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Social Media and the Church: Helpful or Heresy

18 May

keyboardThe church is at a crossroads today. As time marches on, technology advances at an alarming rate, leaving all who can’t keep up to trudge through the dust left behind in analog solitude. Although many churches are staying up-to-date with digital projectors and state-of-the-art sound and production equipment, there is one area where many churches continue to lag behind the rest of the world: social media.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat. Social media is not evil. It is a tool. As Tim Schraeder put it, “The Church has never been more resourced or equipped than we are today to spread the Good News. I believe that with that opportunity comes a tremendous responsibility: We must steward what God has blessed us with through mediums like social media.”

So how does the church go about using social media in an effective way? Well, first we must look at our goals with social media: Who are we trying to reach? Why are we trying to reach them? How do we reach them? Each of these questions has a two part answer, so let’s take them one at a time.

Who are we trying to reach?

The first group of people we are trying to reach is the members of the church, or other Christians around the world. This can be accomplished by way of a church blog that can help keep Christians connected, giving them access to transcribed sermons, helpful resources, and important announcements. A church blog is also a great way for Christians to comment on posts and stay connected with both the church and each other.

The second group of people is non-believers, or those who have been out of church for any significant period of time. I think we can all agree that a church will never grow if new people never come. Sounds simple, right? But I have seen church social media campaigns that are actually designed to exclude non-members, whether intentionally or not. For example, a church might create a group on Facebook that requires a person to submit a request to join. The fact that they have to request to join that special group, could turn off a non-member/non-believer. As Christians, we should be waiting with arms wide open to accept all those who come searching.

Why are we trying to reach them?

Connecting with other believers is a vital part of being a Christian. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” As a church, creating a blog or Facebook page that allows believers to connect with each other can be a vital way of providing unity within the local church. It also gives a forum for posting prayer requests and brings the Children of God alongside one another in prayer.

Another benefit of a social platform for fellow believers is the opportunity for the church to make announcements and keep their members informed of upcoming events, as well as share prayer requests that fellow believers can lift before God.

The purpose of reaching the non-churched or unsaved is very different. I’ve seen so many different church social media accounts that only serve to get people into the church itself. As my friend Samuel Silveous so rightly pointed out, “Your Facebook account serves as a tool for you to connect to people, not invite them into your house. So why does the church try to bring people into its ‘house’ without connecting with people first?” If used properly, social media could be used by the church to reach unbelievers across the world. This is such a powerful tool! Why don’t we treat it as such?

How do we reach them?

Perhaps this will be a separate post all on its own. But the short answer is: effective and creative use of the social media tools available to the church today. Simply putting out a couple of blog posts every month, or infrequently updating a poorly managed Facebook page will not have any positive effect at all. Conversely, it can have a negative effect. In the digital age in which we live, it is imperative to keep an up-to-date and relevant web presence. Not only will you turn away potential church-goers and people seeking the Truth, but you will also frustrate your own members with an irrelevant web site or Facebook page. If you are unable to maintain your social media with your current staff, hire a part-time writer to do the work for you. You won’t regret it one bit!

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