Each January, more than 12,000 teens and counselors are drawn to a spiritual retreat they know as "Resurrection." For two weekends in Gatlinburg, Tenn., participants rock out to Christian music, listen to young-ish preachers, and roam the streets of the popular tourist town.
This year, youth who plan to attend Resurrection (and especially those who don't) are invited to visit new Facebook and MySpace pages that will get them ready for the Jan. 16-18 and Jan. 23-25 retreats.
Road 2 Resurrection is a MySpace page that features Remy, a 17-year-old Holston youth. She will blog regularly with updates and news about the upcoming winter weekends.
On Facebook, a Holston Conference Youth Ministries page offers more general information about United Methodist events for young people, but it also provides Resurrection news similar to that of the MySpace page.
"Both pages are basically the same, but MySpace is a little more creative," said JaNae' Swanson, youth ministry assistant for Holston Conference. "The MySpace page has Remy, and it's also got songs from Starfield, the band for this year's Resurrection."
The "Road 2 Resurrection" page also includes pictures from the '08 event, Swanson said.
Meanwhile, the Facebook page has several CCYM members listed as "friends," and about 420 visitors have already indicated they will be attending Resurrection in less than two months. (CCYM stands for Conference Council on Youth Ministries.)
On both pages, Remy (pictured at right) provides info about the district winners of the "Festival of Gifts and Talents." Every year at Resurrection, young musicians, dancers, and actors -- representing each of Holston's 12 districts -- take the Gatlinburg Convention Center stage. They offer up their gifts to God before thousands of their Christian brothers and sisters.
"I hope people will look at these pages and get excited about our youth events -- and also, get a little preview of Resurrection," said Laura Lambert, associate director of connectional ministries.
While older adults are welcome to visit, the pages are targeted for youth and youth workers in the weeks leading up to Resurrection as well as the weeks after. "The walls are there to let people post their reactions and responses to what they experienced," Lambert said.
As always, the Youth Ministries Office will be delighted if these social network sites promote Christian fellowship and relationships among youth and local churches, or if they attract new participants from inside or outside the conference borders, Lambert said.
Visitors don't have to be members of Facebook or MySpace to view the pages, but membership is necessary to add messages, rate pictures, or get added as friends. It's easy to sign up for free memberships. (MySpace) (Facebook)
Newcomers to Facebook or MySpace will find that many local churches, pastors, and church friends have pages on these networks.
In fact, Bishop James Swanson has his own Facebook page, and a former CCYM member, Matt Park, has created a unique Facebook page.
The page is titled, "Bishop Swanson Makes Me Proud to be a United Methodist."