By Jean Chung, a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
The content of the book
Beyond the Screen is talking about what is the effective approach to youth group in the digital age. Also, it explains how youth, who are really good at the digital culture, establish relations with others and what thoughts they have, and their unique features when they build relations with others in the digital culture. In chapter 2, this book articulates that what the youth want is not the mere enjoyment of the digital world but the personal relationship in the digital world. Also, the youth select the digital world as a means of overcoming their limitation: their limited access to public spaces physically. (30) Therefore, they can maintain and deepen the personal relationship with their friends in the virtual world, but this relationship is mainly focused on maintenance of the already existing relationship, not on widening their relationship or entering into the new one. In chapter 3, Zirschky articulates that one of the most important things in youth ministry is to spend time with the youth in daily life. This is much more meaningful and powerful to youth than being with them only in trouble or in their important moments. During that time, credibility and relationship to the pastors are built up by the youth. Another distinctive feature is that this book tries to find the reasons why we should pursue the digital ministry for the youth in the biblical passages, especially in Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 10-12. (76) I think the conclusion of this book is church ministry has the solution to the drawbacks of the relationship in the digital world and churches should show the youth their active gestures of warmheartedly embracing them, who may have experienced the virtual world’s drawbacks already. (chapter 7-10)
My evaluation of the book
It is quite noticeable that this book tries to keep finding the biblical evidences of the necessity of digital ministry to the youth. Anderson seems to articulate that any ministry can be meaningful only when it is based upon the messages in the Bible. In addition, this book emphasizes that digital ministry is a method only and the strong points of the existing youth ministry can heal or make up the drawbacks of digital ministry. The digital ministry is transitional and youth ministry should understand the digital ministry’s influence and side effects on the youth, have a good knowledge of how to deal with them, and be ready to embrace the youth, who get hurt by the drawbacks of the digital culture. In the end, it is highly possible that the youths’ disconnected relationship with the adults in the church can change into the healthy one successfully by deeply understanding the unique features of youth digital culture and actively embracing the youth in that culture. (chapter 10)
The book’s influence on my future practice of ministry
The idea I really like the most and would like to put into practice if possible is “Send just a thumb-up emoji.”(61) This may be very trivial, but I think it is very effective to produce a sense of kinship or rapport among youth members and to make the most successful starting of any youth ministry. In addition, this book reminds me, again, of the importance and necessity of putting the base of any ministry upon the biblical passages and making it sure to the people involved in the ministry, such as teachers and volunteers. By showing a strong motivation based on the Scripture to pastors and volunteers, the ministry leadership can let them recognize they have a holistic mission which is different from that of social workers or NGO.