One of the primary purposes of the Faith Lab is to help churches effectively use the powerful communications tools of the internet age. But does the church really need to be good at using these new digital tools? Let's come at the issue from a different - and more important direction: missions.

Any missionary worth his or her salt will tell you that one of the first things a missionary must do is learn the language of the culture in which they minister. It allows for real communication, and shows a respect for the indigenous culture.

The reality is that, in American culture, the majority of those in leadership in churches are, at best, "digital immigrants." We were raised without computers, the internet, iPods and cell phones. We've worked to learn how to use these tools (well, most of us have tried), but it's been a learning process.

But for a growing number of people, they have never know a time without these digital tools. They are truly "digital natives".

The first generation of “Digital Natives” – children who were born into and raised in the digital world – are coming of age, and soon our world will be reshaped in their image. Our economy, our politics, our culture and even the shape of our family life will be forever transformed. (From Born Digital)

To communicate effectively with these persons, the church needs to speak their language, and show a real respect for their culture.

Do digital tools define these generations? Certainly not. They are flesh and blood people with dreams, flaws, fears, illnesses and souls. They have family, friends, and loves. The grace, support and meaning offered through following Christ is just as valuable to them.

The church doesn't have to become a geek club, or a nerd haven. Our strength with relationships, support, service and worship are still vital for ministry. The Church's mission to share the love of Christ hasn't changed.

But if the church wants to remain relevant to the digital generations, we're going to have to become a community that learns and speaks their language. What's the best way to learn a language? Let a resident teach it to you, and practice regularly.

What are ways your congregation is involving digital natives and working to speak their language?

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