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“Facebook = Fellowship” ?

Facebook and youth ministry go hand in hand these days. There is no doubt that youth and the leaders (as well as their parents) are most probably using Facebook. So as those highly invested in the lives of youth it is critical that we think about this Facebook phenomenon (we are focusing on Facebook here, but the principles apply to any social media tool).

Questions about Facebook

Let us begin with some key questions. Is Facebook a tool for ministry or is it a distraction from ministry? From the standpoint of the youth, what is the attraction of Facebook? Is Facebook meeting the craving that leads young people (and us as leaders) to it to begin with? Is there a connection between Facebook and Biblical fellowship (one-another community)?

Beginning with Scripture

The Bible is always the best place to start in a discussion like this. Throughout history, God wanted to be with people. Beginning in the garden then progressing forward to the New Testament as well where Christ came to earth in the flesh, to dwell (to literally “tabernacle”) with us. These personal connections carried forward in the New Testament in Acts 2 where we see a model of the early church that has been carried out through as the connecting principles of believers for 2000 years.

As we consider the fellowship, abiding together aspect of the Christian life, it is important for us to relate this to Facebook as the  “connectivity” we see today.

Let me say that Facebook is a great tool. Personally, I have stayed more connected to more people than I ever have been able to my entire life. When I say connected, I cannot not say that I share deeply typically in Facebook. How about you? Is Facebook a place of true connection in the biblical sense (“having all things in common”)? If you are like me, probably not. Let us look closer first at the benefits of the Facebook platform for ministry.

Benefits of Facebook

As I mentioned above, Facebook does help us meet and stay somewhat more connected with more people. We see their pictures, their posts, their re-posts (shares), etc… Each of these areas helps us see something about that person. If they are into physical exercise, most of their posts will relate to that. If they are into travel we will see that. The Bible states in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Or maybe we would say “from our heart flows our Facebook posts”. This is a two-sided coin in some ways. Yes, on the positive side it allows you to see into the heart of those you are friends with. In fact, some people will express from their heart more easily through an online tool like this because they feel freer to be themselves and do not face any fears or shame, because they do not have to look someone in the face. That openness can be good, but that is also at the same time bad.

People, and youth in particular, need to learn to grow socially and emotionally. Remember in Luke 2:52, that “…Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”. This favor with man was social and emotional connecting. A doctor friend of mine told me recently, that he has seen the negative social change in young people he sees in his office. He does not allow them to text or be on their phones while he is meeting with them and their parents for a check up. But, he said that even when he is talking to them, most youth do not know how to talk appropriately and with eye-to-eye contact. This is a major change in most societies. People are growing more comfortable typing than talking. We cannot lose our social skills and most importantly the true connection that this brings with people. Our societies may call this convenience, the trend or the way of the future, but people matter to God and taking the time to look them face to face and give them a hug matters.

Another great benefit of Facebook is being able to message people when they are online or offline. You can send them a personal message through this tool. It can be an encouragement or an invitation to an outing or even an invitation to meet up to see how you are both doing.

Facebook can also be a great tool for promoting and connecting a whole group of people together easily. The page or group options allow you to stay connected to your youth group in a set aside place. You can even schedule group events and ask for replies as well so you can gauge the attendance.

I am sure that you could list other ways that Facebook is a good tool for you and your youth leaders to connect and correspond at some levels.

Still we are left with the question, is Facebook equal to biblical fellowship? I would say that Facebook is “a tool” to move us toward biblical fellowship, but it is not in and of itself biblical fellowship.

Shortfalls of Facebook

What are the limitations of Facebook? What are the negative attributes to consider about Facebook? Yes, youth may be more open at times via Facebook, but that means they are more closed often times in real face-to-face interactions. If Facebook provides a small window into their soul, then we as youth leaders have to climb through that window and sit across from them face to face and let them know they are in a secure place with you and most importantly with Christ.

Another attribute of Facebook and other social media is the issue of prioritizing and using our time wisely. As believers and especially as leaders we are given a gift of time. We do not know how much time we have in our lifetime. However, we each have 24 hours in a day. Just as we have spiritual gifts, talents and financial resources, we have time as a resource and gift from God. When it relates to our time and Facebook, we need to take a personal and honest assessment. We need to ask ourselves, is my time on Facebook, the best use of my time? Is my time on Facebook taking up too much time? Now, do not justify your time, by calling it all ministry. Take an honest assessment. I know people who use Facebook for ministry and some time for recreation and catching up with people; nothing wrong with that. But when Facebook takes our time and energy away from higher life priorities we have some serious reflection to take. Maybe I can ask this in terms of some questions that I can ask myself and you can wrestle with as well?

  1. Do I spend more time with God in His word or more time in Facebook?
  2. Which of the two satisfies my soul the most? Which should satisfy my soul the most?
  3. Am I attempting to justify my hours on Facebook as “ministry” time?
  4. Am I spending less face-to-face time with those people that God has put in my life (your wife, children, parents, siblings?), because I am spending too much time on Facebook (or other social media sites)?

I would honestly say that Facebook is a great tool. Facebook can be harnessed for good, but I also have to ask myself, am I harnessing Facebook or is Facebook harnessing me?

When I look at youth ministry, for sure Facebook can be a starting point for fellowship and it can enhance our current fellowship. But like many things in life, balance is key. We need to choose the best ways to have fellowship and not default to the easiest ways of posting, texting, emailing or tweeting for surface level fellowship.

I am glad that Jesus came to earth in the flesh, that he breathed the air that we breathed. Would Jesus use Facebook today? Most probably, but I am sure he would first seek out ways to meet people where they are in the flesh, face-to-face, eye-to-eye. I am so glad that He meets me in that way through His Spirit and through His Word. I am glad that I do not have to have electrical power or time (load) on my phone or device in order to be in true fellowship with Christ. Let us never forget that Christ will never leave us or forsake us and that we get to be the same incarnational, in the flesh, example to those He has called us to serve. May we be people of the “book” and people who minister “face to face”.

Chris Davis
Global Youth Ministry Network

  • Anil Alexander

    wonderful thoughts chris

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