By Dominique A. Robinson, NextGen Pastor at Shaw Temple AME Zion Church.
April 16, 2015—Preaching has always been a lively communal dialogue between the preacher, God and the congregants within the Black Church tradition; however, technology and social media have invaded this dialogue for Black Millennials. Their idea of interactive preaching goes beyond the “preacher, music and frenzy” that W.E.B. DuBois refers to. Black Millennials want church as they know it to reach beyond the four walls of the sanctuary. For them, preaching is no longer what happens when the preacher stands behind the lectern but preaching happens when one’s truth is shared no matter the medium or mode of communication.
Though Black Millennials may look, sound and even act like their ancestors they are an entirely different breed of Believers. This generation of Black youth and young adults has a disjointed spirituality. Though they hold firm to the belief that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins as an innocent man and was resurrected for them to gain a chance to eternal life they do not believe that his gift of the Holy Spirit can change racism and violence. They believe that God is present with them in the loss of their grandmother or while trying to matriculate college but not present during the prevalent loss of Black young lives at the hands of officers; this has created a dichotomy in what they believe and live. This current-day lynching legacy is not new to Black people but the overwhelming access to, sharing of and posting of the images of Black lifeless bodies and the brutality of police officers has created a different sense of fear, anger, anxiety and protest in Black Millennials that is drastically different than their elders. Black Millennials no longer want to hear the “three points and a poem” sermon; they want answers about what is happening in our society and they want to be able to post, tweet, and share those answers.
Listeners can use their mobile devices to easily verify and share what the preacher has stated. They can pose questions, invite participation from those not physically present, and share photos and videos relevant to the topic at hand. This new level of verification and sharing via social media and technology challenges preachers and the preaching moment in ways they have not been strained before.
God is still talking to and through preachers but preachers need to learn how to effectively reach this angry, hopeless, disjointed, technologically driven generation. We must reconnect Black Millennials to the Black Church by way of preaching to them in a way that speaks directly to them in their language. Preaching at its most effective state is contextual; I would like to offer the term iHomiletic™ as the “new” method of preaching to Black Millennials. In an interdisciplinary way, this method utilizes homiletics, Christian Education tenets, youth ministry, and social media/technology with a primary focus on homiletics. Similar to the term iGeneration, iHomiletic™ “is derived from the Apple lineup of popular products which especially took off in the younger market, specifically the iPod music device and more recently the iPhone. The little ‘i’ and the subsequent capital second letter is a homage to Apple’s impact on today’s youth, though the company does not own the rights to the term.”
The iHomiletic™ is a technique of preaching that deals directly with where Black Millennials locate themselves socially, culturally, psychologically, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. It addresses their questions and makes the Gospel practical and relevant to their lives.
Like the very successful manufacturing of Apple products, the iHomiletic embodies a high quality design. Homiliticians who embrace and employ the iHomiletic know the “product” that they are creating; “they are light on their feet, inquisitive and interested in being wrong. They are motivated by failures and optimistic about change.” These homiliticians know that the product – the sermon – must have focus and simplicity. The iHomiletic, like Apple products, must have a clean, flawless, and operational design. All of what impacts Black Millennials must be seamlessly incorporated into the sermon development and articulation. The iHomiletic is a way of preparing and delivering sermons to Black Millennials that starts and ends with their questions about life, makes the Gospel user-friendly, compact, sleek, practical and relevant; and makes God easily accessible.
The preacher must be willing to take risks, be intentional in encouraging and accommodating feedback, and do so with integrity. The iHomiletic allows for the preacher to engage in the 21st century “call and response” where congregants do not wave their hands, stand, sway and “holla” back at the preacher but congregants create hashtags for their sermons, post memes related to their worship experience, post photos or recordings of the preaching moment or even the “frenzy.” This way of developing sermons integrates Christian Education and adult learning principles. It is an embodied theology that permits the preacher and congregants to engage one another, establish instant connections, and mirrors life outside of church as experienced at work or school.
The iHomiletic’s use of social media can become significantly helpful to connecting to Black Millennials. It meets Black Millennials where they are within and outside of the church walls. It assists them with being able to cope with evils of the day in the same mediums – social media and technology – they they are being bombarded with discouraging images and news.
I hope that I have made it clear what the iHomiletic is and how it can be helpful for preachers as they seek to reconnect with a generation that seems to be too focused on posting and sharing. In the next post I will share how to develop an iHomily™.
Dominique A. Robinson is NextGen Pastor at Shaw Temple AME Zion Church. She was previously on staff at New Life Presbyterian Church and Columbia Theological Seminary.
 Evelyn L. Parker, Trouble Don’t Last Always: Emancipatory Hope Among African American Adolescents (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2003).
 Zack Whittaker, “Defining the iGeneration: Not Just a Geeky Bunch of Kids,” ZDNet.com, June 20, 2010, accessed July 14, 2014, http://www.zdnet.com/blog/igeneration/defining-the-igeneration-not-just-a-geeky-bunch-of-kids/5336.