This world of social networking is a world of little to no hierarchy, and the leadership that exists is one that is centered within the groups in the online communities, and encourages a leadership style that is horizontally structured, striving to give equal voice to everyone involved. In terms of its impact to the world outside of it, these online social networking sites encourage a bottom’s up style of leadership, where change comes from grass root movements within the sites and moves out into the world. If a student does not feel empowered in any of the relationships that exist in his or her day to day life, they are going to find it online where there are little to no rules, and no parental control or authority to tell them what, when or how to do something. Students are masters of their own universe and they shape their profile and identity around the idea that they are valuable to the group and can offer meaningful opinions.
This is crucial for youth workers to understand. Most churches operate using a hierarchical approach, where structure and authority are organized in a top-down manner. In most cases, this means that the voices that are given the most importance and are usually the most heard are those of the senior pastor, the ordained staff or those in positions of employed leadership. This is not the case for MySpace or Facebook. Everyone has a voice and place along the continuum of leadership in these communities. When Nouwen states that “The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross,” I would argue that online social networking sites offer in terms of leadership a trajectory more aligned with downward mobility than most church structures. This is what happened in our ministry in 2006 when one of my students decided to create for us a Facebook profile without my knowledge. This is often what scares most youth workers away from these sites, knowing that they can’t control what happens online, and that the power and position they hold in the real world, means sometimes nothing in the virtual world. But looking back over the last year I am thankful that he took the initiative and didn’t feel like he had to get approval through me. (The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ)
That’s what I wrote about two years ago in my chapter Navigating the Evolving World of Youth Ministry in the Facebook-MySpace Generation. As you can see, I think the combination of the online world and Generation Y/F has huge implications for ministry. On Tuesday I posted Values of Generation Y/Millenials That Will Help Transform Work and Church, and it got some good reaction online via blogs, Twitter, as well in some personal conversation that I had. And then yesterday, ChurchCrunch commented on the post and topic with Hiring, Managing, and Keeping Staff from the Facebook Generation.
So I’ve decided to look at this issue at length, and in depth a little more. There are lots of issues here that intrigue and excite me. Leadership and management styles. Generational stereotypes, especially around Generations Y/F. The leverage of technology and social media in reshaping all of the above. As I mentioned, all of these things have HUGE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE CHURCH.
So over the next few couple of weeks I’m going to look again at the article The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500, and I’m going to revisit the 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life that Gary Hamel says represent this Generation F (Y, Millenials–whatever you want to call them). But I’m going to look at each one through the lense of Church, ministry, theology, and see what we can learn, and why this generation is often at odds with those current generation of leaders pastoring churches today.
In case you forgot what the 12 characteristics are, here is the list to refresh your memory:
- All ideas compete on an equal footing.
- Contribution counts for more than credentials.
- Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
- Leaders serve rather than preside.
- Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
- Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
- Resources get attracted, not allocated.
- Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
- Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
- Users can veto most policy decisions.
- Intrinsic rewards matter most.
- Hackers are heroes.
I look forward to exploring this topic with you.