The Dart: Dialing down the digital

Published 12:01 am Monday, April 23, 2018

NATCHEZ — The colossal campus of Natchez First Baptist Church is normally pretty quiet on days such as last Friday, when almost no one was around to make a stir.

No one except youth pastor Dan Ratcliff.

The Dart landed this week on the church’s tranquil property, where Ratcliff sat inside the church to get some work done.

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On such days, Ratcliff said he has a chance to focus on his many tasks without the outside world demanding his attention.

“There’s less distractions,” Ratcliff said. “If it’s after hours or sometimes at night when I come back up here, you get a tremendous amount done, without (your) phone buzzing … you do.”

Such distractions are part of what he preaches about in his youth ministry, aiming to help teens understand how to handle the dominating digital presence felt in today’s culture.

Because of smart technology, especially smart phones, Ratcliff said this generation of children and young adults poses extra challenges in terms of engagement. For the lively youth pastor, part of embracing that challenge means figuring out how to help children handle that environment, but also how to utilize it to their benefit.

“I want to help them and not just come up here and beat them over the head,” Ratcliff said “I’ve got to be prayerful and smart about it.”

Ratcliff said he even plans to start a youth Instagram account in the future.

Though he battles with what he sees as huge challenges, Ratcliff remains hard at work trying to come up with effective ways to engage youth and get them involved in the church.

“There’s a lot of things that go on here,” Ratcliff said. “I have the passion, but I’ve got to read and study and pray about how to change some of the things. I’ve got to be a changing person.”

As “a 50-year-old dealing with Generation Z,” Ratcliff said he wants to teach his youth not to give in to the hate he sees often purveyed in the world.

“You can’t fight hate with hate,” Ratcliff said. “Jesus didn’t do that.”