Facebook is the real world to your students. I know that may sound weird depending on your age or experience, but your students live their lives online and see Facebook in a similar way to the way they see their school.
I snicker every time I see the word “cyber” attached to normal teen issues because it betrays a lack of understanding of youth culture by the person writing the article. To teens, there isn’t cyber-bullying, cyber-sex, cyber-gossip, etc, there is just bullying, sex and gossip. It happens at school, on the bus, and on twitter.
Why does this matter? Because youth pastors have an incredible opportunity! If we can change the way we see Facebook, twitter and the rest, we can touch the lives of teens in a powerful way! Watch what happens when we see this as the real world:
Your student misses your weekly meeting. Before you leave the building, you fire up Facebook and post on their wall about how you were talking about gossip in small group (when they weren’t there ) and wanted to hear their perspective on why gossip is a sin. All of a sudden, they see that you aren’t just using Facebook to get them to come to your stuff, but you really like them and care about what they think.
One of your students post about their friend being sick. You comment on that post with a prayer for that student’s friend. Not only do you pray for them, but you identify yourself as a christian (and minister?) to the world of their friends and family online. You raise the level of the comment thread and actually display the benefits of being part of a community of believers.
This also helps us understand appropriate boundaries online. If you would do it in public, do it in public online, if you should do it in private do it in a direct message or better yet, in person.
What are your thoughts? Comment here, or better yet comment on this post on Facebook 🙂
Jeremy Steele has been working in youth ministry for the past fifteen years and now serves as the Next Generation Minister at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL. He writes for Group Magazine, RETHINK Church and various publications and organizations. You can find a link to all the places he contributes on his website at JeremyWords.com.