If you’re not tweeting yet . . . you might want to be
Communication has always been the linchpin for the Gospel to be successfully shared. The letters of the New Testament clearly tell us that Saint Paul would travel from town to town and from city to city to share his witness of Jesus Christ with the wider world. Upon his departure he would promise to continue to stay in contact with each community by letter, so that their commitment to one another in Christ would continue long after he had gone.
For both the early Church and for our Church today, communication is key.
We have far more communications tools at our fingertips than ever before, but the multitude of options means we may not use any of them very well.
From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube — and with new social media platforms emerging every day — it is difficult to know where to start.
Two things are certain: these new forms of communication are not going away, and they are integral for a 21st Century sharing of the Gospel. Consider these statistics: Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old, and over 95% of “millennials” are active on some social media platform. Social media has overtaken pornography as the #1 activity on the internet. One in five couples in North America meets first online, not in person. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s third largest, with twice the population of the United States.
Most businesses no longer ask what the return on their investment will be for investing in social media, because they realize that the return on investment will be that their business will still exist. As Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics says: “We don’t have a choice about whether we do social media; the question is how well we do it.”
The Church has always considered it a responsibility to go out and meet people where they are: to witness to the message of the Gospel to those who have yet to hear it. Social media contains one of the largest and most accessible concentrations of people that the world has ever known. Most churches would acknowledge that if a nearby area is populating quickly, it is important to establish a Christian presence in that community, and hopefully plant a church. The online community is no different. It is the number one place where the millennial generation congregates, and it is the fastest growing population in the world. This group, undoubtedly, contains a large number of people who either have never known Jesus, or who have been pushed away from the Church by his followers.
Some might argue that the Church will find itself left behind if it does not address this growing population by better utilizing these new methods of communication. I believe there is a far greater failure at risk. If the Church does not find new and innovative ways to share the Gospel with the people populating these growing online networks and communities – we will have failed to bring Christ into their lives.
From the first-century communication of the travelling evangelist Saint Paul to the social media platforms we face today, the spreading of the Gospel should never know any kind of boundary or restriction. Every single individual in a church does not need to be active in social media – we all have our reasons why we might or might not – but every church needs to have a social media strategy if we want to take seriously God’s Mission in our world.
Educate: Find someone in your congregation who you know is active on social media — there will be more than one. Ask the silliest of questions and don’t be afraid of the answers. Start with Facebook and then work your way to Twitter and YouTube. If you have a question that can’t be answered, Google it, chances are that someone has already asked it before. See what other churches are doing and feel free to borrow good ideas from them — there is no need to re-invent the wheel.
Equip: Create a team or appoint an individual who will manage your social media presence. Remember that they will be the church’s online voice — so ensure that parameters are established. Discuss what message you wish to send out into the world, ensuring that your new social media presence is not simply a way to better advertize your church, but a new way to proclaim the Gospel. Connect your churches website to your churches new Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts (after you have created them) so that your different media sources will point to one another.
Experiment: Start tweeting, posting and sharing video clips, engaging articles, inspirational thoughts and passages of scripture as you begin to use social media as a Gospel driving platform. As you get more comfortable, engage other platforms that emerge as well (Google+, LinkedIn, etc.). This industry is incredibly fluid and will continue to change, morph and grow. There is no wrong way to do this, except to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. Proclaim the Good News of the Living God and be amazed who ends up listening.
The Reverend David Giffen is the Pastor and Priest-in-Charge of the Church of the Transfiguration in Toronto.