Would Jesus Use Facebook?

The Other 6

Would Jesus use Facebook?

I don’t think I’ll be selling “WJUF” bracelets anytime soon, but that’s a valid question. In an age when everything is lightning-fast and millions of people use social networking sites, what is the church called to do? How can individual churches reach people in the “Facebook generation”?

At age 5, I played youth soccer. My team didn’t exactly understand the idea of working together. A clump of over-enthusiastic kindergartners surrounded the ball, every kid for himself. As we grew older, however, the clump began to spread out. We realized the importance of our relationship as a team.

My generation doesn’t simply want fast information; we want to respond to it.

Speaking as a college student, my generation strives to work as a team. We value relationships with other people. We look for fast and efficient connections. But we don’t stop there: we use our relationships and connections to collaborate and share ideas.

I know firsthand how engrossing social networking is—just ask me how I spend most of my time on the night before a final exam. Most of my generation can relate. In our world the Internet has not simply existed but has been a way of life. We’ve learned with it, worked with it, and socialized with it.

Social networking sites build and sustain relationships among people. Through sites such as Facebook or Twitter, I can talk just as easily with my cousin in Alaska as with my friend across campus. I can check out my friends’ pictures from the weekend, read my local news, catch up on a TV show, or see if the Detroit Lions are winning . . . or losing. The question begs to be asked: shouldn’t I be able to catch up on my church’s ministry too?

It’s no secret that churches have a difficult time connecting with people in my generation. In a world in which young adults look for instant connections and information, the church is being left behind. E-mail addresses, once considered “cool” for churches, are now standard—as are websites. Yet checking a church website for updates is often inconvenient and time-consuming. If our churches want to connect with young adults, it’s time for them to embrace the potential of social networking.

Social networking isn’t only for young people: 50- to 64-year-olds are the fastest-growing age group on Facebook. Social networking appeals to young adults, but it can connect people of any age.

The beauty of social networking is not only its speed or functionality, but that it’s two-way communication. My generation doesn’t simply want fast information; we want to respond to it. We want to engage it. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you can’t have two-way communication with a bulletin announcement.

Social networking holds untapped potential for members to share prayer requests, photos, small group information, and events. Not only can churches deliver this information, but members also can respond to it—and then respond to each other.

Yes, as some people point out, social networking can foster relationships that are insincere or superficial. But we must recognize that relationships, like all of society, are fallen. In this world we should not dismiss a concept because it isn’t perfect; we should engage the medium and strive to use it for God’s kingdom.

Social networking opens doors of communication for the church to explore. Jesus calls us to be of one body, and social networking promotes that kind of unity and constant communication.

In order to unite with my relational generation, social networking is an imperative first step. If Jesus used Facebook, would he “like” your church?

About the Author

Ryan Struyk was a former Banner news correspondent for classes Grand Rapids South and Thornapple Valley. 

See comments (14)

Comments

Methinks thou shouldst get out more.

Granted, there is value in social networking as a tool to enhance the connectedness of people in our present day, but reading this you'd think prior generations lived in isolation cubicles, uncertain even of the existence of other human beings.

But this article *does* illustrate one new thing about people in this present younger generation and that is their disconnectedness from prior generations' experience. It's as if nothing ever was until it was to them, but there is nothing new under the sun.

Instead of fascinating themselves with their new toys, maybe they should visit grandpa and try to get him to tell some stories.

Very well written article, the internet is a well of vast knowledge. The median of social network sites to be used to spread the gospel is only the first step, posting on blog's, commenting on forums, even developing websites that combined all the above to spread the gospel around the globe is exactly what Christ intended. As Christians, why would we not use all of our tools, for our common goal of spreading the good news? Why try to chop down a tree with a knife, when we have a chainsaw (the World Wide Web) in the garage?

In response to PNR's comments,

I thank you, but I do talk to my grandpa. I had lunch with him on Wednesday. By the way, I'm 19 years old. Personally, I think you should read more of Ryan's writing so that you can know how exceptional he is as a man and as a Christian.

When I read things such as this, I find the answer to why the younger generation is so absent from the church. Yes, we need to learn from our elders. They have much to teach us and we (me especially) are too proud to come to them as we should. However, yes, we are adults and we are the church too.

Thankfully I have scripture to comfort me. 1st Timothy 4:12.

P. S. The future and technology scare me too.

As a member this college-aged generation, I'd like to chime in with a thought or two, at risk of overlapping with the article's thoughts.

