Facebook, the online home of gazillions of young people, recently made a number of changes to its website and interactive features. Thousands upon thousands of these picture-posting, online-chatting, status-updating, Piece-of-Flair-sending, TMI-sharing youngin's have protested like there is no tomorrow.
- Over 1,700,000 have joined the group 1,000,000 Against the New Facebook Layout (perhaps they need a new name!).
- Over 1,200,000 have joined the group Petition Against the "New Facebook".
So much for the notion that young people easily adapt to new trends! It seems that many young people are pining for the "traditional" Facebook, wanting to go back to the good ol' days of the old Facebook, back to the way things used to be.
Merits of the Facebook changes aside – and the changes are largely good, in my opinion – it doesn't surprise me that young people would protest change. A few anecdotes from my experience in the church:
- When I went to college in 1993, the college students sat in a pack in the back pew of the local Lutheran Church. To protest the "new" (1970's!) translation of the Lord's Prayer used by this congregation, the college students defiantly (and rather rudely, in retrospect) said the "traditional" form of the prayer in full, punctuated voice.
- About nine years ago, as a youth director at a Lutheran congregation accustomed to both traditional and more "contemporary" forms of music, I was struck that on Youth Sunday the kids more often than not chose to express their faith in part through rather traditional hymns such as Lift High the Cross and Beautiful Savior.
- In my current congregation two of the most vocal voices offering opposition to hand-clapping hymnody are 18 year-olds who just went off to their freshman year in college.
- And of course, if you have ever helped lead an annual retreat or lock-in, you know how important tradition is. Woe to the youth leader who dares to tweak the traditions of 2AM pillow fights, rude early-morning awakenings, or campfire sing alongs.
- Facebook includes a few groups for the traditionally-minded, church-going, online set, including Praise Bands Annoy God and Actually, young people do like traditional liturgy.
Of course, many young people do like new songs and are willing to try new traditions.
- Many young people love the labyrinth prayer walk experience (oh, wait a minute – that's an ancient faith practice going back hundreds upon hundreds of years).
- I admit that Youth Sundays often include "Awesome God," that comtemporary song written in . . . 1988, years before today's high school youth were even born, and the same year that Guns N Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine" and Amy Grant's "Saved by Love" hit the charts.
The knee-jerk assumption that young people like new things – whether in online social networking or in church – is wrong. Young people tend to be fairly conservative when it comes to their routines, the ways they "do" school, church, camp, holiday traditions, etc.. This is not to say that young people resist all new things (they don't) or that church leaders shouldn't invite young people to engage ministry in new ways (they should). But we can't simply paint all young people with the brush of "change." It ain't that easy.
There's more to say about this – including asking why Boomers and Gen-Xers assume young people always like new things (perhaps it says more about the older folks than it does the young people), and examining how we teach our traditions and engage young people in ministry. But these are topics for another day. Time for me to get off to the day's tasks . . .
Peace to you!