THIS year’s Ignite Conference in Brisbane archdiocese pulled together some of the countries most influential ministry leaders to present keynote talks and workshops, and the recurring theme within many of them was God’s call for us to live an incredible story.
I’m no stranger to this concept. The New Testament details Jesus’ and his early followers’ journey of world-changing stories, and as Christ followers we should be aiming to live in a similar way.
As I looked around the Ignite crowd I realised just how many Catholics are taking up that call – men and women of all ages who are living stories that are exciting by all standards of the word, and yet in a world where monotonous, boring parts of society are publicised as the most exciting stories (teenage alcoholism and party cultures in particular).
The Church’s truly exciting stories, such as those at Ignite, fall back and get lost.
In that moment I realised that our story writers, those Catholics who are living truly irresistible lives have something of a responsibility to be publishing their stories for a generation desperate to find their place in God’s narrative.
This is a call for our story writers to get on Twitter and Instagram.
These two social networks are designed for short, instant story sharing, and are being used by millions worldwide to fill in the moments of time when we’re bored.
A lot of statistics are thrown about on how young people interact with social media making it hard to find a truly accurate figure, but it’s safe to say the ball park is somewhere around 70 per cent of Australian teenagers are accessing social media at least once a day.
Take a look around at how many high-schoolers own a Smartphone, providing them with to-the-minute social updates from their accounts.
Teenage girls follow profiles of models and fashion brands that fill their personal phone and computer screens with images laced with unfair and damaging expectations.
Throughout the last few months we’ve seen report after report of online bullying, keyboard “trolls” hiding behind their computer screens and making vulgar comments that our society simply cannot tolerate.
This is where our young people are. This is often the first thing they check when they wake up, and the last thing they see before they sleep.
It’s how they pass boredom; it’s where they procrastinate.
When Saturday night swings in and social feeds are filling with alcohol-infused party images, where is the alternate story being advertised?
A lot of Catholics find it challenging to use these services for sharing, worrying that they are self-indulgent, or get in the way of personal connection, but as we continue to see staggering numbers of young people connecting with social media for large periods of the day we have to look at it as a new place to spread the message of Jesus through the example of our own lives.
This needs to be intentional, not simply using your account to advertise what your ministry has coming up, or to put out your opinion of the day’s news.
Time needs to be taken to consider what the day-to-day image of your part in God’s story is, and then each update needs to be crafted to be part of that message.
Pictures of people a youth minister is catching up with in a café, followed by a game being played at a Friday-night youth group – it seems simple, but as it sparks interest among young followers they’ll start hunting more of how your life is lived, and what you truly believe and stand for.
This won’t work if we aim to appeal to holy huddles, or use words that are only found in church prayer meetings.
Social media has encouraged the biggest celebrities in the world to drop the act and be real – to share and relate true emotion.
That’s exactly the call we face right now for social media. Truly it’s exactly the call we’ve faced for 2000 years.
Scott McDonald is the youth co-ordinator for Brisbane East Deanery and “Drive Home” announcer for Brisbane Family Radio Station, 96five. Regularly speaking at various Christian youth events, he is passionate about helping young people find the story that Jesus is calling them to be part of.
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