How Will Social Media Reshape the Way We Do Church?

With the increasing use of GPS enabled smart phones and apps like foursquare, social media is attempting to mimic omniscience.  We find ourselves in a world where our technology has enabled more meaningful interactions with someone on the other side of the world rather than our next door neighbour.

Whether we like it or not social media will influence the way we do Church both positively and negatively and it is important that as a church, we anticipate and adapt to these changes appropriately.

Now that social media is here to stay, those that see church as primarily their social network may now find that they don’t need church quite so much.  Alternatively social media may have little effect on those who experience Church as both spiritual and social.

In the consumer generation, commitment is being eroded and content is fast becoming king.  People increasingly are being guided by customer reviews and have the ability to make more choices about the way they live their lives.  Is this same consumer mentality being applied to the way we do Church?

Is Church becoming more fluid, with people doing church when it suits them rather than fitting in with existing structure?  Could this fluidity cause churches to experience more churn, as people pick and choose when and which meetings they attend?  I already know people who are using social media to decide which church meeting to attend?  If their favourite speaker or worship leader is not part of the service that day, they may decide to go elsewhere.

In the consumer generation Hebrews 10:24 is interpreted more loosely and in response, the church needs to endorse the concept of being called to a particular church family (James 4:15) rather than allowing people to treat church as a consumer experience.

There was a time when the local Church was able to guard our minds from false doctrine and filter the information that we were subjected to; however that is increasingly no longer the case.  We have never before had so much information at our fingertips through social sites, blogs, and on-line magazines.  These days due to the web’s low barrier to entry, regardless of their credentials, anyone can publish their ideas.

On a more positive note, is the rise of the ‘social Influencer’ good news for the Church?

It will become increasingly important for Church leadership teams to encourage and mentor their social network entrepreneurs, their influencers and bloggers, and content aggregators.  If one of your church members writes a popular blog they are already influencing people on a global scale.

The boundaries between ‘virtual ‘and ‘real in the flesh’ communication will become increasingly blurred as mobile technology and social applications like facebook, twitter and foursquare draw people into more face to face meetings. Will this mean that micro church will happen more spontaneously in the park or culminate as prayers in the coffee house, as technology draws people together through their network of friends?

Social networking will aid in church growth as our influencers use technology in creative ways to convey the gospel message and connect people into family groups.

Good content will become increasingly important.

As the consumer is overloaded with information it is becoming increasingly important for their favourite content to be aggregated into one place.  We can already see this happening more and more with sites like Mashable, Pinterest and Delicious becoming more popular.  Google no longer just use page rankings to bring you the most relevant content but they now also take into account social influence and relevance.  This means that Christian influencers who are able to gather good quality content into their sites will become increasingly popular and influential.

Social Media Logos

These days it seems like internet gorillas like Google, Facebook and Twitter know you more than you know yourself.  Chad Hurley, CEO of Delicious and co-founder of YouTube recently said “As people’s networks and interactions expand, massive data sets will generate predictive models that will know what you want before you look for it.”

Could the prophetic in us, intuitively predict what is about to capture the public’s attention and help inspire good quality content which will re-direct people towards the Gospel?

For the more philosophical, social media could mean more cross-pollination and unity between church groups aspeople attend events organised by other Christians that they discover and connect with on-line. Church leaders could increasingly find themselves communicating and coordinating with their counterparts in other denominations.

Great news for the Christian artist as digital art will become more important. Due to short cybertized attention spans, good quality imagery is needed to capture the attention of the cyber channel clickers.

As one of my friends put it, ‘Social media means church beyond Sunday, and church beyond four walls.  Churches should be encouraging a continuing sense of purpose and mission through the embracing of social media.’

In evangelical circles during the last couple of years I have noticed an impetus to empower and mobilize grass roots leaders and influencers. In my denomination they have called this initiative ‘Radical Disciples’.

Combined with the power of social media, never before has the ‘Radical Disciple’ had so much opportunity to influence so many.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phil Petty

Phil Petty

I live in Basingstoke, England and am married to the lovely Jane and we have three teenage sons. I work as a researcher for a company involved with mergers and acquisitions. I am addicted to creative writing and I am also the author of Phil Petty DotCom'Truth, Inspiration & Americano'

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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