How YouTube will help Church leaders fulfill the Great Commission and build a MetaChurch


Research released by Pew has supported a key part of the digital ministry strategy outlined in MetaChurch, known as “YouTube Your Church”.

The data, released by Pew Research earlier this month, indicates that YouTube is still the number one platform for American teenagers aged 13 to 17. YouTube tops the 2022 teen online landscape after researchers found it is used by 95% of teens.

The research found that about one-in-five teens visit or use YouTube “almost constantly”, making it the most active social media platform for the next generation.

MetaChurch book by Dave Adamson

The new findings supports what I wrote in MetaChurch, that “… YouTube is the most important platform for any church leader wanting to use digital tools to make disciples.”

Pew also found that TikTok continues to established itself as one of the top online platforms, with 67% of teens saying they use the platform. And 16% of teens admit they use TikTok “almost constantly.”

Other social media platform mainstays like Facebook and Twitter were further down the list with 32% and 23% of teens using them respectively. Twitch and WhatsApp were near the bottom of the list.

Amongst teen boys YouTube, Twitch and Reddit are the most popular platforms, while teen girls are more likely to use TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat the research indicated.

Importantly, the research report also showed that the number of teenagers with access to a smartphone has increased from 73% in 2015, to 95% in 2022.

Couple this datapoint with 2020 Barna research showing 38% of Christians used social media to help grow their faith, and the case of digital ministry grows even stronger. Research from both Pew and Barna supports the findings in MetaChurch, that “… people are increasingly using digital tools to build spiritual foundations.” 

Mobile devices and technology have become such a natural extension of our daily lives, that they’ve also become an essential extension of our spiritual lives.

The new Pew research also indicated that 97% of teens use the internet daily, compared with 92% in 2014-15. And 46% of teens say they use the internet “almost constantly”.

This research is a reminder that a good discipleship strategy in any size church needs to integrate a robust digital strategy to meet people where they live—online.

Our goal as church leaders has to be to turn people’s smartphones from being a tool for distraction into a tool for discipleship, because the use of mobile devices and online technology gives church leaders digital proximity to people. 

If 95% of the teenagers who live within driving distance of your church building are getting online via smartphones, then in order to reach them, we need to be online with them.

When church leaders use technology as a tool for discipleship, we are able to turn digital spaces into sacred places.

Barna found in 2020 that one in four practicing Christians listened to sermons on podcasts during the week, and the same number watched a sermon from their church on demand during the week. Among millennials, this number jumped up to one in three!

As Mark Batterson told me in 2021: “Our phones are discipleship devices, one way or the other. You are already being discipled through technology because there are algorithms that are being designed to lead and direct us in a certain direction.

“So the question is, are we as church leaders leveraging technology, because everyone else is! We have to ask ourselves constantly how we can use the devices to foster discipleship.”

If we are going to take seriously the call to “go” to make disciples, then we need to accept that going into the postmodern world includes going to places like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Twitch because this is where people already are.