Covid-19 Resources

Analog Vs. Digital | Questions For The Pandemic Tension As A Youth Worker

Tim Balow
April 29th, 2020

Let’s be honest, what is more fun than the digital life brought on by the new world experience these days?

Pretty much everything that isn’t digital.

Everything is more fun than trying to live, work, and connect via your device. What happened to all that time we spent believing we could build genuine connection in the digital world? We have now realized that it’s impossible to build meaningful connection when solely relying on the digital world.

We are connected human beings that require presence, touch, and existence around other human beings. A reality that people have been trying to deconstruct for years through the digital environment was that human beings could thrive in life without physically being present with people.

We were wrong about digital life. We don’t want it to take over lives.

It’s only a matter of time before the world starts turning the dials of post-pandemic life and allow our world to find physical space safe again. A big factor in “turning the dials” towards post-pandemic life will be what could make a predictable space, a predictable space. Churches especially are going to run into this challenge, as they seek to be both a space that is known by many, but is also a space that is utilized for many different purposes and age groups.

For now, we’ve experienced the gamut of digital experiences in youth ministry settings (online tournaments, Instagram Bingo, streaming services, morning Instagram devos, etc.) to the quarantine specific ideas like horn honking parades in front of students’ houses, yard signs, distance learning care packages, and FaceTime one-on-one’s.

For the fun of this post, we are going to distinguish the two “sides” of how the world will transition into two words: Digital and analog (fun gameask a student the last time they heard the word “analog”, or even knows what “analog” means).

In a formal context, digital and analog are opposite one another in the way that they transmit. Analog waves are smooth and continuous; digital waves are stepping, square, and discrete. Digital is more complex while analog is relatively basic. Both are predictable, and both also have uses.

Long before digital, analog ruled the electronic world. Digital entered and offered higher quality (sound, picture, etc.) and the ability to scale (sound, picture) at a much faster rate. In the electronics world, analog doesn’t make a lot of sense anymore. Digital rules the day.

Not all comparisons are created equal. The tension between analog and digital isn’t even a comparison if you know anything about electronics. But when it comes to real life community and the digital environment, there is some tension. If you or your students are tired of the digital world, you are ready for the day when we can be “together” again.

This pandemic forces everyone (literally, every single industry) to imagine and live in a world where we can’t be with one another, except in a digital space. Or, if we are together, at the appropriate social distance. We are all on the fast track to becoming social media, production, and user engagement specialists for our churches and ministries.

How will those skills translate when we try to balance the analog and the digital space?

What will the tension be in exploring ministry dynamics keeping the adjusted expectations of a post-pandemic world?

Unfortunately, this isn’t a how-to blog. It’s more of a question/statement blog based on what we are learning about ourselves and how to facilitate ministry to and with students during the pandemic era of 2020. With the need for adaptive and progressive understandings of how the world has and is changing, there will continue to be tension in how we navigate the analog and the digital world.


What practical procedures and policies will you adopt moving forward? This takes into account the protocols ministries need to adopt for in-person gatherings. This will include communication plans, but it also might include creating back up plans in an effort to remain flexible in the midst of a changing environment.


Digital ministry has created multiple avenues for small group and “spiritual explorer” content. Digital “small groups” and spiritual discovery groups are now super accessible for students who may be too intimidated to ask questions in person, or even walk into a building/house for a group. Furthermore, this type of online ministry is easily empower-able for adults who are passionate about both the digital space and students.


If vulnerable adults (elderly or otherwise) continue to have difficulty being able to transition into a post-pandemic world, what could a long-term strategy be to connect students in relationships with vulnerable adults in the congregation while respecting healthy social distancing? Vulnerable adults are especially at risk for isolation and mental health issues relating to loneliness. The church must be creative to meet and minister to these adults because they won’t have the fortune of immediately returning to an “analog” world as soon as others might.


The strategies you learned for digital ministry, including promotion and user engagement, will be amplified when you can once again balance the world of digital and analog. This also includes the strategies for things like self-care in working from home, or relationship learnings for coping with stress and anxiety. We’ve all learned these things from a variety of arenas. These learnings will find a way forward in the digital vs. analog life, if we are intentional about them.

The tension moving forward won’t feel tense, but we will have the tension in our minds about how we balance these worlds. Collectively, we as a church and society have encountered a tremendous amount of adversity and unified action. We all are doing our part to ensure a healthy world for all of us and to find life and hope for a future moving forward. Youth workers from across the country and around the world have stepped up in phenomenal ways to meet the pandemic challenge head on and live in the tension of uncertain and awkward. This should mean something for the future of church leaders as we strive to be creative, hopeful, and Jesus centered in our words, presence (even social distant presence), and actions.

How will we live in tension with everything we learned and are learning for the new world moving forward for the sake of students, their families, and the Church?

Let’s live and move forward knowing God is before us, the Spirit is within us, and Jesus is beside us no matter what this global health challenge does to change our world and lives. He will never leave us nor forsake us. This is Good News.

Tim Balow

TIm Balow is has served in a variety of youth worker roles between Chicago and Minneapolis over the last 10 years. Tim currently serves with Youth Specialties working on projects focused on customer and content operations. Tim's passion is to serve the under-resourced youth worker and to encourage the next generation of students to step into a transformative relationship with Jesus.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.