A common sermon theme is that people should be all-week Christians; religion isn't something you should turn on on Sunday and ignore the rest of the week. The "old way" of church communication is via weekly announcements and bulletins and the monthly Banner, which don't do much to foster a through-the-week presence for the church. We can and do extend church fellowship, learning, worship and prayer through the week with Bible studies, small groups and personal and family devotions, but the feeling of being part of a cohesive, whole church is still stuck in once-a-week services. A social networking presence provides a forum for a whole church or even a whole denomination to interact and share throughout the week while keeping up to date with the happenings in the church family. On Facebook, my pastor, my church, the CRC and the Banner (as well as the author of this article, whose post lead me here) all appear in my news feed. It's a convenient way to keep up to date, but a steady stream of church blurbs is also a great way to keep my focus on God throughout a busy week, and I don't think this factor should be underestimated.

PNR, I'd also like to reply to your thoughts. In limited circumstances, you're right, past generations can almost seem to have been in isolation (though I didn't see this idea in the article). Consider the author's example of him and his cousin in Alaska. Older generations would wait a week for a reply letter while nowadays, a Facebook chat is almost easier than walking down the hall to find a friend. But that's the thing: past generations walked down the hall to find a friend and talk face to face, and rest assured that we do, too. I can't imagine not! The Internet is a great complement to real-life interaction, but it's also a horrible substitute for traditional, in-person time with people. I'd never think past generations were isolated; they interacted in most of the same ways we do. I do think, though, that the current generation is being pulled closer in great new ways. As an analogy, I'd never look at modern computational science and call WWII-era scientists mathematically simple and incapable. No, they did lots of math the same way we do now. It's just that modern computers open new doors and make great new things possible. It's all based, though, on the math done long ago and which is still done now; that part hasn't changed.

And in regard to your slight about "disconnectedness from prior generations' experience", I wish you'd give some examples or explain how this article illustrates it. I'm not seeing that in the article, so your claim looks like unsubstantiated stereotyping. You'll forgive us, though, if we do sometimes seem disconnected from the past. With the explosive growth of computers and technology (and the social networking that follows), we're growing up in a dramatically different environment than what you or any other generation had. It's an exciting new environment, though, and I hope you can appreciate the potential.

I like this article and agree with it wholeheartedly. Our church has a Facebook page and as far as I can tell it is exactly the same as the day it was put up. No one does anything with it, it seems like such a waste. Why not use it?
There are many Bible/Prayer based pages on Facebook that EXPLODE with thousands of people from all around the world participating and commenting positively.
Why not use social medias to reach the next generation or even the current one for that matter? From what I can tell it isn't going away any time soon!
Use it for the best and for all it's worth instead of letting it be used for wrong.
Also, there seems to be a lot of sermons being preached because there are so many young people leaving the church. If social medias can be used to keep them connected and in the church, then why not use it to the greatest extent possible?

Forgive me, Katherine, but I did not suggest - or intend to suggest - That Mr. Struyk is not Christian. But I've been reading paeans of praise to the latest technological fad for nearly 40 years now and this is just one more in that genre.

What irked me is statements like this:
"...my generation strives to work as a team. We value relationships with other people. We look for fast and efficient connections. But we don’t stop there: we use our relationships and connections to collaborate and share ideas."

So, my generation *doesn't* strive to work as a team or value relationships? And what about the folks in your generation who prefer the splendid isolation the 'net allows them? Does he think earlier generation didn't use their relationships and connections to collaborate or share ideas? Is he not aware, for instance, of the extensive networks of correspondence that helped kick off the Renaissance?

I know Mr. Struyk doesn't really intend that, but he's written as if somehow none of this could be done until Voila! Facebook Appears! (Which is why I said it is ahistorical.)

People are people. Technology hasn't changed that. Tools don't make the person, but what we build with those tools certainly reflects our hearts. Social networking software and sites are useful tools, but they haven't created the New Facebook Man and they are but one tool among many available to us. This, I suppose, is really all Mr. Struyk intends to say - beyond actively encouraging churches to make use of this particular tool. And we should.

I'm glad you have such a close relationship with your grandfather, Katherine. It is a precious thing - I never got the chance to really know mine.

As one who works closely with younger generations, I understand the value social networks play in communicating with one another and connecting. So the point of having churches keep up with these things is very valid.

However, I would like to add a different perspective to the conversation. Churches are multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-economic entities. Not everyone communicates the same way or wants to communicate in the same way. The younger generations like social networking, older generations maybe not so much. Some people have internet at their fingertips, some have to travel to the library to get it. Some people like and know how to communicate effectively with their fingers, and define relationship based on their facebook connections, some don't consider a real relationship to exist unless you sit down face to face and talk while looking one another in the eye.
Anyway, all this to say that in order to stay connected with everyone and please everyone, there is not one "catch-all" solution.

Churches rely heavily on volunteers. If you feel that social networking is crucial to a church's existence and ministry, then my suggestion to you is to call up your church and volunteer to put something together. My guess is the pastors, staff and head ministry coordinators at most churches have so much on their plate that to coordinate one more thing and to make sure it is current and updated is not something they look forward too - especially if they are not tech savy! So, to all you social networkers and church members...go ahead...help your church...start something...talk to people who might want to help....and go for it!

