Technology | WELS Technology
Connect Getting Better ‹ — › Social Networks and The Church (Facebook Part One)

Social Networks and The Church (Facebook Part Two)

iStock_000017329118XSmall This is the third post in a series of articles on Social Networks and how they can, and perhaps can’t, be used in the church. When I say church I mean the corporate church (i.e. the organization of believers). In my last article I talked about a few key considerations when thinking about using Facebook within the church. Today’s post continues that discussion by dealing with concerns about “virtual church” and how to take the virtual relationship to an even better place.

So how did the church survive before Facebook? Clearly the church doesn’t “need” Facebook or any other social network. It simply needs the Word and Sacrament. Right? Well sure. Nobody can debate that. But is that it? In the context of this discussion, the church could also be defined as a “social network?” The Oxford Dictionary defines a social network as “a network of social interactions and personal relationships.” That sounds like what any church leadership team would like to see in their church — people interacting with each other socially and developing personal relationships. In churches where this is the case, you find descriptors like a “friendly” church or a “caring” church. When people interact with each other, God’s Word has an opportunity to build a caring spiritual relationship. Clearly one of the churches goals.

Then how does Facebook help that? Yes you can create online socialization. Facebook is actually pretty good at that. But to leave it in the digital space without some analog goal isn’t all that helpful. You can share Christian love, teach, encourage, comfort and support each other online, but to play that out in person is Acts 2 kind of stuff. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” Acts 2:44-47

The challenge of course is how to take online community to the face-to-face. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Connect digital posts to physical places. As you try to determine what content to post on Facebook think of content that has it’s root or fulfillment in a physical gathering. For instance, post a question or insight based on a good discussion that happened in the previous week’s Sunday morning Bible study class. Assign a person on the social network team to attend the class and cull appropriate material to be used during the week.
  2. Allow organic growth. It will be important to promote and encourage people to create relationships on their own. Allowing members to post freely, comment, and form their own affinity groups will provide opportunity for deeper relationships around topics, projects and events. The temptation many churches have is to limit member participation and make their Facebook presence not much more than their web site which is fairly one dimensional. A more open environment, of course, requires over site, but the benefits are numerous including the chance that these online groups flourish and continue “on the ground” at church.
  3. Intentionally create activities that start on Facebook and end in person. Promotion is critical to the success of any church-sponsored event. You certainly want to promote the event on your Facebook page, but creating online activity before the event will allow members to get excited about it and spread the word to their other Facebook friends. If it’s “movie night” create some intriguing questions. If it’s a presentation on Internet Safety, solicit questions/answers on related topics. If it’s an upcoming Voter’s Meeting or Open Forum, ask all members to submit questions that board members can address or feed topics that can be discussed ahead of time. The whole point is to get your Facebook folks “invested” in the event.

Facebook has a lot to offer to increase the social networked quotient of your church. It does take work and thoughtfulness. But it is where a lot of your members already are. Why should the church exclude itself from this portion of its members lives? They want to engage with their church. That is why they are members.

Write a Comment