The Church Facebook Page: When An Act of Kindness Goes Viral

NYPD Shoeless Man Photo

Chances are you’ve already seen this photo from a few months ago, if not, here’s the story behind it.

From The New York Times:

“On a cold November night in Times Square, Officer Lawrence DePrimo was working a counterterrorism post when he encountered an older, barefooted homeless man. The officer disappeared for a moment, then returned with a new pair of boots, and knelt to help the man put them on.”

It just so happens that Jennifer Foster of Arizona was visiting Times Square with her husband this past November and saw this shoeless man asking for change. Seeing the police officer approach, you can only imagine what went through their minds.

They were in awe as the officer said.

“I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let’s put them on and take care of you.”

The photo was taken via Foster’s phone and posted on the New York Police Department’s official Facebook Page. Within 24hrs the photo had been viewed 1.6 million times, and had attracted nearly 275,000 “Likes” and more than 16,000 comments (it now has 618,000+ Likes, 215,000+ shares and 48,000+ comments).

This is what happens when an act of kindness goes viral.

Funny thing is, the New York Police Department wasn’t even sure they wanted a Facebook Page:

“… a runaway hit for a Police Department that waded warily onto the social media platform this summer with mostly canned photos of gun seizures, award ceremonies and the police commissioner.”

Sounds like a lot of church Facebook Pages doesn’t it?

Maybe it sounds like your church Facebook Page? Even if you already have one, there may be uncertainty as to what to do with it or what function it serves.

Ultimately, no matter what a church’s Facebook Page “vision”, “purpose” or whatever words are used to dress it up, a church’s Facebook Page is a virtual reflection. So, instead of worrying about why a church has a Facebook Page, we should be asking what a church should be doing.

Maybe then the church’s kindness will go viral.

Eric Dye

I am an entrepreneur and human rights advocate. I spend most of my time as writer and editor for ChurchMag and Finding Justice, but you can also find me working on Live Theme and for the International Human Rights Group. All while enjoying my family and sipping espresso in Italy.

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  1. Curtis says

    Let’s not forget the rest of the story. Not long after the homeless man received his boots, and the photo went viral, the same homeless man was seen on the streets again. Clearly, for true healing, this man needs something more than boots. Yes, facebook helped this act of kindness to go viral. But in the process of going viral, is the real story of this man, and the real hurt that remains unfilled, lost somewhere?

    I’m not saying going viral is bad. But how does going viral relate to understanding and ministering to people’s real needs?

    • says

      Don’t focus so much on this isolated incident. The point is, if the Church would spend more time looking after those in need, there would be less need for “strategy” and “marketing” as the Church’s actions would speak for themselves.

      • Curtis says

        Right. But the deeper ministry needed to get to the heart of social woes, like spending five years mentoring an at-risk teen, is much harder to capture in a viral photo than a cop giving boots to a man on the streets. We have to be careful not to let the easy eye-candy overwhelm the hard work of true discipleship and ministry.

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