Asbury Memorial UMC youth teach tech at “reverse mentoring” workshop


By Kara Witherow, Editor

iPhones, iPods, and iPads. PCs and passwords. Facebook and Facetime. Internet and Instagram. Software, settings, and smartphones.  

All of the digital technology that inundates our daily lives can be intimidating and downright confusing, especially for those who didn’t grow up in such a wired world.

Some Savannah teens, though, are taking the time to help navigate neophytes through the digital landscape with their “reverse mentoring” technology workshops.

Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church recently hosted a Youth Group Tech Workshop to help teach older members of the congregation about new technology.

It was a two-fold event, organizers say, meant to foster relationships as much as teach.

“Many of our youth are from outside our church,” said Mary Ellen Campbell, vice-chair of the church council and a member of the youth group’s leadership team. “This is a great way to build one-on-one relationships between the generations.”

Prior to the workshop those who requested help filled out forms detailing their technology questions and needs. In the church’s fellowship hall 16 youth manned booths for all types of tech: iPads and iPhones to laptops and androids.

Carol Klein had several general questions about her iPhone and Mac laptop, and looked forward to the workshop to gain a better understanding of their features.

Needing reliable word processing and spreadsheet programs for her Mac laptop, Klein worked with one young woman and learned how to use Google Docs and Google Sheets. Another looked at Klein’s iPhone and assured her that she still had plenty of storage.

One of the young women even gave Klein her personal phone number so she could call her if she had any further technology trouble.

“I was so impressed with our youth,” Klein said. “They were so knowledgeable and polite. I’m sure now when I see them at church there will be a personal connection, and that’s really nice.”

Jackson Brantley remembers using his family’s desktop computer when he was in elementary school. The senior at Savannah Arts Academy got a basic flip phone in seventh grade and upgraded to a smartphone in ninth grade.

“I’ve been exposed to technology, in some capacity, since kindergarten,” he said. Today he uses a Mac laptop, so he manned a Mac station at the technology workshop and helped a woman who needed help with her QuickBooks software.

Having recently interned at a local startup, Brantley was familiar with the accounting software and was able to troubleshoot her problems. Her second computer, a Microsoft Surface, had popups and Internet connectivity issues. With a few quick Google searches, Brantley was able to diagnose and fix them.

The congregation is very supportive of the youth group, he said, and the teens wanted to give back in some way. The technology workshop was one way to help others, serve, and foster deeper connections. They plan to offer more in coming months and may even be able to expand the workshops to include local residents.

“I look at it as the start of a relationship,” Brantley said. “Now that all of us are paired up with multiple people … the door is open to deeper relationships and bonds within the youth and adults in the church that otherwise wouldn’t have connected beyond just a surface level.”

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