by Michael Prince/ February 28, 2017
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16, NIV).
The kids you minister to are being called “digital natives” by psychologists. They will never know a world that isn’t ruled by screens, social media, and online content. The culture is quickly outgrowing parents, and their children are right in the middle of it. In order to successfully minister to the families in your church, you have to become an Internet safety resource for them. Here are some steps you can take to become a tech and media expert for the parents of the children in your kids’ ministry.
Research some accountability software and filtering options, and start reading their blogs. Sites like NetNanny.com and Accountable2You.com have good resources to help you learn why their products are necessary and how they can help families. Look up dangerous apps lists and videos or podcasts about family tech safety. These resources are out there, and once you’ve educated yourself you can recommend them to parents to use. Remember that you don’t have to know everything about the topic to be the expert, you just have to know more than the people you’re talking to.
You should be practicing healthy use of the Internet, social media, gaming, movie and video streaming. Have filters and accountability set up on your own devices before you start recommending that parents do it for their children. When I do workshops, I always promote digital safety products that I use or have set up for others myself. This not only sets me up as an example to the families I minister to, but it allows me to better understand the software I am promoting so I can give the right information.
You already have rules for everything you do. It’s great to have these standards because it makes it completely obvious what your ministry stands for. The standards you set for tech use in your services are equally important. Are phones and tablets allowed for use as a Bible? Do they need to be kept in bags or pockets the entire service?
Whatever you decide, make it publicly known that you have standards for tech use in your services. This will not only help you avoid confusion when a child brings a phone into your service, but it sets an example since you want families to set obvious standards in their homes as well.
One of the smartest things you can do to start a culture of digital safety in your church is to host a learning event. Tech workshops can go a long way to spark initial interest in parents for setting better digital boundaries. The focused time given to learning about protecting their children will allow moms and dads to not only learn methods but gain confidence that they can handle the changes that are necessary. You can bring someone in, show videos on the topic, or make the event focus on providing resources. Whatever method you use, it is critical that you begin the conversation with parents about digital safety, because if you don’t start it, they won’t bring it up until something bad has already happened.
You can make rules and standards for your ministry, and children may comply while they are under your care. It is impossible to make those rules follow the kids home. You have to provide parents with the tools they need to protect their children.
Use your newsletters, calendars, and other updates to include a tech-safety section. Use regular events that will educate and update parents on what protections are available and what they’ll need. Keep flyers and other tech-safety software information available on your check-in counter, information booth, and other areas. Most companies that make tech-safety software will send you free promo materials if you just email them and ask. Use these materials to constantly promote internet safety to families.
As you take these steps to become an Internet safety resource for parents, take every opportunity to let parents know you’re available to them. I think the topic of Internet and digital safety is of paramount importance—so much so that I have made it my full-time ministry focus. I believe that if you take the time to become a tech resource for parents, you will be impacting those in your church and in your entire community by answering questions that literally every family is asking.