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By Justin Wise


Even if you think you aren’t familiar with the New Media Culture, you are. You’re living in it. The under-34 contingent, a.k.a. the New Media Generation, is fundamentally changing our society.

Like any culture, they have a clear and defined value system. These values are important to church leaders because they determine how a new generation of church attendees think, act, behave, and worship.

These values dictate everything (yes, everything) the under-34 generation does. This is a new perspective and it’s important because churches have to face this new era of faith.

If church leaders don’t understand this, or if they choose to ignore it, they’re essentially ignoring an entire generation. Whenever we minister to people, we have to take into context how they think, how they make decisions, how they behave, and then plan accordingly.



1. Looking for a Mouse. The New Media Culture demands interactivity. When my son, Finn, is watching television, he wants to interact with it. He’s looking for a way to participate with the media. He’s grown up with an iPad that responds to his touch and allows him to interact with what’s on the screen. Media, in his mind, is interactive.

toddler ipad

The New Media Generation values this interactivity. They are drawn to participatory media. It influences the way that we have to think through our church services; sitting back and watching someone speak for 45, 60, 90 minutes at a time isn’t going to cut it. Why? They’ll pull out their smart phone, start texting, look up a Bible verse, maybe even live-tweet the service. It’s the second-screen experience they desire (and will create) if we don’t do it for them.

Churches need to be aware of this and plan accordingly.

2. Blurring Lines Between Online and Offline. The reality is that a New Media Culture sees very little difference between their online and offline lives. To say to them, “online church isn’t ‘real’ church” or “online community isn’t a ‘real’ community” does not resonate with them.

Every day they interact with people they may never meet in-person, yet they are developing real friendships with those same people.

blurred lines

Part of this value stems from the fact that adults with smart phones have them within a 3-foot radius for 97 percent of their day. We are constantly connected and new media is a huge part of that. In short, it’s a blurred line. “Online” and “offline,” as separate categories, has nearly vanished—even for people over 34 (and it is certainly vanishing for those under 34, if it was even there in the first place!).

The New Media Generation will not know a time when our devices, phones, TVs, weren’t “smart”, weren’t connected to the web. For them, to be in a church service and hear something like, “please put your phones away” makes no sense. It is literally speaking a different language, from a different set of cultural values.

3. It’s Mine, and It’s About Me. This value is rooted in the reality that we can customize everything as a new media generation. When I was growing up, the very first CD I bought was Jock Rock Volume 1. I bought it for one song only, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones.

I had to buy the whole CD in order to get that one song. Of course now, the New Media Culture knows that they can just go to iTunes and only buy the one song they like. They don’t have to buy the whole album.

This type of customization typifies the “It’s Mine, It’s About Me” value. It is less about self-centeredness and egotism more of creating a world in which one wants to live in.


Thomas L. Friedman, in his book “The World is Flat,” calls this concept Informing. Informing says we don’t have to go to the library, or the civic center, or the newspaper, or television to get our information. We go to one place—the web. We can curate the information streams coming into our lives with little to no effort. In other words, it’s never been easier to filter out the “stuff” we don’t want to consume.

The industries I mentioned above are having to reorganize and repurpose themselves to have relevancy in people’s lives. The Church, dear friends, is the same way. “It’s Mine, It’s About Me” says we can essentially hand-tailor our spiritual experience. This means “going to church” (i.e. the physical church building) is being replaced as the dispenser of religious material.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s all been done before. We saw this with Martin Luther and the printing press. Luther leveraged cutting edge technology to get the Bible into the hands of the people who needed and wanted it. At that time, the only people who could read Scripture were the clergy because the Scriptures were in Latin. Not to mention many people couldn’t read at all!

Luther wanted people to have the option of either reading or hearing the Bible in their own language. So he translated it, put it through the printing press, and gave it to people in their homes.

Not only did he change the way people related to God, he actually flattened the power structure of the early Church. He took the power from the “haves” (clergy) and gave it to the “have-nots” (normal, everyday Christians like you and me). This was an early version of “It’s Mine” values!

Fast forward to now, and the church is no longer a “hey, let’s come here and receive religious instruction” destination. We can get it online now—anywhere, anytime, any place. Just go to iTunes and search Christianity and you’ll find any flavor of Christian podcast you could possibly want.

This value says we can hand-pick the spiritual experience we want. The Church has to find a different way to add value to have relevancy in the culture.

4. Life Amplification. This last value says we are constantly sharing our life experiences all the time, in every place, on every platform.

We’re sharing tweets, Facebook updates, images, videos. We’re constantly sharing our content and interacting with the content of others. Why? It’s for no other reason than connecting with other human beings through our sharing. We share content to connect with others. That’s it.


Life Amplification speaks to a basic human need to connect to others. So we’re doing this through micro-content, connecting with the people who are passionate about the same things we are. The Church has a responsibility to tap into this passion and engage in the means of delivery. The Church needs to know how to be an essential part of the Life Amplification value.

The purpose of looking at these new media values is not to assign a value judgement: right, wrong, good, bad, etc. It is simply to step back and go on a fact-finding mission.

For instance, if you and I were going to do missions work overseas, we would take time to study and understand the culture we were going into. Only a foolish missionary would plan to go to another place without knowing anything about the people they would be ministering to and living with.

The difference between going overseas and the New Media Generation is this: the culture is coming to us instead of us going to them. The message of the Church has changed very little over the years. However, we must understand the culture we’re in and adapt the method of delivery accordingly.

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