the shape of leadership

Four Reasons to Use Social Media for Ministry

Expanding your reach may be easier than you think

Angela Craig on October 1, 2019

In 2017, we launched the first social media church approved by the Assemblies of God. Today, Pursuit Church Live serves more than 12,000 people in 45 countries, speaking 43 different languages, using Facebook as our main platform.

Prior to leading Pursuit Church Live, I was the women’s director for the AG Northwest Ministry Network in Snoqualmie, Washington. Our goal was to encourage and equip the women of our 340 network churches to reach their local communities for Jesus. We did this both in-person and online, utilizing Facebook groups.

It was in our Facebook groups that I witnessed the power of social networks to bring people together and reach them with the hope of Jesus. What most surprised me were the number of women who wanted to join our group who did not attend one of our AG churches — or any church. These women were seeking faith and purpose, and our online groups gave them a safe place to discover both.

Through their stories, I gained a better understanding of why many Americans will not or cannot attend a traditional brick-and-mortar church, no matter how hard we try to bring them in. No change in service times, programs, teaching styles or staff will convince them to attend.

This may be disheartening to some, but not me. I believe more than ever in God’s purpose for the local church. The local church was, and still is, God’s plan. God created every person with a need to know Him and a desire to be part of a meaningful community — and technology can help us minister to those who might otherwise remain beyond our reach.

One of the biggest blessings of church online is watching people from every corner of the world come together to pursue faith and purpose.

Several weeks ago, I received a message from a member wanting to share a testimony. Cari, who lives in Texas, had met a Washington woman named Parsi in one of our Facebook Bible study groups. Neither woman attends a local church. The two had a lot in common and exchanged phone numbers. Over time, they became long-distance friends, talking on the phone weekly.

This past summer, Parsi became ill. She was housebound and alone. Cari told Parsi she wished she could travel to Washington to help but didn’t have the money. The two women agreed to pray for God to provide the money for a plane ticket.

That week, another friend of Cari’s was at her house for Bible study and prayer. As the friend prepared to leave, she said, “Wait a minute. God is telling me to write you a check.” The woman wrote Cari a check for $600 — almost exactly enough to cover a plane ticket with tax.

Cari was able to spend a week with Parsi, caring for her. The women prayed together, read the Bible, and had church and communion together. When Cari returned to Texas, she posted several videos of the great work God had done in their lives during this visit.

God brought hope and healing to both women and increased their faith. Thousands of people have since watched these videos on Cari’s Facebook page and witnessed the greatness of what God can do to change lives through Christian community.

In the Early Church, people came together daily in houses. Today, people are coming together on social media. I am not advocating that you close the doors of your church building and start a social media church.

Technology can help us minister to those who might otherwise remain beyond our reach.

I am suggesting you consider starting or increasing digital ministry, in addition to your other ministries. The opportunity for building God’s kingdom online every day is enormous.

Here are four reasons your church should engage in social media ministry:

1. Social networks are the Yellow Pages of the 21st century. Facebook has become the Yellow Pages for all businesses — including churches. Roughly 7 in 10 adults throughout the U.S. are on social media each month, according to Pew Research Center. Chance are, most of the traffic to your church website is populating from Facebook.

This is why I call Facebook “the front porch to faith.” Anyone, from almost anywhere, can check out your church, your teaching, your events, and your culture — risk free — online. You can literally reach the ends of the earth with a few clicks.

Insider tip: Use a Facebook or Instagram page as the front porch to your church. Instead of buying expensive equipment for streaming live feed, use your cell phone and Facebook Live. It is free and easy to use.

2. Social ministry creates community. Social media brings people together. So does the Church. That makes a great working relationship for churches and social networks like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsAPP.

What is your biggest concern as a church leader? Most pastors I ask say it’s getting people to come to church. There are many reasons people may not attend a local church: proximity, schedule, past hurts, disability or just plain rebellion.

An online presence shows people you still care, even when they can’t get to church. Your online community can increase both new and return attendance. It will also make it easier for people to share your church with their friends.

Insider tip: Go live online every week to pray with people. Praying for people online is, by far, the most popular and fruitful thing we do every week at Pursuit Church Live.

3. Social media can facilitate daily discipleship. This is huge! Online discipleship will require a mental shift from the norm of Sunday morning sermons and Wednesday night Bible studies. Through social media, you can reach people every day.

According to a recent survey from the market research company Global Web Index, internet users around the world spend an average of two hours and 22 minutes on social media daily. Online moments can open doors for teaching the Bible and sharing Jesus with the world.

Insider tip: Alongside your church’s regular small groups, offer an online group. Set up a Facebook Group to discuss your weekly message and pray together. Reflection and dialogue creates transformation, regardless of the physical space.

I understand church leaders already have a lot to do. It can feel overwhelming to think about starting something new. I want to encourage you to try it. In my experience as a coach in digital ministry for local churches, I have found that most churches already have a hidden team of social media influencers who are waiting for the opportunity to serve in digital ministry.

4. Social media can help people use their ministry gifts. As church leaders, it is our call to equip the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Through online daily discipleship, we can affirm every Christian’s role in God’s kingdom plan and equip them to walk it out in their everyday lives.

An online platform also provides another vehicle for people in your church to practice leadership through discipleship, prayer, worship, teaching and more — and it’s all at your fingertips.

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