Anyone who works with youth—for that matter, anyone—must wrestle with Facebook. Some clergy and ministers would rather ignore Facebook. But it is too large and too ubiquitous to ignore, and our youth certainly don’t. Some dive in without any reservations. But there are pitfalls there, too. So how do we use Facebook and use it well? And what do we teach our youth about using it?
This resource packet has three main goals:
- To open discussion between participants on what their Facebook activity says about who they are.
- To inform participants about how Facebook makes money off of their Facebook activity and raise awareness about how their information is being used.
- To equip participants with strategies to use Facebook safely and faithfully.
1. What’s in a Name?
By way of opening a discussion, pose the following questions:
- Why is your name important?
- What do the Readings above say about the value of a name?
- What kinds of things make up your identity to the world? How would people describe you? Things I like. Things I do. People who am in relationship with. Things I believe.
- How does your Facebook Timeline show that?
Divide into groups of three. Have each group pick a well-known biblical character and draw a Facebook “timeline” for him or her. Include who interacts with them, photos they post, event they go to and things they like.
After the timelines are completed and presented to the rest of the group, ask the following questions by way of discussion:
- How does your Facebook profile or timeline show the world who you are?
- Is it accurate?
- Are there things you would like to change?
Tips to Help Protect Yourself on Facebook
An easy way to do this is to go to Randall Curtis’ website theholygeek.com and click on the “Social Networking” tab. You can then click on the Facebook button and a window will open directly to your privacy settings for apps. Now you can simply remove the apps that you are no longer using by clicking on the “X.”
“Password” and “1234″ do not count. Make sure you have a mixture of numbers and letters. Many people like to combine two words that don’t make sense but are easy to remember. An example might be, “27BarkingCats.”
You don’t walk around yelling out everything you do and everything you like to complete strangers. So
don’t do it on Facebook either.
You might want to make a “close friends and family” list with whom you share everything,
and then share less information with others. Under your privacy settings, you can create lists to manage friends and what they see.
If your friend has posted an unexpected or out-of-character video to your wall, before clicking
the video, ask if they really sent it. Videos are one of the most common ways that people spread viruses through Facebook.
Facebook considers bullying an abuse, and every post, comment and photo posted on Facebook has an option to “Report abuse.” They take it very seriously and will act quickly. Facebook reportedly deletes or bans about 20,000 profiles a day.
Suggested Facebook Practices for Youth Ministry
- A Facebook profile is personal; it is, simply, your named account.
- A Facebook page is external; it is public and anyone can view it. In fact, it is meant to draw people in. Many companies and organizations use a Facebook page for this reason. Interested people then “like” the page and become “fans.” As fans, information posted to the page will appear in their news feed. A Facebook pages are great for youth ministries and churches.
- A Facebook group is internal; it is only open to people the site administrator allows to become members. This allows the group to discuss and share photos without the usual fear of others seeing or overhearing. Facebook groups are great for working committees and small study groups.
Create a Facebook Page for your group announcements and pictures. This will maintain your personal profile as personal space and help maintain safe boundaries with youth. This will also allow your church to display this Page with announcements on their site. (This is called embedding and is something you can turn over to your church webmaster.)
For example, you can hide your wall and status updates from everyone under 18 by setting up Lists. This allows youth ministers to accept friend requests from youth and continue to maintain personal boundaries.
An “open door” policy should be a part of any church practice. In the same way keep your group open to parents of youth. Your parents will be more responsive and active when they can also see what is going on in the Facebook group. If a topic comes up that is very sensitive then contact the youth by phone or face to face. Groups have the ability to be open, private or even secret. In all case minors parents should be invited to be a part of the group.
This adds transparency and accountability.
They might want to integrate your posts from the Facebook page onto your church website. (This is called a “Facebook like box.”) Facebook like box works on most but not all websites. This feature allows you to post a youth ministry announcement on the Facebook page and automatically update the church website.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I easily move my Facebook group to a Facebook page?As of right now, no. You have to share your Facebook page with the group. People can then “like” the page. Once your Facebook page has 25 “likes,” you can give it a simple username (e.g., www.facebook.com/THENAME) that is easier to share. Eventually,you can close the group. I use my Facebook grouproup to make announcements to my youth (or, I have a second account just for youth ministry). Is that okay?Of course it is. You can make any part if Facebook work how you want it to work, for example some youth groups have set up a fake profile as their youth group. These suggested practices are just one strategy for using Facebook in youth ministry. The suggested practices here are to help you use Facebook efficiently in your ministry as it was intended. If you use Groups, Pages and your Profile as they are intended, then when it is updated it is more likely to change with your ministry rather than work against your ministry.
What about Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Myspace and every other social network?There is a lot of potential with these other social networks. I have focused on Facebook because as I am writing this it is nearing 1 billion accounts. Many youth are moving to Twitter. Expect a similar lesson plan with Google plus; with videoconferencing, it has some real possibilities. You can follow my blog at www.theholygeek.com for future updates.