The Word, the Web, and the Youth 5

Towards a Framework of Promoting the Bible

Mass media, including the internet, has been the major force in modernizing the culture of the Filipino youth. It is responsible in shaping their consumption patterns, sense of fashion, recreation and leisure, political awareness and involvement, delinquency, and even their attitudes toward religion. The leisure time of young people are usually used in enjoying shows and products churned out by mass media (Lanuza, 2003).

Good thing, however, the youth are now becoming more sensitive to the signs and the messages that are being presented to them (Lanuza, 2003). Hence, they can avoid becoming helpless victims of the messages presented by mass media.

It can no longer be denied that mass media is acting as a kind of surrogate parent for young people whose parents are either working abroad or are always busy with different kinds of work. In the process, mass media is creating a system that undermines the traditional sources of authority for young people such as the school, the family, and religious institutions (Sebald, 1994). Youth culture and practices therefore become highly influenced by this mass media.

All the more do we need to hurry and enter the realm of mass media, particularly the Internet for the attention of these young people. These efforts should be done sincerely and without pretense. Otherwise, young people would detect that and will reject our efforts flatly.

The message of the Bible should be presented in the language of the youth. This means that Churches, Christian groups and even the Philippine Bible Society should enhance the interactivity of the strategies that are being used. In practical terms, this means that websites, blog, videos, and audio featuring biblical themes and stories should be set up. Such media should be written in a youth-sensitive manner—neither preachy nor didactic. They should also be interactive and provides opportunity for young people to engage in the dialogue, too. Training young people, themselves to do this, would be a great strategy since they would best know how to relate with their own generation.

Instead of simply lifting biblical passages and giving them to young people, practical and contextual issues will serve as entry points in teaching spiritual truths to young people. Issues and biblical passages that deal with premarital sex, studying and going through college, as well as family matters, presented in a gripping fashion could do wonders in promoting the message of the Bible to young people. In this regard, creative storytelling should be practiced by those who preach and by those who will write these presentations.

Marketing and advertising principles and practices could also be used for this purpose. Hence, teasers and posters containing messages related to the Bible can also be designed and posted everywhere, even in Internet Cafes, to make the youth interested in the Bible and what it has to say. A software of the Bible could also be made available for integration with social networking sites, blogs, and other tools in the Internet. Text messaging may also be integrated into this so that young people may pass on text messages containing quotes and relevant verses in the Bible.

The Philippine Bible Society, or other concerned group, may also establish an Annual Biblical Relevance Awards, similar to the Catholic Mass Media Awards, that recognizes the efforts of individuals and organizations in the promotion of the Bible in the Internet and in the mass media, and in encouraging both the youth and adults to read and apply the Bible in their lives.

We should remember, however, that the Internet is but one of the avenues in promoting the relevance of the Bible. There are many others. Furthermore, promoting the Bible, and consequently, the gospel message in the Internet should also fall into a broader framework of youth ministry. Messages in the Internet about the Bible and the faith, no matter how powerful they may be can only do so much. It should be kept in mind that relationships and sincere communication with young people are still the best tools in encouraging them to research the Bible and apply its principles in their lives.

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