiritual learning activities via teleconference and online. They also provide a readily accessible and relevant means of social sustenance and encouragement during these challenging weeks.
The Atlantic Union AYM has utilized Zoom video and audio conferencing platform for advisories and other youth and young adult ministry meetings. The department also launched a daily “Christ for the Crisis” coronavirus prayer combat. At 6:30 a.m. each morning, many youth and young adults and their families have been congregating for corporate prayer. This effort will continue until God brings deliverance from the COVID-19 season. As a daily power-up prayer service, hundreds of prayer requests have been placed before God’s throne room, and as testimonies of healing from the virus are announced, the prayer combat continues.
What a tremendous blessing it is to fellowship—even remotely. May God continue to anoint us with His Holy Spirit as we communicate virtually, and embrace distanced unity.
David McKenzie is the director of Youth, Young Adult, Pathfinder, and Adventurer ministries in the Atlantic Union Conference.