Over the past few years, I have seen an explosion in social media being utilized by the Church. While some see this as very useful (and it can be), I tend to lean toward it possibly being a distraction.
Let me explain what I mean…
What Is the Point?
For the most part, Churches use the social media phenomenon to increase their exposure, and to broaden their reach when they post announcements and updates.
This is only effective because people like you and me spend a ridiculous amount of time on Facebook, Twitter, and networks that are similar. The same goes for blogs as well. The main reason that it is ‘recommended’ for Churches to have blogs is because of the same reason Churches have Facebook and Twitter–everyone has them.
However, our addiction to these social sites is a topic for another time. The question I am addressing here is why Churches need to be in on the frenzy. The answer is a lot more complex than this one argument that I am going to make, but I think it would be safe to say that one of the main reasons Churches use social media is in order to be relevant to a disconnected generation.
When a generation spends untold amounts of hours in front of Facebook, the main way to get their attention is to be in Facebook; thus, the creating of a Facebook page happens.
Is It Really Effective?
Debatable as it may be (because different Church cultures produce different results), a Church having a Facebook page doesn’t produce much. It may produce a little (such as community in a forum discussion, or other such uses), but in the end, most announcements that are posted by Churches on their pages are something along the lines of, “Gonna be a rockin’ service tomorrow. Come and join us for fellowship!”
How many people on Facebook are going to respond to this invitation? Chances are, the only ones seeing this status update are those who are fans of the Church, and most of those fans are members.
So is social media effective for a Church? It can be, but in most cases it probably isn’t. The shocking reality is that I bet most Churches know that their Facebook page isn’t producing anything; that is, except an image.
What happens when you see that a Church creates a Facebook page? Immediately, you think that Church is trendy, up-to-date, and something that you can relate to. So in most cases, a Church’s Facebook page will boost their image in the minds of the members. The problem with this is that now we are sounding more like a business than a community.
Could it be that we are more concerned about our image to members and the secular world more than our fellowship with the members on a face-to-face basis?
Why Should a Church Use Social Media?
So what would be a viable reason for a Church using Facebook?
Well, I’m no expert on social media, trust me. But my suggestion is that Churches use social media as their official representation in the network.
However, this isn’t for all Churches. Many Churches are closely knit together, and anything needing to be said to the community can be said on Sunday from the pulpit. But some Churches, like those whose reach extends far outside of their boundaries (like IHOP, Bethel, and others) are likely more in need of social media than smaller Churches.
These Churches, who have a network in the hundreds of thousands, need an official representation of themselves in these spheres. This is only because, like I said at the beginning, the majority of the people that they reach have a Facebook or Twitter.
But an even greater reason is that in reaching this large amount of people, they also reach plenty of people who would wish to spread lies about them. Thus, a standard of their beliefs and teachings is vital for clarification and for people to find out for themselves if the lie is true or not.
But what do you think? Is it effective for Churches to use social media? Why?