Pathfinders and Social Media: Knowing Jesus Better

Smart phones and social media expand our universe.  We can connect with others or collect information easier and faster than ever. - Daniel Goleman

Nowadays we have so many things that take our attention - phones, Internet - and perhaps we need to disconnect from those and focus on the immediate world around us and the people that are actually present. - Nicholas Hoult

There’s no denying that technology and social media are an integral part of daily life – especially for younger people.  Not only is social media easily accessible on computers, but it can also be checked with simply the tap of a finger on a tablet or smartphone. 

A key question is: can social media be used to enhance a relationship with Jesus and share the gospel, or is it just a distraction from the things that matter?

At the 2014 Forever Faithful International Pathfinder Camporee (FFIPC), the Institute of Church Ministry (ICM) conducted research on young attendees’ opinion on various views of Adventist life; this study included 940 participants.  Adventist young people were asked about their social media usage.  Over half (56%) admitted that they “always” or “often” use social media themselves, 19% denoted that they “sometimes” use it, and a quarter (25%) indicated that they “rarely” or “never” use it.

       

Young people were also questioned about their friends’ social media usage.  When asked if their friends have at least one or more social media accounts, over half (52%) responded, “Absolutely!”  Nearly another third (31%) replied, “I think so,” while 13% were unsure.

       

These same young people were asked if they felt social media helped their relationship with Christ.  Only 22% of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this concept, while 36% said that they were unsure.  Two in five (40%) “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with this idea, acknowledging that social media does not enhance their relationship with Jesus.

 

Additionally, these young people were asked if they viewed social media as a means of sharing the Gospel.  Fifty-seven percent “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this idea.  Only 11% “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with this concept.  Thirty percent remained unsure.

           

If social media is a central part of our culture today, especially for young people, how can we help them use it for spiritual growth?  How can we redirect them from using social media as a diversion to using it to focus on things of heavenly importance?

On his website, Thom Rainer offers some insightful suggestions for Christians to using social media:

  • Pray before posting.  By praying before posting on social media, your youth may not only develop a more open and meaningful prayer life, but also looking to Jesus before posting may radically change the types of things they post.
  • Use social media for encouragement.  Many of the posts on social media are used to point others to look at “me, me, me!”  However, the Bible tells us, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  The goal when posting should always be to be encouraging and show a clearer picture of Jesus to others.
  • Remember who is watching social media.  If someone professes to be a Christian, you can be sure that people are watching them, waiting for them to slip up.  We must teach our youth to be mindful of the image that they set forth, as it is a reflection of their Creator.
  • Create a prayer ministry through social media.  Teach your young people to pray for those that they see on their social media accounts.  Encourage them to let others know that they are praying for them.
  • Use social media to increase accountability.  Many of the comments, pictures, and videos posted to social media accounts do not reflect Jesus.  Teach your young people to hold each other accountable for the things they post; it can be much more effective for a peer to say, “That is not appropriate!” than for a parent or other adult to do the same.

(To see the full list of suggestions, click here.)

It appears that social media is here to stay–at least for the foreseeable future.  Not only is it our job to educate young people on how to use social media responsibly, we must also teach them ways in which to use social media to know Jesus more closely and share His love with others.