A Matter of the Heart
I facilitated a 3-day workshop-seminar to educators and youth ministers this week on “Making God’s Word alive in the life of digital youth.” It was part of the 2nd John Paul II On-going Formation on Communication for Youth Animators and Catechists with the theme: Doing Ministry in a Digital World organized by the DB-CLAY Office.
All of us were made aware that Scriptures remain important in the life of faith in each Christian. But a great task await everyone who deals with young people today. The digital technology has created a new landscape and with it a new language. If we are to be effective ministers and communicators of the faith, we need to understand these digital kids whom we are dealing with and step into their world to take part in nurturing them.
Ian Jukes, an educator and president of InfoSavvy Group published a book last January, in collaboration with some others: “Understanding the Digital Generation.” It explores the characteristics of the new digital generation and how education can affect their learning experiences. He explains the digital divide that the world is now made up of the digital native and digital immigrants. The digital natives are described as “screenagers” because they grew up with the screen in front of them or with the mouse in their hands. Digital is their first language. Modern technologies have become part of their identity shaping who they are and what they will become.
The other group are the digital immigrants – those of us who come from a non-digital world. Because digital is just our second language, we have a language problem. Thus all the more do we need to make an effort to catch up with them. According to Jukes, new studies have shown that the brains of the new generation have been physically and chemically altered to adapt to the new landscape creating and re-creating new circuitry and new connections.
This means we also need to adapt, create and re-create new modes and models to present the Word of God to be understandable to the digital generation. We need to learn and speak their language in order to connect with them and continue to educate them in the faith. We have to evangelize these digital natives from where they are. In the past, when missionaries came to evangelize, the first thing they did was to learn the local language.
If we are to reflect on how Jesus communicated his message, surprisingly he used creative adaptation. We believe that Jesus is the Word of God incarnate. St. John tells us that the “word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). He is also “the image of the invisible God” says St. Paul in writing to the Christians of Colosae (Col 1:15). Moreover he is the missionary of God and apostle of the Father.
In his years of public ministry, Jesus showed himself as a master communicator. He showed God’s love to humanity. He was so effective because he was both the messenger and the message. There was no dichotomy between his words and his life. In imparting his message he used stories. His stories teach, inspire, correct, change people by touching their mind and their heart. He crafted simple word pictures called parables. He told the stories of the “Good Samaritan,” “The Prodigal Son,” or the “Parable of the Sower.” He used analogies and visual images like sheep, lilies in the field or birds in the air. They seemed childish to critics but they had depth and spirit that made them timeless, powerful and unforgettable. He adapted his language to his audience by using common images.
The same challenge is presented to every communicator of the Gospel of Jesus today. Yet to be a good communicator of the faith, it is basically not a matter of mastering certain techniques or strategies. It is above all, a matter of being mastered by the Master and His conviction. In the end, education is a matter of the heart.Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.