Young Christians Bring Faith to Facebook

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Jesus doesn't have a profile on Facebook, but if he did, he'd have thousands of college friends.

The social site is one of the most popular for those ages 18-24, and was originally designed to promote student networking.

But many young Christians have taken Facebook to a whole new meaning, and are using it to talk about their faith.

Five months ago, Scott McGrath started a group on the site called "100,000,000 Christians Worship God." Since, the group has grown to nearly 500,000 members.

"I get emails everyday (from) people telling me about how they appreciate the group so much, and how it has been such a blessing or inspiration to them," McGrath said.

And there are countless others like him.

Winona State University student, Daniel Holum, is a part of the group "I'm Nothing Without God," which has more than 50,000 members. He thinks Facebook is the perfect place to stay connected with believers his age.

"It's just really convenient because there are so many people on Facebook, many of whom share my faith," he said.

A Different Way of Connecting

Currently, there are more than 60 million users on Facebook, and the Internet alone has become a popular medium for outreach.

Joe Suh, co-founder of MyChurch.org, says before helping start his online organization, he attended a church that was well-versed in the sites young people like.

"They used Xanga for a blogring, Flickr for their photos, Yahoo groups for the small groups, iTunes for their podcasts, Evite for the events and MySpace for their social networking," he explained.

MyChurch combines all those services into one online community for churches. The company also provides features for Facebook users to add to their profiles.

"We have a 'My Church' application on Facebook that lets churches spread their events, sermons and pictures...13,000 churches have added this application," Suh said. "We (also) have other Christian applications...like a daily Bible verse application, which is installed on over 600,000 Facebook profiles at the moment."

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, says his congregation is comprised primarily of Christian singles in their twenties, and the Internet is a popular way of reaching them.

"We have had a number of people contact us asking questions on becoming a Christian, women who were raped seeking help (and) people who were struggling with addictions seeking help," he said. "It seems that people open up online, and in doing so, it allows us to follow up with them personally."

Driscoll exceeded the maximum number of friends allowed on Facebook (5,000) in no time. He feels that alone shows just how serious young people can be about God.

"Their accounts at places such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and... not to mention personal Web sites and blogs, are where many young people are sharing their faith openly and publicly," he said.

Shirley White, 19, says she likes the idea of people being able to view her Facebook page and know she's a Christian.

"I've noticed that college kids in particular are often labeled as a group for partying, drinking and so forth, but I'm here to say we all aren't like that," she said.

'Jesus is in My-Space. Is He in Yours?'

On MySpace, young users take on crafty faith-based names including "^Jesusfreak^" "SmiLe JeSuS LuVs YoU" and "Armor Bearer for Christ."

Though some tend to shy away from MySpace because of its rep for vulgar posts and hackers, many Christians find a way to gather there as well.

Twenty-one-year-old Devin Rhode started the group "The Christian Teens of MySpace." It has more than 97,000 members.

"I was looking for a place to interact with fellow Christian teens so I (asked) myself, 'Why not create one?'" he said. "The group has helped me majorly in my walk with God."

Start Online, But End in Person

Though Internet evangelism has become increasingly popular, many agree that it isn't a replacement to in-person interaction.

"I think it's a good way to connect, pull together and follow up with young people, but it could never replace a face-to-face conversation," said Minister Glen Guyton.

Guyton has a profile on Facebook and MySpace, but uses the sites primarily to keep in touch with those he's met as a youth pastor.

"You still have to talk to people and develop a relationship with them. Online, you lose something in translation, like touching someone and the laying on of hands," he explained.

High school student Anna Walker thinks the Internet is one of many tools that should be used in gaining followers for Christ.

"I use Facebook to profess God's love because He calls us to share in every way that we can," she said.

Gospelcom, the leader in Christian Web sites, provides information on the best ways to reach non-believers online.

The group has the most popular Christian Web site in the world with over 300 online ministries.

As with any form of ministry, they recommend individuals do research and use caution, especially when it comes to young people.

Sources: CBN News, Facebook, MySpace, MyChurch, Mars Hill Church, Gospelcom

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Cicely Gosier

Cicely Gosier

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