What happens when you put over 600 women in closed Facebook Group and ask them to talk about their most intimate issues? You learn:
1. The Church and Christian communities have been far too silent on issues of sex, women’s health, and relationships.
2. We all struggle in these areas. The specifics may change from woman to woman, but we are all trying to figure out how to balance our faith and our flesh, trying to be good stewards of each.
3. Shame has been the leading contributor to the lack of education, self-destructive behaviors, abuse, and the inability to celebrate this great gift of sex.
4. How laughter heals and eases us through the hard lessons.
5. The power of having others invest in your well-being through a kind word, prayer, and tangible support.
6. The joy of discovering your story can help another on their journey.
7. That when you give people a tool they already know how to use, they will create something amazing with it.
When the Scandalous Ladies Facebook Group took off on May 29, 2016, we had no idea what we were in for. The group exploded from three members to over one hundred and fifty in less than three hours. In eleven days, we broke three hundred and fifty, and we are still growing. The pace has slowed a bit, but growth isn’t measured in numbers alone.
During that time, we have had over a dozen women make connections with counselors, eight couples have gone into marriage counseling, and hundreds (that’s right, HUNDREDS!) of women have reported that the overall quality of their marriages have improved. The tales of new found freedom and joy in being a woman are told daily, and the friendships being formed have transformed lives.
Our network and combined resources have helped one woman get out of an abusive relationship and into a safe home, another family is being helped through a hard financial time, and the women of Scandalous gave sacrificially in a successful effort to remove girls from a life threatening situation overseas. Even the men are voicing their praise, as their wives have opened new dialogues about sex and proposed they explore some new adventures between the sheets – or other places!
And we do not show any signs of slowing down anytime soon! Since May we have started a Scandalous Moms group, and this month we launched a public page where men can join in the conversation. Soon we hope to launch a series of international (yes, that’s right! International!) conferences and retreats.
I am sharing all of this with you for two reasons:
1. Yes, would love your involvement and support! Ladies, consider this your personal invitation to join the Scandalous Ladies Facebook Group, and to take part in the discussions on “A Scandalous Faith”, our public page. Men, we need to hear your voices so join us on the public page too, and please, don’t be shy. We want your insights and opinions that is why we started “A Scandalous Faith.
2. I want everyone to know what a powerful tool social media can be, and I want my Christian and Church friends to pay attention.
Within the Christian community there has traditionally been a huge push for outreach and ministry within our communities. These are admirable and needed aspect of fulfilling the mandates of our faith, but let’s face it, we tend to over complicate things. We focus on big events, massive (and often top heavy) programs, or other ways that we can address the masses with some sort of impersonal ministry machine. We stop looking at people as individuals and meeting them where they are. Instead, we get lost in the program and the structure, defending the machine instead of stopping to value the person the machine is supposed to serve.
This is why I think Scandalous works. You can’t talk about sex, sexuality, and relationships without addressing the person. Our machine is secondary, it is the tool we use to meet people where they are. It doesn’t need to be protected, it does not eat up all our resources, and it serves only one function – it connects us with the people that we are here to serve. For us that machine is social media. It is free, we all have it, we don’t have to teach our people how to use it, and we didn’t reinvent the wheel. We used the tool at hand, and made it serve our purposes.
We took all the things that church people like to complain about when it comes to the internet and flipped it on its head so we could use it to our advantage. Impersonal? Yes, but reinterpret that into anonymous and nonthreatening. Too much sex? Oh, yeah, but maybe that is just one way people are saying they need to talk about these things. Crude humor? Sure, but maybe that is how people express their discomfort as they try to establish a dialogue. Eats up all your time? You bet, but maybe it is because people are looking for something to invest their time in that really matters. Hate filled speech and drama? Absolutely, but maybe that is because there is no place else they can express their need for passion.
We didn’t invent this formula for how to have vital and thriving Facebook community. We stumbled into it by asking people to do one little thing – tell their stories. That is it. Tell your story, let us know that we are not alone wrestling with these major life issues, help us understand how you cope, how you survive, and show us how we can be important in your life. Maybe that is just a place to vent, maybe it is providing a safe space to ask the questions you can’t ask anywhere else, maybe you need someone to laugh with you, or maybe you need someone who is willing to cry with you too.
People will tell you what they need, but you have to be listening. They are saying need community. They need to know that they matter, that they are more important than the cogs of some ministry machine. They need some place to invest, to know that they have the ability to make a difference, and that their experiences matter. And that is all we have provided. The women and men who have joined us on this journey are the ones who have made it work. The amazing team of men and women who have so selflessly devoted their time and energy to fanning this spark of an idea into flames have done little more than provide a place where others mattered – really mattered, not for the numbers that can be tallied on a spreadsheet, but rather for the strength each brings to the table for the rest of us.
We in the Christian community need to stop lamenting over a lack of resources or our inability to get people through the doors of our buildings. We need to go to where the people are, and right now that is social media. But beware, you can’t treat people like projects or offer help in the same manner that you would pitch peanuts to a monkey at a zoo. You have to be willing to give, not a program, not an event, and not some pretty little prepackaged Christian band aid, you have to give yourself. And you do that by giving them your story – your successes, your failures, your humiliations, and your victories because that is the only way they are going to see not just you but the God we serve, the God redeems all things.
It is time we stop being afraid, that we stop hiding behind all the glam and glitz of programs, and using them as an excuse for not being present in our communities or blaming the internet for keeping people away from the good we are trying to do. It is time we showed up. The online community is a community, a very real and thriving community that has extended an invitation to us, so now it’s time to remember your manners and show up. We did and were welcomed with open arms.