Should Social Networking Have a Place in Your Ministry?

(Originally published as an article within ECCU’s former e-publication, Ministry Banking Today.)

Blogging, Facebook, Twitter…just a few of the increasingly popular social media outlets that are becoming the new normal in communication. A recent ECCU survey found that 50 percent of ministry staff and leaders are using social networks in a ministry context. Ministry Banking Today dove deeper to find out how these networks and other social media are helping to make ministries more effective.

“Lots of churches are using social networking because that is where their people ‘are’,” says David Fletcher from Xpastor.org. Fletcher works with executive pastors in churches around the nation, and sees firsthand the benefits of social networking for churches. “Our church uses Twitter and Facebook to broadcast information about ministry events going on that week. It's a great way to get a little bit of information out to the congregation.” Fletcher also includes a weblink in his tweets to offer more information than the 140-character limit allows.

While it’s natural to think of social media in terms of how you can get information out, there are also great benefits to the information it allows you to take in. Many financial service providers and advisors communicate through social media—allowing you to stay on top of financial issues and trends that may affect your business operations. You can become a “follower” of ECCU and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) on Twitter, for example, to stay current on financial best practices. Want to know if your other favorite financial advisors use social media? Check their home pages for an invitation to follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or their blog.

But what Dan Ohlerking, the online pastor from Healing Place Church values most about social media is that it offers another avenue to simply connect with people. “Nearly everyone on our staff has a Twitter account now, and we're all doing like everyone else—we're on a journey of discovery for what we want to tweet about and what we don't. The biggest win is simply the way it allows us to stay connected with each other and with those in our church and the community we serve,” shares Ohlerking. “When it comes to sharing a message, the best way to do that is always word-of-mouth. Twitter and Facebook simply take that method to a whole new level. But it still boils down to one person connecting with one person and extending them the opportunity to experience life in Jesus.”

Ohlerking goes on to share a recent example:

“During our Live the Dream women's conference, we were able to put nearly the entire conference live online. We included a Facebook Connect chat window alongside the conference video feed. One lady registered to be in the conference in Baton Rouge but had to stay home with her sick child. She joined us online, and began chatting using the Facebook Connect chat. When she chatted in the online conference, the posts went up on her Facebook Wall (as Facebook Connect is designed to do). A couple of her unsaved friends saw her comments and came to check out what she was participating in, and spent their morning in the conference session online, hearing the Truth spoken. They have come to our services several times now, and our prayer is that they'll continue to come and experience Jesus.

"These two friends heard the Gospel as a direct result of a social media connection. The truth I'm convinced of is this: It isn't who I know or how many people I can tell that matters, it is most important that I make sure that those I do interact with are shown the love of Jesus. And then they, in turn, can share that love of Jesus with their circle of relationships. That's what social media is doing explosively that has the potential to drastically improve our ability as the Church to reach a lost and dying world with the hope of Jesus Christ. It isn't about reaching the masses. It’s about all the ‘ones’ that make up those masses—individual lives that need Jesus.”

(You can follow ECCU on Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/eccu.)

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