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Is the World Ready for a Facebook Church? Teen Attendance in Decline

If at one point youth held the more vibrant spirits of faith within the church, that may no longer be the case. As youth attendance at church drops, some blame new inventions like Facebook, which have dampened young people's sense of community.

The way that teenagers engage with each other has clearly changed. While in the past study groups may have been formed in libraries after school, in today's generation teens are more likely to collaborate on homework projects over ooVoo, a popular video chat that allows up to six people to video chat at the same time.

While this kind of behavior has many concerned for varying reasons which include too much computer time or the lack of exercise, new reports suggest that it could also impact youth's perspectives on attending church.

According to a 2010 study, teen participation in "small group attendance, prayer, Sunday school participation, donations to churches, reading sacred texts other than the Bible, and evangelism by Christian teens" has all declined.

"In several ways, teenagers are much less inclined toward spirituality than were teens a dozen years ago," the Barna Group study confirmed.

"Teenagers view religious involvement partly as a way to maintain their all-important relationships," David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group and the director of the research said. "Yet perhaps technology such as social networking is reconfiguring teens' needs for relationships and continual connectivity, diminishing the role of certain spiritual forms of engagement in their lives. Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook."

Christian Piatt, an author and editor for the Huffington Post, suggests that teenagers may be "forgetting the church" as a pathway to Jesus.

"Our understanding of relationship is different, and what we come to expect out of being connected to one another has evolved (or mutated, depending on your point of view) in both size and content," Piatt stated.

"For example, I am still in contact with hundreds of folks from my past who are all around the world. A few years ago, we would never have heard from each other again. But I also don't have many close friends. Everyone's too 'busy.'"

To mend the issue could mean drastic changes for most local congregations.

"If you could realize your vision for the community today, right now, but it meant closing the doors of your church forever, would you do it?" Piatt asked.

The new research combined with the growing popularity of online social networks could mean that the future of the church will one day have to translate into a form of online media, but is the world ready for a Facebook Church?

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