In part one of this series, I mentioned that I was surprised to find myself defending the value of social media to church leaders. Despite its capacity for friction (and that's putting it mildly), I believe the church should be present and active on social platforms. Why? Because, whether we like it or not, that's where people are.
Anyway, you can read more about that here.
Today, I'd like to encourage churches and their leaders—you—to view social media from a new perspective. I want you to see it no longer as marketing, but as ministry.
Since the start of the pandemic, I have watched as churches rushed to learn the digital space and how to use it. That's a good thing. By and large, however, most of the content I see churches post on social media is marketing or what I call "sharing information."
There's nothing wrong with that. Social media is an important means of communication. But it can be so much more than that. It can be ministry.
Let me share with you a couple of personal experiences as examples.
When I first begin working with a church in any capacity, I follow them on social media. So upon meeting Erin Collier, the associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Lumberton, NC, I began engaging with their content on Facebook. She and I worked extensively on the church's approach to social media and how to make it work for them. I watched as their posts became more inviting, more intimate, even more pastoral.
Then, a few weeks ago, they posted this:
The caption reads: Our children’s ministry is learning this week about how compassion helps them to be brave. And let’s be honest...we could all use more compassion AND bravery in these days. If you need some extra bravery this week, we invite you to pray with us:
Your compassion always looked like courage.
Strengthen our hearts with your bravery
As we risk, reach out, and lift up
Our siblings near and far.
Help us keep our eyes on you.
Folks, that post ministered to me. You can’t imagine how much I needed that prayer in that very moment. I stopped and read it through mindfully several times and in so doing felt the physical and spiritual comfort of God's closeness. All because of a Facebook post.
Another church I have come to know is First Baptist Church of New Bern, NC. (No, I do not work exclusively with First Baptist Churches from North Carolina but I am quite fond of them!🤣)
The day it was announced that the president had tested positive for Coronavirus my personal Facebook feed was flooded with vitriol slung from all sides. I don't care what your political leanings are but as Christians we are only ever called to love our neighbors and should never wish for their suffering. I felt defeated, depressed, disconnected.
Reading FBC New Bern's post, I teared up. I teared up at the courage of a church to stand up in this public way, to speak truth, to lead with love. This post ministered to me. It gave me hope.
I was doing research a couple of months ago when I came across a Facebook comment from an elderly woman who attends a Presbyterian church in Florida. She expressed gratitude for how the church had utilized social media as a ministry tool during the pandemic. "I've felt more connected to this community in the past few months than I ever had before," she said.
You see, when done well, when done with intention, when done with a desire for connection and care, social media extends way beyond marketing. It becomes ministry. But we must first see its potential as such.