Digital Media and Youth Discipleship
Pitfalls and Promise
Today’s youth grow up immersed in digital technology. This presents a unique challenge to the church as it seeks to faithfully make disciples of the next generation. What does it look like – theologically and practically – to minister contextually to those whose lives are permeated by social media and digital culture?
In this in-depth study, Dr. Vo Huong Nam offers both social and theological insight into the task of discipling youth in the digital age. He examines the impact of digital media on both society and young people and offers an overview of Christian responses to the changing technological landscape. Engaging such authors as John Calvin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Henri Nouwen, he develops a constructive theology of spiritual formation relevant to the context of twenty-first century youth. He explores the implications of this theology on church practice, urging the church to take seriously its call to be all things for all people. Drawing specific examples from youth ministry in Vietnam, he addresses practical questions of application and contextualization and suggests that silence, solitude, and prayer are spiritual disciplines uniquely vital for the digital age. This book is an important resource for all those involved in discipling young people and longing to see today’s youth come to fullness of life in Christ.
Nam Vo’s work is a valuable and unique contribution to the conversation that addresses the religious, spiritual, and moral development and well-being of the youth in the contemporary age – not in the least for the advancement of a theology of the youth in the author’s home country of Vietnam.
Anthony Le Duc, PhD
Asian Research Center for Religion and Social Communication,
St John’s University, Thailand
Asian cultures have a reputation for embracing the internet with great enthusiasm. But what happens to people – to the church – when this momentous cultural change washes over a whole society? Vo’s careful engagement with these practical questions leads into a theologically rich response that offers a cutting-edge theological analysis of our social media culture and its effects. It should be mandatory reading for youth pastors in every nation in which having a smartphone is a rite of passage.
Brian Brock, PhD
Professor of Moral and Practical Theology,
School of Divinity, History and Philosophy,
University of Aberdeen, UK
Many churches seem to be fighting a losing battle to retain their youth in the digital age. This book addresses the problem head-on and offers a concrete proposal on how to help young people be faithful disciples of Christ. But it is not merely a how-to book; its unique strength lies in the solidly theologicalperspectives on which the praxis of youth discipleship is based.
Simon Chan, PhD
Editor, Asia Journal of Theology
Formerly Professor of Theology,
Trinity Theological College, Singapore
Vo Nam moves us through and then beyond the tribal arguments of the evils or benefits of digital culture for young people and for the church. If you are reading this book, be prepared to be inspired to take your ministries of discipleship to new places and depths.
Rev. Steven Emery-Wright, PhD
Formerly Executive Committee Member,
International Association for Study of Youth Ministry
Hyupsung Methodist University, South Korea
Through his book, Dr. Vo expertly walks the reader through the complexities of ministering to young people immersed in the dynamic environment of the digital world. His Vietnamese heritage, research in Western Europe, and hands-on experience of youth ministry combine to ensure that Digital Media and Youth Discipleship will long remain an invaluable resource for this new frontier of missions for churches and seminaries worldwide.
Ivor Poobalan, PhD
Principal, Colombo Theological Seminary, Sri Lanka
Co-Chair, Lausanne Theology Working Group
Young people will be served well when leaders in the church listen well to the challenges they face, respond wisely with deep theological reflection, and seek above all things to present them with the good news of Jesus. Nam has served youth well in this work, and serves the church well, by bringing together a careful consideration of Christian spiritual formation with the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.
Graham Stanton, PhD
Lecturer, Practical Theology,
Director, Ridley Centre for Children’s and Youth Ministry,
Ridley College, Australia
In wrestling with the question of what it means for young people to be disciples in a digital age, the book draws on theology as a dialogue partner and a guiding light, which can enable digital technology to fulfill its theological potential and to become a useful and valued aspect of the church’s ministry. This book is both fascinating and timely.
Rev. John Swinton, PhD
Professor, Practical Theology and Pastoral Care,
King’s College, University of Aberdeen, UK
Table of Contents
- The Importance of This Project for the Church in Vietnam
- Methodology, Context, and Audience
- My Church Tradition
- Evangelical Spirituality
- Approach to Spiritual Development
- Thesis Introduction
- The Path of the Thesis
- Chapter 1
The Time of Digital Media
- 1. Description of the Emerging Connected Society
- 2. Christian Response
- 3. Theology of Youth Work
- Chapter 2
The Impacts of Digital Media
- 1. The Impacts of Digital Media on Society
- 2. The Impacts of Digital Media on Youth
- 3. Youth Identity in the Digital Age
- 4. Mentoring Youth
- Chapter 3
Theology of Spiritual Formation
- 1. The History of the Term “Spiritual Formation”
- 2. Theology of Spiritual Formation
- 3. The Practice of Solitude
- Chapter 4
The Theologies Needed for Youth Discipleship Given by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- 1. Digital Media and the Gospel
- 2. Theology of Self-Identity
- 3. Theology of Discipleship
- 4. Theology of Community
- 5. Theology of Youth
- Chapter 5
Youth Discipleship in the Digital Age
- 1. What Aspects of Digital Technology Are Really Helpful?
- 2. Youth Ministry
- 3. Implications for the Church’s Practice of Discipling the Youth of the Digital Age
- 4. Contextualizing the Theology of Spiritual Formation for Youth Ministry in Vietnam
- Appendix Definitions of Spiritual Formation