Digital discipleship: Practical ways to bridge the generation gap

March 10, 2023

The calling of the Church is to disciple people of all ages, places, and backgrounds. This inclusivity is a blessing as churches reach new people and grow their ministry, but cracks often form between the different generations that make up modern-day congregations if the correct measures aren’t taken. 

For example, tech-savvy Gen Zers (born 1997-2013) are redefining the ways church content is accessed and consumed. They expect instant access to information, conversations, and digital discipleship content. The irony here is that the most ‘connected’ generation has unintentionally created the “largest generation gap” in nearly a century within ministries and their church communities. 

Contrary to common opinion, the challenge for church leaders isn’t how to engage this hyper-digital generation—it’s how to connect them with their generational counterparts. 

Build a bridge and cross it

Gen Z loves the snappy digital ecosystem that provides them with a constant stream of accessible content at their fingertips—but what about the older generations who still prefer more traditional methods of interaction? How can ministries speak both languages, to ensure all disciples are valued and included? 

The best way to minimize and combat generational challenges is to build a bridge and cross it—a bridge that connects the generations socially, culturally, and physically. Failing to do so can lead to declining attendance and have a negative impact on a church’s harmony and growth. 

That’s why it’s so crucial for pastors to be proactive to bring these different demographics together, connect their congregation today, and future-proof their ministries for tomorrow.

Step 1: Consider both sides of the same coin

Generally speaking, today’s younger generation of disciples prefer to consume their church’s content via digital means such as text messages, social media, and live streams. With busy schedules, work demands, and younger families monopolizing their time, they want their content quickly and served directly to them on the go—they’re unlikely to sit down and seek it out for themselves. 

Their older counterparts that are more tech-savvy, on the other hand, tend to be more time-rich and therefore expect more autonomy around how and when they interact with their church. This is why things like webinars and ebooks are such invaluable resources for modern ministries.

Other older Christians typically prefer to consume church content in more traditional ways, turning to offline content such as in-person sermons, face-to-face prayers, and physical events. 

Not everyone fits into these profiles, of course. There is a plethora of diversity along the discipleship spectrum of people who don’t consume church content in ways typical of their generation. 

However, what we do know for sure is that in order to bridge generational gaps and create a more blended, seamless discipleship experience for all, churches must be more agile than ever to provide for both ends of that spectrum—and everything in between. 

Step 2: Adopt a hybrid church model

The most effective way to bridge the generational gap is by fostering a hybrid ministry, which blends traditional in-person gatherings and today’s online tools to create a cohesive experience for all church congregation members. 

To master the hybrid ministry, church leaders need to optimize both digital and physical resources to maximize how content is accessed and consumed by everyone. Not only will this deepen engagement with your content, but it will also encourage a far more integrated community. 

That’s the theory behind the hybrid church concept, but what does it mean to be a hybrid ministry in practice? Best practices include:

  • Providing online and offline experiences simultaneously so that anybody can access your content where it matters most to them
  • Removing barriers to your church and its content to foster an integrated and synergetic ministry
  • Avoid strategizing content into age-specific silos 
  • Taking more stringent measures to encourage a coming together that drives unity 

This ensures that disciples from all age groups can have the same shared experience whether they’re sitting one meter away from each other at church, or thousands of miles apart tuning into the same live-streamed sermon. 

Step 3: Cultivate community through connections

Fostering a sense of community is a foundational solution to bridging the generational gaps between church-goers. As we’ve established, this can be catalyzed effectively by adopting the hybrid ministry concept, but this then needs to be supported and facilitated by deploying the right tools.

The Subsplash Platform offers a Messaging & Groups feature, which provides one central place for people to congregate—near and far—to build relationships and have more meaningful conversations.

Disciples of all ages can create and join groups to post prayer requests, broadcast announcements, have sermon discussions, or even coordinate care for someone in need. This feature is fully integrated and accessible on any device, making it a highly inclusive tool. 

These types of interactions encourage active engagement over passive church attendance, which makes for a more tight-knit and authentic community. Building healthy relationships is another effective way of breaking down generational barriers.

Step 4: Go deeper with shared values

No matter when you were born or which generation you belong to, our Chrisitian faith is universal. It unites disciples and brings a cross-generational community together. To make sure your congregation is blended, here are some ideas to help you spotlight these shared values and use them to forge deeper connections and therefore more meaningful engagement with your ministry.

  • Giving initiatives are a great way to give these shared values more space. They also give cross-generational congregants the chance to align on the things that matter most to them, without age being a contributing factor. 
  • Community events and volunteering programs are also effective ways to bring disciples together through the unity of shared values. 
  • Volunteering opportunities and programs allow people to practically live out their faith and feel more connected at the same time. 

Step 5: Get the tools you need to bridge the gap

With Subsplash One, you can organize, share and manage giving initiatives and church events from one central place, including payments, without needing third-party tools or platforms. 

Better yet, your church’s live streams, online giving, events management, messaging, and more can be easily set up and managed through one streamlined, synchronized dashboard where your disciples can build deeper relationships with each other and the wider church community.

To learn more about how to bridge the generational gap and cultivate a connected congregation, [.blog-contact-cta]contact Subsplash today![.blog-contact-cta]


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