Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Using Social Networking for God's Glory

A few months ago i received a message on Facebook. It was a message from Susie (the name has been changed). She had recently broken up with her boyfriend and things were not that great. Susie was a former student of mine. She was out of High School by a few years. The message was very disturbing. She told me things were difficult and she was asking me some theological questions. These questions were good, but the word suicide was mentioned. This of course became a very different conversation as soon as that happened. I was now living a thousand miles away and I could not physically be there for her. I am pretty sure it would have been difficult for her to track down my phone #. Still there was Facebook, a social online networking community. A place for people to connect. I don't know how serious she was about suicide, but I do know that through Facebook I was able to get her connected with some people who could be there for her.

Let's be clear, Susie and I were never really close, but we had many, many conversations when I was her pastor. Still she knew that she could contact me and I would be there for her if at all possible. Like it or not Facebook, myspace, twitter, and possibly many other networks are impacting our culture in huge ways. As youth ministry workers it is imperative that we enter the culture and bring Jesus with us. These networks are not simply places to hang out online, they are places where significant ministry can and must be done.

I am not a young twenty something youth pastor who grew up with these things, I am a 35 years old and 15 year veteran of youth ministry. Why do I mention this? Because I don't want anyone who reads this to write it off because they are too old or because they don't think I am old enough. Jesus was incarnational entering the culture of mankind to save them from their sin. Should we not take that same approach to ministry? Shouldn't we enter culture and meet students where they are in an effort to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

These technologies have infiltrated the culture very deeply. I use these technologies often and keep them up to date and still I do not have a full grasp on the power of the technologies nor have I fully figured out how to leverage that for the kingdom of God. What I do know is that I have been able to do significant ministry because of my activity on these networks. Don't stick your head in the sand, and don't wine because you don't like it. Learn to enjoy the benefits and leverage the power of these networks for God's glory.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Social Networking and Ministry: Are students being socially handycapped?

One of the complaints I have heard most about social networking is that it is impacting students ability to interact socially. Some of these complaints are the result of observing certain students who do appear to be socially handicapped. That said it seems to me based only on my own observations that the students who have a lot of online friends are very adept at interacting face to face.

None of us were around when the phone first began to take over the world, but I could imagine the same kind of concerns being voiced because of the telephone. Social networking is another way of communicating another way of keeping up with friends and family. I am baffled at why this would looked at in a negative way. The question is are people different online?

I have no doubt that people are willing to say things online they would not say in person and be part of things online they would not otherwise be part of. This certainly has both positives and negatives. The question then becomes who is the real person? I would suggest that more often than not the online person is the real person. Students need to learn restraint and judgment online just like they learn those things in how they communicate face to face.

I am not suggesting there are no challenges with social networking I am suggesting that there is nothing new under the sun. Social networking is here to stay and it will likely become more complex and pervasive not less. Instead of complaining perhaps we need to begin to think about how to use these technologies to honor God!!