I’ve known Ryan Frank for over eight years. He’s a good guy. He’s hardworking. He’s ambitious. Like a lot of children’s ministry leaders I know, he would be perfectly capable of making a lot of money if he were to pursue a career field outside of ministry. However, he has a calling on his life; and, he’s using his talents to build something of worth. More importantly, he adds value to the lives of those called to serve in children’s ministry and his work is having an impact internationally. He has been very successful. His ministry has become a leading publisher in the children’s ministry world in less than a decade.
Why then, you might wonder, would he be so recklessly harassed in the online community?
I first heard about the trolling of Ryan Frank last summer. Someone attacked his twitter account and posted a bunch of memes questioning Ryan’s business ethics. Then, around Christmas, a blog site appeared intending to be a satirical view on children’s ministry. Sounds fun… but, it has predominantly been an all out attack on Ryan and his team at Kidzmatter. Finally, there was the recent article published by a competitor which could have been perceived as a not-so-subtle critique of Ryan’s Kidmin Academy.
In all fairness, I’ve seen some of the promotions posted by Kidzmatter and found them to be a little bit over the top. Some of their marketing tactics have left me scratching my head. However, they are not doing anything evil. If anything, they are just unconventional and innovative. Kidzmatter is a publishing company in an increasing competitive environment and they use creative methods to attract people to their resources. This is no different than what others are doing online. In fact, I’d venture to say they exhibit more integrity than some who have been more critical of Ryan and his team.
All of this drama, and criticism, recently came to a head. Ryan, who I can only imagine was just fed-up with it all, posted a video response defending his ministry programming. The video, posted on his YouTube channel, was also shared on Facebook. The resulting discussion was countless comments long and included more criticism for Ryan… mixed with a fair share of encouragement for him and his team. It ended in an apology on all sides and an attempt to make peace. I want to be clear that my purpose for writing this has less to do with that video and comment thread, which seems to have stemmed from a misunderstanding, and much more to do with the ongoing anonymous attacks against Ryan and others.
Seriously, why do people target Ryan Frank, of all people, to be so harshly critical against? Is it because of his success? Is it intimidation? Is it jealousy? I would guess it’s a combination of all the above.
Cyber-bullying, or trolling, or whatever you want to call it, is wrong. It’s a far cry from the Church we read about it the New Testament. The cowardice required for someone to hide behind a website, tweet or social media post (without giving their identity) is unprecedented for people in the Church community. It is, in my opinion, unacceptable.
Here are some things, as a leader, which you can do to combat this type of activity:
- ignore posts from those who share criticisms online, or elsewhere, anonymously
- refuse to share or take part in online attacks
- unfollow people who perpetuate bullying and mean-spirited attacks
- call out anyone encouraging people to participate in trolling or cyber-bullying
The cowards who continue to harass Ryan and his team will be found out; or, maybe they will just go away. Regardless, we need to all work together and call on those who are supporting this type of mean-spirited bullying, and hiding it behind a thin veil of “satire,” to stop. There is no honor in their actions. I pray they feel the full conviction of God’s Spirit for the evil way they have torn down Ryan and the work God is choosing to do through him.
We, as a Church, are called to be salt and light. We are commanded, over two dozen times, in the New Testament to simply “love one another.” John 13 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” What, then, does it say about you if you are taking part in the tearing down of someone who Jesus died for?
Let’s work together to be a better community. Let’s stand-up to cyber bullies and trolls within the children’s ministry community. Let’s be the people God would want us to be… and turn our hearts toward becoming more like Jesus.
NOTE: Almost to make the point of this article even more effective, I’ve had the opportunity to reevaluate some of the wording I used and to edit it. This all stemmed from a few online conversations which emerged after I originally shared it online. If I had posted this anonymously, there would be no way to have any such discussion. My sincere apologies to anyone who felt I was pointing this discussion directly at them. My intent is to ask everyone to ban, and otherwise ignore, anonymous and satirical posts which are only working to tear down the body of Christ.