Breaking Digital Boundaries
Throughout the years, youth workers from around the world have had to figure out ways to build bridges between generations. Dietrich Bonhoeffer excelled at this, spending some of his ministerial life working with integrating youth into their church communities. He believed instead of segregating youth in the church, they should instead be at the center of the community. In his "Eight Thesis on Youth Work In The Church" he addresses the key ideas to consider in regards to youth ministry. Number three says the following:
"Being in the church-community means being in Christ; being in Christ means being in the church-community"
This line of thought really sticks out to me. While Bonhoeffer is talking about the need to create and sustain one complete church community, the idea presented here goes beyond that. In this day and age with technology advancing yearly and a global pandemic in effect, the makeup of church community and culture has effectively changed. We have become segregated in the physical sense. However, we also have gained access to becoming more connected in the digital sense. While our environment has changed, the need for us to continue building authentic relationships and expanding our community still exists.
However it should be said that authenticity is difficult. It requires people to be vulnerable, open and understanding. It also requires a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ). There are many factors that play into understanding emotional intelligence, including self-awareness and self-regulation but in simple terms EQ is the standard of measurement that determines how well a person can understand both their own and other peoples emotions. Those with high EQ are often willing to push aside the things that they are comfortable with, and allow new ideas to take precedent. This is very important, because what The Roadhouse has accomplished during the past few months is a testament to what a community with high EQ can do.
When the Lockdown order was instilled, it resulted in us shutting down The Roadhouse facility. Here I was forced to rethink about how we as People of Faith, do ministry. I had to approach something that has been defined by its physical community and transition it into a space that wasn’t physical. I had to enter the digital domain.
First, I had to understand that the digital domain is a place. Social Media, streaming services, video conferencing software, and video games are all places. And while we cannot inject our physical selves into them, we sure can inject our presence. This lead to the creation of The Roadhouse Discord server, and a slew of different programs including online Table Top Club, Meet and Feast, Minecraft Realms, and Virtual Game nights. All of which have had their own success and continue to support our established Roadhouse community.
Within these places I found something wonderful. The digital domain allows people to dive deep into their psyche and express it. Sure it can bring out some of the worst things in people as online accountability is a bit of problem nowadays, however understand the flip side of this. The reason many are comfortable with voicing extreme opinions, is because the digital domain provides a safe space. This same safe space, also provides an avenue to build real authentic relationships.
Over the past few months I’ve been blessed with seeing that happen firsthand. We’ve managed to connect with past students, who have nestled back into the community via Discord. We’ve met new people that have embraced the ideals of what we represent. Just recently, I had an awesome experience meeting a new fellow through our Minecraft server. We had a wonderful conversation, talking about life, future goals and the ministry. This entire conversation occurred within a video game.
Screenshot from a Minecraft Event:
Leadership has grown, currently our Discord is being managed by several young adults and students all of whom were chosen through online interactions. The community is stronger than ever and while everyone is eagerly awaiting for the faith house to reopen, it's important that we recognize the soul of this community is still prospering.
As People of Faith we are given a task to spread truth throughout the world. It’s important that we understand even though the world changes, people still crave truth. And it's up to us to deliver this good news regardless of what medium we use to do it. I love what The Roadhouse is currently doing, the impact it's making, the community it's building and utility it has for many of the people that use it. But The Roadhouse is just a part of church community. As People of Faith it's important that we break these digital boundaries, and begin building bridges of truth to those that we are called to serve. All it requires is us to do is to embrace the digital domains we're already using, and use these places as an opportunity to spread our message and build relationships.