Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist, Social Media + Big Data, North American Division
Gorgeous2God is an online ministry dedicated to the difficult issues that teenage girls face. The content is relevant, tackling issues and topics that many don’t feel comfortable talking about in church. As of the writing of this guide, the ministry has over 45,000 followers on social media, millions of impressions, and over 200,000 video views. These stats are great, but the real value in something like Gorgeous2God is not the number of likes; it’s in meeting a very real need and filling a spiritual void for our teens, who have challenges today that older generations didn’t have to face. The advent of the digital age has made navigating young adulthood more complicated, and youth are often left to deal with their problems alone. The need for this ministry is great.
The #gorgeous2god blog has given teen girls a place to search for answers to the challenging questions they face about love, life, health, and faith. I have met so many young girls who are hurting and looking for someone to listen—girls who are suicidal, becoming dependent on alcohol, or who have just shut down completely.
The confidential Q&A part of this ministry serves to create a support system, offering crisis help and community care management. It is the top-visited page on the website, and girls write in from all over on a range of topics, including self-harm, sexuality, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and relationships. When they have nobody they can trust or talk to, Gorgeous2God has given young girls a safe place for Christian guidance on real-life issues.
The impact of this ministry is felt through countless testimonials:
This [person’s question] resonated with me on a such a deep level. It's as if this question and response was written just for me. Please keep me in prayer, too, as I struggle with the same temptations.
What if every church offered a safe place without judgment?
Too often, Christians wall themselves into a protective bubble and don’t know how to respond to the difficult realities people face daily. Unfortunately, the feedback that many teens receive feels like it’s coming from a position of moral superiority, leaving them feeling judged and isolated.
When we offer a place where people can share without fear of condemnation, where we listen more than we talk, where our advice stems from understanding and compassion rather than moral judgments, they find that the
It’s a privilege and a great responsibility when people come to us for answers. It’s not just community members either. Church members are not immune to the struggles and temptations of life. Let’s give people a safe place to land by demonstrating Jesus’ love and compassion for them. The Church should be seen as a place for sinners to find community and help. This is what we should be known for.
Pay attention to cries for help
As a church body, we need to pay attention to cries for help. Every individual has some social influence and can actively use this influence to improve the well-being of others. In a famous example, the actor Pete Davidson from Saturday Night Live (SNL) posted online: “I really don’t want to be on this Earth anymore.” This alarming post resulted in a spur of online messages, phone calls, and people showing up in person to check on him and provide encouragement. Not everyone is famous with millions of followers to analyze their every comment and post, but they are no less valuable to God. The Church body should be setting the example in this kind of community care. It’s not uncommon for people to post a cry for help online. If we use our sphere of digital influence to stay connected to our friends and community, we can be there when people need us by simply paying attention and taking action.
The following are two actual Instagram posts from a friend of mine, who normally shares only her social media best. These tipped me (and others) off that something was very wrong, and we were able to reach out to her in a timely manner to provide the necessary support. Because we had invested time in building a relationship with her in person and online, we recognized this radical departure in posting behavior as a warning sign.
When you invest in building relationships, you can better recognize warning signs and know how to respond.
When a church member makes a cry for help online, is the Church body paying attention? We should work to extend the church experience beyond the confines of time and space in a building to an involved community that provides 24/7 support not only to members but also to our broader contacts. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We must really listen and take time in a busy world. We must also go online with purpose, not just for amusement and to pass time. By being intentional, we can make meaningful and measurable differences in people's lives. To be effective, churches should cultivate and nurture healthy communities, both analog and digital, both within the church and in the community, thereby better positioning ourselves to provide a ministry of healing and broad networks of support.
Recommended action steps:
How does community building work in the digital space?
Community building in the digital space works in much the same way as in the physical world. Expert evangelists tell me that the most effective form of evangelism is friendship evangelism. Digital tools simply allow us to scale up friendship evangelism, but this takes getting out of our comfort zone and being intentional about interacting with people, paying attention, and following up in meaningful ways. This kind of outreach can involve every member of the Church, using the communication tools each individual feels the most comfortable with.
Scale up friendship evangelism by:
Give them Community, Love, and Support
It all starts by connecting with the people you meet inside and outside the Church, understanding that not all online relationships have to remain in the digital space. The closer we get to people, the more involved we can be in their lives, and the more influence we can have. Our goal should be to take them from the digital experience to an in-person experience whenever possible. When we seek daily to serve and uplift others, our faith can have a real-world impact that is relevant to all ages.
According to The Knot, 19% of brides met their spouse online in 2017, making online dating an increasingly popular way to meet prospective partners. It's natural for us to first connect with people in the digital space before developing more meaningful relationships. The Church shouldn't shy away from this change in culture. Digital discipleship is an opportunity for those gifted in fellowship to build relationships and trust within the local community and beyond.