Churches can benefit from the appropriate, and sometimes creative, use of social networking sites. Increasingly, this form of communication is becoming more obvious for parishes. Be aware of all the privacy and legal issues!
Once again, we are challenged to meet our parishioners where they are at or might be, in the near future. The social networking tentacles are reaching further into the various demographics affecting our parish communities, often way beyond the awareness of church leaders. No longer is it just the teens and ’20 somethings’; it is now common for people in their 50s and 60s to have one or more social networking accounts.
With respect, and only to make a point, shouting out loudly, the misconception is that this form of communication is just used for an inane chat amongst ‘dizzy lightweights’!
Yes, this may be so for a number of users, however, there is a considerably large and ever-growing group of people who use this for much more than chat, even though legitimate chat does play an important part in many forms of communication.
These people are not only building and strengthening relationships amongst friends and newly formed acquaintances/friends through their engagement online with each other, often doing so simultaneously, but they may also be adding depth to key aspects of their lives.
Assumptions Underlying Social Networks For Church?
There are a number of interesting assumptions an ever-expanding group of people, with representatives in most age groups, of the 21st century make:
- People like to build trusting relationships with others before doing ‘business’ (Churches need to be open to appreciating this belief and then adapting the way they communicate with such people.)
- The busyness of life often limits face-to-face opportunities
- The relationship does not need to be a face-to-face encounter, even though this is often preferred
- ‘anonymity’ allows for a less inhibited sharing of ideas and thoughts. (Easier for some people to make a comment when the contact person isn’t actually in front of them. Similar to some people when using telephones or email.)
- The internet often provides the answers people are seeking (How often do you hear more and more, “Google it!”)
- Digital communication is the easiest and quickest means of communication
- Digital communication allows for multiple conversations simultaneously
- People using these forms of communication eventually trust in the results due to their experiences
Why Consider Social Network for Church?
To reach this ever-growing group of people in our communities we must meet them where they are at!
In many circumstances, this may not be your ‘cup of tea’. But you do have control over who sees and comments on your church’s social networking pages if you follow the security directions. You may limit membership to only parishioners and hence only these people will see what you say and show.
It is, however, a successful method of informing an ever-growing group of your community of whatever it is you would like to inform them about.
The example below is the details contained on the Facebook page of the St Mary’s Parish, Coomera, and shows some ways this social networking site is used by a church parish:
- Parish and Contact Details
- News from the Parish Priest and Responses from Parishioners
- News about Youth and Children’s Activities and Responses
- Upcoming Parish Events
- Parish Photos
- Parish Priest Recommended Websites for Parishioners
Social networking sites can be used effectively by churches and parishes. Once a number of challenges, misconceptions, and assumptions underlying social networking sites are initially explored, each parish will be able to make the decision of whether to proceed with a social networking webpage.
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