Let's Talk Technology: Barna Resources that Explore Findings from the Digital Age

In a recent study for State of the Church 2020, a year-long project exploring the current challenges and opportunities facing the Church, Barna examined how digital developments and devices are affecting the Church and the faith formation of practicing Christians. It’s no secret that technology touches almost every aspect of our lives, playing a role in everything from digitizing our calendars to allowing us to browse and apply for a home loan. The years’ worth of Barna resources listed below offer more insight into how U.S. practicing Christians perceive the presence and impact of technology in their lives.

CoLab: Sharing Jesus

1. OneHope President Rob Hoskins on Technology as a Tremendous Tool

Rob Hoskins, president of OneHope, comments on some of the findings from a recent study conducted jointly with Barna Group about the role of technology in children’s faith formation. Hoskins says, “This study revealed that even though tech is pervasive, most parents and churches aren’t leveraging it for Bible engagement. This is clearly seen in our findings that show a substantial dip in Bible engagement for 10–12-year-olds. Right as they enter an age where they are ready for more, we’re giving them less.”

2. U.S. Adults Believe Hate Speech Has Increased—Mainly Online

A large majority of American adults says the amount of hate crime and hate speech (meaning, speech or crimes that are motivated by racial, sexual or other prejudice) has changed in the past five years; seven in 10 (70%) say this behavior has increased. Most attribute the change to the fact that politicians are encouraging or feeding this trend (65%). Similar majorities say social media and the internet have amplified it (62%) or that it is driven by America becoming increasingly more divided as a country (61%). More than half say the internet has provided a forum for hate groups to multiply (57%), that hate crime has increased because the news has drawn attention to it (54%) or even that it has become more socially acceptable to publicly treat others with prejudice (51%). Four in 10 believe increased diversity in America has caused fear or prejudice (37%). Only a few respondents say religious organizations amplify hatred (16%).

3. Forming Family Values in a Digital Age

In his book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper PlaceAndy Crouch explores the important role of the family not only in helping young people to navigate the demands of current technology, but also in shaping their character for the long-term. Drawing from the research Barna conducted for Andy’s book, the infographics in this article explore some of the key questions around the role of family in personal values and identity formation in a tech-heavy world where parents believe it’s harder than ever to raise children.

4. 6 Tech Habits Changing the American Home

This sneak peek of The Tech-Wise Family looks at some of the top revelations about how parents and kids relate to their devices and to each other in age when parents believe its harder than ever to raise children. Check out this article to learn more about monitoring technology, where life truly happens in the home, limiting device usage, how tech is disrupting the dinner table, and more.

5. The Trends Redefining Romance Today

The explosive growth of smartphones and digital technology has increasingly brought dating into the world of technology. Overall, almost three in 10 American adults (28%) have either tried online dating once or twice (14%), use it regularly (5%), or have used it previously, but not anymore (9%). But almost three-quarters (72%) haven’t tried it at all, and more than half (52%) would never do so. That said, of those who have never tried it, 16 percent are still open to it. Gen X (7%) and Millennials (6%) are the most regular users of online dating, and Gen X are also more likely to have tried it (37%) than any other age group. And interestingly, Millennials, those who have come of age in a digital generation, are not much more likely to be users than Boomers (27% vs 24%).

6. Evangelism in a Digital Age: An Infographic

With the ubiquitous use of social media and mobile devices, the way we communicate has evolved—and, inevitably, so has the way we talk about faith. In Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age, produced in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries, Barna asked American adults about how they discuss spirituality online. Through posts, comments and profiles, many Christians believe that technology and digital interactions have made evangelism easier: We found that three in 10 (28%) share their faith via social media, and almost six in 10 (58%) non-Christians say someone has shared their faith with them through Facebook. Still, spiritual conversations are fraught in a digital age, and younger generations are among the most cautious about engaging.

7. Guiding Children

Raising children to know, love and follow Jesus has always been a challenge—even before child-sized tablets, video games and YouTube were in the picture! Today, there are more demands on kids’ and parents’ time, children are exposed to sensitive topics much sooner, and parents are forced to find new ways to pass down biblical thinking in a world that often opposes Christian values. This new report, produced in partnership with OneHope, helps ministry leaders and parents band together to help guide children’s faith formation.

8. The Connected Generation

The largest study Barna has ever done, The Connected Generation, features 15,000 respondents in 25 countries and 9 languages, facilitated through a partnership with World Vision. This study of young adults 18–35-years-old shows that they are highly connected to events and people around the world, likely because of technology, but don’t always feel supported in their own relationships. Learn how to develop healthy partnerships across generations and to bring needed change to your church, organization or business.

9. Faith for Exiles

It’s easy to become discouraged by all that’s going wrong when it comes to Christianity and the emerging generation. Yet what’s going right? In fact, signs of hope are springing up all around. Barna President David Kinnaman and former executive director of Youth Specialties Mark Matlock team up to uncover five practices that contribute to resilience in this new age, “Digital Babylon.” Enter the world of resilient young adult Christians, learn how they are sustaining faith, and find hope in all that God is doing among young disciples today.

10. A New Generation of Digital Natives, Gen Z

As Christian leaders, pastors, educators and parents, we want what’s best for our kids. We want to see them grow up and follow Jesus for a lifetime. Unfortunately, many Christian teenagers are simply unprepared for the world that is waiting for them. We all know students who have drifted, become disillusioned or just walked away from the faith. It has been said that “Teenagers are the most misunderstood people on planet earth. They are treated like children but asked to behave like adults.” Discover how this generation interacts with church—why they’re leaving and how you can bring them back.

11. Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age

Evangelism has changed in the past quarter century. The ways Christians share, how often they engage in spiritual conversations and their goals for sharing faith are different. And in a culture where relativism is the norm and fewer believe in absolute truth, the attitudes and responses of those who hear the gospel have also evolved.

12. The Porn Phenomenon

Pornography is pervasive, permeating our culture from shop windows to web ads, premium cable shows to smartphone apps. Where once it was kept literally under wraps, used furtively in secret and shame, porn is now a standard feature of everyday life, seen by most teens and young adults as less morally offensive than failing to recycle. The Porn Phenomenon is an assessment of the cultural place of pornography today, based on a survey of existing social science research and nearly 3,000 new interviews with U.S. teens, adults and Protestant church leaders.


Feature image by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash.

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