Here is an excerpt about my session:
Thus, the demographic that would benefit most from a strong Christian presence in the new media is America’s youth, according to a college group leader.
While pastors only get a few hours a week with youth in ministry, this generation is spending upwards 20 hours a week on the Internet, particularly social networks.
“When they spend that much time online, there’s this idea that it’s not just us in the church [who are] shaping their identity; their identity is being shaped by this online culture and it’s hard to compete with,” said Rhett Smith, college director at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.
When Smith first launched a website for his ministry, traffic was already dying after five to six months. The community he wanted to create for his group of young believers online through a website that included forums and pictures got zero traffic, he said during GodBlogCon. An attractive and interactive website wasn’t enough.
He decided to get on board with the popular MySpace social network and created a page for his college ministry. While experiencing some success, he found he couldn’t control the content and the appearance of racy ads. Before Smith did anything in response, his college students already launched a Facebook page for the ministry.
There’s a flattening of hierarchy on MySpace or Facebook, Smith noted. In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Smith typically has to run ideas by higher authority such as elders. But on the Internet, there’s no red tape.
“Our leadership style has to change,” Smith stressed. “We can no longer be these people that lead on top … I had to learn how to shift my leadership style where I’m a pastor who leads in the community.”
“I can either stay on the sidelines while all my kids are on Facebook and MySpace; or I can enter in their midst and … hopefully lead as a pastor within,” he added.
Today, Smith says he hasn’t found a tool more effective and easier to use than Facebook.