As one who works closely with younger generations, I understand the value social networks play in communicating with one another and connecting. So the point of having churches keep up with these things is very valid.

However, I would like to add a different perspective to the conversation. Churches are multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-economic entities. Not everyone communicates the same way or wants to communicate in the same way. The younger generations like social networking, older generations maybe not so much. Some people have internet at their fingertips, some have to travel to the library to get it. Some people like and know how to communicate effectively with their fingers, and define relationship based on their facebook connections, some don't consider a real relationship to exist unless you sit down face to face and talk while looking one another in the eye.
Anyway, all this to say that in order to stay connected with everyone and please everyone, there is not one "catch-all" solution.

Churches rely heavily on volunteers. If you feel that social networking is crucial to a church's existence and ministry, then my suggestion to you is to call up your church and volunteer to put something together. My guess is the pastors, staff and head ministry coordinators at most churches have so much on their plate that to coordinate one more thing and to make sure it is current and updated is not something they look forward too - especially if they are not tech savy! So, to all you social networkers and church members...go ahead...help your church...start something...talk to people who might want to help....and go for it!

If it means anything, I am in my early twenties.

You do know the exact same things have been said about every other new communication technology? Postage stamps, printing press, pamphlets, newspapers, pony express, trains, telegraphs, telephones, email...

Social networking has existed since society has existed. In other words, since Adam & Eve. Every generation likes to think itself unique and superior to the previous. Look in the church archives and read about the upset when the young people wanted to start singing hymns in church instead of Psalms.

The internet is convenient, often efficient, and I rely on it heavily. But if you aren't aware of your church's ministry unless they keep a Facebook page, why bother physically attending church at all? You could just as easily watch a sermon on TV, or read devotions online.

The internet is not the only or the best way to network socially. Join your church's Bible studies and clubs and ministries. Be aware of your church because you are involved in serving Christ, and not because you can lay in your bed and move your fingers.

I believe that the younger generation is not very present in our church because they feel the church doesn't have much to offer them. Without bright lights and loud noises and our every whim catered to, we won't bother. But you shouldn't attend church for what it can offer you; rather, consider what you have to offer. With which church will you best be able to serve God?

Social networking is imperative, I agree. Facebook, however, is not; to suggest otherwise is both pretentious and ignorant. Of course you can't communicate to a bulletin, but then, any conversation addressed to Facebook is just as one-sided. You respond to the people mentioned in the bulletin, just as you would respond to a post on Facebook. Of course, it might mean that you have to get up out of your chair...

I challenge you, my peers - stop sitting back and waiting for church to come to you. Stop thinking of yourself as a young adult first and Christian second. If you feel that the lack of an internet presence is hampering your church's ministry, than you should strive to change that. Church is about offering and serving and giving. The internet is as necessary for that as a telephone or a train or a postage stamp.

In answer to your last question, I believe that Jesus would like any church that is wholeheartedly willing and ready to live for Him.

Great article! At age 69, I have been loving FB for over three years. Several of my FB friends are pastors and missionaries from all parts of the states and the world. It's great to communicate with them on both a personal & spiritual level and to read their posted blogs. My church, 1st Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, WA and the Chancel Choir are both FB friends of mine and "YES", I believe Jesus would "like" and "friend" their ministries of Him!

You are the salt of the world...

I find facebook a medium that raises ire of "different thinking" friends who unfriend you, raises awareness of folks' limited comfort zones, raises the possibility to connect and grow and inform and learn.

I'm infinitely grateful for facebook giving me access to friends and acquaintances whose compassion and interests I could not otherwise have known. And a medium to share parts of my life that I have had to keep hidden, enabling a "damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead" type of confession. For this, I say hurrah.

Specific to your article, learning the dynamics of teamwork through basketball is a profound metaphor. Some of us stop at "all for me" teamwork, some are content being entertained by 'the sport' as a social event. Your article encourages me to find teammates, to foster and seek the teamwork demanded in all areas of life! We aren't here to play basketball--or watch.

This is indeed great a great article!
I agree, we should learn how to use social networking sites to expand and work for God's Kingdom! :D
may I repost this?

Yes. My church uses facebook, and this is wonderful. I think that we too often don't embrace new technology nearly enough, which is sad. i am presently in Hong Kong and riding the subway I see so many people using their smartphones and ipads as a regular if not primary way, to continually stay in touch with others. In fact, I am meeting with someone today whom I met briefly two years ago, stayed in touch with on fb, and will re-connect with today in person. It is a wonderful new world.

awesome article and right to the point.......now the church has to start using your information and hopefully they will
thank you for your posting

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