A UMNS Report
By Amy Forbus, Editor
In January of 2011, Brooke Crumpler attended Perkins School of Youth Ministry, a series of courses offered through with Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology (PSYM) in Dallas.
Crumpler directs the Three in 1 Youth Ministry, a cooperative ministry of Christ of the Hills UMC and Mountainside UMC in Hot Springs Village. Because the community has a high population of retirees, she chose to take a course on intergenerational ministry during her time at PSYM.
“In a community like Hot Springs Village, this type of ministry is very important to bridge the gap between youth and church congregations,” Crumpler says.
The PSYM course asked participants, “What can a teenager teach an adult?” As she and other youth ministers sought answers to that question, the idea for a Facebook class was born.
The class, held at Christ of the Hills UMC, is made up of “students”—adults of the church—and “teachers”—members of the youth group. Students are put into groups of three or four, based on skill level, and paired with a teacher. “Imagine your fellowship hall full of tables with lap tops and extension cords as far as the eye can see,” Crumpler said.
She kicks off the class by explaining the general idea of social networking and answering questions of concern. Students then receive a “Facebook Vocabulary,” a printed list of definitions relating to the website that has become a natural part of communication for any teenager.
“As we continue to a more hands-on part of the first lesson, the students are encouraged to ask specifics and ‘how-to’ questions of their teacher while learning to set up a profile and find friends,” says Crumpler. “By the end of Facebook 101, our students have accounts, have had profile pictures taken and uploaded and made a few new friends.”
There was even “homework” assigned: Each student had to find and add both Crumpler and their table’s teacher as a Facebook friend. Within two hours after the end of class, 90 percent of the students had completed their homework and started general communication on their new Facebook page.
The second session, Facebook 201, has a more informal feel. “We start the second class discussing our week in the world of social networking,” Crumpler said. Students then receive more detailed instruction sheets, and the teachers begin to work with each student’s sets of questions one-on-one.“
It has been wonderful to see youth and adults communicating on a more personal level,” she says. “Adults are able to develop more understanding of the teenager’s world, are more willing to ask for help from the youth and are becoming more comfortable working with computers.
“On the other side, the youth felt that they really taught something, and were surprised how easy it is was to share their wisdom.”
The Facebook class has been in high demand, and Three in 1 has already received requests to repeat the sessions in the fall. “Our ‘students’ have raved about how wonderful it was for the youth to take the time out of their lives to teach them,” she said.
What the older adults may not realize, Crumpler added, is how much confidence and pride they gave the youth by being willing to learn from them.
“It only took two evenings in a span of two weeks to bridge a generational gap,” she said.
If your church would like guidance for starting a similar course, contact Crumpler at email@example.com.