I received numerous invitations to join, but still I stayed away. Finally, I received yet another invitation and it was from a friend my own age, so I got on the bandwagon. A few days later, she chided me because I had over 50 friends and now the number has kept increasing. I'm talking about Facebook, the social networking site that connects over eighty-million users to one another. Are you one of them?
As soon as I joined Facebook, I was friended by lots of people that I knew in the real world. As my network grew, I saw more and more people that I knew and we 'friended' each other. I have been able to re-establish contact with some friends that I'd lost touch with and share mundane parts of my daily life with plenty of people who don't care!
I've also discovered it is one of the tools that can be useful in ministry. I see status updates from the youth in my group and know when they are having a rough day. I have some who tell me that they don't use old fashioned e-mail, just send them a message on Facebook. I have joined groups for members of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network and am creating a group to help those of us in the Montana Synod stay connected to one another.
Facebook allows you to create groups, so I have created a group for our high school youth group. This gives me yet another place to publicize events and send messages from. I can also share pictures within facebook and the youth in my group will tag them with names of other facebook users. I think that every photo I had uploaded was tagged within 2 hours of my having uploading them!
There are countless applications that are a part of facebook, some of which are useful, some of which are silly, and some of which will cause you to waste much of your precious time. I'm not going to recommend any particular applications, but I do recommend that you check out what you are giving away when you install one of them. There have been some privacy concerns associated with specific Facebook applications and also with Facebook in general after they tied purchasing information to specific accounts and displayed that in the feed.
I do use the Facebook Toolbar for Firefox, which pops up status change updates whenever I'm online and one of my friends changes their status. It can be a little distracting when I'm working on a sermon, but it's nice to know what's going on in the lives of my friends.
If you're already on Facebook, keep figuring out new ways to use it. If you're not, think about it the next time you get one of those e-mails inviting you to join. Chances are, you'll be surprised by how many people who know who are already using it.
God's blessings on your daily life and ministry,
Pastor Andy Arnold
ELCA Youth Ministry Network Tech Geek
Here are two other articles I stumbled upon which connect Facebook to youth ministry: