For better or for worse, technology plays a significant role in many of our lives and the lives of our children. It is not going anywhere. In fact, it is only going to become more accessible according to Moore’s law. This law or theory suggests that every two years a computer’s capability will double, and its cost will be halved. If you find yourself in a public space and look around, you will find this to be true. A car will pass by as the driver follows the directions given by a navigation system, another person out for a jog will be listening to a podcast on their wireless headphones while simultaneously tracking their heart rate and pace on their smartwatch, and the child playing on a playground nearby will have virtually unlimited access to the internet, all from the smartphone in their pocket.  

The latter scenario is one that instills a great bit of concern and caution into parents of children and teenagers. In fact, it is a scenario that the Next Generation staff at First Baptist Church (FBC) of Benton kept hearing about from the parents of students in their ministries. After repeatedly hearing questions about screen time, parental monitoring tools and the danger presented from social media, they decided it was time to act. Thus, the Navigate Conference was established with the purpose of equipping parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents and other youth workers with skills, training, and knowledge to better traverse the digital world.  

As nearly 200 adults gathered in the worship center on Saturday, August 7th, they gained knowledge and wisdom from author Jonathan McKee, a specialist in all things digital media. Additionally, those in attendance were able to attend a variety of breakouts covering topics like, “The Science of Screens,” “The Truth About Pornography” and “Leading by Example.” As the day concluded, these adults had learned many alarming facts such as the average age at which a child gets their first smart phone decreasing to 10.3 years of age or that 86% of children claim they desire to be a YouTuber or influencer when they grow up. However, they also walked away with important wisdom about bonding with their children to provide a safe and healthy environment for digital engagement.  

Although the conference covered a heavy and challenging topic, the Next Generation staff has heard overwhelmingly positive feedback. Clay Cunningham, the Associate Pastor of Family Ministry said, “On Sunday, we talked with many who attended and they were so thankful to have learned about this topic.” He added, “I was especially encouraged to see parents learning to proactively connect and bond with their children to safeguard them in this area of life.” 

The Next Generation staff at FBC is now looking to expand this conference into a recurring event that aims to tackle challenging areas of life. While their main goal is to reach, evangelize and disciple the next generation, they feel that equipping an earlier generation is just as important to the development and discipleship of the younger generation. As they plan for the event in 2022, they are considering navigating the challenging and pressing topic of gender identities and sexual orientation.  

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