Are Churches Keeping Up With Texting Times?

Are Churches Keeping Up With Texting Times?
By Rebecca Barnes

I finally upgraded our family’s cell phone plan to include unlimited texting. With one young teen and a college student on the plan, texting became a necessity. I don’t think either of these young people know how to actually talk on the phone, as they prefer to text so much.

The same week I upgraded I also saw an ad on the Internet extolling the virtues of mass text messages for church leaders to keep in better contact with their younger members.

The week before I upgraded I noticed an avid texter busy with his fingers on his phone during the Q&A session of a marriage seminar at my church. I think the panelists were saying something about the importance of communication between husband and wife. This guy’s fiance was not texting BTW.

According to a recent report from The Barna Group, “the impact of these technologies on interpersonal relationships – a domain often called social networking – has begun to rewire the way people meet, express themselves, and stay connected.” In particular Barna looked at how the Christian community engages with such technologies.

While four out of five Americans email every week, only about one in three send text messages via cell phone or 1M on the computer. (That’s Instant Message for the two-thirds of you not doing that.) Barna discovered that the younger the communicator, the more likely the message was an 1M or a text, rather than an email.This held true for believers as well.

What’s a church leader to make of emerging technology trends? David Kinnaman, the lead researcher on the project, said church leaders must, “strike the delicate balance between the spiritual and cultural potential of tech tools without surrendering to the false promise of these tools.”

Personal discipleship still trumps texting Bible verses or IMing accountability group partners or small group members.

“Nothing matches the potency of life-on-life discipleship,” Kinnaman said.

But, Kinnaman notes, social networking tools can work to keep relationships connected. In addition, Kinnaman says social networking tools are a new area in which young believers must explore issues such as: control, image, relevance, immediacy, transparency, purity, truth, stewardship, and escapism. In these areas technology spills over into morality, ethics, faith, and even the issue of manners.
For example, most texters agree that important news, or communication to someone with whom you have been out of touch for awhile, should not come via text. When I received a recent wedding invitation from a family member via text, I was, urn, surprised-to put it mildly.

For another example, one of the most popular phrases in text and IM lingo is OMG – which literally means “Oh my God.” However, most teens I know, especially the Christian ones, often don’t realize this is what they are saying. They don’t seem to realize the spiritual implications of it either.

All this to say, church leaders have an opportunity with texting and IMs as a rising communication technology. Not only are they yet another tool to minister and disciple, they are platforms from which to jump into relevant discussions with younger believers about multiple important issues.


This article “Are Churches Keeping Up With Texting Times” by Rebecca Barnes is excerpted from, 2007.