Five years ago at just about the time of day I’m writing this post a group of online friends were giddy with excitement about opening a website. It was the night an idea to connect and resource youth ministers became a website that ultimately connected a couple of thousand youth workers to each other, offered listening ears and experienced advice to hurting church staff, posted more than a thousand articles about all sorts of YM topics, and even has a goodly number of friendships that made the leap from online to real life in fantastic and amazing ways (not to mention a couple of weddings).
At the time Youth Ministry Exchange was brought to life there was a lot of conversation about whether or not online conversation could be considered ‘real’ friendship. I smile as I remember the heated debates over this topic and later meeting some of the same folks in person and beginning conversation at the level of long-time friend, as opposed to strangers meeting for the first time. The recent explosion of social media platforms has changed the conversation a bit, but there is no doubt that real relationships can indeed be formed and nurtured online whether or not the participants ever meet in person.
A couple of weeks ago Adam and I closed the cyber doors on YMX. Visitors had fallen off significantly, ministry conversation didn’t happen much, and while life-sharing conversation continued with a close group it wasn’t the only place that sort of thing could happen. All of the articles had been moved over to the parent site at Youth Specialties, and it just didn’t make sense to keep things going when there were so many online options for connections and conversations about life and ministry. So, with a sigh and misty eyes, I waited as late in the announced closing day as I could manage and closed up shop. I’m glad to have seen many of the membership from YMX forming groups on facebook and elsewhere to continue the relationships that were significant to them.
Even two weeks later, I haven’t deleted the menu bar link to YMX. I do habitually hit it in the rounds of the day sometimes. I check in with various community members as often as I can, and I keep remembering “stuff” I should have copied or noted elsewhere before closing down. Sentimental value, mostly, but in five years, a lot happened that is more than memorable. The stuff of a great many real relationships. Thanks, gang.