Matthew R. Perry

When Being on Facebook (and a Former Youth Pastor) Breaks Your Heart

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2007 at 8:47 pm

Facebook is absolutely booming! One cannot help but be intrigued by this community of people who have their profiles updated, pictures uploaded, walls to be written on, relationship statuses to be changed, and basically a portrait of their lives right there for all their friends to see. Through Facebook, I have actually caught up with some from my former churches in Florida and Kentucky to see what they are up to. As a youth pastor in Florida from 1998-2001, most of them are in college right now getting a good education …

… in more ways than one, it seems.

I don’t envy youth ministers. When I was a youth minister, I struggled. Not because I didn’t enjoy teaching them and being with them — on the contrary, those years were some of the best years of ministry ever. We did the usual youth ‘thing’: lots of games, relevant studies, great times of fellowship (hangin’ out, in youth speak).

Yet, I am heartbroken at what I see — mainly in the photo albums. One former youth has a profile pic of him drinking some alcoholic beverage from some woman’s cleavage. Another had a picture giving the dude taking the picture a double middle-finger. Too many find themselves with alcoholic beverages in hand. Many of them who are/were faithful at church both past and present have pictures up which convey a totally opposite mindset — quite worldly, marching in lock-step with the world’s philosophy.

What is so sad is that all of us have seen those in our churches who claim to know Christ (some whom we have even baptized!) are on Facebook, MySpace, Xanga, hi5 and other community sites like this using crass language to communicate, using questionable pictures to put on display the latest ‘good time’ they had.

You know, even though I believe that God is in control and that I know I cannot make people obey (nor should I try to make them), my flesh still fights feeling like a failure. Did nothing I taught them sink in? Were they gathered there simply because it was a fun thing to do rather than to learn about the things of God and how to live for him? Did I fail to show them that the only true satisfaction found in life is to have Christ not just as Savior but also as Lord — and that all other pursuits are a waste?

I still love those ‘kids’ — though they aren’t kids anymore. And my heart also prays they will find Christ as their true north — their true joy!

I am thankful that some have surrendered to the ministry, others are in Christian work, others are using their faith in Christ to minister in their secular work.

I just pray that the pages on their Facebook profiles are just a passing phase and that Christ will come back to the Center of who they are. In the meantime, I will pray … and hope … and hurt for them as they walk through this valley. Of all the things I thought Facebook would give, I never thought a broken heart would be on the list.

And yet … .

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  1. Hey man, I am sorry to hear this. I am sure this must be rough, but just remember, which I know you do. You are an instrument used by God to convey the message of salvation, and in his timing their judgement will come. I love you man, and I didn’t realize or take advantage of your wisdom and teaching back then. But, I do thank God for you in every way. Hope you are doing good, and tell the family I said hello.

  2. I completely agree with Tommy. Matt, you are a wonderful person, and you were an incredible youth pastor. Like he said, back then, I was too immature to really let your wisdom and teachings sink in, but to this day I praise God that we had you around. You have changed my life in more ways than one, and if I haven’t said it enough already… thank you. Thank you for being such an incredible man of integrity, thank you for making a difference in my life. 🙂

    … And yes, tell the family I said ‘hello’ as well.

  3. God placed you in the lives of those youth for his glory. More importantly he placed those youth’s parents in their lives as well. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings . . .” (Acts 17:36). God has recently shown me that it’s not the youth pastor, youth leaders, Sunday School teachers nor the pastor that is ultimately responsible for teaching my children to walk in the way. . . it is my responsibility as the parent. My point is this. . . is it what you didn’t teach them or is it what their parents didn’t teach them. I along with you pray everytime I see these things on Facebook, MySpace, etc. that God would open their eyes and soften their hearts so they might see the sin they are in bondage to. I also pray for their parents and friends that they would be bold in holding them accountable.

  4. Brother,
    this is exactly how I feel…
    Can I use this post and give a link back to you?

  5. Jim (or should I call you Slim :)):

    Feel free to use this post… I’m glad it chimed with you.

  6. matt,

    i know how you feel. while in college, i was a youth pastor for two different churches ( i was in college for…awhile…) and i have seen profiles on my space that made me physically sick to my stomach.

    one of which was the leader of the group of the last church i was at. he was the strongest, most consistent member, always keeping everyone in line.

    now his myspace page is filled with obscenities and vulgar language and references, and he regularly sends out vitriolic “bulletins” for all to read.

    the worst is when i contacted him to say “hi”, and he was brash and unapologetic.

    it is heart wrenching. i just try and remember that god is just as in control of them now as he was when i labored so hard to tell them so….
    whether they believe it now or not.

    grace and peace,

  7. You have planted seeds of the Word of God. Until their mental capacities are gone and they can no longer remember anything- the Word you taught them will be there; in their minds, crying out to be heard. Though it may not be exactly the same, I am persuaded as Paul was; what you have committed (these young folks) to God, He is faithful to keep. God is merciful, so I believe He is still calling to those who have once heard His voice.

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