Social Media in the Church
Changes in the religious landscape of the world today, as well as advances in modern technology, present serious challenges and exciting possibilities for the Church. Despite the numerical decline of mainline churches in America, a recent Pew report found that two-thirds of those who claimed no religion say they still believe in God, and one-fifth say they pray every day. Diana Butler Bass observes, “The United States has not become more specifically secular; rather Americans now speak of belief in a wide variety of sacred languages, voices and accents.”
The rise of the Internet, cell phones, computers and digital tablets offers a whole new way of being engaged in ministry. For some people, trying to navigate this new technology feels like crossing the threshold into a different world that requires learning a new language in order to communicate. Many are skeptical about its value in shaping a faith community.
In October, the Church of the Incarnation in Penfield was awarded a Congregational Development Grant to develop a pilot project that focuses on the use of social media in evangelism and parish communication. We have obtained from the Diocese the Digital Safe Church Guidelines, which have been helpful to us in developing policies for the use of social media in the parish.
An important aspect of this project is to draw upon the interests and skills of teenagers and young adults in developing the content to be used in the electronic media of the parish. Working with adult mentors, members of the youth group will be given the opportunity to develop skills in the production of videos that can be shared through YouTube, Facebook and the parish web page.
One of our first projects, What’s the Word?, involves the production of short videos featuring youth group members offering creative expressions of how passages of scripture are significant in their daily lives.
This project will be key in opening opportunities for dialogue about how the prevalence of electronic media affects healthy development of children, its impact upon building personal relationships in community, and how it influences our ability to reflect deeply on important issues.
The parish will be working collaboratively with Diocesan Council to assess what we call “the possibilities and pitfalls of social media in congregational life.” We look forward to reflecting with others on the impact of technology on our ministry in the church and in the world.
- Consider ways to work with youth at your church. You might provide an opportunity for young people to offer their gifts to the life of the church.
- Be aware that you have a variety of people in your church - some parishioners may not know the language of social media. Speak to the congregation very clearly so there are no misconceptions about the tools you’ll use.
- Put together a small group of people who have reservations or concerns about social networking, and hear those concerns. Make sure they feel connected to the process, so they don’t feel peripheral to the direction in which the church is heading.
- Work to establish norms for social media and electronic communication. Know what people\'s expectations are and how they\'re feeling about its use.
- What resources does your parish have that could help in using social networks?
- What are the limitations of social networking in the growth and life of the church?
- Age is not necessarily a determining factor in social networking use. What groups might be excluded from social networking use, either by choice or because of socioeconomic reasons?
- What assumptions have you made about social networking that may be false? How can you explore those assumptions?