You may have heard of the online internet social network service, Facebook. If not, let me briefly tell you that it is an internet service started by a student at Harvard University, where you connect with people who you may have just met or be in touch with people who you haven’t seen in over 20 years. It’s pretty amazing to connect with college and high school acquaintances as well as being able to stay in touch with many of our youth and families. I have seen unfortunate photos of life in college as well as wonderful photos of our teens enjoying a great time of bowling.
It has become a surprising sense of community that I didn’t think would happen. On your birthday, you receive a slew of birthday wishes on your “wall”. When you share the news of a new child or obtaining a certain goal, people join in the celebration and congratulate you. If you are frustrated and share that on your site, you will get encouraging messages and even words of prayer. Groups are developed on the website that provide you the opportunity to “join” and take part in discussions, questions/concerns, share hobbies you have in common, and communicate with groups that you are a part of whether socially or professionally. The program has become so popular (over 150 million members) that for the Inauguration events, Facebook and CNN.com teamed up to provide live coverage for its members. What started out to be a tool just for college aged students has turned into a whole new world. I just can’t decide if that is good or bad.
As extremely busy as our world is today, I can understand completely why we have connected with this new community so quickly. It takes no time to type up a note and hit enter. You can quickly share photos of various events that you were a part of. I even set up a Youth Fellowship Group that allows me a quick click to send them reminders or save the dates. It is a wonderful tool and I am grateful that we have it. But in the midst of this new found community, have we forgotten how to pick up the telephone or send a card? Do we not have the time to call someone and say hello or wish them a Happy Birthday? Or to have dinner with someone that we have various hobbies in common? Have we forgotten to reach out and let someone know that we need something? That is where I think as a church, we can fill in the gap. And we already have.
I heard a wonderful story this week from two of our church members. One was dealing with some family care concerns and she shared with the other her need and frustration. Because they knew each other and were willing to reach out to one another, the other member was able to provide some much needed information that helped to bring comfort, peace, and some much needed help to her friend. This is one of many stories that I have heard of how our members have been able to help one another because they reached out to the church family and asked for help. They had built a community of faith and trust with each other and they were comfortable with asking for help and finding a shoulder to rest on.
That is just a small part of what we can do. Sunday school and small group meetings are other ways in which we can build and develop that kind of support. As you take part in Sunday school, your entire family gets to know somebody else in their class and learn a little bit about them. And we get to learn a little bit more of who you are as well. You build that trust and comfort with those who you can share your needs and your joys. When we gather together for small group discussions like lunch, bible studies and the book discussion group that is about to take place, we have another chance to get to know each other on a level that you can’t sitting behind a computer or a blackberry. We can support one another in prayer, in fellowship, in love, and provide a means in which to lift our burdens to one another. These are two ways in which we can be proactive and reach out; just like the story I shared earlier. The member who helped would not have known what was needed, if the other did not tell her what was going on. That is what our church community can do through Sunday school, small groups and just reaching out.
As much as I think Facebook is an invaluable tool for communication and a great source of community, I don’t want it to replace actual human interaction. I don’t want it to replace a hug, a smile, or a hand holding prayer. I don’t want it to replace a phone call, a cup of coffee or a note in the mail. I don’t want it to replace a birthday dinner, a box of tissues, or a helium filled balloon. I don’t want it to replace what the church should be doing and that is reaching out to one another, sharing our needs, asking for help, and cheering each other on when we have something to celebrate. Facebook may be on the internet, but we are here with a chance to intermingle, interconnect, and interact through Sunday school, small groups, fellowship and church. Let that be OUR Facebook.