Every day, tens of thousands of new profiles are added to MySpace.com – a growing phenomenon that seems to parallel with the widespread exodus of young believers from the Church.
A recent survey by LifeWay Research revealed that young adults have the greatest need for community. But a lot of times, the Church does not offer that sense of community when they move into young adulthood.
With reportedly more than 74 million users on MySpace.com alone, more young adults are signing on to the virtual network of friends that offers the community that many are looking for. Meanwhile, youth leaders estimate that up to 94 percent of youth stop attending church after high school graduation.
"MySpace obviously does offer a certain sense of community," said Danny Burns, who directs the online ministry of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "There are ways you can find people who live close to you on MySpace."
As the MySpace phenomenon was born three years ago, already two-thirds of adults claimed to have online access, according to a 2003 Barna survey. Today, MySpace.com is one of the most popular websites in the world and is said to be almost as big as Yahoo!.
Now, Christians are beginning to pick up on the social networking trend popularized by MySpace. MyPraize.com, Xianz.com and Oaktreeidea.org are only some of the new Christian websites offering the same virtual community to believers while updating and adding new features.
Oaktreeidea.org recently added a "Dialogue" feature to provide members a Question and Answer section beyond traditional methods.
"[Dialogue] uses tagged keywords that allow users to click on specific words within the questions and answers to discover more questions and answers about a particular subject," explained Brady Stump, founder of Oaktreeidea.com.
Still, Burns says Christian versions are far behind the secular sites.
"MySpace versions that have come up are really behind, from a technological standpoint," he said. "They just don't have the features to compete with MySpace."
Nevertheless, whether it's off to college or graduation out of the youth group, online social networks, both secular and Christian, give Christians the friends connection they are looking for.
"The online community has a place in helping develop a sense of community for teens today," Burns noted.