As an organisation that wants to reach young people, we must go to where they are …
Written by Mez Clayton
People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.1 Samuel 16:7b
The rapid rise of social media has made the world that young people inhabit very different from the world we experienced. As an organisation that wants to reach young people, we must go to where they are, which is online, visiting sites such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr … So over the last few years we’ve been implementing a Follow-On strategy that enters the digital world.
Social media has brought new ways to keep in touch with far off friends and make connections with like-minded people. It offers an opportunity for campers to engage with The Oakes community between camps. At its best, social media enriches our communities, widening our horizons to include other cultures and ways of doing things.
The pressure to look good
Of course, there are dangers. There are the dangers we’re aware of: isolation, grooming and suicide pacts. But there are subtler dangers that have the power to shape the thinking of a generation. The pressure to look good on social media is immense. For teenagers at an age when peer pressure is possibly at its greatest, the pressure to look perfect at all times can be crushing and it can be hard to balance the public lives of the celebrities they see online with the idea that the same people have less glamorous private lives.
A gospel alternative
To gain a Christian perspective on the digital world Joel, Charlotte and I attended the Premier Digital Conference. Ruth Jackson (Editor, Premier Youth and Children’s Work) encouraged us to “shine a light on our photoshopped world”, and Niran Vinod (Creative Product Strategist to Facebook and Instagram) challenged us to be authentic in our posts. It was a wake-up call to hear someone from inside the industry calling us, as Christians, to a radical way of presenting ourselves.
As Christians we may not concentrate on weight or appearance, but it’s easy to succumb to and contribute to the pressure to look good. We want our profiles to look just right, projecting the image we aspire to, whether that relates to our methods, our behaviour, our Biblical proficiency. Whilst we want our posts to reflect godly values we also need to reject the culture of presenting a perfect face. It can be a tricky balance.
As we develop our Follow-On strategy we will be looking at how we use the online world to share the Gospel and encourage Christian young people in a way that is authentic and honest about our need for God’s grace, in the hope that they too will feel able to be open about their weaknesses and their mistakes before God and before each other.
- Praise for the good reception to our team blog on Instagram
- Pray for us to identify the best digital platform to connect with younger campers
- Praise that God is gracious, and doesn’t demand perfection of us
- Pray that the team blog will reflect the values of grace, forgiveness and authenticity