Youth minister Lara Blackwood starts her day the same way most of the young people at her church doshe signs on to MySpace.com.
"Any time they post a new blog, I get a message in my e-mail and cell phone," said Blackwood, the youth minister at First Christian Church of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
"If the title tells me, 'Gosh, prom was fun,' I'll read it within a couple days. If it says, 'I hate my life, I want to die'and I've read some similar to thatI'm on it immediately."
More youth ministers are using social networking websites such as MySpace to stay connected with their students. MySpace is one of the hottest sites on the Webhitwise.com rated it No. 1 for November, accounting for nearly 5 percent of all U.S. Web traffic. MySpace has more than 100 million accounts with a demographic that is dominated by teens and 20-somethings. Other social networking sites like Friendster and Facebook also claim millions of young users.
"Social networking is what being a teenager is about," said Kenda Creasy Dean, associate professor of youth, church, and culture and director of the Tennent School of Christian Education at Princeton Theological Seminary. "For people my age (in their 40s), technology is a tool. For kids, technology is the air they breathe. It's social glue."
Students in Blackwood's previous youth group in Abilene, Texas, initially encouraged her to get an account, so she could read their blogs. Her involvement grew from there. She is currently working on building her roster of "friends" with students in her new youth group so she can send out mass announcements about upcoming events.
"They'll get the word faster if I post it as a MySpace message than if I try to call them," she said. "Most of them check ...1