As social media becomes the normal life experience of contemporary adolescents, faith communities are increasingly exploring ministry implications of this form of social interaction. The intent of this doctoral project is to reframe adult-adolescent computer mediated communication (hereafter, CMC) from systemic abandonment towards communal adoption. It is argued that by adaptively utilizing the concept of floating entourage,1 the foundational actions for the development of an adoptive multi-networked web of adult-adolescent relationships can be developed.
Through psychosocial, theological, and missional examination, research identifies communicative community as a core reality of God’s desire for a cultural telos of communal adoption. The project consists of seminars offered between March and December of 2012 primarily targeting youth workers and secondarily parents represented from Fuller Theological Seminary’s Sacramento student body. The sessions encompassed theological, psychosocial, and ecological social media issues grounded in practical theology, measuring effectiveness according to the following desired outcomes: 1) an understanding of how each stage of adolescence affects social media usage; 2) integration of a CMC culture of adoption among existing offline-relationships; 3) understanding of how to develop opportunities for spiritual growth that invite adolescents to trust Jesus with social media issues; 4) an ability to counsel parents and other youth workers in contextualized CMC usage that perpetuates an adoption culture. To measure this, pre- and post-seminar surveys were given and results triangulated with online participant feedback of adult-adolescent CMC experiences.
This study concludes that reframing adult perspectives increases psychosocial awareness of adolescent CMC usage. Concrete actions hospitable to communicative community became increasingly normative. The desire for corporate engagement with adolescents remained unchanged. Participants reported increased experiences of positive adult-adolescent social media interactions.
Theological Mentor: Kurt Fredrickson, PhD
1 Floating Entourage is a term developed to describe an adolescent’s ability through smart phone technology to digitally stay connected with their network of friends despite time and space limitations. Any adolescent, no matter where they may be, if equipped with a smart phone has this digital network of friends ‘hovering’ around with them.
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Howell, Bradley G., "Floating Entourage: Reframing Adult-Adolescent Computer-Mediated Communication towards Communal Adoption" (2013). Doctor of Ministry Projects. 147.