I am a Christian and I am a YouTuber, among many other things. I wear both titles very proudly. This past week I flew out to L.A. for YouTube’s annual conference. I, being 1 of the only 20,000 content partners with YouTube out of the millions of active users, decided that this was a conference I needed to attend. After siting in a room with the most talented and creative people I have ever met, I began to realize that there are some things that the Church could learn from this growing community. YouTube is all about community. They function and speak in terms that the Church has used for centuries, yet YouTube is growing faster than lightning while the American Church is waning ever so quickly.
So here are the 5 things the Church can learn from YouTube
1. Be Creative
YouTube shot to prominence through people’s creativity. Someone in their garage with a camera is only limited by what they can think and imagine. Anything is possible. I can imagine this is the way the disciples lived after Jesus ascended. They could do anything; the world was an open canvas waiting for the Christian expression. They didn’t need a camera or editing software, they had the Holy Spirit. Yet I look at today’s church and it seems we’ve lost all creativity. Where are the new expressions of the timeless truth of the Gospel? Just because something worked 100 years ago or even 10 years ago doesn’t mean it works today. The Church with all of it’s ministries needs to discover what being creative means again. After all, God’s got a thing for collaborative creativity.
2. Be Passionate
Never have I seen a more passionate group of people than at this conference. I’ve been to many Christian conferences and while the Spirit is moving there, people quickly fade from their mountain top experience back to their average lives once again. The thing with YouTubers is that they carry that excitement back home and to their audiences. Everyone there walked around with a camera, catching all they could in order to share this experience with their audience (including yours truly). Taking your experience and sharing it with the world is passion. Doing it on weekly basis is crazy passion. People within the Church have had life changing and live saving experiences with Jesus Christ, yet so many keep it to their selves. We need to rediscover what passion means. And once we discover that passion, we need to BE passionate in our faith.
3. Be Accepting
One young girl asked Shane Dawson (one of the most popular YouTubers) a question. Well it was more of a statement. She had run into him in a Target in town a year prior. Her home life was bad and she was very depressed. When she met him, he genuinely was excited to meet her. This 12 year old stood in front of 2,500 people recounting this story of how just him accepting and caring about her changed her outlook on life. She wasn’t the only one. I looked around the room to see people that often would be considered on the outskirts of society were there alongside the “in” crowd. Everyone from nerds to punk rock fans, from puppeteers to makeup professionals, from young to old, all felt like they belonged to something. They all were accepted. In fact, many of the stories told on stage were about how many found this to be the only place they’ve ever felt accepted (then there is Rebecca Black but won’t get into that). Shouldn’t the Church look more like that? Shouldn’t the Church be where the 12 year old found someone who cares about her? Shouldn’t the Church be where the place where no one gets picked on? Given, the Church ought to have standards for remaining in the community, but aren’t all welcome per Christ’s blood? The Church needs to get serious about loving all people.
4. Be Active
A true YouTuber often spends hours a week either working on a video or watching other’s videos and leaving feedback. The vast majority don’t ever make a dime. They remain active because they enjoy what they do. How many people in your Church weekly give up 5, 10, or even 20 hours a week for free, helping around the Church? Probably not many, and the ones that do are always the ones that “do.” People get active in things they care about and are engaged in. Perhaps the Church needs to better engage, and people need to better care…
5. And Have Fun
After 2 full days of lecture and interviews, one might be a little weary of it all, but not in this case. For me VidCon was 2.5 days and it was a blast. It was not only enjoyable because we all laughed often but it was fun because we listened to people tell of how much they enjoyed their work. When you enjoy something, it’s not drudgery. When was the last time you left a worship service and remarked “Wow, that was fun!” At the seminary I attend, there is a sculpture of Jesus laughing. It’s so unusual. Why is it unusual? Because we don’t think of Jesus and think laughter. Perhaps we should. That doesn’t mean that Church needs to turn into a Sunday morning comedy club, but if we can’t laugh and enjoy our community with one another and our worship of God, then that’s sad. In most people’s minds the words religion, fun, and enjoyable are never on the same page much less the same sentence.
The Church has the greatest thing to offer the world, Jesus Christ, yet the Church is declining rapidly. Perhaps we can learn something from our culture about our own values and principles, and once again start impacting the world like the way YouTube has in the past 6 years.