Social Media and the Church: What Do People Really Need?
Several years ago, I started using Facebook, then Twitter. My first reaction to Facebook was, “This is silly.” I figured it was a waste of time. My first reaction to Twitter was, “What is this for?” I figured it was useless. My gut reactions were wrong.
I’m deeply embedded in both platforms now. I post a few times daily on each. I often interact with church members on Facebook. Twitter is my go-to source for news and commentary. My daily routine includes social media.
As a pastor, I believe part of my responsibility includes shepherding people online. Social media is a key way that I’m able to disciple people in the digital world. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media are communication tools. They can be used rightly or wrongly, for good or for harm. The church is salt and light—the flavor of and the guide for culture. The church has an obligation to shape the use of social media. Pastors have an obligation to shepherd their churches online.
Social media can be used in any number of ways. So what do people really need?
Within the church, use social media to enhance community. Obviously, social media cannot replace in-person interaction. The church must gather to exist. Scrolling through Twitter feeds or commenting on Facebook isn’t the church community. However, social media can enhance the church community. Twitter can get the word out about a gathering. Facebook can create an online conversation about the gathering. Instagram can give people a picture of the highlights of the gathering. Social media is not the church community; it’s an enhancement to the community.
With leaders, use social media to increase accessibility. Church leaders are not always available. Constant availability is impossible. However, pastors and other church leaders can use social media to increase their accessibility to others. As a leader, you may be unavailable for any number of reasons, but you can be accessible through social media. Every church leader should have an online presence. The next point demonstrates why.
With the community, use social media to reach more people. The gospel message never changes. It’s the timeless Truth of good news. But your community is always changing. The proliferation of smart phones coupled with the popularity of social media has fundamentally changed how people communicate. We’re looking down a lot more. We’re swiping and scrolling rather than striking up random conversations. The church must reach people where they are, and they’re on their phones. Social media doesn’t replace a live conversation, but social media may help create the opportunity to talk to someone in-person.
Social media doesn’t have to be a waste of time. Social media can be useful. Use it to enhance community in the church. Use it to increase accessibility of leaders. Use it to reach people where they are.
A version of this post was first published at the echurch giving blog.