Facebook and Fellowship: Part 1- Time wasting or time worthy?

A Facebook profile has become a necessary page of the teenage cyber portfolio, along with sites such as Twitter, Instagram and My Space. These social networking sites have become a global phenomenon, gaining noticeable momentum in the noughties.

For many teenagers (and indeed those who have long since left that age group!) Facebooking has become a compulsive and possibly even addictive activity, despite the controversies which often surround it, notably the debate concerning the privacy settings of the site and ongoing issues of child protection. How do we to assess Facebook and other social networking sites as bible believing Christians? What are we to teach, advise and instruct the Christian young people entrusted into our care in our nuclear and church families? Are these sites a waste of time or worthy recipients of our time?

Wider horizons
Now, more than ever technology has provided an unrivalled means of connecting with vast numbers of people from different classes, cultures and creeds, a connectivity which young people have relished. Their eyes have been lifted and their horizons broadened to encounter the diversity of people in God’s world.

For the young person with a clear understanding and experience of what it is to have their identity firmly rooted in Jesus Christ and an established, secure biblical worldview out of which they can interact with the world, social networking sites can be useful for relationship building, personal discipleship and evangelistic endeavours. It is also proving to be a useful forum for raising awareness about issues of concern for the worldwide church and campaigning for support for Christian causes.

When a teenager who is mission and ministry minded involves themselves in social networking, it can and often is a means of evangelism to non Christians, a source of encouragement to fellow Christians and occasionally even fellowship for Christians who have difficulty in physically meeting with others for fellowship, perhaps because they are a converted teenager in a non Christian family or serving overseas with their missionary parents in a country which is hostile to the gospel. So rather than embroil themselves in cyber bullying or position themselves as judge and jury over the lives of others, Christian young people can commend the gospel as they bear testimony to the grace of God in their own lives. They can allow their identity as children of God to shape how the interact with others, thus causing them to use their words wisely and images perhaps even more wisely, being cautious not to compromise the gospel in anything that they do and say.

Facebook can be used by teenagers very effectively to remind one another during the week of the biblical truths that have been communicated to them collectively, most likely at the church family meeting and to share with one another the riches of encouragement and challenge they have encountered in their personal study of God’s word. They can call one another to account and encourage or rebuke where necessary. This is particularly useful for young people who are members of the same church family, but who are not students at the same school.

Very often we focus on the potential evils of Facebook, but a student with an identity, grounded in Christ and his finished work, can use Facebook as a medium for ministry and community.

Melanie Lacy serves as Director for the Theology for Children's and Youth Ministry Degree Programme at Oak Hill College in London, England. In addition to her position at Oak Hill, she oversees the youth programme at the historic Keswick Convention & is part of the leadership team for the Good Book Company's 'Bible Centered Youthworker Conference'. Melanie holds a MA in Theology from Dublin City Universtity, Dublin, Ireland.

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