Earlier this month Facebook announced a massive exodus of 3 million teenagers who have left Facebook because they felt it’s overrun by adults and no longer cool. That’s over 25% of their teenage population base, a loss that is obviously significant yet caused only a minimal hit to Facebook’s overall stock price.
Facebook also announced another 3 million member loss in the 18-24 age range.
Even with all this loss, Facebook’s overall membership numbers have risen with more and more older adults joining Facebook.
The Church has been facing a similar problem for years. And the response to the young exodus from the Church has been tragically similar to that of Facebook.
Facebook, and to an extent the Church, have unfortunately concluded that teenagers don’t really matter enough to try and keep around.
For Facebook, teenagers leaving for Twitter doesn’t matter because they don’t produce any revenue. For the Church, teenagers are often incorrectly viewed as nothing more than chair warmers as they generally don’t contribute financially to the Church.
And we wonder why so many Christians approach the Church from a consumer-mindset, which eventually stops being fulfilling, causing them to leave and consume elsewhere.
What the Church Can Learn from Facebook’s Failures
- Teenagers leave when they’re not valued. You want to know what Facebook’s response to the 3-million teenager exodus? Nothing. They haven’t made an effort to change because their overall adult numbers are rising and they’re the ones that sell the creepy sidebar ads that somehow know everything about your life. The Church needs to see teenagers as more than a missing tithe and a drain on the budget. While it’s true that teenagers don’t normally contribute to the “bottom line” of the Church, that’s not their job! Their job is to grow in Christ and serve. It’s the Church’s job to realize that in many ways, we are investing in someone else’s church as many teenagers will group up and make their own life somewhere else. That’s the beauty of being kingdom-minded instead of my-specific-local-church-minded.
- Teenagers who leave turn into adults who don’t come back. (I’m not sure what Facebook’s long-term strategy is for regaining these lost consumers but if they don’t figure it out, they’re just like the Church…only a generation away from extinction).
- Teenagers respect relevancy. There’s a reason Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, and ask.fm are so popular among teenagers in the post-Facebook world of social media: they’ve all made a significant effort to adapt to the changing adolescent landscape without altering their original identity. The Church will do well to continue adapting and changing ministry methods while refusing to alter its original identity as the body of Christ.
I loved my time in youth group as a student. I’ve been a Student Pastor since I began seminary but am currently in the middle of a transition. I will begin serving as the Pastor to our Greenwood campus on Sunday where I’ll still have a leadership role in the student ministry. Long story short, I love teenagers and their families.
While I can proudly say that our Church believes in, equips, and empowers teenagers to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, I know plenty of churches that treat teenagers like Facebook does, which will only lead to a bigger, faster mass exit.
Don’t allow this to happen. Plug in and serve in your local church’s student ministry. Seek out a teenager you normally look past. Be a part of the changing the perception. The Church can learn from Facebook and you can be a part of that change…or else they’re both only a generation away from becoming extinct.