Over the summer I normally try to post a couple things that I learned over the previous school year. If you want see the series as it has developed over lots of years then click here.
Most of the “This Year” posts are about something I learned and basically “figured out”. This one is different. I don’t have it figured out.
Since the advent of social media good YL leaders have learned to keep smart boundaries while also making the most of it to connect with students. In doing so many of us become “friends” with students.
I opened my Facebook account back in 2007 (for this post I’ll use Facebook, but it could be any social media platform). Over time I became friends with a lot of my YL guys and sadly there are many people that I do not see in person but only through Facebook. On one hand, I am really glad Facebook allows us to keep in touch, even if only minimally. On the other hand, it can be really discouraging to see some of them who are giving the appearance that their lives are far from walking with Christ. I also realize the dynamic that Facebook really does not tell a full story of how a person is doing, it likely only tells us what people want to project about themselves.
Facebook can be a relentless discouragement machine for long-term YL leaders. Though I have some ideas to counter that thought, the reality for me is that it still just sucks to see people not experiencing God’s best for their lives. I also will frequently have flashbacks to pivotal conversations I’ve had with people years ago where they had a choice to go one way or another and they decided to go down, what I thought was, the wrong path. I’m tempted to say “I told you so! Look at how unhappy you are now. It breaks my heart to watch this.”
Though the discouragement is real, here are few ways I’ve learned to deal with this:
I use Facebook as a reminder to pray for my old YL friends, especially those who are struggling.
I occasionally use Facebook to reach out and reconnect. Most of the time it is through a message I send them. Other times we meet up. In truth, I wish I did this more.
I am reminded that I am not the Lord, and that the Lord loves my friends more than I do, and that the Lord is the Good Shepherd in whom I can trust.
That the gospel is broader than a singular moment and that I simply don’t see what is really happening spiritually.
Being a long-term YL leader has been one of the biggest blessings I could ever imagine. Riding the ups and downs of relationships is part of the journey and keeps us spiritually fit through forcing us to keep depending on the Lord in ways we could never imagine otherwise.
I’d love to hear back from you on this. Am I alone in this? Do you experience this? How do you respond?
Looking for summer camp follow-up/campaigners resources? Look here.
Looking for a way to get contact work started in the Fall? Look here.
One thought on “This Year… Making the Most of the Frustrations of Facebook”
I received this great email which I got permission to post…
Yes and amen and I don’t know to your post about Facebook and being a long time leader. I am glad that I am not the only one wrestling with this. Social media is such a tool, but it can bring so much doubt and questioning too. I see things of former Club or Campaigner kids, and I just want to shake them and say, “Remember when you knew life…” I’ve been a YL leader in four different cities in three different states over the last 16 years, and so social media has been an incredible way to stay up to date on the lives of my friends (to whatever degree you can on social media).
There are huge positives:
1) Kids commenting on or liking a camp trip picture from several summers ago randomly makes me smile the most because I know they are thinking back to the best week of their life. I don’t unfriend anyone I have taken to camp for this reason. I want them to be able to go back to that place, to that week, to that living room and remember. I’ll tag them in new pictures I take of places we had significant times together at YL camp.
2) Having been someone who has moved from Michigan to Tennessee and once within Louisiana, it has given me a way to “see” or “know” when kids are passing through my town. I’ve woken up at 3am to meet an old YL friend at the truck stop as he drove through town on a road trip with friends. It made my week.
3) Someone in YL long ago taught me that it’s okay to miss weddings—but do not miss funerals. Social media allows me to send a text, email or card when I see a parent of a kid passes.
4) I can’t possibly have everyone’s contact information from the years in my phone. Social media is a tool to be able to connect with people after you’ve long ago deleted their phone number or SoccerStarGoMerica134@juno.com-ish email address.
5) It allows kids to care for you. They can touch base when celebratory events and hard things hit you too. A lot of our relationships turn into peer to peer eventually, and it is ministering to them by allowing them to minister to us.
6) Many of our friends still need to see someone following Jesus and few steps ahead of them, and allowing them a glimpse into our world via social media gives them that opportunity.
7) On the hard days, we can tangibly remember that He is faithful and has worked in the past by seeing the lives of many kids that are still following Jesus. It’s easy to see the lives of those that are not, but to see a kid that is now 28 raising a family in the church is powerful when a 15 year old rejects you at football practice.
I am sure there are more positives, but those are what I thought of as I ate my oatmeal this morning. My oatmeal is gone, and I have a camp trip leaving Saturday to finishing getting ready for. It’s so easy to be burdened and want to delete them all. But today I’m focused on the positives of the crazy world of social media.
Thanks for wrestling with this too. You are not the only one, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones.