Social media is a tricky thing when it comes to church planting. Some businesses grow their entire marketing platform using Facebook. I watch videos of my nieces and nephews on Facebook as well. Its power and influence on our lives is hard to quantify or qualify. At the time of this writing, Facebook remains the king of social media. That may change tomorrow. Others like Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter continue to grow and gain influence. But these tools are tricky too. They are tricky when connected to ministry. I remember when I first stepped onto the ministry scene at Immanuel in Hamilton in 2006. A teen thought it was so cool that I had a Myspace account. My ‘space’ on Myspace still exists (I think), but I have not logged into it since probably 2006. I purposefully did not have a Facebook account while I pastored in Hamilton. I wonder how it would have increased pastoral care work.
It’s probably no surprise to those I am connected with on different social media sites that I’m not a very good friend. I post blogs on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (thank you, Hootlet!), but that’s about it. Beyond that, I do not post much. I feel like it’s unnecessary to tell the world that I’m entering into a Goodwill Store to look for a used bike for Mark. Whatever the case may be, I don’t post that minutia. But then there are those friends who are so good at writing these pithy, witty, and short posts that make me think or laugh. How do they do that? What would they have done with all that creativity without Facebook? These people amaze me. They are like modern day Churchhills. What I can do is ‘like’ stuff. I can click that button. It’s easy. But as I am sprinkling ‘likes’ here and there trying to be a good ‘friend’, my mind wonders: shouldn’t I be doing something more productive with my time?
Yes, time is an issue, but other problems with social media come to mind too. There are spiritual issues, privacy issues, money issues, moral issues, psychological issues, political issues, etc. Recently I read a great article from the New York Times. My friend Derek Schuurman posted the article (as in he endorsed it, but didn’t write it) on Facebook. Derek is a computer science professor at Redeemer University College. The article argues that (hold on, I have to search for the article again on Facebook...) social media silences healthy debate. Rather than try to argue on Facebook about an issue, most people will just unfriend people with different views, thus silencing the debate and causing an even greater polarizing rift in this country. What further complicates the issue is that Facebook will recommend friends your way with similar likes and dislikes, therefore increasing the polarization and creating a false sense of reality. If you want to read it, here’s a link.
Despite these issues, on the flip side, I also wonder how the Holy Spirit uses social media to call people into a relationship with Jesus. I am sure people have become Christians through a relationship formed on a social media site the same way people find their spouses on them. How amazing is that? I guess if God can use a broken sinner like me, He can use social media.
What’s not easy to do is sort through how to use social media properly when it comes to church planting. One church planter recently told me how he bought a Facebook ad to get the word out for his new church. Guess what? It worked. People actually attended a worship service because of it. I have notes from a church planting conference about how to use social media, but I feel like it confused me more than helped. I keep hearing that I need to reach out with people using these sites. I try, but being that I’m not really good at it, can I just do the old ‘word of mouth’ technique? In this day and age, do I really have to send out mass snail mailings, consistent MailChimp emails, find and friend everyone I know here on Facebook, start posting more things on Pinterest, have a vibrant Twitter account, and, and, and...
The thought of it all sort of makes my head spin. So at the end of the day, I’m sort of lost and I would love to hear some suggestions. Any ideas? Can you help a church planter out?