As Social Media revolutionizes communication and information/news access around the world, people from all walks of life and completely different cultures are brought together over the presence and use of Social Media on the internet. Only a few decades ago, conversating with people across the city, county, state, province, nation and globe was limited to a phone call but more specifically and personally, the handwritten letter sent through the mail. Then the internet rose up and e-mail became staple forms of communication. E-mail was treated just like a letter, personal. Then the instant messenger capability through AOL, yahoo etc became popular for a short time. At the same time as instant messenger, rose the cell phone and text messaging. The internet transformed at the same time, becoming faster, and more comprehensive in information coverage. Myspace took the world by storm, then Facebook rose up and dethroned Myspace for top social Media site and people reaching site. After Facebook, multiple social media sites have risen, each for various purposes. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Social media can be used for professional, personal, recreational and community interests. Businesses have twitter accounts, and Facebook pages. Social media ranges from individual people, small groups/organizations, churches, large multi-million dollar companies and any thing in between.
According to a new Barna study conducted from 2011 to 2013, the use of Facebook by churches has grown from over half (57%) in 2011 to seven out of ten churches (70%) as of summer 2013. The number of pastors who use twitter has likewise grown from 14% in 2011, to 21% in 2013, while 66% use Facebook and 22% of pastors have their own personal blog. These Social media sites, especially Twitter, provide opportunities for great ministry outreach. Several well known pastors have twitter accounts with ten’s of thousands of followers. John Piper, the founder of Desiring God Ministries, for example, has over 521,672 followers on Twitter. While many pastors do not have his level of followers, they have thousands of followers. Mark Dever, 39,675; Matt Chandler, 229,283; Mark Driscoll, 408,844; Tim Keller, 60,200; Tullian Tchividjian, 68,238, and lastly John MacArthur, 75,194. These are just a handful of the high profile pastors that are on twitter.
While there is still a strong resistance to social media within the church, and among pastors, “Social media is here to stay, especially as younger leaders come to be senior pastors,” said David Kinnaman, the president of Barna Group and the director of the the Barna study on social media. The presence of social media presents a unique situation for churches and among pastors. How can pastors and churches everywhere use Social media, twitter and Facebook and other sites, to further their ministry and influence?
The mission of the Church is the growth, edification and sanctification of God’s people and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Therefore, when churches and pastors use Social media, they should remember a one overarching rule for using Social Media. Namely, because of the nature of Social media being social, not private, what is posted, tweeted, pinned etc can potentially be seen by anyone at any time, anywhere. This realization should be reason enough to govern the posts, and tweets so that as people and groups that profess to believe in Jesus, no questions would be raised, based on their posts and tweets, by others as to the truth and validity of their faith in Jesus.
With that in mind, pastors are in unique positions, as the leader of their congregations, churches, ministries, and influence in their communities, to be either a blessing or a hindrance to the growth and edification of those around them. And with Social media, pastors are now able to influence those hundreds and thousands of miles away.
This new found influence enables churches and pastors to reach people they do not know and with whom they have no personal contact with the truths in the Bible and the blessings of their churches.
Pastors, such as John Piper, tweet Scripture, and theological truths, links to great blogs and articles, old sermon links etc. John MacArthur tweets the daily sermon for his radio broadcast, connecting his radio program, his church, his ministry Grace to You, and Social media in one tweet or Facebook post.
More than just posting sermon and theological truths, social media can be used to reach visitors and help build a friendly online presence and community by tweeting about the sermon, service times, special events, supporting the different church leaders and their bogs, let people know what is going in at different conferences and such. An article posted by stickyjesus.com, highlighted 8 strategic ways to increase the reach, influence and appeal to its members and visitors by using Social Media. One of the benefits for members of a church that uses social media is the members know what is going on, any events, for any particular small group or class within the church, and enables new people to know what is going on in the church.
While many pastors, churches, and ministries use social Media well, there are still large portions of the population that do not use Social media, because they do not know how to, where to start, or the benefits and strategic opportunities of Social Media. Companies exist to aid businesses and organizations utilize Social media well and reach a greater audience. Buzzplant, one of those companies, is a digital advertising agency that labors with churches to instruct them how to use social media with the greatest impact and has created user-friendly apps for missionaries in the field.
As Social media has become commonplace, and is infiltrating churches and pastors begin using Social media increasingly, the opportunity for greater influence and farther reach has grown as well. This increase is a great blessing and opportunity for pastors and their churches to reach people in ways previously impossible because of space limitations. Now, due to the digital, online world, pastors and churches can encourage, instruct, teach and exhort, in small ways, people across the globe.